Are we witnessing a genuine desire to look with open minds at the British Empire ? My life and that of every Brit of all shades of skin colour is affected by its legacy. Raising interest in this history that affects us all is what I hoped for, when in just published @ £2.99, ‘Not so Black and White’ Precious discovers her father’s records about the British Gulag in Kenya .
Can we have a discussion about empireS which puts histories into an international context – looking at the way power impacts? In Sculpting the Elephant I did not whitewash the evils of the British Empire.( The 100th anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale – the fictional diary entry below seems apt)
In the historical subplot, Bartholomew Carew becomes disillusioned with the Raj but he represents real Brits in India who did admirable things. The real characters like Prinsep who appear in his story devoted their lives to the rediscovery of ancient Indian history . Jesus did not create Christianity -St Paul did that. Similarly in India the Buddha didn’t create Buddhism that was Ashoka and he was forgotten for over a thousand years – his record suppressed by powerful forces who did not like his tolerance, his ideas of human and animal welfare and his abhorrence of the caste system. Bartholomew Carew writes…
‘The deaths from starvation in Bengal are horrific beyond calculation. Life in Simla continues, oblivious as the social merry-go round defines the seasons … There is no shortage of food in the Punjab. Florence Nightingale’s analysis of the problem of the recent famines implies that they are fundamentally man-made. She records two contributory factors. The grain famine compounded by the money famine. Money drained from the peasant to the landlord makes it impossible for the peasant to procure food. And money intended for the producers of food via public works projects was diverted to paying for the military effort in Afghanistan.’ Her analysis is appropriate in today’s world too!
I wrote this feature for the Madras Courier https://madrascourier.com/opinion/when-fanatical-brahmins-islamists-tried-to-decimate-buddhism/