The British colonial rule in India has drawn varying assessments of its merits. Some scholars argue that the British helped India to develop economically. However, in reality, the British set up extractive industries through the East India Company (EIC) that brought them unilateral gain while leaving the indigenous peasants and artisans impoverished. Throughout the reading, we see how the EIC’s economic policies changed with shifting British interests with little consideration for the locals’ welfare. Bose and Jalal observe that “having appropriated all that was vital and buoyant in India’s pre-colonial economy, the company state did little to contribute to either economic growth or equity in the early nineteenth century” (p. 78). This quote is significant as it underlines the systematic plunder of India by Britain. British India is just one example of the controversies surrounding colonial legacies.
Europeans often peddle the narrative that their colonies were backward and underdeveloped before occupation and industrialized after independence. This claim is not valid as countries such as India had strong institutions that were weakened by colonization. For example, the Mughal Empire had robust administrative, legal, and economic systems that were undermined by British occupation. The British removed such institutions and supplanted their own to control the people. This colonial control continued even after independence, with the Europeans interfering in their former colonies’ economics and politics. Some historians point to the infrastructural development and local currency creation during the British administration as evidence of its merits. However, such policies were only meant to aid British rule and engender some form of legitimacy. The British supplantation of capitalist institutions in India and other colonies was for their sole benefit with no regard for the working classes.
Bose, Sugata, and Ayesha Jalal. “The First Century of British Rule, 1757 to 1857: State and Economy.” In Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. 3rd Ed. Routledge, 2006.