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An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India Hardcover – 27 Oct 2016
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Description for An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India
‘[Tharoor] has produced a bestseller that will re-ignite thinking and debate and open the eyes of the younger generation in India and hopefully in Britain on this “era of darkness’…Tharoor’s new contribution is that he even takes apart the commonly accepted argument…that the British Empire left quite a bit of good in India…’ —Business Standard
‘By rewriting the history of the British Raj as it really was, Tharoor has lifted a great load from millions of still-colonised minds in this country; while simultaneously providing an opportunity to the heirs of carpetbaggers and adventurers of the Raj to atone and apologize.’ —Education World
‘Tharoor’s arguments have smashed to smithereens the claim that the British prepared India for a system of parliamentary democracy and laid the foundation for the rule of law…we all should be grateful to Tharoor for writing a book of enduring value, and it will be desirable to see it translated into different Indian languages as it is of interest to the public at large.’ —Frontline
‘Shashi Tharoor’s latest, An Era of Darkness, is one breathless read…Until [this book] came along, there was no single work that clearly and unambiguously catalogued all the harm done to India under British rule.’ —Business Line ‘The book serves to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history’. —Deccan Chronicle
‘Tharoor reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India’ —The Sunday Guardian
‘The reality is, as Tharoor points out, that “we were one of the richest countries in the world when the British came in but when they left us, we were one of the poorest.”’ —Mail Today
‘Gifted writing, masses of dexterously marshaled information, pithily summarized ideas and a sharp debating style, which fences more with the sword than with the shield, make for riveting reading. Professors writing on colonial exploitation have suffered from the sadness of their subject. Tharoor makes it fun. By far the liveliest recent exposition of the traditional Indian nationalist viewpoint, his book can be recommended unhesitatingly…’ —India Today
In An Era of Darkness, consummate debater and author Shashi Tharoor recreates the British Raj with all its horrors and also elucidates the awe-inspiring struggle of India's freedom fighters. He gives us a valuable insight on how dark forces operate and on who are harbingers of hope—it's a valuable lesson at a time when thugs are masquerading as our saviours…at a time when debate has been reduced to a cacophony of slogans and insults by bhakts, Tharoor's writing, with its expansive case studies and citations and sustained argument, all augmented by his felicity of language, may just come as an eye-opener to us all. —Huffington Post
‘Tharoor’s thrusts are painful, and his approach is that of a shrewd debater—which Tharoor excels at—attacking each proclaimed virtue from all fronts, leaving the supporter of the empire defenceless. He shows—with facts and statistics—how post-independence India has made rapid strides in economic and social development, which were simply impossible during the colonial era, and without stressing on the point too loudly, reminds the reader how much more India could have achieved had it been able to modernize without colonial subjugation’ —LiveMint
About the Author
Shashi Tharoor is the bestselling author of fifteen previous books, both fiction and non-fiction, besides being a noted critic and columnist. His books include the path-breaking satire The Great Indian Novel (1989), the classic India: From Midnight to the Millennium (1997), and most recently, India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in Our Time (2015). He was a former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. He is a two-time member of the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram and chairs Parliament’s External Affairs Committee. He has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was honoured as New Age Politician of the Year (2010) by NDTV. He was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India’s highest honour for overseas Indians.
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I can’t seem to recall the exact quote by John Oliver which went something along the line that most, if not all, international problems of the world today can be traced back to a the last 100 years with A few white men in a room with a map and drawing lines. Believe me I spent almost a day searching for it. Haven’t found it yet but I am sure it’s there. I digress.
The reason for the publishing of this book is quite a well known fact. Shashi Tharoor (former diplomat, current politician and a Member of Parliament) made an impassioned speech at the Oxford University during a debate on British colonisation of India back in 2015. There, he highlighted the degradations of Indian society at the hands of the British, and their long-lasting after effects (hint: they’re not good). Once the video got online and took a viral life of its own, earning praise from most of the Indians, irrespective of their own political stance. People came forward to support him and asked him to write a book on the subject.
This book is a detailed version of that talk. It starts with the comparison of Indian economy’s percentage in the world to that of British and other European nations. From there, it moves through the 200 year rule the British maintained in the subcontinent, first the company and then the Crown rule.
The rule wasn’t benign or even mostly harmless (as some people choose to describe). It was out and out exploitation of resources, both human as well as material. All the ‘gifts’ the empire imparted to the subcontinent, including education, the English language, railways, parliamentary system of government, and even cricket, were incidental and not an objective. This can clearly be seen by comparing the statistics the country had right after the independence and the current numbers.
Although the book covers quite extensively covers all the major events in the struggle, some points are misrepresented or simplified for the sake of the narrative (I’m not sure if it was intentional or just glossed over to fir the author’s political stance). For example, Jinnah’s retreat to London and his change of attitude towards secularism is attributed to Gandhi’s fame whereas it was a little more complex. Also, there seems to be no mention of backstabbing by INC (Indian National Congress) when they chose not to honour the agreement the party had with the Muslim League post election. Furthermore, it is mentioned that Tagore gave up his Knighthood and Gandhi his title Kaiser-i-Hind to protest the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre, when the reality is that they gave up their titles because the British, instead of punishing the perpetrator General Dyer, chose to honour him. This little change in the reason of giving up the title and protesting help in understanding that they weren’t irrational in their protests, but gave a chance to the other party to accept their fault. On a side note, the release year of the movie Lagaan is erroneously mentioned as 2003 instead of 2001, but that’s just nitpicking.
The book treads some slippery slopes and becomes quite self-aware when it comes to discuss the author’s own command over English language and his fondness for a sport the empire gave to the country, cricket. But somehow, it manages to not sound hypocritical and still be engaging and informative.
Apart from all the seriousness of the book and the subject, it somehow manages to squeeze in a few moments where you would chuckle, or at the very least put a smile on the face. A simple line like “Nadir Shah stole it fair and square” does it. Also, when talking about a certain Mr. Nirad C Chaudhuri, the author choosing the most eloquent of words manages to say something on lines of “the ill-informed scholar had his nose up the colonial ass”.
If I had my way, I’d recommend this as a compulsory read in all the schools of India, in whatever language possible. It not only gives an objective outlook of the 200 history during the British Empire, but also a subjective point of view to comprehend the scale. Although, that somehow becomes slightly biased however hard the author tries to maintain to not be so. However, the writing and the language are again top notch. Definitely worth a read
If you believe that the usage of the word in the book will be tough, then the answer is no. An average Indian graduate can understand the way in which the book is written. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India is an amazing book. I love History, But Some of the things I missed was fulfilled by the book. I got a lot of insights on what colonialism had done to India. I recommend all to read this book. You will love it.
Packaging is good. Paper Quality is good. Delivery was on time.
An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India
Educational and enjoyable at the same time. A useful suggestion to readers - keep a dictionary handy as it may add to the joy of reading, even if you call English your ‘mother tongue’.
Hence I won't go into those subtle details. I loved the book because it broke any defense a British apologist might have and did so "without any farrago of misrepresentations"
Delivery by Amazon was also good.
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A must read for all right from high schoolers to scholars