More Ferguson


It might seem self-evident that they [Indians] would have been better off under Indian rulers. That was certainly true from the point of view of the ruling elites the British had overthrown and whose share of national income, something like 5 per cent, they then appropriated for their own consumption. But for the majority of Indians it was far less clear that their lot would improve under independence. Under British rule, the village economy’s share of total after-tax income actually rose from 45 per cent to 54 per cent. Since that sector represented around three-quarters of the entire population, there can therefore be little doubt that British rule reduced inequality in India. And even if the British did not greatly increase Indian incomes, things might conceivably have been worse under a restored Mughal regime had the Mutiny succeeded. China did not prosper under Chinese rulers.

The reality, then, was that Indian nationalism was fuelled not by the impoverishment of the many but by the rejection of the privileged few. In the age of Macaulay, the British had called into being an English-speaking, English-educated elite of Indians, a class of civil service auxiliaries on whom their system of administration had come to depend. In time, these people naturally aspired to have some share in the government of the country, just as Macaulay had predicted.63 But in the age of Curzon, they were spurned in favour of decorative but largely defunct Maharajas

Ferguson, Niall (2008-03-17). Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (p. 182). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.


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