Book Review: Inglorious Empire - Shashi Tharoor


Book cover for Inglorious empire - featuring a bejewelled crown.I know shamefully little about the British Empire and its colonisation of India. I remember going on a school trip to the memorial at Ypres - but I don't remember hearing about the thousands of Indian troops who served and died. I learned endlessly about Churchill - but not about his racist attitudes towards the Bengal famine. I was vaguely aware of partition - but not the casual ignorance which caused it.

"Inglorious Empire" strikes me as a very even-handed book - even in the face of monstrous inequality. It acknowledges that, yes, some aspects of colonisation left a long-term positive impact on the region. But that was more by accident than design. It meticulously sets out the facts behind the barbarism. It all builds to a compelling case that the British Empire in India was not a force for good, nor a broadly benign caretaker.

Meticulously referenced to quell all doubts about the atrocities perpetuated in the name of Empire. I found myself popping on to Wikipedia now and again to double-check something I found incredulous - only to be appalled by the truth.

I found it, at times, to be a difficult and relentless read. That's not the fault of the author - but in order to understand history, you have to understand the policies and personalities which led to difficult decisions. It's also worth reading on an eReader with in-built dictionary - there are plenty Indian words which I wasn't familiar with (e.g. "hartal" & "sepoy").

It is a must-read for any student of British history, or for anyone who believes they live in the afterglow of glory.


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