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An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,631 ratings  ·  620 reviews
In 1930, the American historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost thirty-five million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the ...more
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Aleph Book Company (first published October 26th 2016)
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Pranav "The British did a lot of good in India and in their empire, as well as a lot of evil."

I find your ignorance on this topic embarrassing. Especially…more
"The British did a lot of good in India and in their empire, as well as a lot of evil."

I find your ignorance on this topic embarrassing. Especially since you claim to be Indian. If you had read the book you would know every "good" that apologists of the Empire claim in India, the intention behind was control and exploitation. Destruction of the traditional education was systematic in it's attempt to create a more servile class of indians.(less)
Sajith Kumar This is cheap political talk without doing homework or analyzing the data. One example of the superfluity of the argument is the valuation of the…moreThis is cheap political talk without doing homework or analyzing the data. One example of the superfluity of the argument is the valuation of the rupee. He lambastes the British for downgrading its value at one point, then makes a somersault and criticizes them for keeping the exchange rate high at another point. There is no doubt that India was much impoverished by British rule, but if Tharoor is to be believed, we'd have to conclude that Indians were affluent before their arrival(less)

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Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In 1995, I was travelling in Tierra del Fuego where I chanced to meet a middle-aged Canadian in a coffee shop. He too, like me, was travelling in South America and we ended up chatting about colonialism. It was then that he made the following astounding statement: " know, of all the European countries that colonized the world - France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain - it was only the English who did so with the aim to modernize and develop those backward nations. The rest wer ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, economics
While I was reading this book, I kept thinking that one of the things people on the left could reasonably do is just make up stuff about the extent of murderousness that colonisation has involved. The reason being that it is highly unlikely anyone on the left would have the imagination to think up the horrors that were actually inflicted upon the world by the imperial ambitions of Britain or Spain – or the costs to indigenous peoples in the US or Australia. This book documents horrors upon horro ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are still far too many people in Britain who look back fondly on Empire and who have very little grasp of the real history of Empire. Not understanding your own history leads to delusions and in this country xenophobia and racism.
This is essentially an extended polemical essay based on Tharoor’s speech to the Oxford Union in 2015. He essentially looks at the pros and cons of British rule and addresses the alleged benefits of the Raj. There aren’t any new arguments, it’s more a condensatio
I'm generally sympathetic to the argument that colonialism is over and done with and there's no need to keep grievance mongering over past events. But a raft of recent nostalgic scholarship by Niall Ferguson and others has unfortunately brought the issue of British colonialism in India up for debate once again. Shashi Tharoor gave a well received speech on the impact of the colonial project on India at Oxford a few years back, and this book is an attempt to capture the spirit of that speech in w ...more
Vikalp Trivedi
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What is history for most of the Indians?
A subject which they have to mug up till tenth standard to get marks and if in future any person who is preparing for any public service examinations has to memorise certain events of history in order to pass out the general studies paper . Nobody gives a damm about studying history we just memorise it and then forget.

How do they teach us history ?
I was a student of a state board school (Madhya Pradesh Board), we had a book from sixth standard to tenth st
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is a much-touted phrase "Truth lies somewhere in d middle." Does it always ?
I was reading Savarkar's famous book on 1857 mutiny and gave it up after reading 50 pages as it felt one-sided bitter criticism of d British. Surely, Lawrence James, Niall Ferguson couldnt be that wrong. Surely, the British rule had a lot of benefits ?
I too believed in d "middle" 2-3 yrs ago until I read a few stats and Amitav Ghosh's description of Opium farming and trade in India.
Shashi Tharoor, building on his
Arun Divakar
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
One quote in particular by a member of the British aristocracy sums up what Tharoor speaks eloquently in book length :

The Marquess of Salisbury, using a colourful metaphor as Secretary of State for India in the 1860s and 1870s, said: ‘As India is to be bled, the lancet should be directed to those parts where the blood is congested… [rather than] to those which are already feeble for the want of it.’

As a child growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was told that the Britishers were the
Inderjit Sanghera
Tharoor is an excellent orator; well-spoken, warm and articulate, his Cambridge University speech inspired this book. What is surprising is-or, on reflection, perhaps not, is as greater a orator as Tharoor is, his writing style, although well-researched and engaging, is didactic and lacks the elegance of his vocal abilities; some of his puns lose their verve without the cadence of his voice, some of his homilies became slightly platitudinous but, with that being said, “Inglorious Empire” is one ...more
David M
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Among other things, this book contains the most passionate defense of the game of cricket I've ever encountered. Here Tharoor grants there were some beneficial effects of empire, albeit with a dialectical twist. What started out as a pretty straightforward case of western cultural imperialism turned into the negation of the negation as Indians developed their own athletic mastery...

The great Ukrainian famine of the late twenties and early thirties is usually seen as proof that communism is inhe
Vinita Thomas
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than Indians or any other country colonised by the British, it's important every Brit reads. Something I doubt their history books covers!
Surabhi Sharma
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
The Author, Shashi Tharoor, is an Indian politician and a former diplomat who is currently serving as Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.

The birth of the book is the speech made by the author at Oxford when author was invited as a speaker at Oxford Union. After praises, criticism, trolling over internet, the speech made its way in the heart of masses. The book is not his written speech; it is differ in many respects. This book is not about British Colonialism as a whole, but simply tells about Indi
Sajith Kumar
As the world slept, India awoke to light and freedom on a summer night in 1947 after reeling under two centuries of British rule and seven centuries of Islamic hegemony. Undoubtedly, some beneficial aspects had been bestowed on the country from the alien rule, but there is universal consensus that on the whole, the experience had been deleterious. Shashi Tharoor, former UN bureaucrat, politician, former minister in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet and writer, presents a postmortem examination of the col ...more
Anil Swarup
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The speech delivered at Oxford that led to writing of this book was a brilliant one but the book itself fades in comparison. However, it is still worth reading because of the inimitable style of Shashi Tharoor and his penchant for research before coming to conclusions. He is indeed critical of the empire for "cruelties unheard and devastation almost without name....crimes which have their rise in the wicked dispositions of men in avarice, rapacity, pride, cruelty, malignity, haughtiness, insolen ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is as much a pleasure to read Shashi Tharoor as it is to hear him speak. Quite apart from his eloquence and flawless phrasing of language, Tharoor knows how to keep his audience interested, whether he is writing or speaking. I have read his fiction work a long time ago and was very impressed. Now, this work of non-fiction is also very good. And required. Oh, how very needed is this work!

Tharoor tackles the subject of British colonisation of India and its effects and aftereffects. Taking the m
Sandeep Raturi
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
If history interests you, you will simply love this book. If it doesn’t, you may like it even more as the book may spark an interest in you for history. In today’s age of social media, when nationalism and patriotism have become almost synonymous with chest thumping jingoism, this book which has been written with unbridled passion and utmost love for the country but without sacrificing rationality, is a must-read. It presents a harrowing account of the BrUtish raj in India and explains in detail ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Shashi Tharoor is a die hard nationalist, so are many of us. But one thing that keeps him at the edge is the deep recognition of facts and the courage to speak it out on a national and international platform. Tharoor begins with an stunning preface, putting the book into the context. He talks about the talk he gave at Oxford which in turn prompted him to write this book. He explains the importance of history, that it is neither for excuses nor for revenge. It is to know our past better to learn ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The book has been popular because it is rather direct and thought-provoking. But in terms of arguments, I found a few well known strong arguments along with a number of weaker ones. Why were so few British able to control so many more Indians for so long in India for instance? Were not the local Indians junior partners in this venture?

I could not help comparing China with Indian colonisation. Why did China resist while the Indians acquiesced? After all, East India company was equally trying to
Toshali Gupta
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
While a lot of arguments and cases in discussions seemed (and very well could be) biased and hypocritical,
there have been multiple statements and illustrations which I not only agree but thank the author for adding to my database of Indian History :
- Unlike any other foreign influence/immigrants (namely Portuguese, Mughals, Persian etc) , British were in India with the sole purpose of making money and not to settle in. Makes quite sense with his illustrated examples.
- If not for anything else,
The author provides passionate rebuttals to the traditional histories of all the good things England did for it's appreciative colonies. His analysis of the English divide and rule strategy, using religious differences and the caste system, was fascinating. He also shows the lack of English investment in education and health and little regard to the welfare of the Indian people. He also shows how a great country was demeaned and devalued in the pursuit of profits.
Diptakirti Chaudhuri
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
An extremely detailed recounting of the many ills that the British Raj brought upon India, reducing one of the world's economic superpowers (in 1750) to a bankrupt and bleeding mess (in 1947).
Tharoor takes on the so-called benefits of the British rule - the railways, the education system, cricket, tea - and deconstructs the rationale behind promoting them among Indians, listing out the positives and negatives.
A couple of the chapters seem a little repetitive but Tharoor writes with exceptional
David Eppenstein
"Inglorious Empire: What the British Did To India" now there's a title that caught my eye. I know next to nothing about the history of India but I have read a great deal of British history and have more than a passing knowledge of their colonial exploits and in particular what they did to Ireland, the Middle East, and South Africa. Since this book was only 249 pages of text I thought this could be a quick survey of Indian history under British occupation and I might learn something about the Bri ...more
Sagheer Afzal
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an impassioned tirade against the injustices perpetrated by the British Raj durng their rule of India. The stats that Tharoor presents provide a compelling argument and offer a harrowing insight into the callousness of the great British Empire.

This book should become required reading within classrooms because after having read it, I realised that the narrative of the British Empire presented within history lessons is not accurate. Winston Churchill's bigotry is never discussed with
Nikita Nautiyal
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shashi Tharoor's books never disappoint me . His latest 'An era of Darkness' once again proves what a brilliant writer he is !His style of narration makes history so readable and interesting .

Coming to the book now , this book in the first place will clear all your misconceptions on the supposed benefits of the British Raj . Whatever they established be it the railways , press , laws ,educational institutions were to serve their own interest in India .
One of the facts he quotes is how india's
Apoorv Purwar
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shashi Tharoor with his speech at Oxford had set high expectations from this book. But the tenseness of his arguments in the speech at Oxford seemed to have diluted in the book.
In order to monetise from the fact that his speech had gone viral and the time was perfect for him to score some monetary gains from the sales of this book, he seemed to have compiled it in a hurry without focussing much on the persuasiveness of the content.

Almost every chapter at least has a few lines from his speech a
Well-argued, scathing critique of the Raj, and a great explanation of the real purpose of British colonialism in general. Tharoor eloquently knocks down all the common arguments put forth by apologists of empire, especially the suggestion that India could not possibly have become what it is today without the 'benefits' left behind by the British. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the context and events leading up to the Partition of India. I was also interested to learn that the area of stud ...more
Vinay Badri
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-read
A wonderful read geared to also make you quite angry at the end of it. The sheer scale of the plunder is only matched by the sheer callousness of British towards India. None of this is exactly new but reading about it esp when there are numbers associated towards it brings about the enormity of what happened during those 2 centuries. Tharoor takes on every flimsy excuse that justifies that occupation and tears them to shreds quite poetically and ironically in the same language.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-books
WOW!!! What a fantastic book, a literary marvel, deserves a Nobel !!!

" The creation and perpetuation of Hindu-Muslim antagonism was the most significant accomplishment of British imperial policy; the project of divide et impera would reach its culmination in the horrors of Partition that eventually accompanied the collapse of British authority in 1947."
Santosh Mathew
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A superb book that debunks a lot of myths about the "advantages" of british rule in India. Even if you are not a fervent nationalist or the right brigade, this is a very instructional read. Shashi Tharoor examines all the purported "blessings" the great "civilization" provided to Indians - democracy, railways, rule of law, education, english, infrastructure etc.

An absolute must read.
Hiran Venugopalan
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Remember Shashi Tharoor's viral speech "Britain Does Owe Reparations"? This is the extended, much detailed version of same. A must-read book for must-watch video (if the topic appeals you)
Abby Varghese
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review originally posted in Abby's Shelves:

Rating: 5/5

Like most readers, I ended up reading this book after listening to the authors highly researched & popular Oxford debate on the topic ‘Does Britain owe reparations?’ which immediately got viral and received many praises and criticisms. But this success compelled the author to write a book on the same and thus provide more details which were skipped due to the time limitations of speech but also intended to act as a v
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Shashi Tharoor is a member of the Indian Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala. He previously served as the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information and as the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs.

He is also a prolific author, columnist, journalist and a human rights advocate.

He has served on the Board of Overseers of the Fle
“The sun never set on the British empire, an Indian nationalist later sardonically commented, because even God couldn’t trust the Englishman in the dark” 11 likes
“I do not look to history to absolve my country of the need to do things right today. Rather I seek to understand the wrongs of yesterday, both to grasp what has brought us to our present reality and to understand the past for itself. The past is not necessarily a guide to the future, but it does partly help explain the present. One cannot, as I have written elsewhere, take revenge upon history; history is its own revenge. One” 8 likes
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