“This vast empire on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained…”, so wrote George Macartney in 1773 and the nostalgia for Empire has been with us ever since. Indeed, for many Britons, the age of empire, when Britannia ruled the waves and vast swathes of the world, is the golden age of British history.
But what was the true cost of Empire for the colonies and their citizens? British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed. Yet, in the 18th century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. Beyond conquest and deception, the Empire blew rebels from cannons, massacred unarmed protesters, entrenched institutionalised racism and caused millions to die from starvation.
Join Dr Shashi Tharoor as he demonstrates how every supposed imperial “gift”, from the railways to the rule of law, was designed in Britain’s interests alone. He goes on to show how Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation and the destruction of its textile industry. In this bold and incisive reassessment of colonialism, Tharoor exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.