The Weekly Winston: Vindicating the British Empire

In place of the traditional Churchill meditation that usually appears in this space on the weekends, let’s take a detour to one of the areas which contemporary liberals hold against Churchill: the British Empire.  For a long time I’ve been predicting that sooner or later revisionist scholarship would be begin to contest and eventually reverse much of the cliché-ridden leftist line that “colonialism” should be summed up purely as racism, conquest, and exploitation.  Here and there revisionist books have appeared, and then there’s Harry Crocker’s splendid Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire, and also Kirk Emmert’s fine but out-of-print and hard to find defense of Churchill’s humane imperial views, Churchill on Empire.

Bill Kristol writes in to direct our attention to a story appearing in The Express by an Indian author on “The Remarkable Raj: Why Britain Should Be Proud of Its Rule in India.”

The period of colonial rule, spanning some 200 years, is routinely depicted as the systematic plundering of a nation. The popular view is that the Empire stripped India of its natural resources and gave little in return, leaving the place all but destitute when independence was finally granted in 1947.

Now, however, a new book written by an Anglo-Indian challenges this notion. It asserts that in fact Britain laid the foundations for modern-day India and the prosperity that it enjoys today.

The girders for every bridge, the track for every mile of railway and the vast array of machinery required for India’s infrastructure were all carried there by the same ships that helped exploit a land thousands of miles away. The engineers who laid the cornerstones for India’s development from Third World nation to burgeoning industrial superpower were British.

“The indisputable fact is that India as a nation as it stands today was originally put together and created by a small, distant island country,” says Dr Kartar Lalvani, founder of the vitamins company Vitabiotics and a former Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, in the book he has spent the past eight years writing, The Making Of India: A Story Of British Enterprise. It comes out later this year.

He adds: “The ‘sins’ of the Empire have been widely and frequently written about while the other positive side of the imperial coin, of which Britain can be proud and which laid the foundations for modern-day India, has always been overlooked. This is the first book of its kind to recognise Britain’s vast contribution to India’s social, civil and physical infrastructure provided during two centuries of colonial rule.”

If Dr. Lalvani keeps this up, he won’t be able to get tenure at an American university.

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