Book Name:- An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India
Author Name:- Shashi Tharoor
In 1930, the Philosopher and American historian Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the cruelty and rapacity of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost 35 million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the British—in famines, communal riots epidemics, and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Independence and the Amritsar massacre of 1919.
Besides the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a manner that beggars belief. When the East India Company took control of the country, in the chaos that ensued after the collapse of the Mughal empire, India’s share of world GDP was 23 per cent. When the British left it was just above 3%. The British empire in India began with the East India Company, by royal charter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to trade in spices, silk, and other profitable Indian commodities. Within a century and a half, the Company had become a power to reckon with in India.
In 1757, under the command of Robert Clive, Company forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, through a combination of superior artillery and even more superior chicanery. A few years later, the weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was browbeaten into issuing an edict that replaced his own revenue officials with the Company’s representatives. Over the next several decades, the East India Company, backed by the British government, extended its control over most of India, ruling with a combination of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption backed by superior and violence force.
Brilliantly narrated and passionately argued, An Era of Darkness will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.