In May 2015, Tharoor won the Oxford Union Debate, on “Britain Owes Reparations to her Former Colonies”, with a clear-cut argument. Once the speech went viral, he wrote this book which is an extension of the economic and cultural damage India saw over the 200 years it was under British rule. The British dismantled the structure of the subcontinent which was always, as the historian Jon Wilson noted, “a society of little societies”. According to Tharoor, “By the early 1800s, India had been reduced from a land of artisans, traders, warriors and merchants, functioning in thriving and complex commercial networks, into an agrarian society of peasants and moneylenders”.
While many think that the British should be thanked for introducing the railways, press and parliamentary system into India, Tharoor argues that these were only introduced for their own benefits.
When living in the UK for almost two years, I was appalled by how little their people knew about the empire. They knew the entire rule to be a business give and take situation. Tharoor’s book makes a case for India’s rich heritage. I guess I too am an Anglophile but can I ever defend the British empire? No!
Tharoor’s book should be read by both British and Indians; the British can learn the disgrace of their empire while Indians can be reminded of how we shouldn’t be divided and taken advantage of again. After all, as Tharoor states in the book, “history belongs in the past, but understanding it is the duty of the present”.