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 British?in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Independence and the Amritsar massacre of 1919. Besides the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a manner that beggars belief. When the East India Company took control of the country, in the chaos that ensued after the collapse of the Mughal empire, India?s share of world GDP was 23 percent. When the British left it was just above 3 percent. The British empire in India began with the East India Company, incorporated in 1600, by royal charter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to trade in silk, spices and other profitable Indian commodities. Within a century and a half, the Company had become a power to reckon with in India. In 1757, under the command of Robert Clive, Company forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, through a combination of superior artillery and even more superior chicanery. A few years later, the young and weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was browbeaten into issuing an edict that replaced his own revenue officials with the Company?s representatives. Over the next several decades, the East India Company, backed by the British government, extended its control over most of India, ruling with a combination of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption backed by violence and superior force. This state of affairs continued until 1857, when large numbers of the Company?s Indian soldiers spearheaded the first major rebellion against colonial rule. After the rebels were defeated, the British Crown took over power and ruled the country ostensibly more benignly until 1947, when India won independence. In this explosive book, bestselling author Shashi Tharoor reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India. Besides examining the many ways in which the colonizers exploited India, ranging from the drain of national resources to Britain, the destruction of the Indian textile, steel-making and shipping industries, and the negative transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire on the supposed benefits of British rule, including democracy and political freedom, the rule of law, and the railways. The few unarguable benefits?the English language, tea, and cricket?were never actually intended for the benefit of the colonized but introduced to serve the interests of the colonizers. Brilliantly narrated and passionately argued, An Era of Darkness will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.
‘[Tharoor] has produced a bestseller that will re-ignite thinking and debate and open the eyes of the younger generation in India and hopefully in Britain on this “era of darkness’…Tharoor’s new contribution is that he even takes apart the commonly accepted argument…that the British Empire left quite a bit of good in India…’ —Business Standard
‘By rewriting the history of the British Raj as it really was, Tharoor has lifted a great load from millions of still-colonised minds in this country; while simultaneously providing an opportunity to the heirs of carpetbaggers and adventurers of the Raj to atone and apologize.’ —Education World
‘Tharoor’s arguments have smashed to smithereens the claim that the British prepared India for a system of parliamentary democracy and laid the foundation for the rule of law…we all should be grateful to Tharoor for writing a book of enduring value, and it will be desirable to see it translated into different Indian languages as it is of interest to the public at large.’ —Frontline
‘Shashi Tharoor’s latest, An Era of Darkness, is one breathless read…Until [this book] came along, there was no single work that clearly and unambiguously catalogued all the harm done to India under British rule.’ —Business Line ‘The book serves to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history’. —Deccan Chronicle
‘Tharoor reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India’ —The Sunday Guardian
‘The reality is, as Tharoor points out, that “we were one of the richest countries in the world when the British came in but when they left us, we were one of the poorest.”’ —Mail Today
‘Gifted writing, masses of dexterously marshaled information, pithily summarized ideas and a sharp debating style, which fences more with the sword than with the shield, make for riveting reading. Professors writing on colonial exploitation have suffered from the sadness of their subject. Tharoor makes it fun. By far the liveliest recent exposition of the traditional Indian nationalist viewpoint, his book can be recommended unhesitatingly…’ —India Today
In An Era of Darkness, consummate debater and author Shashi Tharoor recreates the British Raj with all its horrors and also elucidates the awe-inspiring struggle of India's freedom fighters. He gives us a valuable insight on how dark forces operate and on who are harbingers of hope—it's a valuable lesson at a time when thugs are masquerading as our saviours…at a time when debate has been reduced to a cacophony of slogans and insults by bhakts, Tharoor's writing, with its expansive case studies and citations and sustained argument, all augmented by his felicity of language, may just come as an eye-opener to us all. —Huffington Post
‘Tharoor’s thrusts are painful, and his approach is that of a shrewd debater—which Tharoor excels at—attacking each proclaimed virtue from all fronts, leaving the supporter of the empire defenceless. He shows—with facts and statistics—how post-independence India has made rapid strides in economic and social development, which were simply impossible during the colonial era, and without stressing on the point too loudly, reminds the reader how much more India could have achieved had it been able to modernize without colonial subjugation’ —LiveMint
Shashi Tharoor is the bestselling author of fifteen previous books, both fiction and non-fiction, besides being a noted critic and columnist. His books include the path-breaking satire The Great Indian Novel (1989), the classic India: From Midnight to the Millennium (1997), and most recently, India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in Our Time (2015). He was a former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. He is a two-time member of the Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram and chairs Parliament’s External Affairs Committee. He has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was honoured as New Age Politician of the Year (2010) by NDTV. He was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India’s highest honour for overseas Indians.