India’s history of British imperialism has shaped its present economic and governmental situation. However, there is some debate over whether this shaping was for better or worse.Some argue that imperialism brought civilization to a savage country. Although it is true that the British were the first to establish Western-style courts, extensive transportation systems, and traditional Western schools in India, many of these facilities were built so that the British could themselves further exploit Indian resources, and often replaced homegrown industry already existing before the first Englishman set foot in India. While it has improved India as a country, colonial infrastructure was designed mainly to support the policy, followed by the British raj, of mercantilism – using the raw materials extracted from a colony to improve the economic standing of the colonizer.
It is also possible to say, as many advocating Indian independence once did, that the British imperialist years left India far behind and did nothing to help the country in the long run, a view exemplified by the remarks of Mohandas Gandhi: “India has become impoverished by the Government…We are kept in a state of slavery.” (Document 8) This view, however, disregards many of the positive effects of imperialism such as the introduction of modern medicine and the institution of an effective, if somewhat oppressive, government. The Indian state has been both improved and worsened by its history of British imperialist rule, and there is no quick answer to the question of the net effect of the several centuries India spent as a British colony.
The answer, therefore, may lie in the middle ground India has taken today. Although an independent country which controls its own foreign affairs and whose government is not a carbon copy of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary democracy, India has remained in the Commonwealth and has continued to make good use of the social architecture and infrastructure left behind after Mohandas Gandhi’s independence movement won out over Britain’s colonialism in 1947. As India moves forward into the 21st century, it continues to follow the middle path allowing it to take advantage of its independence but also to capitalize on the benefits of its colonial history under Dadabhai Naoroji’s two-edged “’knife of sugar’…all smooth and sweet, but [a] knife nevertheless.” (Document 2)
Boehm, Richard G. “Cultural Geography of South Asia.” World Geography and Cultures. Columbus: McGraw/Hill, 2012. Print.
“Imperialism in India: An Evaluation.” Little Rock, Ark.: Episcopal Collegiate School, 2012. Print.
“Supreme Court: Image 9 0f thumb.” Photograph. Supreme Court of India Photo Gallery. Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, n.d. Web. 28 March 2012. http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/sciphoto/photo1.html.