The British Empire brought prosperity to Britain at the expense of its colonies

From: David Johnson, New Road, Rye

Friday, 17th December 2021, 7:42 am
Updated Friday, 17th December 2021, 8:51 am
Lord Louis Mountbatten (L) and Lady Edwina Mountbatten (R) receive Mahatma Gandhi, when Lord Mountbatten becomes Viceroy of the British Indian Empire on April 11, 1947. Lord Mountbatten is the last Viceroy of the British Indian Empire (1947) and the first Governor-General of independent India (1947–1948). (Photo credit AFP/GettyImages)

Barry Jones (December 10) likes to lecture on other people’s lack of knowledge of history whilst choosing to show a very blinkered view of the effects of empire. The British Empire brought prosperity to Britain at the expense of its colonies. Take India for example.

Drawing on nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, economist Utsa Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938. In fact, during the last half of the 19th century – the heyday of British intervention – income in India collapsed by half. The average life expectancy of Indians dropped by a fifth from 1870 to 1920. Tens of millions died needlessly of policy-induced famine. Britain didn’t develop India. Quite the contrary – as Patnaik’s work makes clear – India actually developed Britain.

Mr Jones also displays a very Eurocentric view when he states that British colonisation and democracy brought global prosperity. Britain did not export democracy. Indeed for hundreds of years it did its very best to deny native populations a right to vote. That was generally only achieved when colonised countries threw off the shackles of British government.

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