‘In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.’
A myth-busting tour de force, thoroughly debunking the notion of a benign British Raj. Tharoor’s impassioned and eloquent polemic is highly readable and very stylish; despite the grim subject matter his prose is a joy. He demolishes the arguments that India benefitted from British rule with verve and pours scorn on the empire-nostalgic jingoistic blowhards (including our dear PM) who think that India should be grateful for the centuries of pillage, famine and bloodshed that we gave them, before leaving the country economically ruined, culturally bereft and hideously divided. This isn’t an academic text, although Tharoor’s arguments are well backed by statistics and research, nor is it a complete history of Raj era India. Rather it’s intended to educate the British general public about the atrocities and systematic plunder of India that enabled Britain to become an industrialised global power, and to shatter the rose-tinted spectacles with which we view our colonial past. A must-read in current times.