Home > History, Humanities, Multiculturality > Marc P. Bradley’s view of British colonialism in India

Marc P. Bradley’s view of British colonialism in India

Marc P. Bradley is a professor of International History at The University of Chicago and the author of book such as Vietnam at War: The Search for Meaning and Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950. This is his view on British colonialism in India:

“Historians have achieved no consensus in their judgments of the character and consequences of the British raj. In the broadest sense, the issues in dispute might be summed up by the question: Was British rule in India destructive or creative? Was its essence the exploitation and the impoverishment of the country for the benefit of alien rulers? Or, in contrast, did British rule serve to infuse a new dynamism into a hitherto stagnant and backward society, and to lay the essential groundwork for India’s ultimate modernization? Finally, is it possible that British rule was both destructive and creative at the same time?”

In fact, a great deal of scholars over the world have written about the British Colonialism and what impact it had especially on Indian world. However, they never came to a general agreement wether this was a positive or negative fact. That is to say, wether it provided the country with rich cultural variety and an advanced society or it just left it for the worse.

Jawaharlal Nehru, an Indian statesman who became the first Prime Minister of independent India, while serving his ninth term of imprisonment in a British jail in India, wrote in 1944:

“Those parts of India which have been longest under British rule are the poorest today… Nearly all our major problems today have grown up during British rule and as a direct result of British policy: the princes; the mi- nority problem; various vested interests, for- eign and Indian; the lack of industry and the neglect of agriculture; the extreme backward- ness in the social services; and, above all, the tragic poverty of the people.”

Furthermore, the lecturer in European Civilization in Sir George Williams University (Quebec) Martin Leming Lewis states that “looking back over (the 18th century), it almost seems that the British succeeded in dominating India by a succession of fortuitous circumstances and lucky flukes. With remarkably little effort, considering the glittering prize, they won a great empire and enormous wealth which helped to make them the leading power in the world. It seems easy for a sligh turn in events to have taken place which would have dashed their hopes and ended their ambitions.” These words belong to his work British in India: Imperialism or Trusteeship? (1962), “a book which marked a watershed in the gathering of data about British Colonialism throughout the 1960s and 1970s” according to the New York Daily News. “They (the British empire) were defeated on many occasions – by Haider Ali and Tipu, by the Marathas, by the Sikhs and by the Gurkhas. A little less of good fortune and they might have lost their foothold in India, or at the most, held on to certain coastal territories only” Lewis further commented.

Politically speaking, the reason for the persistent refusal of British statesmen to contemplate the development of parliamentary government in India was frequently stated. As Martin Leming Lewis went on to declare, “it was the familiar fact that India was inhabited by a number of different races and divided by conflicting creeds and ways of life. There were other obstacles to the growth of a democratic system – the backwardness and ignorance of the vast majority of the population and the social barriers of the Hindu caste-system. But these obstacles by themselves would not have seemed insuperable… The major difficulty was the conflict of religions, in particular the clash of Hinduism with Islam.

All in all, it can be concluded that the British Empire had great impact both on Indian society and culture. But the disagreement about wether it was positive or negative remains deeply rooted in every historian who has written on this topic.


  •  Martin Leming Lewis. British in India: Imperialism or Trusteeship? D.C. Heath And Company, Boston, 1962. Retrieved December 14, 2011
  • A.T. Embree and F. Wilhelm. India. Historia del subcontinente desde las culturas del Indo hasta el comienzo del dominio inglés. Madrid, 1967. Retrieved November 20, 2011
  •  B.D. Metcalf, T.R. Metcalf and A. Beers. Historia de la India, Cambridge University Press, Madrid 2003. Retrieved December 2, 2011
  • Sir Percival Griffits. The British Impact on India. London, Macdonald 1952. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  • The New York Daily News. Retrieved November 22, 2011, from http://www.nydailynews.com/
  • Peter Marshall (2011-02-17). The British Presence in India in the 18th Century. Retrieved December 14, 2011, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/east_india_01.shtml
  • Dr Robert Carr. British Rule in India. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from http://www.britishempire.co.uk/article/concession.htm
  1. July 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks for this valuable post. You might want to read my blog on this subject at http://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/why-i-am-boycotting-london-olympics/. Thank you for sharing.

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