Q: Was British rule bad or good for India? (was: The rhetoric of liberation...)

Justin Mason jm@jmason.org
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 10:03:20 -0800

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh said:

> let's say the impact of british rule on india was too large, over too large
> a period of time, to answer that question either way. "was it bad" is easy
> to demonstrate with examples of the usual colonial brutality; "was it good"
> generally relies on "where would india be were it not for british rule" 
> scenarios which are impossible to prove, one way or another.
> certainly, there are positive attributes to india today that arguably owe
> something to british rule (english, democracy, common law); whether things
> would have been worse _without_ british rule is impossible to say, but it is
> also easy to falsify any causal effect of british rule, since other countries
> they ruled haven't ended up with india's democracy.

Good answer!

I'm not from the subcontinent, but I am from another ex-british colony ;)
My answer, if you'd asked the same thing about the republic of Ireland, is
that it certainly *changed* that country's destiny massively.  It would
have been very different without it, but we can't be sure exactly *how*.

Having said that, there is definitely a case for answering "was it bad"
with cases of arbitrary border-drawing, resettlement, ethnic cleansing,
exile, divide-and-conquer tactics etc. which took place heavily in both
colonies (as far as I know) and have had an extremely long-lasting effect.