An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi TharoorIn 1930, the American historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost thirty-five million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the British—in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Independence and the Amritsar massacre of 1919.
Besides the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a manner that beggars belief. When the East India Company took control of the country, in the chaos that ensued after the collapse of the Mughal empire, India’s share of world GDP was 23 per cent. When the British left it was just above 3 per cent.
The British empire in India began with the East India Company, incorporated in 1600, by royal charter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to trade in silk, spices and other profitable Indian commodities. Within a century and a half, the Company had become a power to reckon with in India. In 1757, under the command of Robert Clive, Company forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, through a combination of superior artillery and even more superior chicanery. A few years later, the young and weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was browbeaten into issuing an edict that replaced his own revenue officials with the Company’s representatives. Over the next several decades, the East India Company, backed by the British government, extended its control over most of India, ruling with a combination of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption backed by violence and superior force. This state of affairs continued until 1857, when large numbers of the Company’s Indian soldiers spearheaded the first major rebellion against colonial rule. After the rebels were defeated, the British Crown took over power and ruled the country ostensibly more benignly until 1947, when India won independence.
In this explosive book, bestselling author Shashi Tharoor reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India. Besides examining the many ways in which the colonizers exploited India, ranging from the drain of national resources to Britain, the destruction of the Indian textile, steel-making and shipping industries, and the negative transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire on the supposed benefits of British rule, including democracy and political freedom, the rule of law, and the railways.
The few unarguable benefits—the English language, tea, and cricket—were never actually intended for the benefit of the colonized but introduced to serve the interests of the colonizers. Brilliantly narrated and passionately argued, An Era of Darkness will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.
Read: Shashi Tharoor's full speech asking UK to pay India for 200 years of its colonial rule
Shashi Tharoor born 9 March  is an Indian politician, writer and a former career international diplomat  who is currently serving as Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram , Kerala , since At the age of 22, he was the youngest person at the time to receive such an honour from the Fletcher School. From to , Tharoor was a career official at the United Nations , rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information in He announced his retirement after finishing second in the selection for U. Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon. Tharoor is an acclaimed writer, having authored 18 bestselling works of fiction and non-fiction since , which are centred on India and its history, culture, film, politics, society, foreign policy, and more related themes. He was a contributing editor for Newsweek International for two years.
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Dr Shashi Tharoor MP - Britain Does Owe Reparations
The speech has gone viral on social media like Facebook and YouTube and has also prompted a vigorous debate. I standing here with eight minutes in my hands in this venerable and rather magnificent institution, I was going to assure you that I belong to the Henry VIII School of public speaking - that as Henry VIII said to his wives 'I shall not keep you long'. But now finding myself the seventh speaker out of eight in what must already seem a rather long evening to you I rather feel like Henry VIII's the last wife. I know more or less of what expected of me but I am not sure how to do it any differently. Perhaps what I should do is really try and pay attention to the arguments that have advanced by the Opposition today. We had for example Sir Richard Ottaway suggesting - challenging the very idea that it could be argued that the economic situation of the colonies was actually worsened by the experience of British colonialism.
Jump to navigation. In an explosive speech at the Oxford Union, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor argued that the British looted and plundered India during the two-century Raj of the subcontinent, and that Britain must accept that it owes a debt to India for its wrongdoings during the days of the Empire. Taking part in a debate at the famed Oxford Union, the Congress MP argued why Britain owes India reparations for the economic and psychological decline of its people during the rule, and that of all the countries in the Commonwealth, India was Britain's biggest cash cow from that period. Tharoor, a former Under Secretary-General at the United Nations and an author of several books, explained the manner in which Britain used India and its resources for its own benefit, and that British families working for the Empire had minted money at the expense of India for over two centuries. Here is the complete video of his speech:. Shashi Tharoor's brilliant speech on Britain's debt to India Tharoor argued why Britain owes India reparations for the economic and psychological decline of its people during the rule, and that of all the countries in the Commonwealth, India was Britain's biggest cash cow from that period. Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app.
This story is from July 23, Singh had gone to Oxford to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law and had said despite the economic impact, "It is possible to assert that India's experience with Britain had beneficial consequences Our notions of the rule of law, of constitutional government, of free press, have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age-old civilisation met the dominant Empire of the day… all our great institutions, derived from British-Indian administration, have served the country well. Simply due to the fact India was governed for Britain's benefit. Britain's rise in over two centuries was financed by its depredation of India.