I'm not a student of history but I'd like to review the benefits and costs of British rule in India. We know much about its benefits, but little about its costs. This will be a sporadic exercise, dependent on the availability of time.
Happy to receive your suggestions for further reading on this subject.
KARL MARX ON BRITISH EXPLOITATION OF INDIA
Who else to begin with but Karl Marx. I don't trust Marx's writing, but this might be worth exploring:
There cannot, however, remain any doubt but that the misery inflicted by the British on Hindostan is of an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindostan had to suffer before. I do not allude to European despotism, planted upon Asiatic despotism, by the British East India Company, forming a more monstrous combination than any of the divine monsters startling us in the Temple of Salsette. This is no distinctive feature of British Colonial rule, but only an imitation of the Dutch, and so much so that in order to characterise the working of the British East India Company, it is sufficient to literally repeat what Sir Stamford Raffles, the English Governor of Java, said of the old Dutch East India Company:“The Dutch Company, actuated solely by the spirit of gain, and viewing their [Javan] subjects, with less regard or consideration than a West India planter formerly viewed a gang upon his estate, because the latter had paid the purchase money of human property, which the other had not, employed all the existing machinery of despotism to squeeze from the people their utmost mite of contribution, the last dregs of their labor, and thus aggravated the evils of a capricious and semi-barbarous Government, by working it with all the practised ingenuity of politicians, and all the monopolizing selfishness of traders.”All the civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests, famines, strangely complex, rapid, and destructive as the successive action in Hindostan may appear, did not go deeper than its surface. England has broken down the entire framework of Indian society, without any symptoms of reconstitution yet appearing. This loss of his old world, with no gain of a new one, imparts a particular kind of melancholy to the present misery of the Hindoo, and separates Hindostan, ruled by Britain, from all its ancient traditions, and from the whole of its past history. [Source]
Note that I disagree with Marx's further interpretation: "the British in East India accepted from their predecessors the department of finance and of war, but they have neglected entirely that of public works. Hence the deterioration of an agriculture which is not capable of being conducted on the British principle of free competition, of laissez-faire and laissez-aller."
Why? Because it is not quite true that the British neglected public works (although there was far less effort in this direction, initially, than India needed), but more importantly, there was little genuine laissez-faire. Freedom requires a range of well-established institutions of governance (such as justice). These came into being only very slowly – and in this regard, Macaulay's work on the Indian Penal Code stands out. The British also were reluctant to introduce the institutions of public education (in English) to India, which meant a considerable delay in transmission of ideas of science and liberty to India.
In due course, with the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1887 and associated rationalisation of land (and the canal system), Punjab became the granary of India.
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