Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on 28 October 2019
I had always been curious how the British had conquered India, with so few troops. The East India Company was the first major multi-national company. It came to exist in 1600 with the help of Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake and included veteran Caribbean, pirates and thieves. They set up the company to buy spices directly from the producers (East Indies) and avoid middle man(Arabs) to pay any further commission. After several more bruising encounters with Dutch, the EIC directors decided they had little option but to leave the lucrative Spice Islands (Indonesia) and their aromatic spice trade to the Dutch and focus instead on less competitive but potentially more promising sectors of the trade of Asia: fine cotton textiles, indigo and chintzes. The source of all three of these luxuries was India. India then had a population of 150 million – about a fifth of the world’s total – and was producing about a quarter of global manufacturing ; indeed, in many ways it was the world’s industrial power house and the world’s leader in manufactured textiles. Not for nothing are so many English words connected with weaving – chintz, calico, shawl, pyjamas, khaki, dungarees, cummerbund, taffetas – of Indian origin.
Before reaching India, England was very poor country compares to their rivals Portugal and Spain. Massive imports of New World gold had turned Spain into the richest country in Europe, and given Portugal control of the seas and spices of the East, so bringing it in a close second place. After reaching India they became richest and most powerful country. This tells us that India was indeed golden bird. By eighteenth-century standards, it was an economic giant, the most advanced capitalist organization in the world. East India Company became most powerful in England after the monarch.
Roe wrote a wonderful love letter to Elizabeth, Lady Huntingdon, from ‘Indya’ on 30 October 1616. I would like to thank Charlotte Merton for sending me this reference. So this tells us that India was known during those times. This gives the answer to those who says India became a country or known after independence.
One thing i have seen common in every Muslim kings, they always loot everything, take women from other religion, ask men to convert who are not Muslim and change name of every city like Siraj Ud-Daula renamed Calcutta to Alianagar after Imam Ali. Siraj-ud-Daulah was a pervert who often picked Hindu girls. Even Jagat-Seth’s daughter was his prey. And he enjoyed atrocities against Hindus. Mir Jafar stood by the people of Bengal though with other intentions.
Book also mentioned Shah Alam emperor of Delhi had intimate relationship with his adopted son Ghulam Qadir. I have always come across this kind homosexual relation in them. Later book also mentioned that Ghulam Qadir was castrated because he was getting too much attention from females of the royal harem. And later this Ghulam Qadir took a revenge on Shah Alam by plucking his eyes and putting needles on Shah Alam’s princes and ask them to dance in front of all. Then later he ordered to beat wives of Shah Alam senseless and throw them back into prison.
I will talk about Tipu Sultan in details later. Lets get back to Britishers now.
The British felt nothing for the country, not even for their closest allies and servants. This was why those Indians who initially welcomed the British quickly changed their minds because ‘these new rulers pay no regard to the concerns of Hindustanis, and suffered them to be mercilessly plundered, fleeced, oppressed and tormented by those officers of their appointing’.
The Bengal famine was so immense that EIC had outdone the Spaniards in Peru! They were at least butchers on a religious principle, however diabolical their zeal. We have murdered, deposed, plundered, usurped – say what think you of the famine in Bengal, in which three millions perished, being caused by a monopoly of the provisions by the servants of the East India Company? All this is come out, is coming out – unless the gold that inspired these horrors can quash them. The revenue of Eic was so low in Bengal that one bank declared bankruptcy. At the same time it was widely recognized that it was Indian wealth that was now helping propel Britain’s economy and that ‘the first and most immediate consequence’ of the failure of the EIC would be ‘national bankruptcy’.
I was expecting writer will also mentioned about Madras famine after all it was E.I.C. ‘s first Indian colonized city. 20 Oct 1877 there was drawing published in London depicting starving people awaiting famine relief in Bangalore, India. Famine began in 1876, and while around 5.5m Indians starved to death 100,000s of tonnes of food was exported to England with almost no relief. (Even there is a painting in google, I think you can find it).
At times I felt this book has heavily used sources and references from Ghulam Hussain Khan and London museum. It was irritating for a while.
Author was keep on pushing the narrative that Jagat Seths financed East India Company but what author is not telling is you that Jagat Seths also financed Marathas and Sadhus At one point, they were desperately trying to finance anyone who could get rid of their Nawab, the Jihadi rapist Siraj-ud-daulah.
(Note: Even Bhama Shah was a Jain who gave all his wealth to Maharana Pratap so that Mewar could fight against Akbar which eventually allowed him to restore his army and much of his territory.)
I hated the way writer keep on saying Maratha as a war lord. No they weren't. It is important to note that Marathas were in Punjab, Delhi, Malwa, Gujarat, the doab, Karnataka all parts of Maharashtra, Nizam's territory, Rajputana. Every time one talks of Marathas in Bengal, one must also mention that it was another Maratha army under the Peshwa that chased away Raghuji Bhonsle from Bengal. The repetitive refrain of Maratha raids in Bengal as the single most barbaric invasions are a skewed by the British initially. I guess it made perfect sense for them to portray themselves as a better alternative. Maratha rulers gave due importance to provincial administration. It was similar to that of feudalism in Europe. The Maratha rulers efficiently managed their army and taxation in their capital city of Pune/Satara and other provinces through this system. I find no mentioned of this too.
The fact that many Indian institutions were destroyed by the British and how they introduced their education system is well presented. The case of the famines that the British caused by diverting grain from India is well written. Industrial Revolution was built on Indian money, while destroying India's economy is again well explained. The Hindu-Muslim divide was created by the British.
I recently read somewhere that Britain ruled India for about 200 years, a period that was marred with extreme poverty and famine. India's wealth depleted in these two centuries. The scars of colonization remain despite Britain leaving India over 70 years ago. Between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to 9.2 trillion pounds($45 trillion).
I thought author will talk about Atrocity literature written by Britishers against India and Hindus. British Evangelicals and missionaries anxious to Anglicize and Christianize India by using an extinct practice of Sati. They did their best to portray Hinduism in the worst possible way and on other side they open up the country to religious conversion. The fabrication of evidence, the wanton exaggeration of data, the shameless duplicity of foreign players, rabid evangelical motivations and cold blooded manipulations of public policy. Why doesn’t writer talk about missionaries, how they wanted to convert India.
And how can we forget about ‘Criminal Tribes Act 1857’ brought by British to banned certain tribes. It was a law to control thuggee tribes. If you are born from that tribe, you will have to face consequences. Such are atrocities literature written by these britishers. Now thug became a curse word in English dictionary.
The most saddening and horrifying part is how writer is glorifying Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan was the massive destroyer of Temples in south started his career from Shringa pattanam. The walls of the Jama Masjid built by Tipu sultan in srirangapatam tell a different story. You can see base of temples. I so wish I could upload photos here to show it here as a proof. Tipu Sultan was a freedom fighter because he fought the British (Though he sought to establish an Islamic Caliphate, invited the Afghan king to invade India and collaborated with the French, and was defeated by a combined force of the British, Marathas and the Nizam). He imported French officers to train his troops and French engineers to rebuild the defenses of the island fortress of Srirangapatnam.
Author only mentioned this “Of the 7,000 prisoners Tipu captured in the course of the next few months of warfare against the Company, around 300 were forcibly circumcised, forcibly converted to Islam and given Muslim names and clothes. By the end of the year, one in five of all the British soldiers in India were held prisoner by Tipu in his sophisticated fortress of Seringapatam. Even more humiliatingly, several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear dresses – ghagra cholis – and entertain the court in the manner of nautch (dancing) girls”.
Look how insidiously an idea is buttressed with careful deletion of facts. As an example of British hardheartedness, our eminences harped on the British taking Tipu’s two sons as hostages. However they concealed the fact that taking war hostages was originally accepted practice among Muslim kings. Mir jumla, a general under Aurangzeb, defeated and looted the entire treasury of the king of Assam. And he didn’t stop there. He demanded King’s sons and a daughter as ransom till the King brought the remaining amount. Mir Jumla also took son of Gonia Phukan, Borgohain, Gad Gonia. When Khurram‘s(Shah Jahan) rebellion against his own father failed, Jahangir took his son’s sons – his own grandsons, Dara and Aurangzeb – as captives. Even Rajputs king had to station atleast one son in the badshah’s court as a sign of respect. Only Maharana Pratap refused to send his son. It is also a fact that every such prisoner was compulsorily converted. But Cornvolis who took Tipu’s sons didn’t convert them to Christianity. Even author didnt mentioned the fact Tipu’s father Hyder Ali who backstabbed his King Wodeyar changed the administrative language from Kannada to Farsi. You can still see this even today. And how can we forget Tipu the mass murderer changed the name of entire cities and town : Brahmapuri to Syltanpet, Kallikote to Farookabad, Chitradurga to Farook yab Hissar, Coorg to Zafarabad, Devanahalli to Yusufabad, Dinigul to Khaleelabad, Mysore to Nazarabad. There are many such names. How can we forget Tipu’s atrocities on Malabar areas. To this day Mandyam Iyengars of Karnataka dont celebrate Diwali. The so called "Tiger of Mysore" massacred close to 800 Mandyam Iyengar men, women and children in cold blood in the town of Melkote. This incident is not mentioned in this book. The writer gleefully praising him. To this day Mandyam Iyengars don't celebrate Diwali.
If i can tell you huge biased in Tipu Sultan narrative in this book because i have read some books on him. God knows how much biased writer much be on Bengal, Delhi and Maratha. There are so many things to point out but i don't have that much time to mentioned all that here. These kind of books set bad precedent. Even you can see this book have high ratings.
This book goes in details of EIC's violence on India and of the loot of India. I felt that book will also talk about first war of Independence. It’s the British who called the 1857 uprising as sepoy mutiny to downplay the inhuman excessees that violate human rights. I am honestly a bit disappointed from this book. I was expecting lot of things from this because this was a great topic. Even book didn't talk about Sikh empire. I would have appreciated if author had mentioned more about EIC rather than internal empires politics and wars, it would have been better. Even I thought author will write an account of the atrocities committed by British rule on Indian economy, politics and culture. Somehow I felt author cherry picked his sources and references to push his narrative. If this is the way he writes all his books then I am not going to read any other books of his. This books is my first and probably the last book of William Dalrymble.
Just as medieval mosques were built from the rubble of India's great temples, all the glitter of the modern west is the dust of the India's past.