The British Imperial Century, 1815-1914: A World History Perspective

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Rowman & Littlefield, 1999 - History - 153 pages
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Although Britain's overseas empire may not have been "acquired in a fit of absence of mind," as one of its most prominent historians once alleged, neither was it the brainchild of politicians and bureaucrats in London. Why, then, has so much imperial history been written from this metropolitan perspective? Timothy Parsons strongly contends that the scope and duration of this, the largest of all modern European empires, can only be understood from a non-Western perspective. In an exceptionally concise and informative fashion, The British Imperial Century offers its readers a comprehensive overview of the formation and administration of the empire from its origins in the early nineteenth century, to its climax at mid-century, to its denouement on the eve of the First World War. This was the era in which a previously "informal" empire based on trade and commerce was transformed into a "formal" empire in which trade was often of secondary importance to strategic or political considerations. Parsons devotes chapters to key colonies and regions, many of them overlooked by previous scholars, that include the Indian "raj," Africa, the Middle East, and China. He also considers the long-term consequences of imperialism on the cultures of the colonized and the colonizers alike. An ambitious and thoughtful contribution to the field of imperial history, The British Imperial Century will find a useful place in courses on world history and European history, or as a supplemental text for classes on African, Asian, British, or Middle Eastern history.
  

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This appears to be the passage that Dr. A. K. Bagchi finds so objectionable:
Not only did Indian taxpayers have to maintain the British garrison in India, but they also had to pay for any foreign
campaign involving Indian troops which the British Government deemed to be in the general interest of India. Yet, as costly as these obligations may have been, it is still not certain that they hindered India's industrial development. Indians certainly subsidized the British Empire, but modern historians have calculated that the Home Charges constituted only a tiny fraction of India's gross national income.
The passage refers to an economic debate and makes no absolute pronouncement on the theory of "drain." If there is "spin-doctoring" at play here, perhaps it is Dr. A. K. Bagchi flogging copies of his own book?
 

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The concept of presenting the history of British Empire from a global perpective is good, but the author has singularly failed to grasp the salient implications. Think of tax collection to the extent of 50 percent of the produce as the author says; the amount was sent to Britain as the company's income, and yet the author sees no reason to belive that this is draining of India's resources. If there was a shortfall in exporting the tax revenie it was because the money was spent for war, for acquiring more of India. Thus India was made to pay for conquest of their own country. 40 percent of the tax revenue was spent on military expenditure. These figures appear in the present book.
This continued for a century, after which the British government came for direct rule. It was time for British imperial ambition, and India was to pay for it. Countless wars Britain fought with Indian revenue.
The author says India was the chosen destination for British imvestment. This is not true. See Cohen's book Enemies of Globalization, MIT Prss: British investwent abroad quite all right, 50 percent of all British savings in 1914. They went to the countries where the British settled in large number, India the most populous colony getting a miniscule amount.
India's per capita income did not increase by even one percent, during British occupation, says Angus Maddison.
The book is spin doctoring at its worst.
Dr. A. K. Bagchi
Author: The Aging WOrld, Pearson-Longman, India
 

Contents

Introduction
1
Imperialism and World History
2
Britains Imperial Century
3
New Interpretations of Empire
5
The Imperial Century
9
Settlement Colonies and the Transformation of the Old Empire
10
The Era of Informal Empire
16
Britain and the New Imperialism
21
Britain and the Partition of Africa
69
Africa under British Rule
79
The Consequences of Britains African Empire
87
British Imperial Influence in China and the Ottoman Empire
91
The Great NonWestern Empires
92
British Imperialism in China
96
British Imperial in the Ottoman Empire
105
The Consequences of Empire
119

Consolidation of Empire
27
India
33
The Origins of British India
34
Consolidation and Expansion in the Imperial Century
38
India under the British Raj
45
Indian at the End of the Imperial Century
51
Africa
59
Africa before the Partition
60
British Influences on the Empire
121
Indian Influences on the Empire
132
Imperial Influences on Britain
136
British Imperialism and the Process of Environmental and Biological Change
140
Index
149
About the Author
153
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

Timothy Parsons is assistant professor of history and African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

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