The British have no contrition for what they did to India-

They threw in all the buzz words (caste) while also sort of justifying that the Viceroys were benighted patricians. The Germans don’t write about their history in a similar way.

The “whitewashing” of Empire (expediently helped by WW2 victory) has built up this steady resentment in Britain against the EU.

Brexit is turning out to be the imperial reckoning that Britain has avoided so long.

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69 Replies to “The British have no contrition for what they did to India-”

    1. If anyone is actually interested in the economic state of premodern India, I would direct them to the works of Prasannan Parthasarathi and Tirthankar Roy (opposing poles of the debate, with the former optimistic and the latter pessimistic about the Indian economy.)

      Regardless of their position, I don’t think either would say India was in the “Stone Age.”

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      1. Caveat: the historical records of India are pretty bad, so the debate is not as rigorous as we would like it to be.

        Guess that’s a point for the pessimists.

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    2. “The English pulled you losers out of the Stone Age.”

      No, no. It was the Muslims who pulled us out of the Stone Age. The English pulled us into modernity. The Muslim conquest and British colonialism were back-to-back blessings.

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      1. Correction.

        The Aryans pulled India out of the stone-age. Muslims pulled them out of Antiquity. The British pulled them out of the Medieval era.

        Some sarcasm here obviously.

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        1. The Aryan invasion was violent, brutal and oppressive. Culturally and morally it was worse than the stone age. Muslim conquest and British colonialism liberated Indians from caste system and gifted them culture.

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          1. In Summation: No one has any contrition for what they did to India –

            The Brits colonised
            The Muslims conquered
            The Scythian invaded
            The Aryans migrated
            The Dravidians settled
            And the Adivasis endured

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  1. Commenter James Scott is, of course, an asshole, but his comment epitomizes what a certain breed of white person think of India and Indians. A “relationship” that began with the English being supplicants to Indian sovereigns for trading privileges (as British and Indian PMs are doing with each other these days) is portrayed as an English colonization of a Stone Age people. Matter of fact: there was no meaningful way in which the Mughals were any more primitive than the Tudors or the Stuarts. A divergence did happen, but later, in the 18th century.

    For more such gems, check out the occasional Steve Sailer post (and the comments thread) on unz.com where India or Indians are the subject of discussion.

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      1. I find the Unz’s comments section pretty enlightening.

        The IQ-worship and all the consequent mental gymnastics to fit the world to that view is extremely amusing.

        Even more amusing is when some Indian folks buy into the whole thing and then try to present themselves to the whites in a favourable light by claiming to be high-steppe ‘Brahmins’ or ‘Jatts’. Ultimate slaves.

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        1. Well, IQ is real and important, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater…plenty of my colleagues (including several left-leaning and non-White people) are aware of IQ and its ramifications.

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          1. “Well, IQ is real and important, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater…plenty of my colleagues (including several left-leaning and non-White people) are aware of IQ and its ramifications.”

            If by IQ you mean a basic test of reading or writing ability, then it might have some utility.
            If you are getting into g and how certain individuals/societies have a ceiling on what they can/cannot do, then you have lost me.

            IMO IQ is more of a bureaucratic metric than a scientific one. People who place excessive importance on it are hubristic about their understanding of the world.

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      1. IME, vis-a-vis India, the British act kind of like Internet Hindus act about Islam. The ones I meet seem to have an obsessive focus on all the crappy stuff that goes on here, from open defecation to dowry deaths.

        I mostly ignore them, cause it’s pretty obvious they aren’t operating in good faith.

        Fortunately I don’t have to live in Britain, it must be worse there for brown people.

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        1. I don’t think the mainstream British care about British Empire in India that much at all. Outside the brown SJW circle in Britain, nobody in the world care about this issue. Since postcolonialism and white guilt are the twin-pillars of their whole worldview, they cannot do anything better. I think even Indian in India are more or less over this empire issue. India is now the thrid or fourth biggest economy and soon will be thrid or fourth power. Britain is rapidly going down the league of nations. I think for most Indians, harping on British colonial period and contrition and apology are embarrasising and silly things. You demand apology/contrition from people who are higher status or at least equal to you. Getting apology for past misdeed from someone who has far less status than you is embarrassing. You impose your will upon your inferiors, you do not seek apology from them.

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          1. I have to agree. I don’t think Indians care much about the British Empire, though some Lefty types like to make a brouhaha about it for careerist reasons (eg Tharoor.) but on the whole, we’re moving on. 🙂

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          2. @Shafiq

            Great post. But there are instances where the powerful have demanded apologies and restitution from the defeated and weak. E.g., what the Allies did to Germany after defeating it.

            It’s not about any monetary gain for me. But I think the UK should, for its own benefit and for the benefit of its former colonies, take responsibility for its past conduct and apologize. Just as Germany went through denazification, the British must go through deempirization.

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  2. Elites of colonizing powers rarely exhibit remorse that we are expecting of them, unless they are themselves colonized or defeated militarily. Germany and to a smaller extent Japan are good examples. Elites in Japan still have not come to terms with Japanese Army excesses in Korea and China prior to and during WW II.

    For that matter, how much remorse is exhibited by Muslim elites in South Asia – who proudly claim to be the inheritors of political Islam, for the brutality with which Dharmic places of worship were destroyed? Is this even mentioned in Pakistani history books?

    This is not directed at Zach. Just saying that we are expecting too much from English elites.

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    1. @JT

      Muslim elites won’t apologize for it because modern Western scholarship is fully supportive of their actions in the subcontinent.

      Here is the standard Western liberal view (which I don’t fully agree with):

      – only a few temples were destroyed

      – the temples that were destroyed were destroyed purely for secular reasons, namely political and economic

      – the Muslim elites were inspired by the Hindus, who had a rich tradition of destroying temples. In fact, Muslim destruction of temples is therefore a sign of the Indianization of the Muslim elites, because they were strictly following the Hindu tradition of temple destruction.

      – all the writings by the Muslim rulers, which expressly state that they destroyed temples out of religious zeal and in accordance with their religious teachings, are part of a literary tradition that you can’t take as being factual. Sure they boasted about crushing temples, but in reality they were very secular and pragmatic

      – jizyah is a very compassionate and progressive policy, allowing Hindus full freedom while brave Muslims fought off outsiders so that Hindus could freely worship

      Any one who disagrees with this standard narrative will be deemed a Hindu nationalist and accordingly be scoffed at.

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      1. Bro hoju is your account hacked or something. Frankly didn’t see all this Coming. 😂😂

        I did put you closer to the user parralel universe and less to user Borough

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        1. Heh, you trying to have a go at me mate?

          As I announced on the survey, I am broadly sympathetic to Hindu nationalism, though I have some reservations about the movement, namely:

          1) The obsession with Islam. Seriously guys, it’s time to move on to more important things.

          2) Its odd positions on a number of empirical claims (eg: OIT, the extent of the deleterious impact of British colonialism, and a very simplified historical narrative of the precolonial period.)

          Anyways, back to Britain. I’d rather not derail the thread.

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          1. 😂😂. Man I am on your side. Just felt that kabir/ parallel/ indithings bring the other perspective as well. But their team is a bit light ( much like the Australian crowd today at oval )and hoju I felt being on other side adds numbers

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        2. I did put you closer to the user parralel universe and less to user Borough

          I in fact disagree with all statements listed by hoju as the liberal POV, even knowing it is a caricature of what they are actually saying. But if they were indeed saying this, I would disagree with every one of them. I have actually referenced to marauding hordes destroying temples and idols right here on another comment.

          The point I keep making is there is no selective Muslim appeasement in India and that a lot of peri- and post-1947 Savarkarite / RSS propaganda is dishonest by design. I have not offered any commentary on Islamic invasions- not an expert but it would surprise me if medieval invaders with bigger armies did not lay to waste invaded populations. The part I question is the relevance of remote history to present day politics, esp. when it is weaponized against a fragile minority (in SES + HDI terms). I believe that for eg., despite superficial similarities, the Pak/Saudi Sunni Muslim is a completely different political agent than the Indian Sunni Muslim. Latter is more similar to the Ahmadi Muslim or Hindu / X’ian in Pakistan, with similar power asymmetries. Anyone who seriously follows politics in the subcontinent cannot fail to see this.

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          1. Are bhai, couples of week back on the whole North-South issue his stand was closer to yours than mine. So made an assumption that he is liberal in that sense.

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  3. I can understand that as a Brit Asian, this might seem wrong to you but I don’t think most Indians ought to care about it.

    And I find desis living in the subcontinent expecting contrition or reparations to be stupid.

    The real world works on hard power. You build your economy and military and treat each other as equals notwithstanding the past.

    (I also don’t think India should treat the English as equals. Maybe Europe as a whole but not that tiny country.)

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      1. This is very common. I once took my friend and his (half Korean but white presenting) American girlfriend to Jama Masjid in Delhi.

        Random people would come and ask her for selfies. I had to literally push some of them away.

        One would expect some decorum at least at a place of worship but Indians know no such shit.

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    1. @prats
      “I also don’t think India should treat the English as equals. Maybe Europe as a whole but not that tiny country.”
      Fine crème du naiveté blended with rich ethnic chauvinism and presented as a tantalizing jingoism.

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      1. @Armaghan
        “Fine crème du naiveté blended with rich ethnic chauvinism and presented as a tantalizing jingoism.”

        I don’t speak French but I think whatever you’re saying is right.

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  4. As a partial apology for the previous comment on this empire-apology issue, I must say that I normally think that ‘this issue is not important, nobody cares aabout this’ is a very weak repartee and a bad form of whataboutism. Importance should not be the most important point in justification of a point. However, right now Britain is going through one ots most anxious period in history. I do not think that empire was that important in Brexit, it is a lazy explanation. Far more important was Britain’s centuries oldd relation with the continent. Also, sovereignty, immigration etc etc. At these times when, Britain is clearly very tense about its future, domestic politics is in complete turmoil, talking about British Raj in India seem kind of distracting. It’s like insisting upong treating a cold when the patient is going through cancer treatment. yes, disraction helps during tense times but I do not thing that this distraction helps in any way. Also, as I said before, British apology seem very low on Indian lisst of iisues of concern now.

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  5. Now that Razib has banned me from posting on his threads, I seek shelter in Shahenshah’s deewan-i-khas. 😉

    If you guys want this blog to be popular, develop some sense of humor, and a bit of thick skin. Without these qualities this blog will turn into an echo chamber of your own preconceived notions. In a free flowing discussion, there will necessarily be contrary opinions, even seemingly stupid ones.

    Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. AFAIK, no government is forming their public policies based on suggestions put forth on this blog. And the end of the day, I treat this blog just as an online village “chaupal” (village square). A place to hang out and exchange gossip, that’s all.

    In short, just chill out a bit.

    PS I am working hard to boost my IQ. Long for the day when I will be allowed to post in the hallowed threads again.

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    1. If you guys want this blog to be popular, develop some sense of humor, and a bit of thick skin.

      30 million ppl have read my blogs. how many read yours? since you like to give advice on popularity. is like similar to how you lecture me about history you don’t know about? 😉

      And the end of the day, I treat this blog just as an online village “chaupal” (village square).

      that’s why i created the open thread.

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  6. Is there a consensus here that imperialism is inherently exploitative and morally indefensible? If the former doesn’t completely map to the latter, then we are best left with the task of refuting the historical consensus about specific actors, social movements and political policies. It would leave room for nuance to accommodate certain europeans as heroes and other indians as villains in the narrative. Certain indians amassed great fortunes by or entrenched themselves deeply in the colonial enterprise, while other white people contributed greatly to the cultural and intellectual life of regional indian cultures. If we lose that nuance and become victims, the past doesn’t even become instructive. The strong dominate and the weak submit. If the British owe anyone an apology, it is their own citizens who in good faith believe the myth of their colonial forefather’s christian virtue.

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  7. @Parallel universe
    I really cannot decide if marauding hordes destroying temples and idols are better or worse than temple priests insisting outcastes stay out of eyesight and wear brooms to sweep away the pollution of their existence.

    You are missing the point. An argument was made that all religions are reducible to psychological intuitions, and their religious texts are immaterial/unimportant. Your argument refutes this point. Casteism of Hindus is traceable to theirs religious texts, and so is iconoclasm of Muslims. Religious scriptures have real world consequences.

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    1. Religious scriptures have real world consequences.

      The point I was making in that comment is nobody is wearing those brooms or indulging in iconoclasm today. Scriptural sanction is one variable among many others, and not even a very important one. Power way more important one.

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  8. Come to think of it, even the world borders we see are to a some extent determined by differences between religions (Protestant-Catholic conflict, Shia-Sunni conflict, Hindu-Muslim conflict, and so on). And religions are different from each other because their philosophies are different, and philosophies are different because their scriptures are different.

    It appears very superficial to reduce religion to psychological impulses. This is exactly how Marxists dismissed religion (opium of masses). Religion of course proved much more powerful force as they discovered to their own discomfiture.

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    1. Nobody reads the Hindu religious texts lol. I’ve read much more of the Bible than I have of any Hindu work.

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  9. Protestant-Catholic conflict, Shia-Sunni conflict, Hindu-Muslim conflict, and so on). And religions are different from each other because their philosophies are different,

    there is no deep philosophical conflict btwn shia and sunni or protestant and catholic. they’re conflicts of authority/leadership. eventually some philosophical conflicts emerged (sunni as a whole turned against greek philosophy, shia did not, some protestants became hyper-augustinians re free will, catholics did not).

    your comments are riddled with superficiality, but i think that’s a feature, not a bug.

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  10. . Your argument refutes this point. Casteism of Hindus is traceable to theirs religious texts, and so is iconoclasm of Muslims. Religious scriptures have real world consequences.

    another superficial comment.

    caste attenuates outside of the south asian context for hindus (e.g., java, bali, vietnam), and in diasporic communities. it exists for muslims and christians in the south asian context. the key variate is south asia.

    all abrahamic religions have iconocalism in their scriptures. shia depict living . things more than sunni . (including muhammad). the eastern orthodox use icons, while western christians use statuary. jews are like sunni muslims. same injunctions, different outcomes.

    99% sure you are too ignorant to know these details. another ‘feature’ in internet hinduism 😉

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    1. Was speculating on this on Twitter…why did caste and purity norms go out of control in South Asia? My hypotheses were population density and disease burden. Anyone know any good reading material on the matter?

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  11. Scorp, every one your comments is filled with unreflective misunderstanding, superficiality, and confidence. have you thought about joining twitter? 😉

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    1. Confidence is certainly a feature. Even my engineering college professors were amazed at the sure footed way I could take any equation and solve it to completely wrong results!

      Too bad I didn’t formally study humanities. i could have revolutionized the field.

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  12. Also, the argument that since medieval masses were largely illiterate, specific tenets of religions did not affect their behavior is untenable. Masses may have been largely illiterate, but every society has a tiny educated segment (pundits, mullahs, priests), who would teach the masses what the “correct”, religiously sanctioned way was.

    British colonizers slogging in the badlands of NWFP experienced it first hand. They noted the almost total ignorance of Pathan tribes of the tenets of their own religion, and yet their propensity towards fanaticism at the call of their Mullahs.

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  13. @Indthings
    From comments on Razib’s post..
    “Sure, just as the Aryans raped the native Indians.”

    Your tendency to reflexively seek a morally equivalent example critical of Hinduism is irritating. That post wasn’t even about Hindu-Muslim slugfest. It was basically a discussion about the impact of religious texts on the human behavior.

    In order not to confuse fellow 100ish IQ posters, I will give an example critical of Hinduism. Right now India is going thru a cattle crisis. Millions of unproductive cows clog its villages and towns. There are news-reports of UP villagers driving their unproductive cows across the border into Nepal, and Nepalese driving them back to India.

    Why don’t we hear such nuance caused by unproductive cattle in Bdesh or Pak? Because Hindus revere their cows and Muslims eat them. So here is a straightforward example of specific religious tenet causing society-specific problem.

    There are certain truisms in history, like the origin of religions lie in psychological impulses, or that ideological empires like Arab-Islamic empire or soviet empires were essentially created by powerful personalities who deftly leveraged ideologies to acquire personal power. But certainly there is more to religion that that. If every religion could be reduced to the desire for a carrot and stick wielding god, then won’t every human society look the same?

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    1. You are being dishonest. My original comment wasn’t out of the blue, it was in direct reply to an earlier comment trying to intrinsically link Muslims with rape, and used an example of alleged rape committed by Muslims against Indians. I drew a direct analogy, only with Hindus as the ones committing rape, which predictably, is unacceptable to the Hindu-right on this site.

      Also, I don’t “reflexively” seek out moral equivalence, its quite intentional. Doing so illustrates the Hindu-right doesn’t really care about these issues (rape, violence, invasions, religious-repression, etc), they just need excuses to bash Muslim.

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  14. The one thing I still don’t get is how did we Indians end up with Gandhi as our Father of the nation? His role in the freedom movement is tarred by his failure and the failure of the Congress at large in preventing partition and the brutal violence that followed.

    Gandhi has no real living legacy in this nation. His idea of self-sustaining villages was DOA. No politician likes to associate himself with Gandhi. He doesn’t get you any political mileage. Unlike lets say venerating Jinnah in Pakistan.

    You wont get any votes promising Gandhian stuff to people in India. Unlike Jinnah’s idea of an Islamic state which still gets purchase in Pakistan who was Gandhi’s contemporary and his rival in a sense.

    I do understand that politicians will say anything and venerate anyone to gain power and they are mostly driven by their own ends but still Gandhi will not win you any votes in India. He is just a blank canvas on which politicians write their banal stuff and move on.

    Compare him to say , Ambedkar who wrote the constitution, reestablished Buddhism and fundamentally altered the social and political landscape of postBrit India.

    Although in Gandhi’s favor, his international brand is much stronger and many leaders such as MLK and Mandela have paid lip service to him. So in a way he increased India’s international power that India would not have been able to do.

    I want to hear what you guys think. I do have a theory on why Gandhi was established as the father of the nation. But lets see where this discussion goes.

    Sorry for the bad write up. Writing this in a hurry.

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    1. “The one thing I still don’t get is how did we Indians end up with Gandhi as our Father of the nation?”

      He was able to mobilize the masses. Before him, Congress was an elite England-educated English-speaking liberal organization that didn’t have much of a connection with the masses. While Gandhi was similarly educated, he found a way to mobilize the masses. Instead of lofty ideas about colonialism, imperialism, Westphalian system, sovereignty, etc., he talked about things like the salt tax and temple entry. He tried to speak in local languages and borrowed concepts, words and symbolism from Hindu and Jain religious traditions.

      The average subsistence villager was not eager to follow Bose and fight to the death, nor did they care for the liberal elites in Congress. But they listened to Gandhi.

      “His role in the freedom movement is tarred by his failure and the failure of the Congress at large in preventing partition and the brutal violence that followed.”

      It is unreasonable to pin Partition on Gandhi. Yes, he could have changed how he operated to ameliorate some of Jinnah’s concerns, but he was being authentic to himself. Gandhi is much more a social and spiritual leader than a political leader.

      They all behaved rather rationally. Jinnah’s proposals for separate electorates and equal representation at the center probably made sense from the standpoint of the Muslim community that Jinnah ostensibly represented. But it was also quite reasonable for Nehru to feel that these concessions were unreasonable and undemocratic.

      This discussion also seems to suggest that Partition was bad. Of course in the immediate sense, Partition was bloody. But do you really want India and Pakistan united? I think both sides are for the most part quite comfortable with this arrangement. I think many Hindus are quite content with the demographics of India, and are not chomping at the bit to open up borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The counterfactual of an Undivided India is interesting to think about, but it could have gone terribly with endless riots and ultimately partition.

      The root cause is the idea of Muslim being a political identity. This was more the fault or credit of the British colonizers, the Muslim League, and some Muslim elites. Not Nehru or Gandhi.

      “Compare him to say , Ambedkar who wrote the constitution, reestablished Buddhism and fundamentally altered the social and political landscape of postBrit India.”

      Gandhi had several major impacts on India. Foremost among them, he was able to foster a sense of being a nation among the masses by mobilizing the masses over concrete issues that affected them. Congress could not do this. Bose could not do this. He also fought for Hindu-Muslim unity and secularism, which has taken a backseat in Indian politics of late but nevertheless remains an enduring force. He taught people and popularized methods of protest that are still used today in India and abroad. His notion of ahimsa reformed Hinduism. His temple entry battles reformed Hinduism.

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      1. Bose is over rated to be honest. Perhaps one of the few folks who has no military achievement but mostly propaganda achievements to his name.

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  15. Many EU Remain supporters keep pushing the narrative that British people voted for Brexit mainly because of Imperial fantasies. They don’t say this because it helps us understand people’s thinking, but because it makes Brexit voters look like bad people.

    For instance, UK coastal communities voted massively for Brexit, even in majority-Remain Scotland. This isn’t because coastal communities in, say, Cornwall, have some particular reason to be more nostalgic for the Raj than people in other parts of the UK. It’s because the EEC/EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is deeply resented by people who saw its effects, especially on their parents and grandparents in the 1970s and 80s.

    The CFP was already in place when the UK joined the EEC in 1973, so the UK couldn’t change it fundamentally. It required the UK to grant all other EEC/EU member states the right to fish in UK waters. The sudden, rapid decline in Cornish fishing stocks dates from 1973.

    The irony of the Brexit/Empire story is, it’s actually back-to-front. A.J.P. Taylor’s book, “The Troublemakers”, is a history of those Brits who opposed UK foreign policy from the late 18th century to the start of WW2. I recommend you read it. In general, these “troublemakers” represent a “little Englander” tradition, comparable to the “beware of foreign entanglements” tradition of George Washington and Pat Buchanan in the USA. They tended to be opponents, rather than supporters, of Empire. Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour Party, was a strong and consistent supporter of Indian independence, and, though Scottish, fits with the “little Englander” attitude in foreign policy. Tony Benn, perhaps the UK’s most famous and enduring opponent of the EEC/EU, and a direct inspiration on Jeremy Corbin, also fits this tendency. During Benn’s entire Parliamentary career, from 1963 to 2001, he opposed every single UK overseas action – even in the Falklands, where a community who identified as British were briefly conquered by a right wing military junta.

    It’s the “troublemakers” opponents, the Imperialists, who have gradually morphed into EEC/EU supporters. They generally view the EEC/EU as an Empire surrogate. This is essentially Tony Blair’s argument, as shown above.

    (BTW many British-Asian Conservative MPs are enthusiastic Brexiteers: Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Ranil Jayawardena, Suella Braverman).

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    1. It’s varied. Polls indicate a tendency for UK Muslims to be more pro-Remain than UK Hindus, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.

      For instance, the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is a strong Remainer, while the Conservative Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is a soft Brexiter. But in both cases, they’re simply reflecting back the views of their electors; their Muslim faith appears to be irrelevant.

      I strongly suspect that Sadiq Khan is a Muslim mainly for political purposes, in the same way that Barack Obama was apparently Christian when he was seeking votes. I can’t “open windows into men’s souls”; but Khan’s views are very SJW (pro-gay marriage, feminist, trans rights etc), and such views are relatively rare among practicing UK Muslims of Khan’s heritage. Hardline Muslims like Lutfur Rahman have branded Khan an Islamophobe, while White Nationalists like Britain First have branded him an Islamist (the fact he’s attacked by both sides makes me like him, somewhat). He’s doing a bad job of reducing knife crime in the capital, but he’s a really smart player at the game of politics. That’s why I could well imagine him becoming a future Labour Prime Minister if circumstances permit.

      My own Hampstead MP, Tulip Siddiq, is the granddaughter of the first President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Her aunt is the current PM of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed. She’s a Labour centrist, and a fervent Remainer. She’s repeatedly defied the Labour leadership over Brexit, so her political advancement is probably on hold until Jeremy Corbin ceases to be leader.

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  16. I’d love you to interview Tulip Siddiq. I also think Rishi Sunak would be interesting. His father-in-law is Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

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