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In the eighteenth century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, it had decreased six-fold. In Inglorious Empire, Shashi Tharoor tells the real story of the British in India, from the arrival of the East India Company in 1757 to the end of the Raj, and reveals how Britain’s rise was built upon its depredations in India. India was Britain’s biggest cash cow, and Indians literally paid for their own oppression. Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. Under the British, millions died from starvation–including 4 million in 1943 alone, after national hero Churchill diverted Bengal’s food stocks to the war effort. Beyond conquest and deception, the Empire blew rebels from cannons, massacred unarmed protesters and entrenched institutionalised racism. British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed. Tharoor takes on and demolishes the arguments for the Empire, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’, from the railways to the rule of law, was designed in Britain’s interests alone. This incisive reassessment of colonialism exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.

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