1947 -- Major Wars and Protests during the Raj
of British India Including dates of Acquisition -- shows Ajmer as
blob in Rajputana
the middle of the seventeenth century, "The riches of Asia were
incomparably greater than those of the European states. Her industrial
techniques showed a subtlety and a tradition that the European
handicrafts did not possess.... In matters of credit, transfer of
funds, insurance, and cartels, neither India, Persia, nor China had
anything to learn from Europe." J. Pirenne
'History of the Universe', 1950. (Quoted in Auguste
Toussaint's 'History of the Indian Ocean')
"...the South Indian laborers had
higher earnings than their British counterparts in the 18th century and
lived lives of greater security..." Parthsarathi 1998 (quoted in
"..In the middle of the 18th century
the standard of living in Europe was a little bit lower than the rest of
the world.." Bairoch 1981
Ernest Mandel (1968:
119-120) estimated that booty between 100 to 150 million
gold pounds reached Britain from India alone between 1750 and 1800 (quoted in detail in Frank 1978a:227).
"Bear in mind that the commerce of India is the commerce of the
world and ... he who can exclusively command it is the dictator of
Europe". Peter the Great of Russia
"In the last half of the 19th century
Indian per capita income probably declined by 50%' Hyndman 1919
After 150 years of British control, the 1930's average life
expectancy in India had fallen to 32 years.
In most of the West
European and North American countries, the average age
was already over 60 years
“Underfed, housed like animals, without light and air and water, the
Indian industrial worker is one of the most exploited of all in the
world of industrial capitalism"
" There was no increase in Indian per
capita income between 1757 and 1947" Maddison 1985
Between 1814 and
1835, British cotton cloth exported to India rose 51 times, while
imports from India fell to a quarter. During the same period, the
population of Dacca shrunk from 150,000 to 20,000. Even the
Governor-General, William Bentinck, was forced to report that 'the
misery hardly finds parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of
the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India.'
I was born in 1933, in the town of Ajmer, in the province of Rajputana, in British India -- a country in which I spent the first 16 years
of my life.
India was then and still is, the country with the
second largest population in the world. In 1933 India was a country of about 400 million people living in an
area of about 4 million square Km, just under half the size of the US. Her citizens included Nobel prize winners and
primitive head hunters.
the India of my youth was partitioned into the India and Pakistan and
Bangladesh of today. Today, India, with a population of more than one billion people, living
in about 3 million square Km is the
largest democracy in the world. By about 2020 India will be the
country with the largest population in the world. Along and within India's borders are the highest mountains, the
wettest forests, and (nearly) the hottest deserts in the world. Her Gangetic plain is the richest farmland in the world. India is a
country of superlatives.
Mother India is the cradle of two of the world's great religions. She has
lived in the western mind in a haze of mystery and awe since Greeks and
Jews began their scribblings. Legend has it that Sheba brought
Solomon jewels and spices
from India. Romans complained of the drain of gold from the
Roman Empire to India for the purchase of spices and textiles. Christian
navigators came to India looking for "Prester John" the mythical Christian
King who would save Europe from the Turks. While the Vikings were
raping and plundering Britain, an Indian philosopher was computing the
diameter of the earth to within 70 miles. Until the 19th century the Indian
subcontinent was self sufficient. It had no need of European wares.
From the beginning of the western voyages of exploration in the 15th
century, India was the target of western romance, avarice and adventure. The name
"American Indians" is sufficient testimony to the goal and poor geography of
the earliest European explorers.
Two hundred and fifty years before I was born most of the Indian
sub-continent was ruled by the Moghuls. Western Europeans were trading with
the countries of the Indian Ocean and bullion was flowing as it had from
time immemorial, from Europe to
India. Fifty years later, early in the 18th century, the Moghul Empire was
fracturing. India had become a subcontinent of almost independent states. Each
state was militarily weaker than either France or Britain.
Two hundred years before I was born, in the middle of the 18th
century, France and Britain were contending for possession of Southern and Eastern
India -- probably the wealthiest regions of the world. Eastern
India then had a population of about 30 million, six times that of Britain.
The battles were fought through the French and British East India Trading
Company proxies -- the xxx and the Honorable East India Company (HEIC)
By 1770 Britain had clearly won the contest. The drain of bullion from
Europe to India was reversed -- Indian treasure from Eastern India began flowing to Britain.
Englishmen began confiscating Indian taxes, using them partly for maintenance of HEIC
armies, sending the surplus booty home in the bags of "Anglo Indian
Nabobs". Eastern India was now in the grip of the HEIC and was degenerating
into chaos. Despite the looting of Indian treasure by individual
Englishmen, the HEIC itself faced bankruptcy. In this period, somewhere in the region
of 10 million people in Eastern India perished from famine. Forty five years later
(1805) when Robert Roberts went to India to "defend and extend" Britain's
territories, Britain's plunder of Bengal had run for more than four
decades. Massive amounts of treasure had moved to Britain, enriched her
citizens, fuelled her economy, and further corrupted her government.
Since the late 18th century India had been the key to maintaining Britain's success as a
financial and military hegemon. Much of Britain's global strategy and many
of the holdings of the British Empire were designed to protect the
approaches to India--the "milch cow of Britain".
As examples of the strategy, Britain became active in the Mediterranean for the first time in the early
19th century to protect India from Napoleon and Britain's repeated
invasions of Afghanistan were mounted to prevent an (imagined) invasion of
India by Russia.
India's treasure fuelled the later stages of the Industrial Revolution
and delayed Britain's slide from world dominance. India's
massive army, supported by Indian treasure, forged and defended much of Britain's
When Britain left India in 1947, after two hundred years of
responsibility for Indian welfare, East India had been beggared and
India's economy had been wrecked.
Despite generations of dedicated service from individual Englishmen and
their families, the Raj was rotten at its core. No amount of
sacrifice by individuals could compensate for the iniquity of the
system. Early in the 19th century the British "Orientalists" of the HEIC
who fought for the dignity and rights of Indians, were defeated by a
coalition of British merchants, Episcopalian missionaries and Utilitarian "Anglicists"
led by the philosopher/economists James Mills, David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus.
Indian education, Indian manufacturing and Indian agriculture were now to be
organized to serve British commerce. The Raj, utilizing the best and
brightest Englishmen with the best of intentions, set up an English-centric
education to "train Indians" to govern themselves. Indian religions, Indian history
and Indian mythology were declared barbarous and written out of history.
As an example of the iniquity of the system, in the late 19th century Parliament answered the demands of Lancashire
textile manufacturers by raising tariffs on Indian manufacturers causing
millions of Indian farmers and manufacturers to starve to death.
of British manufactured goods on India, tariff barriers against Indian
manufactured goods, predatory taxation of land and commodities like salt,
Imperial wars, cash crop cultivation, long years of neglect, and multiple
years of famine, most recently in 1943 -1944, devastated and humiliated a once rich and proud country.
Shares of World GDP%
Source Angus Middleton (1998)
By 1947, at the end of the Raj, the old immensely rich Bengal had been split between two countries. The poorest of the
world's poor now lived in Eastern India and what is today Bangladesh. The
legendary south coasts of India -- the Malabar and the Coromandel, were
economic basket cases. The Punjab was split through its heart. The milch cow had
been milked dry.
Despite my excoriation of the Raj, even in its worst excesses, the
behavior of Englishmen in the colony of India was incomparably better than
their cousins behavior in the "democracies" of Australia and the US.
Indians were never hunted down like vermin as were the native inhabitants of
Australia and the US. Only during the short period after the 1857
"Mutiny" were Indians hung without trial. There was no lynching of
Indians and no slavery of Indians remotely approaching the unspeakable
crimes committed by the inhabitants of the "democratic" US against
their fellow citizens, the American Negroes and Native Americans.
Generally speaking the
19th and 20th Century English Sahibs of the Indian Civil Service did their
best to dispense justice fairly while they attempted the impossible -- to
balance that precious commodity against the demands of their Government for
revenue generation, and the demands from their commercial countrymen (the
box-wallahs) for favorable markets for their
goods and cheap raw materials for their factories. The sins of 19th century British policy in India were sins of
neglect. Although ignoring famine caused by their own mismanagement may rise to the level of genocide,
no serious historian has claimed that the Britons governing India ever
intentionally tried to wipe out whole native societies as did their Aussie and
I never experienced the travails of India. Our family was privileged. Our
community was protected.
Several generations of Roberts and Blanchettes
literally kept the wheels of Empire running. Like our forbears, the
soldiers Blanchette and Roberts, we were essential low level cogs in an
Imperial machine. We were rewarded with many of the fruits of Empire.
We existed between the occupiers and the occupied.
"A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out
from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation,
long suppressed, finds utterance." -Jawarhalal Nehru--August 15 1947
celebrating Indian Independence
Life in India or Genealogy
Colonialism and the Raj
Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj
[Preface] [Full Circle] [Empire] [The Raj and Us] [India]