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Comprehensive Detail On Colonialism

Updated: February 16, 2013 2:32 pm

The book primarily delineates the process of the British occupation of India and its long-term impact on the various aspects of our national life. For a better understanding of the issues involved, it starts with introductory essays on some of the theoretical concepts like capitalism, colonialism, neo-imperialism, post-colonialism and nationalism. The book is based on the author’s life-long engagement both in terms of research and teaching. It marks a departure from the usual history books as its approach is inter-disciplinary. To that end, it adopts a thematic rather than a chronological order.

The 270-page book is divided into three parts. Several reader-friendly measures have been taken in the book by the author such as lucid and facile style, a fine balance between factual presentation and interpretative evaluation; interweaving each chapter with its historical context, so that each of them could be read independently. Part I of the book deals with major theoretical concepts like capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, post-colonialism and nationalism. Part II deals with the issue of the British occupation of India and its overall impact on the several aspects of our national life. The major theme of Part III of the book is how India responded to the British challenge in three different ways: armed rebellion, socio-religious reform movement and through the emergence of national movement.

The book seeks to present an overall assessment of the British rule in India, which impacted the different walks of our national life. There are two schools of thought on the question of an overall impact of the British rule on the Indian society. The protagonists of the Raj believe that it played a positive and constructive role in India. On the other hand, the majority of the Indian leaders have been of the opinion that the British rule was primarily responsible for the ruination of our economic-cultural and political life. The scholars of both the groups have their own facts and arguments to support their respective contentions. Against this backdrop, the book proposes to make fairly an objective study of the claims of both the schools of thought. To that end, the book considers the impact of the British rule primarily in political, economic, social and cultural/educational fields.

Talking about political impact, the book highlights that many scholars look at the impact of the British on the political side of our national life in positive terms. They are of the considered opinion that the British rule promoted the political unity of the country. Their primary contention is that India was never united in territorial terms, as it did under the British rule. Even the partition of the country did not materially change the situation as a vast swathe of the land still remained within the purview of India–more land than it ever came under any single Indian ruler.

As regard economic impact, the book underlines that the British Raj led to the ruination of both Indian agriculture and Indian industries, leading to the problem of mass pauperisation of the Indian people. The book highlights how our early nationalist leaders such as Dadabhai Naoroji, RC Dutt and others squarely blamed the British for mass poverty in India. In fact, such an understanding was also behind the emergence of the Indian national movement.

The book further highlights how British Raj’s educational policy greatly affected our social and cultural life. Its most striking impact was to be seen in the emergence of a new English-educated middle class elite. It is this class which was the mainstay of the Indian national movement. There is a school of thought even in India which takes it as the greatest contribution of the Raj. It is argued that it is through this class that scientific knowledge of the West was mediated to India.

By Ashok Kumar

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