2ndlook

Rise of the British Empire – A 2ndlook

Posted in Business, European History, Gold Reserves, History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on July 6, 2010

Leo Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana, May 23, 1908. An early colour photography example in Russia Photo - By Yevgeny Kassin. Courtesy - www.guardian.co.uk

Leo Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana, May 23, 1908. An early colour photography example in Russia Photo - By Yevgeny Kassin. Courtesy - http://www.guardian.co.uk

Indian history fails

Indian history’s biggest failing is in understanding and explaining the rise of English imperial power in the Indian subcontinent.

Facing foreign conquest for the first time in 12th century AD, Indians have difficulties in understanding invasion, conquests, territorial expansion and the motive power behind such imperial actions.

Equally for the British, the ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ of India happened so quickly, that they cannot accept the loss and they still cannot believe their luck.

The central question of how India could ever have fallen under British rule continues to engage almost obsessive attention. How so few Britons, as servants of a private business enterprise, could have conquered so huge an area and so many people, so far away, has never ceased to amaze or embarrass. Neither British nor national historiography has proven satisfactory. (From The Oxford history of the British Empire: Historiography By Robin W. Winks, Alaine M. Low).

Modern Indian historians have not been of much help.

The perplexed Indian

The question of Indian subjugation by Islamic and English invasions has rarely been answered with any balance.

For instance, with reluctant admiration, some Indians ‘acknowledge’ that the British must have had something special. After all, how could Robert Clive with 400 English soldiers, defeat Siraj-ud-Dowla’s armies of 60,000? This left the ordinary, disbelieving Indian with the second assumption. Indians must have been fighting with bows and arrows, while the English had guns and cannons.

Now both these answers are wrong – because in 1857, Indian had equally good ship-building docks (if not better) and gun smiths. The best steel in the world came from India – as did the raw material for gun-powder, saltpetre.

A hundred years ago, a perplexed Indian, Taraknath Das, sought to understand the cause of Indian subjugation. He wrote to Tolstoy, the 19th Russian writer. Tolstoy’s very ‘insightful’ answer on Indian independence was

What does it mean that 30,000 people, not athletes, but rather weak and ill-looking, have enslaved 200 millions of vigourous, clever, strong, freedom loving people? Do not the figures alone make it clear that not the English, but the Hindus themselves are the cause of their slavery?’ For the Hindus to complain that the English had enslaved them was like villagers addicted to drink complaining that that the winesellers who had settled in their midst were the cause of their drinking habit. ‘Is that not the case with all the people, the millions of people, who submit to thousands or even hundreds of individuals of their own nation or those of foreign nations?’ If the Hindus had been enslaved by violence, it was ‘because they themselves have lived, and continue to live by violence, and fail to recognize the eternal law of love inherent in humanity.

Gandhiji, made 20,000 copies of this waffling and rambling narrative – and distributed it among the Indian population in South Africa. Tolstoy’s ‘explanation’ is today repeated in Indian schools as a defeatist question, ‘How could a few thousand people conquer a nation of crores?’

Tinged with ‘admiration’ for the English ‘character’!

Modern parallels

What was behind the rise of English power – especially, in the Indian sub-continent? After 60 years and a few hundred-crores (or a few billions) of tax-payer funds, Indian academia and historians have failed to answer this question – satisfactorily.

The usual answers trotted out are:-

  • Military superiority (better trained and motivated English soldiers)
  • Technological superiority (Indians had bows and arrows versus English guns and cannons)
  • Political unity (united English vs a divided India)

Historical evidence completely contradicts these three constructs during the 1600-1850 period, the phase of English ascent. For real answers we will need to look somewhere else.

Later in the post, we will use two widely syndicated posts, that appeared on the same day, originating in the USA. These two reports are an excellent parallel of what happened some 300 years ago.

But before that let us look at the key events and developments.

The coup at Plassey - became a 'military' victory for the British!

The coup at Plassey - became a 'military' victory for the English!

Cut to India in 1757

Robert Clive’s ‘genius’ lay in cobbling exactly one such cabal. This cabal consisted of Armenian, Indian and English merchants.

The Armenians were represented by Khojah Petrus Nicholas, and Indians were represented by the Jagat Seths, Seth Mahtab Chand,and Seth Swarup Chand, and other seths like Raja Janki Ram, Rai Durlabh, Raja Ramnarain and Raja Manik Chand. The Armenians, and the ill-fated Omichund, a “notorious Calcutta merchant who was later to engineer the Plassey Revolution” played an important part in the Bengal/Bihar saltpetre trade. They were all significant players in the export of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Also known as niter, saltpetre was a necessary ingredient for gunpowder.

Increasing demand for Indian saltpetre from Europe increased prices in India. Indian traders benefited. Was this Plassey-nexus between Armenian, English and Indian traders, a result of restrictions on saltpetre trade itself by the Nawab of Oudh.

As a battle, observes Panikkar, “Plassey was ridiculous. Mir Jafar, who vacillated during the engagement, came timidly round with congratulations and he was told he was now Nawab.” Plassey thus, was “a transaction, not a battle.

The ‘importance’ of Plassey is a colonial invention. It is the Battle of Buxar which started off the East India Company. It is conveniently ignored that the East India Company recruited some 18000 sepoys in the next 6 years (1757-1763). It is these 18000 sepoys which clinched the Battle of Buxar for the East India Company.

The coup of Plassey was not a military success, but industrial and economic. Industrially, the English gained global control over saltpetre, an essential component in gunpowder. With Bihar and Bengal being production centres of saltpetre, control over the global gunpowder production system, passed into English hands. Rest of India and the world were cut-off from saltpetre supplies.

Economically, till the grant of Bengal diwani to the East India Company in 1765, after the battle of Buxar (1764) England used to export bullion to make investments in purchase of Indians goods. After the 1765, diwani, the excess revenue was used to make the purchases – and the English bullion was used to fund expansion, grow armies, et al. It was the battle of Buxar (1764) which created the roots of the English Empire in India via the East India Company.

Such exclusive companies, therefore, are nuisances in every respect ; always more or less inconvenient to the countries in which they are established, and. destructive to those which have the misfortune to fall under their government. (An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations By Adam Smith).

Such was Clive’s legacy. A troubled Robert Clive committed suicide in 1774.

The colonial Indian army was used against the civilian population - e.g. Jallianwala bagh.

The colonial Indian army was used against the civilian population - e.g. Jallianwala bagh.

The oppressive army of the colonial Raj

The growth in the Colonial Raj’s army to maintain its authority is the simple reason why the Raj was able to maintain its rule for nearly 200 years.

The 18000 sepoys enrolled in 1763 grew in the early years of the nineteenth century to 150,000 and to nearly 350,000 by about 1820. (from Neighbors & strangers: the fundamentals of foreign affairs By William Roe Polk).

In 1820, Britain ruled less than half of modern India. The population of India at that time has been estimated at 25 crore- and the possible population under the Colonial Raj was less than 12 crore.

To sustain an army of 350,000 on a population of 12 crores is an oppressive burden beyond imagination. In a population of 12 crores, the number of able-bodied men would be around Rs.3.0 crore – and army of 350,000 would have meant 1 in every hundred was a soldier. Another writer on the British Empire confirms

the East India Company’s own army, especially its sepoy regiments, grew rapidly. This created a new demand for officers. By 1772 the Company’s officer corps in India was about 1560 strong, more than half the number of regular British army officers at that time. Regular officers were encouraged to transfer to the Company, but most of the increase was accounted for by the recruitment of very young men straight into the Company’s army as cadets. (from The making and unmaking of empires – Britain, India, and America c.1750-1783 By Peter James Marshall).

A proportionate army in India today would be close to 35 lakhs – twice the size the 16 lakhs that India, defence forces (army, air-force and navy) have today. Not only did the East India Company pay better, they also made timely payments.

The East India Company had a justified reputation for not only paying better but for being a more reliable paymaster for its Indian sepoys than any Indian ruler was likely to be.

Many Indians soldiering communities joined the armies of the British Raj as the

Company sepoys’ pay was high; infantry received about Rs.80 per annum, several times the pay of a specialist field worker. The regularity of pay … distinguished British from indigenous Indian armies.

The other reason why the British Raj military size was greater was that instead of police,

many civil duties, which in this country (England) are performed by the police, are in India discharged by the military force.

The small size of Indian police force was a historical trend, predating the English and continues till date. The small police force was derived from the economic habits of the Indian population which did not depend on crime for a livelihood (unlike say, piracy or slave trade in Europe). The constant warfare against Indian polity in India was essential for imperial English objectives. It was the large size of the Colonial Indian Army, consisting of Indian sepoys that was behind the might of the British Empire.

But during WW2, the situation changed. As Indian armies were sent to various theatres of war, and the Quit India movement exploded – as did various other movements across India, the British hold on India seemed to be hanging by a thread. The British response was interesting.

In 1932 there were 215,004 policemen in India (for a population in excess of 300 million) of whom 32,596 (15.16 per cent) were armed. By the end of 1938, the figure had fallen slightly to 193,118 with 28,703 men (14.86 per cent) under arms. But in December 1943, as political and administrative responsibilities of the police grew, the total reached 300,656 (an increase of over 60 per cent since the outbreak of the war) with 137, 222 (45.64 per cent of the total) under arms. (from Policing and decolonisation: politics, nationalism, and the police, 1917-65 By David Anderson, David Killingray.).

The Royal Indian Navy decided to raise to flag of Independence in Bombay in 1946, after which the Indian Army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur. (Photo courtesy - www.outloook.com).

The Royal Indian Navy decided to raise to flag of Independence in Bombay in 1946, after which the Indian Army saw a mutiny in Jabalpur. (Photo courtesy - http://www.outloook.com).

The day the worm turned, the British Raj ended. On February 18th 1946, the Indian Naval force, then the Royal Indian Navy raised the flag of independence. Colonial history calls it the Naval Ratings Mutiny – on February 18th 1946. Within 1 week, Britain decided to evacuate from India.

On February 18th, the ‘lowly’ Naval Ratings from the Royal Indian Navy rained on the British parade – by raising the flag of Indian Independence. Britain did not have the stomach to take on the Indian Colonial Army, battle hardened and exposed to warfare in all the global theatres of WW2. Penderel Moon, a much quoted British Civil servant, felt that the Raj was on “the edge of a volcano.” As did Nehru and Pethick Lawrence. The INA trials had created serious ruptures in British control over India.

On February 19th, 1946, PM Clement Attlee announced that a British Cabinet delegation of three ministers would visit India. He followed this up, on 20th February, 1946, with a statement in the British House of Commons,

His Majesty’s Government desires to hand over their responsibility to authorities established by a constitution approved by all parties in India … His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that it is their definite intention to take necessary steps to effect the transference of power to responsible Indian hands by a date not later than June 1948 … His Majesty’s Government will have to consider to whom the powers of the Central Government in British India should be handed over on the due date

On 15th March, 1946, Attlee announced in the British House of Commons that Britain was leaving India. 23rd March, 1946, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, A. V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade came to India for consultations on modalities for power transfer. The British acquiesced and 18 months later the British were out.

It took nearly 200 years for the The Indian sepoy to decide that he was no longer willing to be a loyal soldier of the Company Bahadur. And the British Raj crumbled.

Noiselessly.

The seed capital of the British Raj

In all this, the important thing was funding!

The recruitment and expansion of the standing army, the purchase and stockpiling of gunpowder, needed exceptional financial resources that only the English seemed to have. Where did this ‘liquidity’ come from?And that is where the English secret lies.

Apart from the Indian loot, it was the loot from the rest of the world that enabled the English to fund the acquisition of these power sources. The surge in English financial capital can be explained by a succession of English ‘adventures’ which created the seed capital for Indian subjugation.

Of which, the most celebrated is the piracy.

A captive bows before Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan as Morgan and his men sack the city of Panama in the 1670s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)  Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/11/21/f-pirates-whoswho.html#ixzz0stPqRYn3

A captive bows before Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan as Morgan and his men sack the city of Panama in the 1670s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/11/21/f-pirates-whoswho.html#ixzz0stPqRYn3

Britain – a pirate power

The explicit use of pirates in the Caribbean brought great riches to the Britain. Keynes famously linked all British foreign investment to the single act of looting of the Spanish Armada.

For a good part of 300 years (1550-1850), the English crown gave permits for pirates to operate on high seas – through, what were known as, letters of marque. With the sanction of the English State, high seas piracy became a national pastime in Britain.

Pirates like Sir John Hawkins made money on slave trade and piracy – targeting Spanish ships. Queen Elizabeth, apart from knighting him, also participated in these criminal enterprises. In a modern context, imagine the Italian government giving legal sanction to the Mafia, or Colombians to the Cali cartel.

The Spanish Armada was assembled by Spain to end British piracy. Further on, British propaganda made these pirates and privateers into heroes – and the Spanish Armada into an instrument of Catholic repression.

John Maynard Keynes, famously and honestly, tracked the source of British capital – and computed the compounded value of this loot. Keynes wrote: –

I trace the beginnings of British foreign investment to the treasure which Drake stole from Spain in 1580. In that year he returned to England bringing with him the prodigious spoils of the Golden Hind. Queen Elizabeth was a considerable shareholder in the syndicate which had financed the expedition. Out of her share she paid off the whole of England’s foreign debt, balanced her Budget, and found herself with about £40,000 in hand. This she invested in the Levant Company –which prospered. Out of the profits of the Levant Company, the East India Company was founded; and the profits of this great enterprise were the foundation of England’s subsequent foreign investment. Now it happens that £40,ooo accumulating at 3f per cent compound interest approximately corresponds to the actual volume of England’s foreign investments at various dates, and would actually amount to-day to the total of £4,000,000,000 which I have already quoted as being what our foreign investments now are. Thus, every £1 which Drake brought home in 1580 has now become £100,000. Such is the power of compound interest!

Now we all know where the Spaniards got their gold from!

English Chartered Companies – monopoly public-sector trading houses

The next major source for English capital were English corporations, in which the British ruling classes were the prime promoters and beneficiaries. English use of corporations was ‘pioneering’. It allowed the State to hide behind the veil of an artificial person. The EEIC could be blamed as the tyrant – and Queen Victoria could be displayed as a saviour.

The earliest English experiences with corporations started with the Muscovy Company (formed during 1550-155), the Spanish Company (1577), giving rise, in turn to the Levant Company (1581). Precursors to the East India Company, the Levant Company for instance was a mostly successful English monopoly of trade with the Turkey, Venice, Genoa and Middle East. English royalty became shareholders in these English corporations like the Muscovy Company or the Russia Merchants Companies in the 1550s, Levant Company, The Royal African Company – and later also the East India Company.

James Lancaster, John Eldred (Treasurer of the Levant Company) and Alderman Thomas Smythe and his assistant Richard Wright were common to both the Levant company and the East India Company. The English Queen contributed to the slave trading enterprise of Jack Hawkins the pirate, with her own ships, the Jesus of Lubeck and the Minion.

These trading houses, set up with royal patronage, controlled wealth, power and trade. Controlled by a few people, these corporations were extensions of the State.

British Slave Trade (Data source - Table from 'The Oxford history of the British Empire: The eighteenth century By P. J. Marshall, Alaine M. Low'; page 446)

English Slave Trade (Data source - Table from 'The Oxford history of the British Empire: The eighteenth century By P. J. Marshall, Alaine M. Low'; page 446)

Britain – prime slave trader

Britain and US were the largest users of African slaves – which gave these economies a 20% labour cost advantage. It also ‘freed’ its unemployed youth to go to the colonies and join the military.

The Royal African Company, a slaving trading ‘enterprise’, branded slaves with the letters ‘DY’, after its benefactor and promoter, the Duke of York, (better known as King James-II) and later the company’s initials, RAC. The Royal African Company, formed as the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa, was created to exploit the ‘opportunity’ for slavery in general – and the trans-Atlantic slave trade specifically.

Between 1699-1807 alone, there were more than 12100 slave voyages from the English ports of London, Bristol, Liverpool, Newport and others. Britain was the prime slave-trading European power. More than 20 million slaves were captured from West Africa and sold into slavery. The overall number of slaves from Africa to Europe and Americas are much higher than 20 million. Wealthy slave traders built grand edifices across Britain, donated to universities, museums, charities.

Britain – sugar and spice

Based on slavery, was Britain’s chain of sugar production colonies across the Caribbean. With the collapse of slavery in Haiti, sugar prices zoomed. Places in the West Indies, like Barbados, Jamaica competed to become the ‘richest spote of ground in the worlde.’ Between 1793-1798, sugar prices trebled. For a few years, English territories imported more slaves than Cuba.

As slavery became impossible due to revolts and mutinies, Britain turned to India again. This time for indentured labour. Slavery diluted and called by another name, India became a source to fall back on for indentured labour. How could the British afford to buy indentured labour? Bought with new gold discoveries in Canada and Australia. Nearly 1 crore (10 million) indentured labourers were shipped out from India alone to various parts of the world – and continued till about 1917. As is to be expected, the UK Government grossly underestimates these figures.

By the time the indentured labour scheme was finally brought to an end in 1917, it is estimated that 2.5 million East Indians had been shipped to British colonies around the world. (From Empire’ Children – Channel 4).

After the finally abolishing slavery in 1833, indentured labour replaced slavery with indentured labour. Upfront, indentured labour was only slightly more expensive, but was cheaper in the long run. Indentured labour also came fewer issues related to capture, transport, trade and maintenance of slaves – with a veneer of respectability that was needed for propaganda purposes.

Indentured labour – Slavery by another name

In the late and middle 19th century, capture of Indians by British agents indentured labour, (slave traders and slavery by another name) was also the reason, that possibly, the myth of ‘kaal-paani’ became prevalent and Indian traders preferred buyers to come to them. Intrepid Indians, suddenly discovered kaala paani – a defensive response to indentured labour, which was a close parallel to slavery.

The West re-invented slavery (in the 20th century again) and renamed it as apartheid which made native populations into slaves. They could, of course, truthfully claim that great Anglo-Saxon frontiersmen discovered gold and settled empty continents – in ‘hostile conditions.’

As sugar prices climbed, Cuban plantation owners expanded plantations – and increased slave labour. From 1840, rumblings among Cubans slaves increased – which would continue for many decades.

Cuban sugar industry was itself kick-started, with English import of 5000 slaves in 1762, during their brief occupation of Cuba. In 1844 Cuban slaves revolted unsuccessfully. 10th, October 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspesdes released his slaves and El Grito de Yara War, (a 10 year campaign) against Spain started. General Valeriano Weyler, “The Butcher,” was sent to stamp out the independence movement. He created modern history’s first concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands of men women and children were put into concentration camps.

And English sugar colonies gained another second wind.

But what do the Portuguese call their ocean-going ships? Nau. Yes, nau as in Hindi, for boat. Vasco da Gama’s ship, was illustrated in the Libro das Armadas in 1497. (ACADEMIA DAS CIENCIAS DE LISBOA / GIRAUDON / BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY). Picture saudiaramcoworld.com

But what do the Portuguese call their ocean-going ships? Nau. Yes, nau as in Hindi, for boat. Vasco da Gama’s ship, was illustrated in the Libro das Armadas in 1497. (ACADEMIA DAS CIENCIAS DE LISBOA / GIRAUDON / BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY). Picture saudiaramcoworld.com

Indian shipping

50 years before Independence, a 100 years ago, India was one of the largest ship building countries in the world. The “modern era” began with the building of a dry dock at Bombay about 1750; a second was erected in Calcutta about 1780.

During Shivaji’s reign, as per estimates, more than 300 ships of 300 tons capacity were launched. The Wadias alone built more than 350 ships – during 1735-1863 170 war vessels for the East India Company, 34 man-of-war defence vessels for the British Navy, 87 merchant vessels for private firms, and three vessels for the Queen of Muscat at Bombay docks.

In 1872, Jamshedji Wadia, from a Parsi ship-building family, constructed the “Cornwallis”, a frigate with 50 guns, bought by the East India Company. This led to several orders from the English Navy.

Bengal was the other major port where ship building was for global markets. Chittagong was the center for shipbuilding (now in Bangladesh). The Turkish Navy (a major world power till WWI) was a major customer.

Ma Huan, the famous chronicler and interpreter of Zheng He (also called Cheng Ho) voyages, during the Ming dynasty, studied boat building in Bengal during the early 15th century (1400-1410).

The third major center for ship building was Narsapurpeta (near Masulipatnam) port – which was a major center of exports of steel, diamonds, saltpetre (potassium nitrate, for gunpowder, to kill Indians, Negroes, Aborigines and Red Indians with) from the Deccan plateau.

Sixteenth century painting of the Calicut port - showing shipbuilding yards. (Courtesy - www.saudiaramcoworld.com; BRAUN AND HOGENBERG, CIVITATES ORBIS TERRARUM, 1572 (2)) Click for larger image.

Sixteenth century painting of the Calicut port - showing shipbuilding yards. (Courtesy - http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com; BRAUN AND HOGENBERG, CIVITATES ORBIS TERRARUM, 1572 (2)) Click for larger image.

These buyers preferred Indian ships, because of better jointing technology and elimination of metal sheeting. Indian shipbuilders had a special system where wood was seasoned in partial vacuum, with oils for timber improvement. British shipbuilders, colonialists ensured through tariff and other barriers, that Indian shipbuilding “was prevented from continuing to develop, even though it had a proven ability to adapt to changing technological needs” – and thus finally killing it. English naval superiority rested on Indian ships – and paid for by exploitation of Indian resources.

In 1498, Vasco da Gama’s ocean-going ship, the Sao Gabriel came to India. The Portuguese caravel are well-known. But what do the Portuguese call their ocean-going ships? Nau. Yes, nau as in Hindi, for boat. Few of these Indian built ships have been recovered in various parts of the world. Indian shipbuilding expertise ruled the world – till colonialism killed it.

History repeats itself

On June 6th, two posts appeared in the Indian newspapers. These two posts were remarkable, as these mirrored events and behaviour some 200-400 years ago.

One report dealt with the American War in Afghanistan. To smoothen logistics in Afghanistan, the US ‘recruited’ an Afghan warlord, Matiullah Khan. Much like the English recruited many Indian kings, chieftains to fight their wars.

His main effort — and his biggest money maker — is securing the chaotic highway linking Kandahar to Tirin Kot for NATO convoys. One day each week, Matiullah declares the 100-mile highway open and deploys his gunmen up and down it. The highway cuts through an area thick with Taliban insurgents.

Matiullah keep the highway safe, and he is paid well to do it. His company charges each NATO cargo truck $1,200 for safe passage, or $800 for smaller ones, his aides say. His income, according to one of his aides, is $2.5 million a month, an astronomical sum in a country as impoverished as this one. (via With U.S. Aid, Warlord Builds Afghan Empire).

Matiullah Khan, yet another report reveals, is one of the

… eight trucking contractors who share the US military’s $2.16bn (€1.68bn, £1.45bn) two-year host nation trucking contract. The companies include NCL Holdings, run by Hamed Wardak, the US-educated son of Afghanistan’s defence minister, and others founded by investors in the US and the Gulf.

The system relies on an opaque network of sub-contractors who pay Afghan security companies to escort their trucks. Investigators suspect these companies in turn pay tolls to militia leaders with groups of hundreds of gunmen.

Prominent militia commanders in southern Afghanistan include Matiullah Khan and Ruhullah. Although some hold ranks in the Afghan security forces, such commanders exercise considerable autonomy and often field better forces than the army or police. Industry insiders say militias run what amount to protection rackets on convoys passing through their territory.

Two aspects of this stand out. One is the figure US$2.16 billion over two years – i.e. US$1.08  billion per annum. Now that is a lot of money for the 1500 Matiullah Khan’s militia – and the other 10,000-15,000 members of the other militias.

Are these private militias a problem for the local Afghans? Yes, say the local people. But, like this reports says, “But as long as the Americans are behind him, there is nothing I can do. They are the ones with the money.”

And that pretty much was what happened in India from 1757 to 1947.

The day we decided to invest in 'Desert Bloc' is the day that evil started becoming so awesome!

The day we decided to invest in 'Desert Bloc' is the day that evil started becoming so awesome!

Indian history according to Dilbert

All this still does not explain how the English could become ascendant in Indian – without Indian collaboration. For understanding this collaboration, let us turn to another column by Scott Adams – the creator of Dilbert.

When I heard that BP was destroying a big portion of Earth, with no serious discussion of cutting their dividend, I had two thoughts: 1) I hate them, and 2) This would be an excellent time to buy their stock. And so I did. Although I should have waited a week.

People ask me how it feels to take the side of moral bankruptcy. Answer: Pretty good! Thanks for asking. How’s it feel to be a disgruntled victim?

I have a theory that you should invest in the companies that you hate the most.

If there’s oil on the moon, BP will be the first to send a hose into space and suck on the moon until it’s the size of a grapefruit. As an investor, that’s the side I want to be on, with BP, not the loser moon.

Perhaps you think it’s absurd to invest in companies just because you hate them. But let’s compare my method to all of the other ways you could decide where to invest.

Perhaps you can safely invest in companies that have a long track record of being profitable. That sounds safe and reasonable, right? The problem is that every investment expert knows two truths about investing: 1) Past performance is no indication of future performance. 2) You need to consider a company’s track record.

Right, yes, those are opposites. An investment professional can argue for any sort of investment decision by selectively ignoring either point 1 or 2. And for that you will pay the investment professional 1% to 2% of your portfolio value annually, no matter the performance.

I’m not saying that the companies you love are automatically bad investments. I’m saying that investing in companies you love is riskier than investing in companies you hate.

If you buy stock in a despicable company, it means some of the previous owners of that company sold it to you. If the stock then rises more than the market average, you successfully screwed the previous owners of the hated company. That’s exactly like justice, only better because you made a profit. Then you can sell your stocks for a gain and donate all of your earnings to good causes, such as education for your own kids.

My point is that I hate Apple. I hate that I irrationally crave their products, I hate their emotional control over my entire family, I hate the time I waste trying to make iTunes work, I hate how they manipulate my desires, I hate their closed systems, I hate Steve Jobs’s black turtlenecks, and I hate that they call their store employees Geniuses which, as far as I can tell, is actually true. My point is that I wish I had bought stock in Apple five years ago when I first started hating them. But I hate them more every day, which is a positive sign for investing, so I’ll probably buy some shares.

Looking back at how the Rajputs, like General Mansingh et al, collaborated with the Mughals (Mughals were better than the Khiljis, right?) Indians also justified alliances with the colonial Raj. It took some time for the reality of English rule to sink into Indian minds.

Reluctant admirers

Thus, at historical crossroads, in the 18th century, Indian industrial technology (shipping and gunpowder), wealth (Indian gold reserves) and Indian manpower (Indian sepoys and indentured labour) powered the rise of Britain.

The Indian military market was completely dominated by the private sector. Elements of the Indian military mix – soldiers, elephants, horse traders and trainers, saltpetre production, shipping, wootz steel production, was supplied to the various kingdoms. Operating on a commercial basis, across borders, these production and recruitment systems were technology leaders with high production capacity. In such a military system, standing armies were rare. Production capacities catered to the entire Indic area – and limited export markets.

As the linkage between Indian intellectual and industrial centres (Takshashila against Alexander; Nalanda and saltpetre) broke, after Indian polity fell under the spell of ‘Desert Bloc’ ideology, from 1200 (Qutubuddin Aibak onwards) till date, Indian military production also  lost discretion and propriety. From being market-oriented, and end-use sensitive, India’s military production became mercenary.

Using their ill-gotten gains, from slavery, piracy, crime, loot, et al Islamic rulers and the English outbid Indian rulers. For military elements like saltpetre, elephants, sepoys, horses, armies et al. The first time in Indian history, defence production became public sector monopoly, under Nehru’s ‘commanding heights’ and ‘temples of modern India’ socialistic policy.

To marginally ethical people, without recourse to loot, piracy and slavery under the Indic values system of shubh labh, ‘Desert Bloc’ ethics were an ‘attractive’ alternative. Economically affected by shrinkage in Indian exports due to slave raids and piracy, land grab by the colonial Indian State, some took the easy way of embracing English practices and values – giving the British Empire a leg up in India.

Pirates and slave traders as vectors of the insidious Desert Bloc ethic are usually not factored, analysed or discussed. Indian ship manufacturing centres were world leaders. Hence, ‘traders’ (especially slave traders) from the world over came to India shipyards – centred around Kerala, Gujarat and Chittagong. But slavery and loot are the two elephants in the Desert Bloc room which needs to be recognized, examined – and understood.

Sandwiched between buying Indian collaborators (like Americans are today buying Matiullah Khan) or obtaining cooperation (like Scott Adams is suggesting) from ‘reluctant’ Indian admirers lies the story of the rise of Britain and the British Raj in India.

Not a great mystery this. If you can cut out all the ‘White’ noise.

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19 Responses

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  1. Galeo Rhinus said, on July 6, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Excellent analysis. Will go through it more thoroughly and comment.

  2. A Fan of your blog said, on July 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    BRAVO!!! This is your best work till date. Very, very well researched, matter of fact and non-judgmental. Very well put together.

    In addition, I would like to argue that history continues to repeat itself, particularly in India. If you look at the new political class (the majority of it), they seem to have inherited the best qualities from the British. They are ruthless land grabbers with not a thought for the common man. They take a lot of pride in looting the masses and making themselves rich by pure debauchery. There is a race in the society to see who can dupe others the most.

    Anyway, I digress. Again, I wish our text books reflected the kind of analysis and research you put into your works.

  3. Hinduonline said, on July 7, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Keep up the good work..We are exposing the anit nationals and getting our History right…Love your work

  4. raman said, on July 7, 2010 at 6:51 am

    a wonderful, wonderful article. Writing about history is one thing but making it interesting is quite another. You really do it well. I don’t mean to compare but this where a book like Red Lotus (Tope) fall short.

  5. Galeo Rhinus said, on July 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    A couple of comments:

    >>”The small size of Indian police force was a historical trend, predating the British and continues till date. The small police force was derived from the economic habits of the Indian population which did not depend on crime for a livelihood (unlike say, piracy or slave trade in Europe)…”

    Law and order was never a function of the state in India. It was done at the village level. Islamic kings first introduced law and order and a centralized police force – that expanded under the english. Still low by world standards.

    >>”It took nearly 200 years for the The Indian sepoy to decide that he was no longer willing to be a loyal soldier of the Company Bahadur. And the British Raj crumbled.”

    You are echoing the “mutiny” paradigm here. Not unlike 1857 – even in 1946 – the naval officers were all english. The highest any indian could go was not commanding more than a handful of men. For them to coordinate 78 naval establishments in a matter of hours was impossible without some major civilian leadership who had to have coordinated this simultaneous operation.

    It is absolutely nonsense to arbitrarily echo marxist and subaltern conclusions without questioning the logic.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on July 8, 2010 at 7:00 am

      Law and order was never a function of the state in India. It was done at the village level. Islamic kings first introduced law and order and a centralized police force – that expanded under the english. Still low by world standards.

      Yes – Law and order as a family /community /village level affair is how India managed its law and order.

      As a systemic ‘progress’ India saw police forces, centralised judiciaries due to the Desert Bloc. No thanks to them for this.

      No doubt and questions in my mind. My many posts on this subject expand on this subject.

      The other thing that we forget is that Indian economic output was based on industry and agriculture. On value-addition. Not on extraction from nature or human beings.

      You are echoing the “mutiny” paradigm here. Not unlike 1857 – even in 1946 – the naval officers were all english. The highest any indian could go was not commanding more than a handful of men. For them to coordinate 78 naval establishments in a matter of hours was impossible without some major civilian leadership who had to have coordinated this simultaneous operation.

      It is absolutely nonsense to arbitrarily echo marxist and subaltern conclusions without questioning the logic.

      Agree on this also. There could not have been a leaderless 1857 /1946 actions. These actions had leaders – some known and celebrated, and some unknown, covered up and obfuscated.

      What I am referring here to is the Indian collaboration with the English by employment. By taking up employment in such large numbers, Indians dug their own grave.

      As Indians lost of the meaning of asuras (slave-owners) and as their memory of anti-slavery wars dimmed, starting from 8th century onwards, they also lost their sensitisation to the evil of slavery and started collaborating with slave kingdoms. Hence, employment and service with slave empires and kingdoms was equated with standard commerce.

        With the loss of meaning of asuras came the eclipse of India!

    • Weekend Reading said, on July 10, 2010 at 5:11 am

      […] Indian History Fails: by Anuraag Sanghi (via Shiv). “Indian history’s biggest failing is in understanding and explaining the rise of English imperial power in the Indian subcontinent.” […]

    • RAMKUMARAN said, on July 11, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      wonderful,

      but any thoughts on how the mughal kings were silent to the direct involvement of clive in bengal. did they become ineffective by then

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on July 12, 2010 at 6:28 am

      Just to give you some dates: –

      1. The first real military engagement of British was 1764 – Battle of Buxar.
      2. By this time Aurangzeb (1707), was dead for about 60 years.
      3. Over the next 100 years, till 1857, Mughal rule became increasingly meaningless.
      4. Maratha power spread from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan to Bengal.
      5. Indian polity saw itself irrelevant on the global stage.
      6. By 1600, Slave empires ruled over Europe, Africa and Middle East.
      7. Mughal rule itself was an asuric half-Slave Empire.

      In such a situation, half measures don’t work.

      India could have fully and aggressively taken on the Slave Empires of the world – which it was in no position to do.

      Or succumb to one of the other Slave Empire. Which it did!

    • RAMKUMARAN said, on July 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

      thanks,
      i came across this piece in wiki which details about how much mughal empire declined that the british used to call the Mughal Emperor as King of Delhi

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire#Decline

    • Rama said, on July 21, 2010 at 5:03 am

      Great post and thanks for opening my eyes to the true Indian history. How do we get it across to the sleeping Indians? British Raj had been replaced by Sonia and Co in looting our nation.

    • Incognito said, on July 30, 2010 at 2:32 am

      >>>”Facing foreign conquest for the first time in 12th century AD…”

      Not true. Khilji, Ghazni, Chenghiz came before that. Alexander even before.
      Alexander was repelled by Indians.
      But after Ashoka the killer proselytized Buddhism, mlecchas like Shaka, Huna, Kushana, Mongol, Turk, Pashtuns started entering India and societal strength diluted, with the result that islamic marauders and british colonizers had an easy time imposing themselves on society.

      As to the meaning of asura in purana fading away in later periods, it may be that the word mleccha came to be used instead, broadly meaning selfish aggrandizer. Asura may not exactly be slave owner, since, as you have brought out elsewhere, there is no word for slave in Indian context.

      Asura perhaps stands for aggrandizing behaviour predominating the character of certain persons due to past karma, due to which some of them engage in unbridled aggrandizement at the cost of dharma. It is this behaviour that characterizes mlecchas and most of the western systems such as christianity, islam, capitalism, communism, nationalism, racism, nazism, fascism, even democracy, which is a system of taking away the people’s decision making power for five year terms at the end of which the same power hungry politicians, through the ritual of ‘elections’, capture power for another five year term and engage in looting public’s money, protected by top grade security while the ordinary man faces bullets of Pakis and maoists.

      Very good research.

      namaste

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on July 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

      Not true. Khilji, Ghazni, Chenghiz came before that. Alexander even before. Alexander was repelled by Indians.

      Your entire disagreement rests on a few assumptions.

      Assumption No.1 – India was the first and easiest ‘victim’ to successful Islamic invasions from 7th century onwards.

      1. Colonial history denies that India repelled invaders till 12th century.

      2. Behind this is the fact that by the end of 8th century, large parts of Europe were under Muslim rule – from Russian borders to the edge of Western Europe.

      3. Hence, for Colonial Europeans to admit that India could repel Islamic invaders till 13th century would have been highly damaging.

      Assumption No.2. All Muslim conquerors were ‘foreign.’

      1. ‘Modern’ history teaches us that Mahmud of Ghazni, the Khiljis, et al were ‘foreigners.’ Let us look at this from another standpoint.

      2. Britain had to announce to the world that their ‘conquest’ of India was complete. In this, there was one problem.

      3. Since, the British had lost the North-West Sikh Empire (aka – most of Modern Afghanistan), they had to postpone the announcement. They fought a few wars – and failed. Miserably.

      4. They solved this North-West Sikh Empire problem with a simple colonial device.

      5. The re-defined the North-West Sikh Empire as a ‘foreign’ country – now known as Afghanistan.

      6. Mahmud of Ghazni was an Afghan raider. A thief. A lootera. Hence, he is rather irrelevant.

      7. Khiljis, whose rule BTW, started in 1290, like the subsequent Lodis and Mughals, too were a mixed people – partly Afghan.

      8. The first real ‘foreign’ conqueror to rule from Delhi were the Slave Kings in early 13th century – Qutubuddin Aibak; who started work on Qutub Minar.

      9. To get a feel of the Indian contempt for Qutub Minar, you must read Chirkan’s ‘eulogy’ to Qutub Minar. Chirkan was a Hyderabadi ‘shayar’ – whose dirty ditties are recited by most school-boys even today. Only they dont know the ‘composer’s name.

      10. Do remember that the largest conversions to Islam happened without war and conquest.

      11. Most of these Indian-Muslim rulers (including Mughals) had explicitly rejected Indic polity and governance models. To that extent they were foreign. Much like how the current Indian Government also follows ‘foreign’ ideals of polity and governance.

      Assumption No.3 – Alexander and Chengiz Khan – all conquered India.

      1. This comes a ‘defeatist’ Indian history version.

      2. I have written extensively on the Alexander’s ‘invasion’ – and other ‘invasions’ before that.

      3. I have also written about reasons why Genghis Khan did NOT invade India.

      4. Invasions of Genghis Khan and Alexander Alexander’s invasions both are untrue. Alexander’s invasion is bad history – and Genghis Khan’s invasion of India is bad recall of history.

      Asura perhaps stands for aggrandizing behaviour predominating the character of certain persons due to past karma, due to which some of them engage in unbridled aggrandizement at the cost of dharma.

      Rather a loose generalization! But from what I can gather, these behavioural patterns come from slave-trading cultures and peoples.

    • Incognito said, on July 31, 2010 at 1:34 am

      The statement- “Facing foreign conquest for the first time in 12th century AD, ….” is not correct because India had faced many attempted conquest by foreigners before that. Ghazni, Ghori etc immediately before 12th century, Alexander a thousand five hundred years before that and many others such as Shaka Huna Kushanas during the intervening period.

      While pre-Ashoka conquests were repelled by Indians, post watered-down-Buddhism-proselytizing-Ashoka the situation changed and various people ingressed into society, changing its character.

      Shaka Huna Kushanas came and settled, calling themselves kshatriya, without realizing that (a) varna is not by birth and (b) kshatriya is not just about fighting, but about discering and upholding dharma.

      The society that was proselytized with watered down Buddhism of Ashoka depleted in kshatra virya and dharmik consciousness was unable to prevent this ingress.

      >>>”Assumption No.1 – India was the first and easiest ‘victim’ to successful Islamic invasions from 7th century onwards.”

      There is no such assumption. India was the only place where the march of aggrandizing cults such as islam and christianity was halted, though not completely, because the by then changed character of society prevented it from realizing dharma and upholding it fully.

      >>>”1. Colonial history denies that India repelled invaders till 12th century.”

      It is precisely this colonial history concoction reflected in the statement “”Facing foreign conquest for the first time in 12th century AD, ….” that was challenged in the previous comment.

      >>>”Assumption No.2. All Muslim conquerors were ‘foreign.’”

      Though there is no such explicit assumption, it is clarified that-
      Muslim marauders, motivated by the aggrandizing cult of islam, even if they be born in this land, are to be considered ‘foreign’, as they and their such attitude is nurtured by the foreign cult mentality that distinguishes ‘me and mine’ separate from ‘others’, unlike bharatiya samskriti that considers the whole world as one family.

      It is also evident that though islam and such other cults like christianity, communism, capitalism, etc., provide unscrupulous aggrandizers with many excuses to indulge their depravities, marauders did not really require any ‘ideology’ as such. Ashoka is a case in point, wherein the fellow killed off his siblings, relentlessly fought wars with neighbours, and after conquering huge land area, erected self-promoting edicts in stone, and imposed upon society a pacifying version of Buddhism, yet held on to throne even in his old age unlike Sri Buddha.

      Afghanistan was always in the periphery of bharatiya samskriti. Even in the times of Ramayana, (Mandhara and Kaikeyi came from around that region) and Mahabharata (Gandhar naresh Shakuni), people of that region have been known to identify more with the physical than dharma. Gandhari, who chose to become blind rather than be the eyes of her husband, Madri, who chose to die with her husband, instead of bringing up children, displayed incorrect sense of dharma.
      After Ashoka’s buddhism, that land was overrun by various western tribes who had even less knowledge of dharma and samskriti. It is no wonder that marauders like Khilji and Ghazni are products of that poisonous admixture.

      As to Qutub Minar, did Aibak really build it, or did he tamper with a pre-existing atructure ? There were 27 temples in that complex, besides the iron pillar. It may seem more logical that the structure was built by the same people who built the temples and the iron pillar, and was used for some specific purpose. This is of course speculation, but considering how myths of Aryan invasion was entrenched in indian psyche by marauding british in short time, eventuality of this may not be so far fetched.

      >>>”Do remember that the largest conversions to Islam happened without war and conquest.”

      Did you personally notice it happening so ?

      Do you see such happenings now ?

      Did Jodhabai convert ?

      If conversions happened without war and conquest, people would simply stop going to temples. Why would anybody then take trouble to destroy temples ?

      If conversion was so easy, why is that only about 30% of Indian population (in pre-partition India) converted after a thousand years of islamic proselytization.

      It is true that not all conversions were by stick, many were achieved by carrots too. Nevertheless, it was still duplicitous, mostly.

      Will any right thinking person consider an old paedophile respect worthy, unless they have an incorrect sense of dharma ?

      >>>”Most of these Indian-Muslim rulers (including Mughals) had explicitly rejected Indic polity and governance models. To that extent they were foreign. Much like how the current Indian Government also follows ‘foreign’ ideals of polity and governance.”

      Of course the current indian governance system, left behind by the brutish, is foreign and adharmik, and you see its effect all around you- in the farmer’s suicides, in regular killings of Indians by muslim, maoist and christian terrorists, in poverty of millions and the contrasting extravagant riches of the ‘rulers’.

      >>>”Assumption No.3 – Alexander and Chengiz Khan – all conquered India.”

      That is an incorrect assumtion that there is such an ‘assumption’.
      ‘facing conquest’ does not mean ‘was conquered’. What was stated was that India faced conquest by these chaps, and succesfully repelled the former while the latter was only partially succesfull in taking parts of Kashmir.

      >>>”I have also written about reasons why Genghis Khan did NOT invade India.”

      Genghis did attempt to invade India, managed to take parts of Kashmir for some time.

      >>>”Rather a loose generalization! But from what I can gather, these behavioural patterns come from slave-trading cultures and peoples.”

      On one hand you say there is no samskrutam word for slave. Then you say ‘asura’ is slave trader/owner. Dichotomy ?

      dhanyavaad

    • Le Connoisseur said, on August 18, 2010 at 9:54 am

      Good economic analysis – good to read the research about the trend started by the Muscovy Company, the Levant Company et al. and that it was these that culminated in the expansion of a British company in the Orient.

      Shaking off the attitudes and psychological hangover from the days of the Slave Trade is surely taking time, and it could take another fifty years of steady effort and re-education. It will need strong writing and other forms of expression from all races to exorcise this mindset from the human brain. Depending on the concerted effort, plus the rapidly changing balance in the global economy, it can be achieved in 20-25 years too.

      The bit about soldiers’ pay (“Company Bahadur”) and the size of standing armies was also interesting. In a way, depending on what the means of obtaining wealth are, this kind of expenditure is warranted. For societies/communities oriented to value creation,
      beyond a mandated minimum, it is a wasteful allocation as there is no economic output. The threat psychosis is deliberately maintained by large groups of people whose privileges and lifestyles are supported entirely by such a structure of munitions, high-ticket equipments, and 18 hole golf-courses besides the murky corridors of contracting, defense spares, and control over lands.

      Value creators certainly need adequate protection from value usurpers, but more of the might works on the side of the latter, than in safeguarding the former.

      It is refreshing that you point out that many people here have the historical sense of exactly a mushroom – they have been kept in the dark and steadily fed on bullshit.

      I congratulate you on your narrative now attaining a certain span, which presents a credible bird’s eye view across a stretch of history.

      rgds.

    • Will the Worm turn ? « Comments said, on August 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      […] Anuraag Sanghi identifies the reason for the rise of British Empire in India –  the large number of indians recruited as […]

    • […] The rise of British in India – A very important read August 28, 2010 The evolution of the East India company into the rulers of India is one of the most intriguing stories. What led to the rise of a trading house to power? Here is a well researched essay on the topic. 2nd Look […]

    • miley said, on August 1, 2012 at 12:18 am

      The Mughals were Arab/Persians who persecuted the native Indians.
      Did the Hindus ever come to accept them as their legitimate rulers?
      Did they forgive them for the forced conversions,slaughter and slavery?
      I doubt it.

      That would explain the lack of opposition to the British,”my enemy’s, enemy is my friend”.
      Britain abolishing slavery may have played a role,I assume slavery was widespread under Islamic rule.

      Just guessing.

      • Ameya said, on August 16, 2012 at 11:27 am

        Not really, if Hindus would have accepted the Mughals as a legitimate rulers as you say, there wouldn’t have been wars between Mughals and Rajputs time and again. Sikhism wouldn’t have born and the Marathas wouldn’t have fought and defeated Mughals. Your assumption that British did some great favor by abolishing slavery is again a popular propoganda spread by britards. If the British supposedly reformed Indians, how come there were Indian slaves in Africa,carribean and other parts under british invasion? just like Anurag said, the east india company was in India to trade with India, they then took advantage of exhausted Marathas and Mughal empires and started their invasion programs ( in early – mid 1800s) . This then was immediately responded by the 1857 revolution which failed as indian rulers were looted. They obviously had older technology which again was in their disadvantage. Also, just because their is no major event notified by Anurag here doesn’t mean there weren’t any revolutions going on in India. The Indian congress was born in 1883 if i remember correctly. The good ol British propoganda that Indians happily took the precious mannerisms provided by british helps in covering up the thievery of British of Indian resource and labour as well as scientific knowledge. Not only that India as an economic power also down due to the great British policies. Indian cotton and textile industries were suppressed and heavily taxed and sometimes destroyed as they now were causing problems for the Manchester mills of britan that were getting in this business. more when I get time…


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