Home > History, India, Indian Economy, Indian education, Politics, Social Trends, World Economy > Too much, too soon? – Abheek Barman’s blog-The Economic Times

Too much, too soon? – Abheek Barman’s blog-The Economic Times

By sheer chance, India was colonized by the British and not, say, by the Dutch or the Portuguese. That chance happening made sure that many Indians speak and write English, something that’s useful when English has become the dominant language for science, technology and business. (via Too much, too soon?:Folk Theorem:Abheek Barman’s blog-The Economic Times).


O, Master Abheek! I didn’t realize this, till the pearls of wisdom from your bountiful pen, burst forth in all their resplendent glory.

But for your profound and wonderful insight, I would have remained a backward and ignorant Indian. Now, I am only backward Indian. At least, I am no longer ignorant of the blessings of the Great English Language.

Till Indians learnt English, they could not speak to anyone else in the world at all. Indian trade must have been zero till the Great White Man came and taught us English! The trade in spices, cotton, metals, textiles, ships I now know is just blatant untruth. Otherwise before our Great White Masters taught us English from 1830 onwards, India could not have traded with the world at all.  Or Indians must have used sign language like deaf and dumb mutts (apologies to the acoustically challenged) – fit to be beggars.

How can we backward Indians ever, but, EVER repay this debt, O Wise Soul? Please enlighten me, O Master!

That chance happening

Rarely do such momentous happen by chance, Mr.Barman.

It was the British success in India, that made English into the most widely spoken language in the world for the last 100 years. It is also the huge subsidy given by the post-colonial Indian Government which has made India as the the world’s largest English-language administered country in the world. And the second largest English speaking population.

Not the other way round Mr.Barman.

The history behind the British ‘success’ in India

After being sidelined by the Papal Bulls, (favoring Spain and Portugal), it was Britain which was first off the block. After Vasco da Gama’s discovery (for Europeans) of trade route to India (1498), round Africa, the British started with the English East India Company (1600). And the first to obtain a royal firmaan in 1612.

The Dutch followed in 1602. The Danish Opperhoved initially started in 1616 and was reborn in 1732, as Asiatisk Kompagni. The Portuguese organised themselves as chartered company in 1628. The French came with the French East India Co. in 1664. The Swedes joined the rat race in 1731 with Svenska Ostindiska Companiet. The Italians came in as the Genoa East India companies. The Hanseatic League had its own operations.

In North America, the Hudson Bay Company (Compagnie de la Baie d’Hudson in French) was given a Royal Charter in 1670 by Charles II. It practically owned Canada when the Dominion of Canada was formed – and is the oldest surviving company in North America.

English rule over India continues …

Over the next 250 years, from the formation and the firmaan, till the eve of the 1857 War, the campaign for the conquest and colonization of India was funded by the earnings from the vast slave economies of the Atlantic islands (Cuba, Haiti, West Indies), the loot from North and South Americas, – and later Australia and Africa.

Indian rulers and armies, without recourse to such wealth, fumbled. Indian polity and economy, weakened by the foreign slave rulers from the 12th-14th century (Slave dynasty, Tughlaks, Khiljis) and then the muddled ‘Indo-Saracenic’ rule by the Lodis and Mughals from Afghanistan (with Turkish and Persian advisors) left India in a weak position.

After the British were sent away

In modern times, within a short 70 years after British departure from India, the decline of the Britain has been slightly faster than the turn around in the Indian economy. Britain today, a shell of its former self – with its manufacturing hollowed out, its agriculture in shambles, its economy on the verge of being relegated to the Third World, it is a huge descent.

Much like Spain after Haiti. In a 100 years after Haiti, Spain flamed out. By 1930, it was in the throes of a Civil War. And in Spain today, prostitution is national industry.

Opposite directions

India, in the meantime, led by ‘men of straw’, has moved from being a ship-to-mouth’ basket-case, to a significant economic and political success. Yet, the British colonial administrators needed to prove that only they could rule over India. Indians were after all ‘men of straw … of whom no trace will be found after a few years’. After all, what more could be expected of a people, led by ahalf naked … fakir.

Could India survive without the British Raj?

Could India survive without the British Raj?

In 1947, when the British Raj was coming to an end, we heard that India would not survive without British ‘over sight’. Today, when Britain itself is on the verge of becoming a Third World country, one hears the echoes of the same message. If Britain was indeed so good at its job, why can’t they do anything to save themselves from this terminal decline. Why is English language not able to save the British?

What do we do about the Truth, O Master?

Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years (at least), India has been a significant economic power. Till the 1900, China and India, this analysis estimates, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

Truth, my Great Master Barman, must be banished from your very presence. It affects the very harmony of your sublime thoughts.

Such a inconvenient thing. The truth!

  1. Galeo Rhinus
    July 23, 2009 at 3:56 pm


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