148: WHEN CHRISTIANS FIRST MET HINDOOS – What they really thought.

When I ran a ‘Third World Study  Group’ for many years in 2 North London Grammar schools where I was a teacher, many of the members were of Asian origin. Not surprisingly topics like the Raj, arranged marriages, and – less seriously – chapati making, were popular.  I read a considerable amount of Indian history and literature at that time, from Kipling to Tagore; and I started collecting some of the more striking sentiments of the British colonialists of the time. If these upright Christian gentlemen thought this way about the Indians in public, imagine how much more hostile they must have been in private! It is clear that they saw Hindus (and Moslems, Jains and Sikhs) as inferior to the white man, and to have no rights to their own land or property. The deliberate pauperisation of the population by the British as they wiped out native agriculture as well as the thriving textile industry apparently did not cause ‘our boys’ to loose any sleep at all. After all they were running the slaves from Africa to the Americas, and forcing opium on the Chinese at the same time, so bringing one more great country to its knees was neither here nor there. All with the blessing of the church.

India before the East India Company got to work

“It exports in abundance cottons and silks, rice sugar and butter. It produces amply for its own consumption of wheat, vegetables, grains, fowls ducks and geese. It has immense herds of pigs and flocks of sheep and goats. Fish of every kind it has in profusion.”
(Bernier, French traveller in Bengal, 1660)

(on Bengal’s capital, Murshidabad) “as extensive, populous and rich as the City of London.”
(Clive of India, 1757)

“This high level of material culture and social organisation had in fact to be destroyed so that European capitalism might arise and transform the world…this process took some two centuries to complete.”(Janet Bujra, Open University)

“If Switzerland imitates the muslins and worked calicoes of Bengal; if England and France print linens with great elegance; if so many stuffs, formerly unknown in our climates, now employ our best artists, are we not indebted to India for all these advantages?”
(Abbe Raynal, 1777)

Thirty years later

“Many parts of this country have been reduced to the appearance of a desert. The fields are no longer cultivated; extensive tracts are already overgrown with thickets; the husbandman is plundered; the manufacturer oppressed; famine has been repeatedly endured, and depopulation has ensued.”
(A British MP, 1787, on the effects of British colonial rule)

“We have succeeded in converting India from a manufacturing country into a country exporting raw produce.” i.e.cotton for Manchester.
(East India Company report, 1840)

“We have swept away their manufactures; they have nothing left to depend upon but the produce of their land.”
(Sir Charles Trevelyan, British historian, on India)

“As India must be bled, this should be done judiciously, and the lancet directed to those parts where the blood is congested or at least sufficient.”
(Lord Salisbury, British Prime Minister- my local pub is named after him!)

“The Hindoo appears a being nearly limited to mere animal functions and even in them indifferent. Their proficiency and skill in the several lines of occupation to which they are restricted are little more than the dexterity with which any animal with similar conformation but with no higher intellect than a dog, an elephant or a monkey, might be supposed to be capable of attaining. It is enough to see this in order to have full conviction that such a people can at no period have been more advanced in civil policy.”
(Lord Hastings, 1813)

“A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.(Thomas Macaulay, historian, 1834)

“It was now just ten years since they had sailed, and in that time they had seen Madras and Calcutta rise from the rank of two trading stations to that of virtual capitals of great provinces. The conquest of these vast tracts of country had been achieved by mere handfuls of men, and by a display of heroic valour and constancy scarce to be rivalled in the history of the world.”
“Yes Uncle, I have earned in my way close upon £100,000 ” (in plunder as a soldier) “. There was a general exclamation of surprise and pleasure at the mention of the sum, although this amount was small in comparison with that which many acquired in those days in India. Both gentlemen bought estates in the country and later took their seats in Parliament, where they vigorously defended their former commander, Lord Clive.
Hossein, to the great amusement of his master and mistress got married. The pretty cook of Charlie’s establishment made no objection to his swarthy hue.”
(G. A. Henty “With Clive in India”, a children’s novel set in the mid eighteenth century)

“A sum of 800,000 sterling in coined silver was sent down river from Moorshidabad (the seat of the local Indian ruler) to the British in Fort William (Calcutta). As to Clive, there was no limit to his acquisition. He walked between heaps of gold and silver crowned with rubies and diamonds, and was at liberty to help himself. He accepted between two and three hundred thousand pounds.”
(Lord Macaulay, historian)

“The most scrubby mean representative of the white race regards himself as infinitely superior to the Rajpoot with a genealogy of 1000 years.”
(The Times, late 19th century)

“To me the message is carved in granite, hewn of the rock of doom: that our work is righteous and that it shall endure. The British Empire is, under Providence, the greatest instrument for good that the world has seen.”
(Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India)

“How marvellous it all is! Built not by saints and angels but by the work of men’s hands. Human and yet not wholly human, for the most heedless and the most cynical must see the finger of the divine. An Empire such as ours requires as its first condition an Imperial Race, a race vigorous and industrious and intrepid. health of mind and body exalt a nation in the competition of the universe. The survival of the fittest is an absolute truth in the conditions of the modern world.”
(Lord Rosebery, 1900 – there’s a street named after him next to the Salisbury Pub)

“England’s industrial supremacy owes its origin to the vast hoards of Bengal and Karnatick being made available for her use. The connection between the beginning of the drain of Indian wealth to England and the swift uprising of British industries was not casual, it was causal. Thus England’s unbounded prosperity owes its origin to its connection with India whilst it has largely been maintained – disguisedly – from the same source from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present time.”
(William Digby, M.P. in “British, the magnificent exploiters of India” 1901)

And in similar vein

“The real motives for colonialism, were they stated, would be altogether too uncouth, selfish or obscene. The colonialists have almost always seen themselves as the purveyors of some transcendental moral, spiritual, political or social worth. Those who have questioned the myth have been lucky to be considered merely wrong; far more often they have been thought unpatriotic or traitorous.”
(J. K. Galbraith “The age of uncertainty”)

“Those races which supply the materials rather than the impulse of history, are either stationary or retrogressive. The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Teutons are the only makers of history, the only authors of advancement. Other races possessing a highly developed language, a speculative religion, enjoying luxury and art, attain to a certain pitch of cultivation which they are unable either to communicate or to increase. They are a negative element in the world. The Chinese are a people of this kind, so the Hindoos, so the Slavonians, waiting for a foreign influence to set in action the rich treasure which in their own hands could be of no avail. Subjection to a people of a higher capacity for government is of itself no misfortune; and it is to most countries the condition of their political advancement. Theorists who hold it to be wrong that a nation should belong to a foreign state are therefore in contradiction with the law of civil progress.”
(Lord Acton, 1862)

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”
(Karl Marx, “Communist Manifesto”)

“Our merchants, they travel by sea and land to make Christian proselytes, chiefly our Indian merchants; but consider their practices and the profit that we have seen by their double dealing, first in robbing of the poor Indians of that which God hath given them, and the in bringing of it home to us, that we thereby may the better set forth and show the pride of our hearts in decking our proud carcasses, and in feeding our greedy guts with superfluous unnecessary curiosities.”
(Levellers’ pamphlet, 1649)

“In a Calcutta slum an exploiter is better than a santa Claus. An exploiter forces you to react, whereas a Santa Claus immobilizes you.”
(Max Loeb)

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as the bourgeois think…the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.”
(Engels in a letter to Kautsky, 1882)

“The earth is a place on which England is found
And you find it however you twirl the globe around
For the spots are all red and the rest is all grey
And that is the meaning of Empire day.”


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