Indic Studies Foundation

(a California non-Profit Organization)  kaushal's blog

index  Disclaimer






Home about us The Story of the Calendar AIT The Andhra  Satavahana Kingdoms Arrians Hiistory of Alexander Henry Rooke Aryabhata I Archaeology Aryan Migration Theories Astronomy Baudhika Dharma Bhartrihari Biographies  (mathematical sciences) Bhagavad Gita Bibliography California Text Book Travesty Caste Contact Core Values The Dhaarmic traditions Dholavira Digital Library of Indian History Books Distortions in Indian History Economics Editorial Archives Eminent Scientists Famine in British Colonial  India The ethics of the Hindu Glossary The Great Bharata war HEC2007 Hinduism/faqdharma.html HinduWeddings History The Indic Mathematical Tradition Indic Philosophy & Darshanas Indcstrat Kalidasa Katyayana Mathematics News and Current Events Panini References on India (library of Congress) References on Indic History References on Philosophy References for Place value systems References on Vedic Mathematical Sciences Sanskrit The Sanatana Dharna Secularism and the Hindu The South Asia File Srinivasa Ramanujan Vedic Mathematicians I Vedic Mathematicians II Vedic Mathematicians III What's in a name VP Sarathi Ancient Indian Astronomy






Who are We?

What do we do?

Latest News

Free Resources





University Education in India and the Influence of British Idealism


Could the Br Idealists not be anything less than sympathetic towards India & her culture after Macaulay?


Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 1st Baron


1800–59, English historian and author, b. Leicestershire, educated at Cambridge. After the success of his essay on Milton in the Edinburgh Review (Aug., 1825), he contributed regularly to that journal. He was called to the bar in 1826 and, elected to Parliament in 1830, distinguished himself as a Whig orator. In India, 1834–38, as a member of the supreme council of the East India Company he reformed the Indian educational system and composed a legal code for the colony. On his return to England, Macaulay devoted himself to writing history, but returned to public office as secretary of war (1839–41), paymaster of the forces (1846–47), and member of Parliament (1839–47, 1852–56). In 1857 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Macaulay of Rothley. Macaulay's greatest work and one of the great works of the 19th cent. was The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (5 vol., 1849–61). Its brilliant narrative style and its vivid recreation of the social world of the 17th cent. made it an unprecedented success. The work has been criticized, however, for its failure to achieve objectivity, primarily because of Macaulay's Whig and Protestant bias. He also wrote several notable short biographical essays on Bacon, Johnson, Warren Hastings, and others. His poetical work, the Lays of Ancient Rome (1842), celebrated the great events of Roman history.


See his letters, ed. by Thomas Pinney (6 vol., 1974–77); Sir G. O. Trevelyan (his nephew), The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (1876; repr., 2 vol., 1961); biographies by R. C. Beatty (1938, repr. 1971), John Clive (1987), and Owen Dudley Edwards (1988).

Battle of Plassey

British rule in India is conventionally described as having begun in 1757. On June 23rd of that year, at the Battle of Plassey, a small village and mango grove between Calcutta and Murshidabad, the forces of the East India Company under Robert Clive defeated the army of Siraj-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Bengal. The "battle" lasted no more than a few hours, and indeed the outcome of the battle had been decided long before the soldiers came to the battlefield. The aspirant to the Nawab's throne, Mir Jafar, was induced to throw in his lot with Clive, and by far the greater number of the Nawab's soldiers were bribed to throw away their weapons, surrender prematurely, and even turn their arms against their own army. Jawaharlal Nehru, in The Discovery of India (1946), justly describes Clive as having won the battle "by promoting treason and forgery", and pointedly notes that British rule in India had "an unsavoury beginning and something of that bitter taste has clung to it ever since."

Clive thought of the battle as the climax to his career, a striking testimony to the extraordinary shallowness of his character, while his enemies, whose judgment modernizing Indians are still inclined to accept, attributed Clive's success to the "faint- heartedness" of "the effeminate and luxurious Asiatics". In one fundamental respect, the battle of Plassey signified the state of things to come: few British victories were achieved without the use of bribes, and few promises made by the British were ever kept. No doubt it was these traits of "honor" and "fair play" to which Thomas Macaulay was alluding when he wrote with his usual pomposity, "No oath which superstition can devise, no hostage however precious, inspires a hundredth part of the confidence which is produced by the "yea, yea" and "nay, nay," of a British envoy."


The East India Company

The East India Company had the unusual distinction of ruling an entire country. Its origins were much humbler. On 31 December 1600, a group of merchants who had incorporated themselves into the East India Company were given monopoly privileges on all trade with the East Indies. The Company's ships first arrived in India, at the port of Surat, in 1608. Sir Thomas Roe reached the court of the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, as the emissary of King James I in 1615, and gained for the British the right to establish a factory at Surat. Gradually the British eclipsed the Portugese and over the years they saw a massive expansion of their trading operations in India. Numerous trading posts were established along the east and west coasts of India, and considerable English communities developed around the three presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. In 1717, the Company achieved its hitherto most notable success when it received a firman or royal dictat from the Mughal Emperor exempting the Company from the payment of custom duties in Bengal.

The Company saw the rise of its fortunes, and its transformation from a trading venture to a ruling enterprise, when one of its military officials, Robert Clive, defeated the forces of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah , at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. A few years later the Company acquired the right to collect revenues on behalf of the Mughal Emperor, but the initial years of its administration were calamitous for the people of Bengal. The Company's servants were largely a rapacious and self-aggrandizing lot, and the plunder of Bengal left the formerly rich province in a state of utter destitution. The famine of 1769-70, which the Company's policies did nothing to alleviate, may have taken the lives of as many as a third of the population. The Company, despite the increase in trade and the revenues coming in from other sources, found itself burdened with massive military expenditures, and its destruction seemed imminent. State intervention put the ailing Company back on its feet, and Lord North's India Bill, also known as the Regulating Act of 1773, provided for greater parliamentary control over the affairs of the Company, besides placing India under the rule of a Governor-General.

The first Governor-General of India was Warren Hastings. Under his dispensation, the expansion of British rule in India was pursued vigorously, and the British sought to master indigenous systems of knowledge. Hastings remained in India until 1784 and was succeeded by Cornwallis, who initiated the Permanent Settlement, whereby an agreement in perpetuity was reached with zamindars or landlords for the collection of revenue. For the next fifty years, the British were engaged in attempts to eliminate Indian rivals, and it is under the administration of Wellesley that British territorial expansion was achieved with ruthless efficiency. Major victories were achieved against Tipu Sultan of Mysore and the Marathas, and finally the subjugation and conquest of the Sikhs in a series of Anglo- Sikh Wars led to British occupation over the entirety of India. In some places, the British practiced indirect rule, placing a Resident at the court of the native ruler who was allowed sovereignty in domestic matters. Lord Dalhousie's notorious doctrine of lapse, whereby a native state became part of British India if there was no male heir at the death of the ruler, was one of the principal means by which native states were annexed; but often the annexation, such as that of Awadh [Oudh] in 1856, was justified on the grounds that the native prince was of evil disposition, indifferent to the welfare of his subjects. The annexation of native states, harsh revenue policies, and the plight of the Indian peasantry all contributed to the Rebellion of 1857-57, referred to previously as the Sepoy Mutiny. In 1858 the East India Company was dissolved, despite a valiant defense of its purported achievements by John Stuart Mill, and the administration of India became the responsibility of the Crown.




Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the town of Porbander in the state of what is now Gujarat on 2 October 1869. He had his schooling in nearby Rajkot, where his father served as the adviser or prime minister to the local ruler. Though India was then under British rule, over 500 kingdoms, principalities, and states were allowed autonomy in domestic and internal affairs: these were the so-called 'native states'. Rajkot was one such state.

Gandhi later recorded the early years of his life in his extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. His father died before Gandhi could finish his schooling, and at thirteen he was married to Kasturba [or Kasturbai], who was even younger. In 1888 Gandhi set sail for England, where he had decided to pursue a degree in law. Though his elders objected, Gandhi could not be prevented from leaving; and it is said that his mother, a devout woman, made him promise that he would keep away from wine, women, and meat during his stay abroad. Gandhi left behind his son Harilal, then a few months old.

In London, Gandhi encountered theosophists, vegetarians, and others who were disenchanted not only with industrialism, but with the legacy of Enlightenment thought. They themselves represented the fringe elements of English society. Gandhi was powerfully attracted to them, as he was to the texts of the major religious traditions; and ironically it is in London that he was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita. Here, too, Gandhi showed determination and single-minded pursuit of his purpose, and accomplished his objective of finishing his degree from the Middle Temple. He was called to the bar in 1891, and even enrolled in the High Court of London; but later that year he left for India.

After one year of a none too successful law practice, Gandhi decided to accept an offer from an Indian businessman in South Africa, Dada Abdulla, to join him as a legal adviser. Unbeknown to him, this was to become an exceedingly lengthy stay, and altogether Gandhi was to stay in South Africa for over twenty years. The Indians who had been living in South Africa were without political rights, and were generally known by the derogatory name of 'coolies'. Gandhi himself came to an awareness of the frightening force and fury of European racism, and how far Indians were from being considered full human beings, when he when thrown out of a first-class railway compartment car, though he held a first-class ticket, at Pietermaritzburg. From this political awakening Gandhi was to emerge as the leader of the Indian community, and it is in South Africa that he first coined the term satyagraha to signify his theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Gandhi was to describe himself preeminently as a votary or seeker of satya (truth), which could not be attained other than through ahimsa (non-violence, love) and brahmacharya (celibacy, striving towards God). Gandhi conceived of his own life as a series of experiments to forge the use of satyagraha in such a manner as to make the oppressor and the oppressed alike recognize their common bonding and humanity: as he recognized, freedom is only freedom when it is indivisible. In his book Satyagraha in South Africa he was to detail the struggles of the Indians to claim their rights, and their resistance to oppressive legislation and executive measures, such as the imposition of a poll tax on them, or the declaration by the government that all non-Christian marriages were to be construed as invalid. In 1909, on a trip back to India, Gandhi authored a short treatise entitled Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, where he all but initiated the critique, not only of industrial civilization, but of modernity in all its aspects.

Gandhi returned to India in early 1915, and was never to leave the country again except for a short trip that took him to Europe in 1931. Though he was not completely unknown in India, Gandhi followed the advice of his political mentor, Gokhale, and took it upon himself to acquire a familiarity with Indian conditions. He traveled widely for one year. Over the next few years, he was to become involved in numerous local struggles, such as at Champaran in Bihar, where workers on indigo plantations complained of oppressive working conditions, and at Ahmedabad, where a dispute had broken out between management and workers at textile mills. His interventions earned Gandhi a considerable reputation, and his rapid ascendancy to the helm of nationalist politics is signified by his leadership of the opposition to repressive legislation (known as the "Rowlatt Acts") in 1919. His saintliness was not uncommon, except in someone like him who immersed himself in politics, and by this time he had earned from no less a person than Rabindranath Tagore, India's most well-known writer, the title of Mahatma, or 'Great Soul'. When 'disturbances' broke out in the Punjab, leading to the massacre of a large crowd of unarmed Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and other atrocities, Gandhi wrote the report of the Punjab Congress Inquiry Committee. Over the next two years, Gandhi initiated the non-cooperation movement, which called upon Indians to withdraw from British institutions, to return honors conferred by the British, and to learn the art of self-reliance; though the British administration was at places paralyzed, the movement was suspended in February 1922 when a score of Indian policemen were brutally killed by a large crowd at Chauri Chaura, a small market town in the United Provinces. Gandhi himself was arrested shortly thereafter, tried on charges of sedition, and sentenced to imprisonment for six years. At The Great Trial, as it is known to his biographers, Gandhi delivered a masterful indictment of British rule.

Owing to his poor health, Gandhi was released from prison in 1925. Over the following years, he worked hard to preserve Hindu-Muslim relations, and in 1924 he observed, from his prison cell, a 21-day fast when Hindu-Muslim riots broke out at Kohat, a military barracks on the Northwest Frontier. This was to be of his many major public fasts, and in 1932 he was to commence the so-called Epic Fast unto death, since he thought of "separate electorates" for the oppressed class of what were then called untouchables (or Harijans in Gandhi's vocabulary, and dalits in today's language) as a retrograde measure meant to produce permanent divisions within Hindu society. Gandhi earned the hostility of Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables, but few doubted that Gandhi was genuinely interested in removing the serious disabilities from which they suffered, just as no one doubt that Gandhi never accepted the argument that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate elements in Indian society. These were some of the concerns most prominent in Gandhi's mind, but he was also to initiate a constructive programme for social reform. Gandhi had ideas -- mostly sound -- on every subject, from hygiene and nutrition to education and labor, and he relentlessly pursued his ideas in one of the many newspapers which he founded. Indeed, were Gandhi known for nothing else in India, he would still be remembered as one of the principal figures in the history of Indian journalism.

In early 1930, as the nationalist movement was revived, the Indian National Congress, the preeminent body of nationalist opinion, declared that it would now be satisfied with nothing short of complete independence (purna swaraj). Once the clarion call had been issued, it was perforce necessary to launch a movement of resistance against British rule. On March 2, Gandhi addressed a letter to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, informing him that unless Indian demands were met, he would be compelled to break the "salt laws". Predictably, his letter was received with bewildered amusement, and accordingly Gandhi set off, on the early morning of March 12, with a small group of followers towards Dandi on the sea. They arrived there on April 5th: Gandhi picked up a small lump of natural salt, and so gave the signal to hundreds of thousands of people to similarly defy the law, since the British exercised a monopoly on the production and sale of salt. This was the beginning of the civil disobedience movement: Gandhi himself was arrested, and thousands of others were also hauled into jail. It is to break this deadlock that Irwin agreed to hold talks with Gandhi, and subsequently the British agreed to hold a Round Table Conference in London to negotiate the possible terms of Indian independence. Gandhi went to London in 1931 and met some of his admirers in Europe, but the negotiations proved inconclusive. On his return to India, he was once again arrested.

For the next few years, Gandhi would be engaged mainly in the constructive reform of Indian society. He had vowed upon undertaking the salt march that he would not return to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, where he had made his home, if India did not attain its independence, and in the mid-1930s he established himself in a remote village, in the dead center of India, by the name of Segaon [known as Sevagram]. It is to this obscure village, which was without electricity or running water, that India's political leaders made their way to engage in discussions with Gandhi about the future of the independence movement, and it is here that he received visitors such as Margaret Sanger, the well-known American proponent of birth-control. Gandhi also continued to travel throughout the country, taking him wherever his services were required. One such visit was to the Northwest Frontier, where he had in the imposing Pathan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (known by the endearing term of "Frontier Gandhi", and at other times as Badshah [King] Khan), a fervent disciple. At the outset of World War II, Gandhi and the Congress leadership assumed a position of neutrality: while clearly critical of fascism, they could not find it in themselves to support British imperialism. Gandhi was opposed by Subhas Chandra Bose, who had served as President of the Congress, and who took to the view that Britain's moment of weakness was India's moment of opportunity. When Bose ran for President of the Congress against Gandhi's wishes and triumphed against Gandhi's own candidate, he found that Gandhi still exercised influence over the Congress Working Committee, and that it was near impossible to run the Congress if the cooperation of Gandhi and his followers could not be procured. Bose tendered his resignation, and shortly thereafter was to make a dramatic escape from India to find support among the Japanese and the Nazis for his plans to liberate India.

In 1942, Gandhi issued the last call for independence from British rule. On the grounds of what is now known as August Kranti Maidan, he delivered a stirring speech, asking every Indian to lay down their life, if necessary, in the cause of freedom. He gave them this mantra: "Do or Die"; at the same time, he asked the British to 'Quit India'. The response of the British government was to place Gandhi under arrest, and virtually the entire Congress leadership was to find itself behind bars, not to be released until after the conclusion of the war. A few months after Gandhi and Kasturba had been placed in confinement in the Aga Khan's Palace in Pune, Kasturba passed away: this was a terrible blow to Gandhi, following closely on the heels of the death of his private secretary of many years, the gifted Mahadev Desai. In the period from 1942 to 1945, the Muslim League, which represented the interest of certain Muslims and by now advocated the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims, increasingly gained the attention of the British, and supported them in their war effort. The new government that came to power in Britain under Clement Atlee was committed to the independence of India, and negotiations for India's future began in earnest. Sensing that the political leaders were now craving for power, Gandhi largely distanced himself from the negotiations. He declared his opposition to the vivisection of India. It is generally conceded, even by his detractors, that the last years of his life were in some respects his finest. He walked from village to village in riot-torn Noakhali, where Hindus were being killed in retaliation for the killing of Muslims in Bihar, and nursed the wounded and consoled the widowed; and in Calcutta he came to constitute, in the famous words of the last viceroy, Mountbatten, a "one-man boundary force" between Hindus and Muslims. The ferocious fighting in Calcutta came to a halt, almost entirely on account of Gandhi's efforts, and even his critics were wont to speak of the Gandhi's 'miracle of Calcutta'. When the moment of freedom came, on 15 August 1947, Gandhi was nowhere to be seen in the capital, though Nehru and the entire Constituent Assembly were to salute him as the architect of Indian independence, as the 'father of the nation'.

The last few months of Gandhi's life were to be spent mainly in the capital city of Delhi. There he divided his time between the 'Bhangi colony', where the sweepers and the lowest of the low stayed, and Birla House, the residence of one of the wealthiest men in India and one of the benefactors of Gandhi's ashrams. Hindu and Sikh refugees had streamed into the capital from what had become Pakistan, and there was much resentment, which easily translated into violence, against Muslims. It was partly in an attempt to put an end to the killings in Delhi, and more generally to the bloodshed following the partition, which may have taken the lives of as many as 1 million people, besides causing the dislocation of no fewer than 11 million, that Gandhi was to commence the last fast unto death of his life. The fast was terminated when representatives of all the communities signed a statement that they were prepared to live in "perfect amity", and that the lives, property, and faith of the Muslims would be safeguarded. A few days later, a bomb exploded in Birla House where Gandhi was holding his evening prayers, but it caused no injuries. However, his assassin, a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin by the name of Nathuram Godse, was not so easily deterred. Gandhi, quite characteristically, refused additional security, and no one could defy his wish to be allowed to move around unhindered. In the early evening hours of 30 January 1948, Gandhi met with India's Deputy Prime Minister and his close associate in the freedom struggle, Vallabhai Patel, and then proceeded to his prayers. That evening, as Gandhi's time-piece, which hung from one of the folds of his dhoti [loin-cloth], was to reveal to him, he was uncharacteristically late to his prayers, and he fretted about his inability to be punctual. At 10 minutes past 5 o'clock, with one hand each on the shoulders of Abha and Manu, who were known as his 'walking sticks', Gandhi commenced his walk towards the garden where the prayer meeting was held. As he was about to mount the steps of the podium, Gandhi folded his hands and greeted his audience with a namaskar; at that moment, a young man came up to him and roughly pushed aside Manu. Nathuram Godse bent down in the gesture of an obeisance, took a revolver out of his pocket, and shot Gandhi three times in his chest. Bloodstains appeared over Gandhi's white woolen shawl; his hands still folded in a greeting, Gandhi blessed his assassin: He Ram! He Ram!

As Gandhi fell, his faithful time-piece struck the ground, and the hands of the watch came to a standstill. They showed, as they had done before, the precise time: 5:12 P.M.



Pietermaritzburg: The Beginning of Gandhi's Odyssey


Gandhi had arrived in Durban, South Africa, in 1893 to serve as legal counsel to the merchant Dada Abdulla. In June, he was asked by Dada Abdulla to undertake a trip to Pretoria in the Transvaal, a journey which first took Gandhi to Pietermaritzburg. There, Gandhi was seated in the first-class compartment, since he had purchased a first-class ticket. A European who entered the compartment hastened to summon railway officials, who ordered Gandhi to remove himself to the van compartment, since 'coolies' and non-whites were apparently not permitted in first-class compartments. Gandhi protested and produced his ticket, but was warned that he would be forcibly removed if he did not make a gracious exit. As Gandhi refused to comply with the order, he was summarily pushed out of the train, and his luggage was tossed out on to the platform. The train steamed away, and Gandhi withdrew to the waiting room. "It was winter," Gandhi was to write in his autobiography, and "the cold was extremely bitter. My over-coat was in my luggage, but I did not dare to ask for it lest I should be insulted again, so I sat and shivered" (Part II, Ch. 8). He says he began to think of his "duty": ought he to stay back and fight for his "rights", or should he return to India? His own "hardship was superficial", "only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice."

In such circumstances did Gandhi first become aware of racism and of the grave inequities to which people are subjected on the grounds of color; and consequently Gandhi was to embark on a journey that would take him far beyond Pretoria. In other ways, too, this train journey, initially aborted, from Durban to Pretoria was to be symbolic of the manner in which Gandhi would cause other transgressions, and Gandhi's endeavors to reach all his countrywomen and men. Upon his permanent return to India in early 1915, Gandhi would use trains to travel the length and breadth of India, and he always traveled by third-class. Few Indians of his time, or indeed since, acquired the knowledge of India that Gandhi was to gain by his travels, and there can scarcely be any Indian who had criss-crossed the country by train as much as Gandhi had done.

The story of Gandhi's travails at Pietermaritzburg Railway Station has now acquired another life. In a moving ceremony at Pietermaritzburg Railway Station presided over by Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa, the Freedom of Pietermaritzburg was conferred posthumously on Mahatma Gandhi on April 25, 1997. Gathered together to right a century-old wrong, President Mandela recalled "Gandhi's magnificent example of personal sacrifice and dedication in the face of oppression". Gopalkrishna Gandhi, India's High Commissioner to South Africa, received the Freedom of Pietermaritzburg on behalf of his grandfather and noted that Gandhi's experience at the railway station was something like a second birth: "When Gandhi was evicted from the train, an Indian visiting South Africa fell but when Gandhi rose, an Indian South African rose."


Gandhi, M. K. Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Trans. from Gujarati by Mahadev Desai. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1927; many editions in print [Dover, Navajivan, Beacon Books, Penguin]

Mandela, Nelson. Righting a Wrong

Gandhi, Gopalkrishna. The Acceptance Speech. Mainstream (7 June 1997), pp. 30-32.


History 2376

History of the Indian Subcontinent II

South Asia under East India Company Domination, 1757-1858

I. Territorial Expansion (see MSA, pp. 49, 89; NHI, p. 202)


A. Madras Presidency territory virtually gained by 1800

B. Territory under Bengal Presidency encompasses entire Gangetic plain by 1805, except Oudh (Awadh)

C. Territory under Bombay Presidency virtually gained by 1818

D. By 1857, 1/3 of India under indirect rule of EICo; later known as "princely states"

II. "Orientalist" era


A. Initiated by Warren Hastings, Governor-General, 1772-85


1. Funds William Jones (1746-94) and other Orientalists (Indologists); Asiatic Society of Bengal est. 1784, also Asiatic Researches


B. Richard Wellesley (GG, 1800-1805) and the College of Fort William; initiates Bengal "Renaissance" (David Kopf)

III. Increasing "limited" Westernization


A. Board of Control est. 1784 by British Parliament to monitor Company activities

B. Cornwallis (GG, 1785-93) and the Permanent/Zamindari Settlement

C. Christian missions


1. Catholic missions; e.g., Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656)

2. Protestant missions


a. Enter in early 18th cent.; prohibited from English EICo territories before 1813

b. Main missions established in Danish and Dutch enclaves; e.g., Lutherans in Tranquebar and Baptists in Serampore, who pioneer printing of Indian languages


3. Educational legacy of Christian missions

D. Impact of Utilitarianism


1. James Mill's History of India (1818)

2. Thomas Macaulay's "Minute" (1835)


E. Indian elite support; e.g., Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833)


1. Campaigns against sati; banned 1829 by GG William Bentinck

2. Forms Brahmo Samaj


IV. Final decades of Company rule marked by:


A. Abolishment of thugi

B. Further territorial control: Punjab, Rajasthan, Sind, and Awadh (1856)

C. Entry of British industrial technology (especially railroads and telegraph) and increasing cultural arrogance

V. 1857-8: The Great "Revolt(s)" or "Mutiny" or "First Indian War of Independence"





Modern History Sourcebook:

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859):

On Empire and Education



The first selection a speech on the India bill of 1833 and expresses his view of the achievements and goals of the British Empire in the East. Between 1834 and 1838 he lived in Calcutta and served on the British "Supreme Council for India". His "Minute on Education, " from which the second selection below comes, touches on the relation of Western and Indian civilizations.


Education and the English Empire in India




I feel that, for the good of India itself, the admission of natives to high office must be effected by slow degrees. But that, when the fulness of time is come, when the interest of India requires the change, we ought to refuse to make that change lest we should endanger our own power, this is a doctrine of which I cannot think without indignation. Governments, like men, may buy existence too dear. "Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas," ["To lose the reason for living, for the sake of staying alive"] is a despicable policy both in individuals and in states. In the present case, such a policy would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed by every statesman of our time that the prosperity of a community is made up of the prosperity of those who compose the community, and that it is the most childish ambition to covet dominion which adds to no man's comfort or security. To the great trading nation, to the great manufacturing nation, no progress which any portion of the human race can make in knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the wealth by which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of indifference. It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.




Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from high office. 1 have no fears. The path of duty is plain before us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of national honor.








From Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Speech in Parliament on the Government of India Bill, 10 July 1833," Macaulay, Prose and Poetry, selected by G.M. Young (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 716-18



On Indian Education


We now come to the gist of the matter. We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it?



All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India, contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are, moreover, so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them. It seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be effected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them.


What then shall that language be? One-half of the Committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be, which language is the best worth knowing?


I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic.-But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the Committee who support the Oriental plan of education.


It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any Orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded, and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.


How, then, stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands preeminent even among the languages of the west. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us; with models of every species of eloquence; with historical compositions, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equalled; with just and lively representations of human life and human nature; with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, and trade; with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth, which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said, that the literature now extant in that language is of far greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of Government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; communities which are every year becoming more important, and more closely connected with our Indian empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects.




The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound Philosophy and true History, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English farrier [note: a horse shoer] -Astronomy, which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, History, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand years long, and Geography, made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.




We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are in modem times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society,-of prejudices overthrown,-of knowledge diffused,-of taste purified,-of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous.


The first instance to which I refer, is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost every thing that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but Chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and Romances in Norman-French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham [note: English humanists of the 16th century] our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments,-in History, for example, I am certain that it is much less so.


In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.






From Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Minute of 2 February 1835 on Indian Education," Macaulay, Prose and Poetry, selected by G. M. Young (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), pp-721-24,729.





© Paul Halsall, July 1998



Modern History Sourcebook:

John Hobson:

Imperialism, 1902






John A. Hobson (1858­1940), an English economist, wrote one the most famous critiques of the economic bases of imperialism in 1902.



Amid the welter of vague political abstractions to lay one's finger accurately upon any "ism" so as to pin it down and mark it out by definition seems impossible. Where meanings shift so quickly and so subtly, not only following changes of thought, but often manipulated artificially by political practitioners so as to obscure, expand, or distort, it is idle to demand the same rigour as is expected in the exact sciences. A certain broad consistency in its relations to other kindred terms is the nearest approach to definition which such a term as Imperialism admits. Nationalism, internationalism, colonialism, its three closest congeners, are equally elusive, equally shifty, and the changeful overlapping of all four demands the closest vigilance of students of modern politics.


During the nineteenth century the struggle towards nationalism, or establishment of political union on a basis of nationality, was a dominant factor alike in dynastic movements and as an inner motive in the life of masses of population. That struggle, in external politics, sometimes took a disruptive form, as in the case of Greece, Servia, Roumania, and Bulgaria breaking from Ottoman rule, and the detachment of North Italy from her unnatural alliance with the Austrian Empire. In other cases it was a unifying or a centralising force, enlarging the area of nationality, as in the case of Italy and the Pan­Slavist movement in Russia. Sometimes nationality was taken as a basis of federation of States, as in United Germany and in North America.


It is true that the forces making for political union sometimes went further, making for federal union of diverse nationalities, as in the cases of Austria­Hungary, Norway and Sweden, and the Swiss Federation. But the general tendency was towards welding into large strong national unities the loosely related States and provinces with shifting attachments and alliances which covered large areas of Europe since the break­up of the Empire. This was the most definite achievement of the nineteenth century. The force of nationality, operating in this work, is quite as visible in the failures to achieve political freedom as in the successes; and the struggles of Irish, Poles, Finns, Hungarians, and Czechs to resist the forcible subjection to or alliance with stronger neighbours brought out in its full vigour the powerful sentiment of nationality.


The middle of the century was especially distinguished by a series of definitely "nationalist" revivals, some of which found important interpretation in dynastic changes, while others were crushed or collapsed. Holland, Poland, Belgium, Norway, the Balkans, formed a vast arena for these struggles of national forces.


The close of the third quarter of the century saw Europe fairly settled into large national States or federations of States, though in the nature of the case there can be no finality, and Italy continued to look to Trieste, as Germany still looks to Austria, for the fulfilment of her manifest destiny.


This passion and the dynastic forms it helped to mould and animate are largely attributable to the fierce prolonged resistance which peoples, both great and small, were called on to maintain against the imperial designs of Napoleon. The national spirit of England was roused by the tenseness of the struggle to a self­consciousness it had never experienced since "the spacious days of great Elizabeth." Jena made Prussia into a great nation; the Moscow campaign brought Russia into the field of European nationalities as a factor in politics, opening her for the first time to the full tide of Western ideas and influences.


Turning from this territorial and dynastic nationalism to the spirit of racial, linguistic, and economic solidarity which has been the underlying motive, we find a still more remarkable movement. Local particularism on the one hand, vague cosmopolitanism upon the other, yielded to a ferment of nationalist sentiment, manifesting itself among the weaker peoples not merely in a sturdy and heroic resistance against political absorption or territorial nationalism, but in a passionate revival of decaying customs, language, literature and art; while it bred in more dominant peoples strange ambitions of national "destiny" and an attendant spirit of Chauvinism. .


No mere array of facts and figures adduced to illustrate the economic nature of the new Imperialism will suffice to dispel the popular delusion that the use of national force to secure new markets by annexing fresh tracts of territory is a sound and a necessary policy for an advanced industrial country like Great Britain....


­ But these arguments are not conclusive. It is open to Imperialists to argue thus: "We must have markets for our growing manufactures, we must have new outlets for the investment of our surplus capital and for the energies of the adventurous surplus of our population: such expansion is a necessity of life to a nation with our great and growing powers of production. An ever larger share of our population is devoted to the manufactures and commerce of towns, and is thus dependent for life and work upon food and raw materials from foreign lands. In order to buy and pay for these things we must sell our goods abroad. During the first three­quarters of the nineteenth century we could do so without difficulty by a natural expansion of commerce with continental nations and our colonies, all of which were far behind us in the main arts of manufacture and the carrying trades. So long as England held a virtual monopoly of the world markets for certain important classes of manufactured goods, Imperialism was unnecessary.


After 1870 this manufacturing and trading supremacy was greatly impaired: other nations, especially Germany, the United States, and Belgium, advanced with great rapidity, and while they have not crushed or even stayed the increase of our external trade, their competition made it more and more difficult to dispose of the full surplus of our manufactures at a profit. The encroachments made by these nations upon our old markets, even in our own possessions, made it most urgent that we should take energetic means to secure new markets. These new markets had to lie in hitherto undeveloped countries, chiefly in the tropics, where vast populations lived capable of growing economic needs which our manufacturers and merchants could supply. Our rivals were seizing and annexing territories for similar purposes, and when they had annexed them closed them to our trade The diplomacy and the arms of Great Britain had to be used in order to compel the owners of the new markets to deal with us: and experience showed that the safest means of securing and developing such markets is by establishing 'protectorates' or by annexation....


It was this sudden demand for foreign markets for manufactures and for investments which was avowedly responsible for the adoption of Imperialism as a political policy.... They needed Imperialism because they desired to use the public resources of their country to find profitable employment for their capital which otherwise would be superfluous....


Every improvement of methods of production, every concentration of ownership and control, seems to accentuate the tendency. As one nation after another enters the machine economy and adopts advanced industrial methods, it becomes more difficult for its manufacturers, merchants, and financiers to dispose profitably of their economic resources, and they are tempted more and more to use their Governments in order to secure for their particular use some distant undeveloped country by annexation and protection.


The process, we may be told, is inevitable, and so it seems upon a superficial inspection. Everywhere appear excessive powers of production, excessive capital in search of investment. It is admitted by all business men that the growth of the powers of production in their country exceeds the growth in consumption, that more goods can be produced than can be sold at a profit, and that more capital exists than can find remunerative investment.


It is this economic condition of affairs that forms the taproot of Imperialism. If the consuming public in this country raised its standard of consumption to keep pace with every rise of productive powers, there could be no excess of goods or capital clamorous to use Imperialism in order to find markets: foreign trade would indeed exist....


Everywhere the issue of quantitative versus qualitative growth comes up. This is the entire issue of empire. A people limited in number and energy and in the land they occupy have the choice of improving to the utmost the political and economic management of their own land, confining themselves to such accessions of territory as are justified by the most economical disposition of a growing population; or they may proceed, like the slovenly farmer, to spread their power and energy over the whole earth, tempted by the speculative value or the quick profits of some new market, or else by mere greed of territorial acquisition, and ignoring the political and economic wastes and risks involved by this imperial career. It must be clearly understood that this is essentially a choice of alternatives; a full simultaneous application of intensive and extensive cultivation is impossible. A nation may either, following the example of Denmark or Switzerland, put brains into agriculture, develop a finely varied system of public education, general and technical, apply the ripest science to its special manufacturing industries, and so support in progressive comfort and character a considerable population upon a strictly limited area; or it may, like Great r Britain, neglect its agriculture, allowing its lands to go out of cultivation and its population to grow up in towns, fall behind other nations in its methods of education and in the capacity of adapting to its uses the latest scientific knowledge, in order that it may squander its pecuniary and military resources in forcing bad markets and finding speculative fields of investment in distant corners of the earth, adding millions of square miles and of unassimilable population to the area of the Empire.


The driving forces of class interest which stimulate and support this false economy we have explained. No remedy will serve which permits the future operation of these forces. It is idle to attack Imperialism or Militarism as political expedients or policies unless the axe is laid at the economic root of the tree, and the classes for whose interest Imperialism works are shorn of the surplus revenues which seek this outlet.



From John A. Hobson, Imperialism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1948),pp.3­5 71­72,77­78,80­81,92­93.






Thomas B. Macaulay, "Minute on Indian Education," (February 1835) 


Long considered the text that put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, and directly caused the shift in official British educational policy in India (then Governor-General Lord Bentinck did issue a resolution in March 1835, declaring that English literature and language were to be taught to the "natives"), Macaulay's Minute was actually one of many documents written in the 45 or so years of the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy. I think its fame derives partly from its rhetoric and partly from both its positioning (near the end) and Macaulay's (1800-1859) fame at the time it was published (it wasn't registered in the government office in Bengal until 1862, after which Sir George Trevelyan presumably copied it, or received it from someone who copied it, and sent it off to a London magazine). But, this is speculation; it is still important in terms of the history of English studies.


<Picture>Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, (1989) 


Now acknowledged as the definitive study of the "origins" of English Studies, Masks firmly locates these origins in their colonial context and argues that the humanizing and civilizing mission widely accepted to be at the heart of the disipline was absolutely bound up with the civilizing mission in British India. English studies, then, played a central role in the British efforts to institute and maintain hegemonic control over the "natives." One could extract and say that writing and violence are ever-interwoven.







Excerpts from the Introduction to Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (1989), by Gauri Viswanathan


This text is part of the History of English Studies Page (Rita Raley).






This book is about the institution, practice, and ideology of English studies introduced in India under British colonial rule. It does not seek to be a comprehensive record of the history of English, nor does it even attempt to catalog, in minute historical fashion, the various educational decisions, acts, and resolutions that led to the institutionalization of English. The work draws upon the illuminating insight of Antonio Gramsci, writing on the relations of culture and power, that cultural domination works by consent and can (and often does) precede conquest by force. Power, operating concurrently at two clearly distinguishable levels, produces a situation where, Gramsci writes, "the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as `domination' and as `intellectual and moral leadership'. . . . It seems clear . . . that there can and indeed must be hegemonic activity even before the rise to power, and that one should not count only on the material force which power gives in order to exercise an effective leadership."' 


The importance of moral and intellectual suasion in matters of governance is readily conceded on theoretical grounds as an implicit tactical maneuver in the consolidation of power. There is an almost bland consensus in post-Arnoldian cultural criticism that the age of ideology begins when force gives way to ideas. But the precise mode and process by which cultural domination is ensured is less open to scrutiny. The general approach is to treat "ideology" as a form of masking, and the license given to speculative analyses as a result is sometimes great enough to suspend, at least temporarily, the search for actual intentions. 


Admittedly, detailed records of self-incrimnation are not routinely preserved in state archives. But where such records do exist the evidence is often compelling enough to suggest that the Gramscian notion is not merely a theoretical construct, but an uncannily accurate description of historical process, subject to the vagaries of particular circumstances. A case in point is British India, whose checkered history of cultural confrontation conferred a sense of urgency to voluntary cultural assimilation as the most effective form of political action. The political choices are spelled out in the most chilling terms by J. Farish in a minute issued in the Bombay Presidency: "The Natives must either be kept down by a sense of our power, or they must willingly submit from a conviction that we are more wise, more just, more humane, and more anxious to improve their condition than any other rulers they could possibly have." 


This book sets out to demonstrate in part that the discipline of English came into its own in an age of colonialism, as well as to argue that no serious account of its growth and development can afford to ignore the imperial mission of educating and civilizing colonial subjects in the literature and thought of England, a mission that in the long run served to strengthen Western cultural hegemony in enormously complex ways. It is not enough, as D. J. Palmer, Terry Eagleton, Chris Baldick, Peter Widdowson, and Brian Davies, among others, seem to believe, to provide token acknowledgment of the role of empire by linking the Indian Civil Service exanlinations, in which English literature was a major subject, to the promotion of English studies in British schools and universities. Important as these examinations were, they do not indicate the fiill extent of imperialism's involvement with literary culture. The amazingly young history of English literature as a subject of study (it is less than a hundred and fifty years old) is frequently noted, but less appreciated is the irony that English literature appeared as a subject in the curriculum of the colonies long before it was institutionalized in the home country. As early as the 18205, when the classical curriculum still reigned supreme in England despite the strenuous efforts of some concerned critics to loosen its hold, English as the study of culture and not simply the study of language had already found a secure place in the British Indian curriculum. The circumstances of its ascendancy are what this book is immediately concerned with, though it also seeks simultaneously to draw attention to the subsequent institutionalization and ideological content of the discipline in England as it developed in the colonial context. 


I have two general aims in writing this book: the first is to study the adaptation of the content of English literary education to the administrative and political imperatives of British rule; and the other is to examine the ways in which these imperatives in turn charged that content with a radically altered significance, enabling the humanistic ideals of enlightenment to coexist with and indeed even support education for social and political control. As a description of process, this study is specifically directed at elucidating the relationship between the institutionalization of English in India and the exercise of colonial power, between the processes of curricular selection and the impulse to dominate and control. The curriculum is conceived here not in the perennialist sense of an objective, essentialized entity but rather as discourse, activity, process, as one of the mechanisms through which knowledge is socially distributed and culturally validated. 


The history of education in British India shows that certain humanistic functions traditionally associated with literature for example, the shaping of character or the development of the aesthetic sense or the disciplines of ethical thinking-were considered essential to the processes of sociopolitical control by the guardians of the same tradition. Despite occasional murmurs to the contrary, the notion that these functions are unique to English literature still persists in modern curricular pronouncements, with a consequent blurring of the distinction between "English literature" and "English studies"--a blurring that Richard Poirier noted as a by now more general characteristic of contemporary culture. "English studies," he argues in an essay that still remains timely, has been allowed to appropriate literature in ways "not unarguably belonging to it." The distinction proposed in Poirier's title--"What Is English Studies, and If You Know What That Is, What Is English Literature?"--is a useful one to bear in mind in connection with British Indian educational history, insofar as it draws attention to literary education, as opposed to literature, as a major institutional support system of colonial administration. The transformation of literature from its ambivalent "original" state into an instrument of ideology is elsewhere described by another critic, Terry Eagleton, as 


“a vital instrument for the insertion of individuals into the perceptual and symbolic forms of the dominant ideological formation....What is finally at stake is not literary texts but Literature -- the ideological significance of that process whereby certain historical texts are severed from their social formations, defined as "literature," and bound and ranked together to constitute a series of "literary traditions" and interrogated to yield a set of ideological presupposed responses.” [Criticism and Ideology, p. 57] 


Indeed, once such importance is conceded to the educational function, it is easier to see that values assigued to literature--such as the proper development of character or the shaping of critical thought or the formation of aesthetic judgment--are only problematically located there and are more obviously serviceable to the dynamic of power relations between the educator and those who are to be educated. A vital if subtle connection exists between a discourse in which those who are to be educated are represented as morally and intellectually deficient and the attribution of moral and intellectual values to the literary works they are assigned to read. 


[text omitted] 


Among the several broad areas of emphases in this book the first and perhaps most important is that the history of English and that of Indian developments in the same areas are related but at the same time quite separate. I stress the word separate to indicate the gap between ftinctions and uses of literary education in England and in India, despite the comparability of content at various points. I refer specifically to such instances as differing uses of the same curricula, the different status of various literary genres like romantic narrative, lyric poetry, and pastoral -- drama, and different conceptions of mind and character that marginalized the work of such Orientalist scholars as William Jones in the context of Indian educational policy while simultaneously elevating to a new status in British literary and educational culture those same "Oriental" tales denounced for their deleterious effects on Indian morals and character. 


One of the great contradictions in early nineteenth-century developments is uncovered at the level of comparison of the educational histories of England and India. With the educational context, one runs headon into the central paradox of British deliberations on the curriculum as prescribed for both England and India: while Englishmen of all ages could enjoy and appreciate exotic tales, romantic narrative, adventure stories, and mythological literature for their charm and even derive instruction from them, their colonial subjects were believed incapable of doing so because they lacked the prior mental and moral cultivation requlred for literature-especially their own-to have any instructive value for them. A play like Kalidas' Shakuntala, which delighted Europeans for its pastoral beauty and lyric charm and led Horace Wilson, a major nineteenth-century Sanskrit scholar, to call it the jewel of Indian literature, was disapproved of as a text for study in Indian schools and colleges, and the judgment that the more popular forms of [Oriental literature] are marked with the greatest immorality and impurity" held sway. The inability to discriminate between decency and indecency was deemed to be a fixed characteristic of the native mind, a symptom of the "dulness of their comprehension." Clearly such a statement suggests that it is not the morality of literature that is at issue, but the mental capabilities of the reader. Raising Indians to the intellectual level of their Western counterparts constituted a necessary prerequisite to literary instruction, especially in texts from the native culture, and consequently to forestalling the danger of havin g unfortified minds falsely seduced by the "impurities" of the traditional literature of the East. 


But far from resulting in a markedly different curriculum from the English, this view of Indian character produced almost an identical one, though qualified by stipulated prerequisites. The claim that literature can be read meaningfully only when a high degree of morality and understanding is present in the reader implied that certain controlled measures were necessary to bring the reader up to the desired level. But paradoxically, those measures took the form of instruction in that same literature for which preparation was deemed necessary. To raise the reader to a level of morality that would better prepare him to read literature effectively the method that was struck on was instruction in Western aesthetic principles; by giving young Indians a taste for the arts and literature of England, "we might insensibly wean their affections from the Persian muse, teach them to despise the barbarous splendour of their ancient princes, and, totally supplanting the tastes which flourished under the Mogul reign, make them look to this country with that veneration, which the youthful student feels for the classical soil of Greece." At the same time the self-justification of the literature curriculum--its use as both method and object of moral and intellectual study remained the central problematic of British ideology, its authority necessarily requiring external support and validation to be more than merely self-confirming. 


Clearly the relatedness of the two histories is no less real than their separateness, but I do not find it particularly useful to argue in behalf of a common pattern of development if the chief intent is to indicate simultaneity, identity of purpose, and parallelism of design. Suggesting that the educational histories of England and India constitute a common history invariably communicates the erroneous impression that the functions of education remaln constant regardless of context. The view that a humanistic education holds the same meaning and purpose for both colonizer and colonized quickly crumbles under the weight of even the most casual scrutiny. On the other hand, tightening what appears in the above construction to be an arbitrarily conceived relation by alternatively proposing a cause-effect paradigm veers toward quite the other extreme, imputing an overly reductive determinism to the colonialist project and proposing equivalences between the composition of the various groups, including both rulers and ruled, that grossly oversimplify a complex, heterogeneous formation. As tempting as it is to read, say, Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and British Parliamentary Papers on Indian education as parallel cultural texts outlining a common strategy of social and political control, there are great dangers in reading the history of the education of Indians exclusively in terms of the education of the English lower classes. There are obvious differences, the two most important being, first, a well-entrenched learned class in India that was recognized by the British themselves as continuing to exert power and influence over the people, and second, a policy of religious neutrality that paralyzed British officials in administering a religious curriculum to the Indians comparable to the one taught in English parish schools and charity schools. Under the circumstances, the educational model of the West was inadequate to deal with the learned classes of India, possessing as the latter did their own deeply rooted systems of learning and institutions of specialized studies in philology, theology, and ancient science. In what must be described as a wryly ironic commentary on literary history, the inadequacy of the English model resulted in fresh pressure being applied to a seemingly innocuous and not yet ftilly formed discipline, English literature, to perform the functions of those social institutions (such as the church) that, in England, served as the chief disseminators of value, tradition, and authority. The surrogate functions that English literature acquired in India offer a powerful explanation for the more rapid institutionalization of the discipline in the Indian colony than in the country where it originated. 

[text omitted] 


The fact that English literary study had its beginnings as a strategy of containment raises the question, Why literature? If indeed the British were the unchallenged military power of India, why was the exercise of direct force discarded as a means of malntaining social control? What accounts for the British readiness to turn to a disciplinary branch of knowledge to perform the task of administering their colonial subjects? What was the assurance that a disguised form of authority would be more successful in quelling potential rebellion among the natives than a direct show of force? By what reasoning did literary texts come to signify religious faith, empirically verifiable truth, and social duty? Why introduce English in the first place only to work at strategies to balance its secular tendencies with moral and religious ones? 


These questions suggest a vulnerability in the British position that is most sharply felt when the history of British rule is read in light of the construction of ideology. There is little doubt that a great deal of strategic maneuvering went into the creation of a blueprint for social control in the guise of a humanistic program of enlightenment. But merely acknowledging this fact is not enough, for there is yet a further need to distinguish between strategy as unmediated assertion of authority and strategy as mediated response to situational imperatives. That is to say, it is important to determine whether British educational measures were elaborated from an uncontested position of superiority and strength and as such are to be read as unalloyed expressions of ethnocentric sentiment or whether that position itself was a fragile one that it was the role of educational decisions to fortify, given the challenge posed by historical contingency and confrontation. 


The argument of this book leans toward the second proposition, specifically, that the introduction of English represented an embattled response to historical and political pressures: to tensions between the East India Company and the English Parliament, between Parliament and missionaries, between the East India Company and the Indian elite classes. The vulnerability of the British, the sense of beleaguerment and paranoid dread, is reflected in defensive mechanisms of control that were devised in anticipation of what British administrators considered almost certain rebellion by natives agalnst actions and decisions taken by the British themselves. The inordinate attention paid by parliamentary discussions and debates and correspondence between the Court of Directors and the governor-general to anticipated reactions by the native population to, for example, the teaching of the Bible or the termination of funds for the support of Oriental learning is often in excess of accounts of actual response. 




For this reason it is entirely possible to study the ideology of British education quite independently of an account of how Indians actually reacted to, imbibed, manipulated, reinterpreted, or resisted the ideological content of British literary education.... 


This book does not attempt to be a “definitive” study of English studies in India. It leaves aside many questions apart from those concerning the effects of literary instruction on individual Indians and the readings that educated Indians gave to the English texts they were taught....I have taken considerable license with Edward Said'’s formulation of “beginnings” as a moment that “includes everything that develops out of it, no matter how eccentric the development or inconsistent the result,” to write a history of English studies as if it were entirely contained by its political and historical beginnings [Beginnings, p. 12]. 


[text omitted]







Christian Missionaries in India (part 1/2)







     Missionaries in India, Continuities, Changes and Dilemmas(1/2)

                           By Arun Shouri



     (The following review of the above book is by M. V. Kamath)


To many Hindus one of the most distressing things about Christianity is the

effort of the missionaries to convert people to their religion. Let it be said

here and now: The constitution of India under Article 25 gives every citizen

the right "subject to public order, morality and health"....."freely to

profess, practice and propagate religion". Nobody is barred from propagating

religion and a christain missionary has every right under law to "propagate"

christianity. Presumably propagation includes the right to convert. It is here

that certain questions arise.


In January 1994, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) decided to

engage people from other religions in a dialogue. "Its purpose", the Catholic

Directory of India stated, "is to facilitate common action of the Hierarchy in

matters that affect or are liable toaffect the common interests of the Catholic

Church of India". To attend the meeting organised by the CBCI, Mr. Arun Shouri

was also invited. The text of his lecture has now been expanded into a book

entitled "Missionaries in Inndia, Constinuities, Changes, Dilemmas". It is

about the best expression of how Hindus feel about conversions, in the second

hlaf of the 20th century.


Mr. Shouri spoke about continuities, changes and dilemmas - dilemmas,

especially which the Christian Church(Catholic and Protestant) have to face. It

is no more possible to speak of Hindusim in the language employed by

missionaries in the second half of the 19th century. India, then, was under

British rule and the British though not quite like the early Islamic rulers,

were just as happy to enroll members to the Christian Church. Shourie has

reproduced Macaulay's famous Minutes in which he ran down all the Vedas and the

Upanishads as indeed all Indian literature sayinng that " a single shelf of a

good European library was worth the whole native literature of India!" To add

insult to injury, he added: "it is I believe no exaggeration to say that all

the historicalinformation which has been collected from allthe books which have

been collected from all the books which have been written in the Sanskrit

language is less valuable than what may be found in most paltry abridgement

used at preparatory scholls in England. In every branch of physical or moral

philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same." Only

an ignorant or mad man could have said such things. Macaulay, one suspects, was

even worse, he was arrogant.


To make his case of how the foreigner saw India and Hindusim, Arun Shourie has

quoted two others. Charles Trevelyan and Richard Temple. Temple was a finance

minister of India in the 1880s and his views on Hinduism (and even Buddhism)

were no less contemptous. Shourie has quoted liberally from Temple's Oriental

Experience. Had Temple said the same thing in the 1990s, he would probably have

been hung, drawn and quartered - so libellous are his words.


     Missionaries in India, Continuities, Changes and Dilemmas(2/2)

                           By Arun Shouri



     (The following review of the above book is by M. V. Kamath)


There is a popular myth that the British Government stayed away from

conversions and that the Christian missionaries stayes away from politics.

Shourie has questioned that. As he says: The work of the Church was not done by

the missionaries alone; religiously neutral administrators did a good bit of

it. Correspondingly, the work of the Empire was not done by the administrators

alone, the missionaries did a good bit of it. And that contribution was

acknowledged by the ruler and the ruled." Lord Palmerston, the then Prime

Minister is quoted as sayinng, "It is not only our duty but in our own interest

to promote the diffusion of Christianity as far as possible throughout the

length and breadth of India," And Lord Halifax when he was Secretary of State

wrote: "Every additional Christian is an additional bond of uninon with this

couuntry and an additional source of strngth to the Empire." The Englishman

expected every Christian to be a traitor to his own country. Fortunately for

us, thousands of Christianns disappointed our British rulers.


It was not just the odd British PM or the general run of the mssionary that had

contempt for Hinduism. Max muller who is greatly admired for his translation of

Snskrit works was also to add his tuppence-worth of thoughts on the subject of

Hindu philosophy. He once wrote: "A large number of Vedic hymns are chilidish

in the extreme, tedious, low and commonplace." When Duke of Argyll was

appointed Secretary of State for India in DEcember 1868, Max Muller wrote to

him: "India has been conquered once, but India must be conquered again and that

second conquest should be a conquest by education." He added: "The ancient

religion is doomed and if Christianity does not step in, whose fault will it

be ?"


Such were the calumnies uttered against Hinduism. Now there is a change among

Christian missionaries, says Shourie who, however, questions some of the

presumptions of the new set of missionaries who now grudgingly conceded that

salvatiuon is possible in each religion. He also questions certain Chrisitna

assumptions. He asks: Is it all right to worship the idol of Mary but not that

of the idol of Vishnu? To clutch the CRoss but not to turn beads? To demand

reservations to be extended to Christians who are schedukled castes but not to

accept the notion of caste? Christians he concedes are changing but he adds

that we will know if they have truly shifted, from some tests:


            *          First we will know that the Church has truly changed

                        when it undertakes and disseminates an honest accounting

                        of the calumnies it heaped on India and Hindusim.


            *          The second thing to look for would be the extent to which

                        the Church acquaints Christians in India as well as groups

                        it is aiming at with the results of the scholarly work

                        on the two central claims of the Church, that the Bible

                        is the revealed word of God, that it is wholly free from

                        error and that the Church, in particular, the Pope is

                        infallible. The scholarly work has blown craters in

                        these claims.


            *          In view of the fact, now proclaimed by the Church, that

                        salvation is possible in each religion, what is the ground

                        for conversion of people to Chrisitianity, in particular

                        by the sorts of means which we saw are in use in the

                        North-EAst today?


Arun Shourie's book should be studied in great detail by all policy makers in

government as it should be studied by the missionaries and the entire body of

the Church - Catholic and Protestant. The book raises many embarassing

questions that should be boldly faced. It explains as few books in recent

times, of the anguish of many Hindus as well as their angst. Perhaps Shourie

should write a book on Islam and Hindus as well so that the minories will know

why the majority often behaves and feels as it does at crucial moments. Therein

lies our joint  salvation.



Courtesy: The Organiser, May 22, 1994.







(1800-59). For literary excellence Thomas Babington Macaulay's five-volume `History of England' was surpassed only by Edward Gibbon's `Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire '. Macaulay was a historian, essayist, orator, and politician whose views formed the social and political outlook of a generation of Englishmen. His clear and concise writing style powerfully influenced English journalism for half a century.


Thomas Babington Macaulay was born in Rothley Temple, Leicestershire, England, on Oct. 25, 1800. His father, Zachary Macaulay, was a noted reformer, an opponent of slavery, and an ally of the abolitionist William Wilberforce. Thomas attended Trinity College at Cambridge and later studied law and was admitted to the bar. He soon turned from law to literature. Young Macaulay's essay on Milton appeared in The Edinburgh Review in August 1825. This was the first of a series of essays that made him and the Review famous for 20 years.


Macaulay's gifts as a writer and speaker prompted him to seek public office. Politically he was a Whig and strove for wider voting rights and extensive reforms. He was elected to Parliament in 1830 and was later sent to India as legal adviser to the supreme council. In India Macaulay started a national system of education, promoted the equality of Europeans and Indians before the law, and drafted a penal code that later became the basis of Indian criminal law. After serving in India from 1834 until 1838 he returned home and entered Parliament again. For two years he served as secretary for war. From 1841 to 1846 he was inactive politically, which gave him time to write. He published `Lays of Ancient Rome' in 1842. This collection contains the well-known ballad "Horatius at the Bridge," based on an ancient Roman tale of heroism. This book was followed in 1843 by `Critical and Historical Essays'.


In 1847 Macaulay lost his seat in Parliament. Although he was again elected in 1852, his interest in politics had declined, and he was determined to take up what he considered his life work--writing the history of England. The first two volumes appeared in 1849 and enjoyed an unprecedented success, both in England and the United States. The next two volumes came out in 1855. By this time his health was failing. He moved to Campden Hill, where he hoped to live long enough to finish his work. Although he was made a member of the House of Lords in 1857, he rarely participated in its deliberations. He died on Dec. 28, 1859, and was buried in Westminster Abbey in London. The last volume of the history was edited by his sister Hannah and published in 1861.




The Crimean War •1857 The Indian Mutiny •1858 Victoria proclaims permanent British rule of India •1859 Darwin, Origin of Species •1862 Colenso, A Critical Examination of the Pentateuch •1864 Arnold, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time •1867 Karl Marx, Das Kapital

The Second Reform Bill •1869 Culture and Anarchy

Girton College, Cambridge, admits women •1871 Darwin, Descent of Man •1873 Pater, Studies in the Renaissance •1875 Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland •1876 Victoria proclaimed Empress of India •1880 Huxley, Science and Culture •1882 Arnold, Literature and Science •1884 The Third Reform Bill •1886 Haggard, King Solomon's Mines •1888 Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills •1895 Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, performed

Wilde arrested •1899-1902 Boer War •1901 Kipling, Kim

Death of Victoria •1902 Conrad, Heart of Darkness •1918 The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)



The ends of empire. (imperial Britain in the Victorian era)

The Wilson Quarterly; Gilmour, David; 03-22-1997


The Ends of Empire


by David Gilmour




    Until the last quarter of the 19th century, the ruler of the world's largest empire possessed no imperial title. Russia and Austria-Hungary had been ruled by emperors for centuries; Germany, recently united under Prussia, had just acquired its first, while France had just discarded its second. But Queen Victoria remained merely a queen until in 1876 her prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, persuaded Parliament to make her empress of India.


    The title was of purely symbolic significance: it did not apply to other parts of the empire and it did not even affect India, which continued to be administered by a viceroy responsible to the cabinet in London. But it reflected an increased sense of imperial purpose, a strong and growing belief in the permanence of British rule overseas. The empire still had a long way to expand: large territories in Africa and Asia had to be added before it could be claimed that a quarter of the globe was painted red. But 1876 may be seen as the apogee of imperial self-confidence. The 1857 Indian Mutiny, which briefly threatened British rule in the north, was almost a generation in the past; the "scramble for Africa" had not begun; and Britain's economic predominance was as yet unchallenged by Germany and the United States. Lord Mayo's belief that Britain should hold India "as long as the sun shines in heaven" was widely shared.



    The Victorian sense of empire was concentrated on India partly because of the subcontinent's strategic importance. As Lord Curzon, the queen's last viceroy, observed, the loss of India would reduce Britain to the status of a third-rate power. But India also provided the Victorians with an imperial calling which they could not pursue in other parts of the empire. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were settler societies responsible for their own government and without large native populations to administer. The South Africans had problems peculiar to themselves, but they too were white colonists with a hunger for land. When the writer John Buchan remarked that the empire was about "a sense of space in the blood," he was talking about the great and sparsely inhabited tracts of the white colonies. But in India, the Victorians were not colonists. They saw themselves as people with a mission, administrators entrusted by Providence to rule India for the sake of the Indians and to implant British ideas of justice, law, and humanity.



    It had not always been so. Since the 17th century, Britons had been sailing to India to enrich themselves. Many had been adventurers who risked the ravages of climate and disease to bring back large fortunes from Bengal. Some had liked India for itself, immersing themselves in native culture and adopting local styles of living. Both types became almost extinct in the Victorian period, victims alike of a high-minded and intolerant zeal for Westernization.



    Victorian attitudes toward empire were shaped by the Evangelical and Utilitarian movements in Britain, neither of which had sympathy for Indian customs or religion. Many people dreamed fantastically of a mass conversion of Hindus to Christianity. William Wilberforce, who was largely responsible for the abolition of the slave trade, regarded the conversion of India as even more important, "the greatest of all causes." And even though the number of converts from Hinduism turned out to be very small, the last Victorian bishop of Calcutta believed as late as 1915 that an Indian "Constantine" would emerge and bring his followers into the Christian fold.



    Few of the administrators shared this aspiration. Curzon regarded missionaries as a nuisance and believed that conversion was both improbable and undesirable. But members of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), that elite body of 1,100 men that administered the Indian Empire, were heavily influenced by the idea of secular Westernization explicit in the writings of the Utilitarians. The crucial figure was the philosopher James Mill, who in 1806 began writing a six-volume history of British India, a study regarded by Thomas Babington Macaulay as "the greatest historical work" in English since Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Mill, who had never been to India and knew no Indian language, argued that Indian society was so barbarous and decadent that it could be redeemed only by a system of government and law based on Utilitarian principles. A number of British officials, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, the governor of Bombay, were repelled by Mill's sarcasm, but they never refuted him in print. Mill's volumes became a textbook at Haileybury, the college established for entrants to the civil service, and were largely unchallenged for half a century.



    "Westernization" of course had its positive side: the practice of suttee or widow burning, was abolished, female infanticide was slowly reduced, and thugee--the ritual murder of travelers carried out by thugs devoted to the goddess Kali--was suppressed. India also benefited from judicial and administrative reforms as well as from the great surge of Victorian engineering, particularly the building of railways and canals for irrigation. But an inevitable result of Mill's thought was a deterioration in relations between British and Indians. Once it had been accepted that Indian society was barbarous and needed British help to reform itself, it was natural for the British to regard themselves as a superior race appointed to assist in the redemption of the barbarians. The consequent racial segregation--Indians in the bazaars and Britons in neat Civil Lines and army cantonments--is usually blamed on the racism and snobbery of Victorian ladies. But this is not fair. Many Victorian memsahibs no doubt were racist and snobbish, yet nobody has explained how they could have integrated into native society while Indian women, Hindus as well as Muslims, remained in purdah. The real villains were Mill's presumption and ignorance. Indian society was poorer and more backward than it had been in the 16th century, but solutions to its problems required both a sympathy and an understanding that a pseudohistorian in London simply did not possess.



    Macaulay denigrated the East and extolled British virtues even more eloquently than Mill. His essays on Robert Clive and Warren Hastings, the two preeminent figures in the making of the 18th-century empire, encouraged the view that the acquisition of India had been an essentially heroic enterprise, a theater for the display of true British character. Just as Sir Francis Drake's plundering was played down in the making of the Elizabethan hero, so Clive's rapaciousness during his first Bengal governorship was brushed aside by the need to provide an exemplar of British virtues. Victorians were taught that their Indian Empire had been won against enormous odds by qualities familiar since the days of Agincourt: courage, self-sacrifice, duty, iron will. And if such qualities had been the formula for India's acquisition, it was logical to assume that these qualities could also be deployed for its retention. Sir James Stephen, a redoubtable administrator, defined English virtues as "the masterful will, the stout heart, the active brain, the calm nerves, the strong body."


    Young district officers of the ICS were taught to believe that the future was in their hands. If they behaved as England expected, the Indians would accept them and the empire would be safe. So they dedicated their lives to the pursuit of justice, confident in their belief that all that these teeming districts needed was a solitary Englishman, straightforward and incorruptible, riding from village to village, setting up his table under a banyan tree and settling their disputes. It was an exhilarating experience, especially for young men fresh from Oxford University sent out to govern half a million people in areas the size of a large English county. What joy, one of them recalled, "feeling that one is working and ruling and making oneself useful in God's world."



    Based though they may have been on bad history and false premises, Victorian beliefs contained much that was true. Clive may not have been a spotless hero, but his military and administrative records are remarkable. The ICS officers may have believed that they belonged to a superior race, but their administration was regarded by most Indians as just; villagers divided by religion, caste, and class were happy to accept judgments handed out by a pink-faced, unbribable young man who belonged to none of their subdivisions. The statistics demonstrate how broad that acceptance was and also indicate how Western views of Indian inferiority had permeated the Indians themselves. Even after the horrors of the 1857 mutiny, Britain kept only 65,000 white soldiers in an area populated by 300 million people that now includes not only India but Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma. In one district of Lower Bengal, 20 Britons lived among 2.5 million natives. As late as 1939, about 28 million Punjabis--people not renowned for their docility--were governed by 60 British civil servants. No wonder Stalin grumbled that it was absurd for India to be ruled by a few hundred Englishmen.



    Nearly a century after the death of Queen Victoria, we can appreciate how precariously her Indian Empire rested on the self-confidence of its administrators. But this fragility was clear neither to most of them nor to foreign observers at the time. There seemed to be a solidity about the empire that enabled Theodore Roosevelt to compare its "admirable achievements" with those of the Romans. Bismarck, the German chancellor, once declared that "were the British Empire to disappear, its work in India would remain one of its lasting monuments," and even Gandhi was inspired to say that "the British Empire existed for the welfare of the world." All of them could see that the government of India was a despotism, yet all believed that it was a stable and enlightened one. India helped to illustrate the boast that at home Britain was "Greek" while abroad it was "Roman."



    At the height of the Victorian empire, few people foresaw the day when India would no longer need Britain. The peoples of the two countries, believed Curzon, were tillers in the same field, jointly concerned with the harvest and ordained to walk along the same path for many years to come. Like others, he believed in the emergence of a new patriotism, common to both British and Indians, that would bind the two races forever. As he once told members of the Bengali Chamber of Commerce,



If I thought it were all for nothing, and that you or I . . . were simply writing inscriptions on the sand to be washed out by the next tide, if I felt that we were not working here for the good of India in obedience to a higher law and a nobler aim, then I would see the link that holds England and India together severed without a sigh. But it is because I believe in the future of this country, and in the capacity of our race to guide it to goals that it has never hitherto attained, that I keep courage and press forward.





    British imperialists had a special feeling for India, the oldest part of the empire, but the civilizing mission was directed also to Africa. Writing in the 1890s, the young Winston Churchill asked,



What enterprise is more noble and more profitable than the reclamation from barbarism of fertile regions and large populations? To give peace to warring tribes, to administer justice where all was violence, to strike the chains from the slave, to draw the richness from the soil, to plant the earliest seeds of commerce and learning, to increase in whole peoples their capacities for pleasure and diminish their chances of pain--what more beautiful ideal or more valuable reward can inspire human effort?





    Neither Curzon nor Churchill could envisage Britain without an empire. "We have to answer our helm," declared the former, "and it is an imperial helm, down all the tides of Time." Wherever peoples were living in backwardness or barbarism, "wherever ignorance or superstition is rampant, wherever enlightenment or progress [is] possible, wherever duty and self-sacrifice call--there is, as there has been for hundreds of years, the true summons of the Anglo-Saxon race." And if the race did not answer that summons, if Britain became a country with "no aspiration but a narrow and selfish materialism," it would end up merely "a sort of glorified Belgium."



    Although the empire continued to expand into the 1920s, the tide had begun to turn against the modern Rome at least a generation earlier. Toward the end of the 19th century, a growing number of ICS officers were beginning to feel that their duty should be not to preserve British India "as long as the sun shines in heaven" but to prepare the country for their eventual departure. Simultaneously, the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885 by a new breed of Indian nationalists, coupled protestations of loyalty and even gratitude to the empire with demands for greater Indian involvement in the administration. Like their sympathizers in the ICS, they understood the fundamental contradiction of the Victorian empire: that it was impossible to reconcile the imperial mission abroad with the liberal tradition at home. While in Africa the colonists were under no pressure to attempt that reconciliation, in India the issue was impossible to avoid. How, for example, could it be explained to Jawaharlal Nehru, who was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, that the British liberal tradition could be applied to him in England but not in India? How could it be argued that such a man was unfit to govern his own people?



    Goaded by the Russian Revolution, the pressures of World War I, and the increasing talk of self-determination, the British government declared in 1917 that its goal--the same as Gandhi's later on--was self-rule for India within the British Empire. Much of course had to be resolved before self-rule became a reality, and an extra delay was caused by another world war. But, in 1947, the British finally let their liberalism triumph over their imperialism and withdrew peacefully from the subcontinent. The amicability of the withdrawal and the subsequent friendliness between the two peoples surprised observers such as Eleanor Roosevelt who were determined to see British India as a typical instance of colonial occupation. But there were few parallels with the situations in Algeria, Indochina, or anywhere else. Cheered by the populace, the last British regiment marched through Bombay's Gateway of India and sailed home. Despite differences over international issues, the respect and the affection remained: in 1979, when Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb, the Indian Parliament went into recess to mourn the last British viceroy of their country. India's leaders still remembered that in 1947 the British had kept their promise and departed; they had not been ejected. At the time of independence, Rajendra Prasad, who became India's first president, sent a message to King George VI that helps explain Indian feelings toward their recent rulers:



While our achievement is in no small measure due to our sufferings and sacrifices, it is also the result of world forces and events; and last, but not least, it is the consummation and fulfillment of the historic traditions and democratic ideals of the British race.





    Within 20 years of its departure from India, Britain had withdrawn from nearly all the rest of its empire. Soon the great swathes of red paint were reduced to a handful of dots such as Hong Kong, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands. The center of the world's greatest empire was transformed into a modest European state. Dean Acheson famously observed that Britain had lost an empire and not found a role, but most Britons were in fact not looking for a role. They wanted to jettison the remaining parts of their empire as soon as possible and forget all about their imperial past. Politicians of the 1960s were concerned about joining the Common Market and making Britain a more civilized society by measures such as decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing capital punishment. Historians sought to write India out of their island story or, where this was not possible, to disparage the achievements of the ICS and overestimate the importance of the Indian National Congress. Clive was reduced from the status of schoolboy hero to that of a worthy soldier who owed his success to the wealth of Bengal and the strength of the British navy.



    Exhilarated by the radical spirit and hedonism of the 1960s, people in Britain looked back at the empire with a mixture of guilt and embarrassment. The change in national status was so overwhelming that it could be managed only by rejecting or belittling the past. Even the adjective Victorian, referring as it does to the greatest period of national consequence, became a term of mockery and abuse, aimed at the reactionary, the prudish, and the old-fashioned. Britons congratulated themselves on having shed every remnant of that age. They visited India for its gurus and its mysticism, not because their grandparents had lived there or because the subcontinent was so bound up with their history that it contained two million British graves. All they needed from the imperial past was E. M. Forster's Passage to India--and later the film David Lean made of it--to convince them that the Raj was both stupid and morally wrong. They were much comforted too by Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi, which pandered to anti-Raj feeling, not least by having Lord Irwin, the benign young viceroy who was trusted and admired by Gandhi, played by Sir John Gielgud in his late seventies as a cantankerous martinet always itching to throw Gandhi in jail.



    In the 1980s, the emergence of a tepid Raj nostalgia (illustrated by the growth of Indian restaurants in Britain with names such as "Lancers" and "The Indian Cavalry Club") coincided with Margaret Thatcher's call for a return to "Victorian values" at home. Unfortunately, this term was exploited by both the prime minister and her critics for purposes of propaganda. To Thatcher, "Victorian values" primarily meant enterprise and self-reliance, while her left-wing critics talked about Victorian hypocrisy and reminded the nation of child chimney sweeps and Dickensian slums. Both sides regarded "Victorian values" as part of a remote past; neither saw nor attempted to see how many of the true Victorian values had survived in Britain and even abroad. Most of the ideals of William Gladstone, who symbolizes the Victorian age much better than its queen, are still among the ideals of British parliamentarians: liberty, free trade, international co-operation, representative government, and a foreign policy based on moral considerations as well as national interest. British political leaders often fail lamentably to uphold them, but they remain the ideals. Britons may have consigned the empire to remote and inaccurate history, but many of its values are still with them.



    Ironically, the Victorian empire is remembered more clearly in India than in Britain. Indeed, the Indian people are more aware of the whole Indo-British connection than the British are. Although some of them might like to expunge the Raj from their past, too much of its legacy remains in their institutions and on their ground. The British can distance themselves from their imperial past in a way which the Indians are denied. Arriving in the colorful anarchy of modern India, visitors might feel initially that the country has cut all links with the colonial epoch. But awareness of how much of the connection still survives will soon follow, not just among the great Victorian buildings of Bombay or in the imperial capital of New Delhi but among the people and their institutions. The civil service and the judiciary system are both descendants of the Victorian era, while parliamentary government is a legacy of later British rule. Democracy is far from perfect in India as elsewhere, but it is infinitely preferable to the regimes offered by its neighbors, China and Pakistan, over the last 50 years. And at a cultural level, English is now more widely spoken in India than ever and remains the only means of communication between an educated Hindi speaker in the north and an educated Tamil from the south.



    But the most vibrant Victorian legacy, one that would have astonished the Victorians themselves, is the game of cricket. This sedate sport, designed for English afternoons on village greens and school playing fields, remains almost incomprehensible outside the boundaries of the former British Empire. Yet in India, as in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies, it is played with a kind of baseball vigor and enthusiasm quite alien to England. The visitor to an Indian city on a Sunday will witness an extraordinary sight: crowded into every square yard of parks, gardens, alleys, and even cemeteries, thousands of Indian boys will be playing cricket, hitting and running and all the time shouting in antiquated English jargon. In India, cricket is truly what it never became in England--the national sport.




Suggestions for further reading


Reprinted from the Spring 1997 Wilson Quarterly







Score: 70; India Worldwide; Bulbul Sharma [woman, artist]; 03-31-1995 Size: 9K ; Reading Level: 13.  








Philosophy East and West

Volume 46-1 (January 1996)






The Hindu Syllogism: Nineteenth-Century Perceptions of Indian Logical Thought, pp. 1-16

Jonardon Ganeri

Following H. T. Colebrooke's 1824 "discovery" of the Hindu syllogism, his term for the five-step inference schema in the  Nyâya-sûtra, European logicians and historians of philosophy demonstrated considerable interest in Indian logical thought. This is in marked contrast with later historians of philosophy, and also with Indian nationalist and neo-Hindu thinkers like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan, who downgraded Indian rationalist traditions in favor of "spiritualist" or "speculative" texts. This article traces the role of these later thinkers in the origins of the myth that Indian thought is spiritual and arational. The extent to which nineteenth-century European philosophers were aware of Colebrooke's "discovery" is documented, and then their criticisms of the Hindu syllogism and its defense by orientalists like Ballantyne and Müller are examined.





God and History: Aspects of British Theology, 1875-1914.(book review s)

Score: 81; Victorian Studies; Thompson, David M.; 06-22-1994 Size: 4K ; Reading Level: 12.


Philosophical Idealism and Christian Belief.(book reviews)

Score: 81; Victorian Studies; Shaw, W. David; 03-22-1997 Size: 9K ; Reading Level: 10.




Business, Race, and Politics in British India, c. 1850-1960

Maria Misra





Contact UsAbout UsCore ValuesCurrent EventsEconomicsHome

Copyright ©Kosla Vepa

View My Stats