- Created: Wednesday, 28 June 2017 14:34
- Written by Robert Clough
‘The British empire is under Providence the greatest instrument for good that the world has seen.’
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India 1899–1905
• Inglorious Empire: what the British did to India
by Shashi Tharoor, Hurst and Company 2017, 296pp, £20
Shashi Tharoor has written a searing indictment of the British occupation of India, demonstrating how the colony was looted of its wealth, its industry destroyed, its development obstructed, its people impoverished and subjected to starvation and famine. It takes the form of a polemic against latter-day apologists for empire such as Niall Ferguson whom Tharoor cites as arguing that Britain’s empire promoted ‘the optimal allocation of labour, capital and goods in the world...no organisation in history has done more to promote the free movement of goods, capital and labour than the British empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century... Prima facie, there therefore seems a plausible case that Empire enhanced global welfare.’ As Tharoor shows, this ‘optimal allocation’ of resources ‘meant, to its colonial victims, landlessness, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, disease, transportation and servitude’ (p215).