Shashi Tharoor, former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations, bestselling author, Indian politician and current member of the Indian parliament has written a powerful brief against the British in An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India (also published as Inglorious Empire). It’s an enjoyable read but some of the economic history is wrong and a number of the social arguments implausible.
I offer no defense of the British empire which was cruel, rapacious and racist but I do correct the record in my long-form review at the Indian journal Pragati.
Here is one bit:
Hindu and Muslim divisions run deeper than the ink marks of colonial census takers. Emperor Aurangzeb killed his brother Dara Shikoh for apostasy in 1659 and the echoes of that fratricide travel down the centuries to Partition. Aurangzeb’s tax on non-Muslims, the jizya tax, abolished in the 16th century by his great-grandfather, the third Mughal emperor Akbar, but re-imposed a hundred years later is another sign of deteriorating interreligious relations. Even some events outside of India, such as the rise of the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam in the 19th century, were clearly more important for Hindu-Muslim relations than were the census takers (Allen 2005, Dalrymple 2008). The rise of Wahhabism and the decline of Sufism were bound to upset Hindu-Muslim relations no matter what the British did.
Read the whole thing.