Writer: Shashi Tharoor
Publisher: Aleph Books
An Era of Darkness : The British Empire in India is the latest by Shashi Tharoor. As the title makes clear, it is all about the iniquities of the British rule in India. Its measured, non-jingoistic tone is precisely what makes this book a worthy and readable one.
What is An Era of Darkness about?
Tharoor systematically goes over the history of British rule in India and the adverse effects of colonialism on Indian industry and economy. He addresses each of the pro-colonial arguments – for example, that British rule brought about law and order to a nation that was ruled by debauched and/or brutal native rulers, that the Britishers actually ushered India into the modern age by building a superb rail and road network, that they put an end to heinous practices such as Sati, and other sundry arguments that claim that British rule did quite a lot of good on the way to doing harm. He debunks each of these arguments.
What did I like?
When a child learns history in school, often it is a highly biased as well as highly abridged version. Yes, we all read about British Raj and the Indian freedom struggle. But history was not taught with a spirit of enquiry. We were never asked to argue both sides of a question. Or to think objectively about the effects of policies and actions, such as war and colonisation, upon the populations of the world.
An Era of Darkness serves as a brief guide to the entire history of British rule in India. At the same time, in gives precise information as to how the British Raj crippled India economically. Does this still affect India’s current standing as an independent nation, and if so, how? And is reparation possible? These are some questions that the reader can ponder upon as s/he reads the book.
I would strongly urge you to buy An Era of Darkness and read it from cover to cover. It serves as a reminder of the travails our nation has been through. It is also an eye-opener to those of us who have neither personally experienced nor personally known anyone who has had to suffer life under foreign rule.