An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor , published in 2016 by Aleph Book company , is an eye-opener for all those who think that the British Empire in India was a mixture of good and the bad. Shashi Tharoor has done remarkable research and very convincingly tells us in 333 pages that nearly two centuries of British rule in India was out and out a period of oppression and loot of India .
Tharoor rolls out relevant data to prove the above .When East India Company took control of India , India’s share of the world GDP was 23 per cent. When the British left India in 1947, it wasjust above 3 per cent. The British left India as a society with 16 per cent literacy , a life expectancy of 27, practically no domestic industry and over 90 per cent living below what today we would call below poverty line. They systematically destroyed Indian textile , steel-making and shipping industry .They substituted Indian textiles by British ones manufactured in England. This deindustrialization of India was a deliberate British policy and not an accident.
In 1922, 64 per cent of the total revenue of the Government of India was devoted to paying for British Indian troops dispatched abroad. As many as 74,187 Indian soldiers died during world war one.
The racialism and exploitative attitude of the British rulers was reflected time and again in unforgivable massacre of Indians in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919, in the writings of Rudyard Kipling and in the statements of Curchill. Churchill suggested in 1942 that Mahatma Gandhi should be “bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and let the viceroy sit on the back of a giant elephant and trample(the Mahatma) into the dirt”. Rudyard Kipling hailed General Dyer as “The Man Who Saved India”. And Macaulay said:”A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”.
The British policy of divide and rule reached its culmination in the horrors of Partition that eventually accompanied the collapse of British authority in 1947.Over a million people died and about 17 million were displaced during Partition.
Tharoor says that there were only three benefits to India due to the British rule:
1. English Language.
An Era of Darkness is an outstanding book on the history of British Empire in India. Every Indian , and every student of India and the UK, must read this book. Shashi Tharoor has an excellent control over English language . I strongly recommend this book .