afraid-to-run asked: can you please recommend good books to recommend to ignorant english folk about the british empire in all it’s disgusting glory?
Good question. I can speak from the South Asian experience of it; the Subcontinent - present day India, Pakistan, and to an extent Afghanistan. Before getting in the books I’d recommend, you should tell those who support British imperialism that life back then wasn’t as glorious as historians make it look like. With the basics:
- Indian economy was the second largest economy in the world until the British came. During British rule (1857 to 1947) Indian economy grew at zero percent. That India did not grow for 90 years (when Industrial revolution was rewarding Europe and the US) is a tragic outcome of colonial rule’s lack of interest and incompetence. Credit goes to laissez faire capitalism pursued by India after 1992 and American capital market’s confidence and investments in India for India’s emergence as the second fastest growing economy in the world today.
- The subcontinent suffered too many famines during the British rule mostly attributable to mismanagement by the Empire.
- The British Empire encouraged biased stratification in the subcontinental societies based on caste, color and creed. This continues to exist in modern day South Asia where social markers like these control the fates of many.
- Many pro-Empire theorists argue that the British built modern cities with modern conveniences but it should be noted that these were exclusive zones not intended for the “natives” to enjoy.
- There is another popular belief about British rule: ‘The British modernized Indian agriculture by building canals.’ But the actual record reveals a completely different story. “The roads and tanks and canals,” noted an observer in G. Thompson’s “India and the Colonies”, ”which Hindu or Mussulman (Muslim) governments constructed for the service of the nations and the good of the country have been suffered to fall into dilapidation; and now the want of the means of irrigation causes famines.” Montgomery Martin, in his standard work “The Indian Empire”, in 1858, noted that the old East India Company “omitted not only to initiate improvements, but even to keep in repair the old works upon which the revenue depended.” They screwed the natives over again.
- In the early 1800s imports of Indian cotton and silk goods faced duties of 70-80%. British imports faced duties of 2-4%! As a result, British imports of cotton manufactures into India increased by a factor of 50, and Indian exports dropped to one-fourth. A similiar trend was noted in silk goods, woollens, iron, pottery, glassware and paper. As a result, millions of ruined artisans and craftsmen, spinners, weavers, potters, smelters and smiths were rendered jobless and had to become landless agricultural workers. They screwed us over again.
- Reactionary borders.
- And many other reasons why you should logic-slap those who support Empire(s).
The books I would suggest are: M. M. Ahluwalia’s Freedom Struggle in India. Shah, Khambata’s The Wealth and Taxable Capacity of India. G. Emerson’s Voiceless India.Brooks Adams’s The Law of Civilization and Decline. J. R. Seeley’s, Expansion of England. H. H. Wilson, History of British India. D. H Buchanan’s Development of Capitalist Enterprise in India.
Slightly unrelated but you should read Gender and Community Under British Colonialism: Emotion, Struggle and Politics in a Chinese Village by Siu Keung Cheung as well. Hope this helps.