Sunday, February 03, 2013

Book Review: Zameer Masani's Macaulay

I've already written a plethora of posts on the subject Zameer Masani's book on Macaulay(Macaulay: Pioneer of India's Modernization [Kindle Edition]), but I have now finished and should sum up. I found the portrait of Macaulay and his times fascinating. Clever Tom, as he was known to his family and many others, was a prodigy. Much of his life was devoted to politics, and in an ages of speeches, he was a dominant force. Most of what he accomplished in life was by virtue of his speech or writing.

He was an imperialist and a cultural chauvinist, but he saw himself as an agent of virtue. Born in modest circumstances, he died a wealthy baron. Some of his wealth was acquired as a result of very well paid service in India, but the bulk came from his writings, which were wildly popular in England, America, and Europe.

Masani clearly approves of many Macaulay's actions in India, the most important of which were the establishment of open schools taught in English, the writing of the legal code, and insistence that native Indians be on equal legal footing with the colonists. Macaulay's opponents blame him most of all for his role in replacing much of Hindu culture with Western culture, and Macaulay would certainly plead guilty to that.

Masani credits Macaulay with doing a lot to unify India and preparing the way for India to participate in the global economy.

The rest of my commentary can be found here or here.

An extended critique is provided by Arun.