British Raj

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English rule has enabled India still to retain her identity and social type; it has awakened her to herself and has meanwhile, until she became conscious of her strength, guarded her against the flood which would otherwise have submerged and broken her civilisation. It is for her now to recover herself, defend her cultural existence against the alien penetration, preserve her distinct spirit, essential principle and characteristic forms for her own salvation and the total welfare of the human race. ~ Sri Aurobindo
British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India

The British Raj was the rule by the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.

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  • It is one of the great achievements of our rule in India that, even if they do not entirely carry them out, educated Indians do accept British principles of justice and liberty. We are condemned by Indians not by the measures of Indian ethical conceptions but by our own, which we have taught them to accept. It is precisely this acceptance by politically conscious Indians of the principles of democracy and liberty which puts us in the position of being able to appeal to them to take part with us in the common struggle; but the success of this appeal and India's response does put upon us the obligation of seeing that we, as far as we may, make them sharers in the things for which we and they are fighting.
    • Clement Attlee, letter to the Cabinet (January 1942), quoted in Paul Addison, The Road to 1945 (1994), pp. 202-203
  • Looking back today over the years, we may well be proud of the work which our fellow citizens have done in India. There have, of course, been mistakes, there have been failures, but we can assert that our rule in India will stand comparison with that of any other nation which has been charged with the ruling of a people so different from themselves.
  • May I recall here a thing that is not always remembered, that just as India owes her unity and freedom from external aggression to the British, so the Indian National Congress itself was founded and inspired by men of our own race, and further, that any judgment passed on our rule in India by Indians is passed on the basis, not of what obtained in the past in India, but on the principles which we have ourselves instilled into them.
  • English rule has enabled India still to retain her identity and social type; it has awakened her to herself and has meanwhile, until she became conscious of her strength, guarded her against the flood which would otherwise have submerged and broken her civilisation. It is for her now to recover herself, defend her cultural existence against the alien penetration, preserve her distinct spirit, essential principle and characteristic forms for her own salvation and the total welfare of the human race.
  • English rule has by its general principle of social and religious non-interference prevented any direct and violent touch, any deliberate and purposeful social pressure; but it has undermined and deprived of living strength all the pre-existing centres and instruments of Indian social life and by a sort of unperceived rodent process left it only a rotting shell without expansive power or any better defensive force than the force of inertia.
    • Sri Aurobindo, [1]


  • Far away in time, in the dawn of history, the greatest race of the many races then emerging from prehistoric mists was the great Aryan race. When that race left the country which it occupied in the western part of Central Asia, one great branch moved west, and in the course of their wanderings they founded the cities of Athens and Sparta; they founded Rome; they made Europe, and in the veins of the principal nations of Europe flows the blood of their Aryan forefathers. ... At the same time, one branch went south, and they crossed the Himalayas. They went into the Punjab and they spread through India, and, as an historic fact, ages ago, there stood side by side in their ancestral land the ancestors of the English people and the ancestors of the Rajputs and of the Brahmins. And now, after aeons have passed, the children of the remotest generations from that ancestry have been brought together by the inscrutable decree of Providence to set themselves to solve the most difficult, the most complicated political problem that has ever been set to any people of the world.
  • Difficult as the course is, the dangers do not come from the difficulties; they come from extremists in India and at home. I will tell you what I mean. I am firmly convinced that such writings as appear in such papers as the Daily Mail will do more to lose India for the British Empire, will do more to cause a revolutionary spirit, than anything that can be done in any way by anyone else. I got many letters, I need hardly say, of all points of view. I had a very characteristic one last week...It was from a colonel; he was an old man, you could tell that by his writing; and he used this phrase: He said, "You and Lord Irwin are negrophiles." Perhaps he was a member of the United Empire party. That is not the way to cement the Empire. This sort of thing, and the spirit behind it, will break up our Empire infallibly, and that is what I am out to fight.
  • Everyone knows that if the people of India could be unanimous for a day, they might sweep us from their country as dust before a whirlwind.
    • R. Burton, "Goa, and the Blue Mountains, or, Six months of sick leave". 1851.
  • The English looked upon India as the keystone of the imperial arch, but did the arch only exist to support the keystone? What in terms of economic and strategic advantage did England get in return for this immense imperial structure spread-eagled from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal? Wherein lay that value of India which alone could justify – and more than justify, if India were to be profitable – the burdens and risks that England had assumed in the Middle East and Asia? In the first place, India added nothing to the industrial capacity of the empire. Out of every hundred Indians, seventy-one worked on the land and only twelve in any kind of industry... Except for chromium, manganese and jute, India was also devoid of discovered or exploited sources of strategic raw materials. As a market for British products, India in 1913 was nearly equalled in value by France and Germany together (£70,273,221 as against £69,610,451), and outweighed by the "white" dominions. As a source of imports into Britain, India was worth less than half the "white" dominions. As a field for British investment, India rated as not much more important than Argentina, and half as important as the United States. Thus, when India's importance to England as a source of economic advantage or strategic raw materials is compared to other countries both inside and outside the empire, there was nothing remotely to justify the unique and immense diplomatic and strategic responsibilities that India entailed... For the British, having given themselves such vast trouble to conquer and to hold India, had neglected adequately to exploit it.
  • In the Great War India raised 1,440,437 soldiers, all volunteers... The total number of men raised in India was no more than 0.3 per cent of her population, compared to 12.4 per cent in the British Isles, 11.6 per cent in New Zealand and about 8 per cent in Canada and Australia. Of the Indian total, only 877,068 were combatants, while India sent overseas no more than 621,224 officers and men; Canada, on the other hand, from a population of only 7,600,000 sent abroad 422,405 men... Of the troops India did send overseas, only 89,335 went to swell British strength on the decisive front in France and in the battles with England's principal enemy, Germany. Against these 89,335 troops sent to France must, however, be set the 15,000 British troops retained in India to secure internal order... Thus India's military contribution to the British struggle with Germany in the Great War was in fact both relatively and absolutely negligible. When therefore a final balance is struck of the value of India to Britain in the Great War, value both economically and militarily, there is only the item of a net gain of 74,000 soldiers to set against the colossal, expensive and vulnerable British involvement in territories stretching from Malta to Rangoon, from the Himalayas to East Africa. The whole British position in the Middle East and Southern Asia was in fact a classic, and gigantic, example of strategic over-extension. Far from being a source of strength to England, India served only immensely to weaken and distract her.
  • India was like colossal mansion standing in the middle of a vast but ill-cultivated estate; it conferred prestige, it made the owners feel grand, and, by the cost of its upkeep, threatened them with ruin. For how could a nation of only 45,000,000 people, an industrial power not only out-matched in size but in performance by great rivals, find the diplomatic and strategic strength to carry India without dangerously weakening itself? ... Even had the British governing classes thought in terms of a colossal economic transformation of India, their powers of bringing it about were limited. The Indian Mutiny had shown the dangers that a small occupying force ran in trying to interfere with deeply entrenched prejudices, customs and patterns of life... "Five Year Plans" for India were simply not in the British mind. The corset of good and honest government and the benefit of public works were as much as the British could hope to achieve, and as much as their imagination compassed. Only the Labour Party thought of Indian problems primarily in economic terms, and then not from the point of view of British advantage... India was indeed "a mischievous encumbrance", to be rid of with all convenient speed... Yet during and after the Great War the British governing classes failed to perceive that self-interest demanded the handing over of India to some Indian régime as quickly as it could be arranged.
  • Thus the British constructed their own illogical dilemma and locked themselves up in it: India was a liability; therefore we could not abandon it. Or, to put it in another way, even if we had no need of India, India had need of us, and we ought to fulfil that need even at our own cost. For in the last resort the place of India in the British mind was founded not upon calculation but upon love... For the clue to all the the agonising of the British over India between the world wars was that, whatever their political differences of opinion, they were thinking primarily not of British interests, but of Indian interests, as they conceived them.
  • Moral idealism not only prevented the British from leaving India between the world wars, it also created the peculiarly disadvantageous circumstances in which they stayed on. For it was the moral idealism of the liberals – first of the Liberal Party proper, and later of liberals in the Labour and Conservative parties – which gratuitously helped in raising up Indian discontent and the demand for independence in Britain's face. British higher education in India...turned out not the engineers, scientists and technicians which India needed, but unemployables of "liberal" education, good at best for low-grade clerking, but believing themselves to be a deprived élite – apt material for political dreaming and scheming... The form of British education in India was a fundamental mistake. As the chief executive of a great American company...told an American journalist in the 1920s: "If I were running the country, I'd close every university tomorrow. It was a crime to teach them to be clerks, lawyers and politicians till they'd been taught to raise food." Having created an intelligentsia, the British proceeded to encourage it, step by step, to entertain larger and larger political ambitions.
  • This intelligentsia which spoke so confidently for "India", voicing "India's" demand for freedom and "India's" right to self-rule, numbered in truth less than one in a hundred of India's population. There was no need to take them and their secondhand liberal clichés seriously at all. The British had won India by the sword, and more than that, by the moral ascendancy behind the sword... India was accustomed to autocracy; the British sat comfortably enough in the throne vacated by the Moghuls, and until liberals created an Indian intelligentsia and told it that autocracy was wrong, no Indian resented autocracy. And even by the time of the Great War it was not the people at large but only the intellectuals who resented it... There was therefore no inevitable process of history to put a term to English rule in India. In 1914–18 the future of English rule in India lay still entirely in English hands. It depended on English nerve... Indeed the history of the French, Habsburg and Russian monarchies showed clearly enough that there could be no half-way or quarter-way houses between total autocracy and total abdication. If an autocracy can no longer rule by force of will and force of guns, concessions cannot preserve it, but only determine the manner of its extinction. Yet in 1919–21 the English continued to pursue the liberal fantasy of enlisting the goodwill of the Congress movement, and it was...this policy of appeasement that really brought about the revolutionary change in the position of the English in India.
  • Like you, I believe strongly that where there is a revolutionary element expressed in action, one must act resolutely. My reading of Indian history has led me to believe that a Government founded so completely as ours is upon prestige can stand almost anything except the suspicion of weakness.
  • To me it is frankly inconceivable that India will ever be fit for Dominion self-government.
    • Lord Birkenhead to Lord Reading (4 December 1924), quoted in H. Montgomery Hyde, Lord Reading (1967), p. 382
  • I have always placed my highest and most permanent hopes upon the eternity of the Communal situation. The greater the political progress made by the Hindus, the greater, in my judgment, will the Moslem distrust and discontent become. All the conferences in all the world cannot bridge over the unbridgeable, and between these two communities lies a chasm which cannot be crossed by the resources of modern political engineering.
    • Lord Birkenhead to Lord Reading (March 1925) on India, quoted in H. Montgomery Hyde, Lord Reading (1967), p. 387
  • The Romans were great conquerors, but where they conquered, they governed wisely. The nations they conquered were impressed so indelibly with the intellectual character of their masters, that, after fourteen centuries of decadence, the traces of civilisation were still distinguishable. Why should not we act a similar part in India? There never was a more docile people, never a more tractable nation. The opportunity was present, and the power was not wanting. Let us abandon the policy of aggression, and confine ourselves to a territory ten times the size of France, with a population four times as numerous as that of the United Kingdom. Surely that was enough to satisfy the most gluttonous appetite for glory and supremacy. Educate the people of India, and govern them wisely, and gradually the distinctions of caste would disappear, and they would look upon us rather as benefactors than as conquerors. And if we desired to see Christianity, in some form, professed in that country, we should sooner attain our object by setting the example of a high-toned Christian morality, than by any other means we could employ.
  • I do not now make any comment upon the mode in which this country has been put into possession of India. I accept that possession as a fact. There we are; we do not know how to leave it, and therefore let us see if we know how to govern it. It is a problem such as, perhaps, no other nation has had to solve. Let us see whether there is enough of intelligence and virtue in England to solve the difficulty. In the first place, then, I say, let us abandon all that system of calumny against the Natives of India which has lately prevailed. Had that people not been docile, the most governable race in the world, how could you have maintained your power for 100 years? Are they not industrious, are they not intelligent, are they not—upon the evidence of the most distinguished men the Indian Service ever produced—endowed with many qualities which make them respected by all Englishmen who mix with them? I have heard that from many men of the widest experience, and have read the same in the works of some of the best writers upon India. Then let us not have these constant calumnies against such a people.
  • The task of the wise government of so vast an empire may be an impossible one—I often fear it is so—we may fail in our efforts, but, whether we fail or succeed, let us do our best to compensate for the wrong of the past and the present by conferring on the Indian people whatever good it is in our power to give them.
    • John Bright, letter to Major Evans Bell (25 August 1883), quoted in The Public Letters of The Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., ed. H. J. Leech (1885), p. 282
  • The best justification for the despotic system described is to be found in the administration of British India. That administration is no doubt in some respects imperfect. … But it is incomparably better than the administration of any subject territory by an alien and distant race of conquerors than has ever been before. It had in particular attained three great objects. It has established perfect internal peace and security through a vast area, much of which is still inhabited by wild tribes; it has secured a perfectly just administration of the law, civil as well as criminal, between all races and castes; and it has imbued the officials with a feeling that their first duty is to do their best for the welfare of the natives and to defend them against the rapacity of European adventurers. These things have been achieved by an efficiently organized Civil Service inspired by high traditions, kept apart from British party politics, and standing quite outside the prejudices, jealousies, and superstitions which sway the native mind. Only through despotic methods could that have been done for India which the English have done.
    • James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, 'British Experience in the Government of Colonies', The Century (New York), 57, 5 (March 1899), pp. 718-728, quoted in The Times (27 February 1899), p. 7


  • [H]e would say that he doubted whether it was possible for anyone who had not visited India, even Members of Her Majesty's Government, to realize how incredibly strong, and, at the same time, how incredibly slender, our position in India was. It was strong far beyond ordinary human strength so long as we showed ourselves capable of ruling; but it was weaker than the weakest the moment we showed the faintest indications of relaxing our grasp.
  • The rescue of India from ages of barbarism, tyranny, and internecine war and its slow but ceaseless forward march to civilisation constitute upon the whole the finest achievement of our history.
    • Winston Churchill, article for the Daily Mail (16 November 1929), quoted in Martin Gilbert, Prophet of Truth: Winston S. Churchill, 1922–1939 (1990), p. 356
  • Why is it that the principles of Government and lessons of history which we have learnt in our experience with the great self-governing dominions, which we have learnt in Canada, in South Africa and in Ireland, apply only in a limited degree to India? It is because the problem of Indian government is primarily a technical one. In India far more than in any other community in the world moral, political and economic considerations are outweighed by the importance of technical and administrative apparatus. Here you have nearly three hundred and fifty millions of people, lifted to a civilisation and to a level of peace, order, sanitation and progress far above anything they could possibly have achieved themselves or could maintain. This wonderful fact is due to the guidance and authority of a few thousands of British officials responsible to Parliament who have for generations presided over the development of India. If that authority is injured or destroyed, the whole efficiency of the services, defensive, administrative, medical, hygienic, judicial; railway, irrigation, public works and famine prevention, upon which the Indian masses depend for their culture and progress, will perish with it. India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages. The question at stake is not therefore the gratification of the political aspirations towards self-government of a small number of intellectuals. It is, on the contrary, the practical, technical task of maintaining the peace and life of India by artificial means upon a much higher standard than would otherwise be possible. To let the Indian people fall, as they would, to the level of China, would be a desertion of duty on the part of Great Britain.
  • During the 1935 Parliament debates on the Government of India Act, Sir Winston Churchill opposed any policy tending towards decolonization on the following ground: 'We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except perhaps for the Depressed Classes [= the SC/ STs], who are the native stock.'
    • Winston Churchill: Reproduced in C.H. Philips ed.: Select Documents on the History of India and Pakistan, part IV, p.315. , and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The world never yet beheld such a compound of jobbing, swindling, hypocrisy, and slaughter, as goes to make up the gigantic scheme of villainy called the “British rule in India”. I have a presentment...that God's chastisement upon us as a nation will come from Hindostan. ... Your energies could not be more worthily employed than in trying to avert from us this judgement, by endeavouring to do justice to the Indian population.
    • Richard Cobden to John Bright (18 October 1850), quoted in Donald Read, Cobden and Bright: A Victorian Political Partnership (1967), pp. 206–207
  • The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom, but has debased it economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe that India must sever the British connection and attain purna swarajya, or complete independence...We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to the rule that has caused this disaster to our country. We recognize, however, that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence.
  • As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it, we shall drop straight away to a third-rate Power.
  • India was the pivot of our Empire. If this Empire lost any other part of its dominion we could survive, but if we lost India, the sun of our Empire would be set.
    • Lord Curzon, (Times, 3/12/1898) Quoted from Stephen Knapp, Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire [2]
  • Powerful empires existed and flourished here (in India) while Englishmen were still wandering, painted, in the woods, and while the British Colonies were still a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy, and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.


  • George Curzon was likewise determined to prevent famine from being used as a cause for reform. With hunger spreading on an unprecedented scale through two-thirds of the subcontinent, he ordered his officials to publicly attribute the crisis strictly to drought. When an incautious member of the Legislative Council in Calcutta, Donald Smeaton, raised the problem of over-taxation, he was (in Boer War parlance) prompdy "Stellenboshed." Although Curzons own appetite for viceregal pomp and circumstance was notorious, he lectured starving villagers that "any Government which imperilled the financial position of India in the interests of prodigal philanthropy would be open to serious criticism; but any Government which by indiscriminate alms-giving weakened the fibre and demoralised the self-reliance of the population, would be guilty of a public crime."
  • England's industrial supremacy owes its origin to the vast hoards of Bengal and the Karnatik being made available for her use....Before Plassey was fought and won, and before the stream of treasure began to flow to England, the industries of our country were at a very low ebb.
  • My Lords, the key of India is not Merv, or Herat, or Candahar. The key of India is London. The majesty of sovereignty, the spirit and vigour of your Parliaments, the inexhaustible resources of a free, an ingenious, and a determined people—these are the keys of India.
  • It might have been supposed that the building of 30,000 miles of railways would have brought a measure of prosperity to India. But these railways were built not for India but for England; not for the benefit of the Hindu, but for the purposes of the British army and British trade.
  • Commerce on the sea is monopolized by the British even more than transport on land. The Hindus are not permitted to organize a merchant marine of their own; 90 all Indian goods must be carried in British bottoms, as an additional strain on the starving nation's purse; and the building of ships, which once gave employment to thousands of Hindus, is prohibited.
  • I have seen a great people starving to death before my eyes, and I am convinced that this exhaustion and starvation are due not, as their beneficiaries claim, to over-population and superstition, but to the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded history. I propose to show that England has year by year been bleeding India to the point of death, and that self-government of India by the Hindus could not, within any reasonable probability, have worse results than the present form of alien domination.


  • Let me tell you at once that the newspaper accounts at home of the various visits, ceremonies and receptions have almost invariably been hopefully exaggerated... [People at home] think my tour is a success, and I must reluctantly tell you that it is no such thing... I make it my business to talk to as many of our people out here as I can – soldiers, civil servants, and, more especially, the police, who from the nature of their work, can normally give a more accurate picture of the whole situation out here than anyone else; and as regards the present conditions of life in India they one and all say the same thing – that they won't let their sons come out here to earn a living in the Indian Army, Indian Civil Service etc. etc., and that not now would they even recommended these services to any good fellow. The reason for this is, that India is no longer a place for the white man to live.
    • Edward, Prince of Wales, letter to Edwin Montagu (1 January 1922), quoted in Sir Sigismund David Waley, Edwin Montagu: A Memoir and an Account of His Visits to India (1964), p. 262
  • Lord Elphinstone had said as far back as 1851 that “Divide et empera was the old Roman motto, and it should be ours”. Many other British politicians, historians and bureaucrats, in Britain as well as in India, had made similar statements of British policy. The British had never tried very hard to hide the game they had played in the past, and were planning to play in the future. But the [Indian] national leaders who read or heard these statements became agog with excitement as if they had uncovered a ‘dark secret’, and could now answer comfortably all questions regarding the ‘communal problem’ [the Hindu-Muslim divide].


  • The British were perhaps the most successful pirates in history. They came to India, pillaged the country in the name of trade and then enslaved it in the name of civilization.
    • Buckminster Fuller (1895-1893) Attributed in Indian Express - Flair 8/5/2001, and quoted at [6]


  • If we are to receive self-government, we shall have to take it. We shall never be granted self-government. Look at the history of the British Empire and the British nation; freedom-loving as it is, it will not be a party to give freedom to a people who will not take it themselves.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, (4 February 1916), published in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches (1994), p. 43
  • The English have taught us that we were not one nation before and that it will require centuries before we become one nation. This is without foundation. We were one nation before they came to India. One thought inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom. Subsequently they divided us.
  • Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.
  • The Government of India is the most arduous and perhaps the noblest trust ever undertaken by a nation.
    • William Ewart Gladstone, speech in Glasgow (5 December 1879), quoted in Michael Balfour, Britain and Joseph Chamberlain (1985), p. 212


  • The Portuguese, Dutch and English have for a long time, year after year, been shipping home the treasures of India in their big vessels. We Germans have been all along left to watch it. Germany would do likewise but hers would be treasures of spiritual knowledge.
    • Heinrich Heine. Quoted in S. Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions and Western thought
  • You can choose any single area, take for example India: England did not acquire India in a lawful and legitimate manner, but rather without regard to the natives’ wishes, views, or declarations of rights; and she maintained this rule, if necessary, with the most brutal ruthlessness. Just as Cortés or Pizarro demanded for themselves Central America and the northern states of South America not on the basis of any legal claim, but from the absolute, inborn feeling of superiority (Herrengefühl) of the white race. The settlement of the North American continent was similarly a consequence not of any higher claim in a democratic or international sense, but rather of a consciousness of what is right which had its sole roots in the conviction of the superiority and thus the right of the white race.
    • Adolf Hitler to business leaders of the Industry Club in Düsseldorf on January 27, 1932. Max Domarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations, 1932-1945 (Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1990), pp. 96-103
  • Shoot Gandhi and if that does not suffice to reduce them to submission, shoot a dozen leading members of Congress; and if that does not suffice, shoot 200 and so on until order is established. You will see how quickly they will collapse as soon as you make it clear that you mean business.
    • Adolf Hitler, remarks to British government minister Lord Halifax at Berchtesgaden (19 November 1937), quoted in Ivone Kirkpatrick, The Inner Circle (1959), p. 97 and Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 72
  • "One of their [Britain] great bases is Iran, Irak and Syria. That's where their fleet takes on supplies. The other is the Malay archipelago, where they're losing all their refueling -points for oil. They can trumpet abroad their intentions concerning Europe, but they know very well that it's the possession of India on which the existence of their Empire depends."


  • The Raj did bring benefits to the Indian people, and its importance to the successor states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh...cannot be overstated. Whether they like the fact or not, these countries are what they are now because they were once governed by Britain and brought directly into contact with British ideas, values, learning and technology. The process of exposure and absorption was slow and uneven; old faiths, customs and habits of mind proved remarkably durable, and outlasted a Raj which lacked either the capacity or will to uproot them. There were enduring features of British rule, too. Attachment to the democratic idea remains strong in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh... [T]here is a consciousness of what constitutes good and honest administration, and the periodic outbursts against corruption in all three countries are a reflection that their people judge their officials by standards laid down during British rule.
    • Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (1997), p. 644
  • Any balance sheet of the Raj would not be complete without reference to its public utilities. When it ended, the sub-continent possessed what today would be called a communications "infrastructure" which included over 40,000 miles of railways... Enormous headway has been made in education by the successor states, but it could not have been achieved without foundations laid down during the Raj, and the same holds true in public health. Likewise, the criminal and civil law codes of the entire sub-continent are a legacy of the Raj.
    • Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (1997), pp. 644-645
  • [A]lthough their arguments were grounded in British political and legal philosophies, men like Gandhi and Nehru possessed distinctly Indian qualities. Here lay their immense strength: they could reason with their rulers in terms the latter understood and simultaneously appeal to the Indian masses. And yet, and this is perhaps the greatest irony of the Raj, both men argued passionately for the preservation of India's integrity, something which was a direct result of British rule. It is of course right and proper that Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah should be revered as national heroes, but it should not be forgotten that each in his way was a product of political and intellectual traditions which had been imparted into their country by the British. Quite simply the Raj cannot be disinvented. It happened, and its consequences, from a passion for cricket to a faith in democracy, remain deeply rooted in Indian soil.
    • Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (1997), p. 646
  • The British came to India primarily as traders but ultimately succeeded in carving out a strong empire in India. During their rule of over two centuries, they brought about far-reaching changes in the economic system of India. They completely destroyed the isolationist and self-sufficing character of the village;…
  • We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians. I know that it is said at missionary meetings that we have conquered India to raise the level of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India as an outlet for the goods of Great Britain. We conquered India by the sword, and by the sword we shall hold it.
    • Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Home Minister in the Baldwin Government [9] [10]


  • Then I remember, we went on over to Westminster Abbey. And I thought about several things when we went into this great church, this great cathedral, the center of the Church of England. We walked around and went to the tombs of the kings and queens buried there. Most of the kings and queens of England are buried right there in the Westminster Abbey. And I walked around. On the one hand I enjoyed and appreciated the great gothic architecture of that massive cathedral. I stood there in awe thinking about the greatness of God and man’s feeble attempt to reach up for God. And I thought something else. I thought about the Church of England. My mind went back to Buckingham Palace, and I said that this is the symbol of a dying system. There was a day that the queens and kings of England could boast that the sun never sets on the British Empire. A day when she occupied the greater portion of Australia, the greater portion of Canada. There was a day when she ruled most of China, most of Africa, and all of India. I started thinking about this empire. I started thinking about the fact that she ruled over India one day. Mahatma Gandhi stood there at every hand, trying to get the freedom of his people. And they never bowed to it. They never, they decided that they were going to stand up and hold India in humiliation and in colonialism many, many years. I remember we passed by 10 Downing Street. That’s the place where the prime minister of England lives. And I remember that a few years ago a man lived there by the name of Winston Churchill. One day he stood up before the world and said, “I did not become his Majesty’s First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”
  • I thought of many things. I thought of the fact that the British Empire exploited India. Think about it! A nation with four hundred million people and the British exploited them so much that out of a population of four hundred million, three hundred and fifty million made an annual income of less than fifty dollars a year. Twenty-five of that had to be used for taxes and the other things of life. I thought about dark Africa. And how the people there, if they can make a hundred dollars a year, they are living very well they think. Two shillings a day—one shilling is fourteen cents, two shillings, twenty-eight cents—that’s a good wage. That’s because of the domination of the British Empire. All of these things came to my mind, and when I stood there in Westminster Abbey with all of its beauty, and I thought about all of the beautiful hymns and anthems that the people would go in there to sing. And yet the Church of England never took a stand against this system. The Church of England sanctioned it. The Church of England gave it moral stature. All of the exploitation perpetuated by the British Empire was sanctioned by the Church of England. But something else came to my mind. God comes in the picture even when the Church won’t take a stand. God has injected a principle in this universe. God has said that all men must respect the dignity and worth of all human personality, “And if you don’t do that, I will take charge.” It seems this morning that I can hear God speaking. I can hear Him speaking throughout the universe, saying, “‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ And if you don’t stop, if you don’t straighten up, if you don’t stop exploiting people, I’m going to rise up and break the backbone of your power. And your power will be no more!” And the power of Great Britain is no more. I looked at France. I looked at Britain. And I thought about the Britain that could boast, “The sun never sets on our great Empire.” And I say now she had gone to the level that the sun hardly rises on the British Empire. Because it was based on exploitation. Because the God of the universe eventually takes a stand.


  • India's achievements were also very great. Her soldiers lie with ours in all the theatres of war, and no Britisher can ever forget the gallantry and promptitude with which she sprang forward to the King Emperor's service when war was declared. That is no small tribute both to India and to the Empire of which India is a part. The causes of the War were unknown to India; its theatre in Europe was remote. Yet India stood by her allegiance heart and soul, from the first call to arms and some of her soldiers are still serving far from their homes and families in the common cause. India's loyalty in that great crisis is eloquent to me of the Empire's success in bridging the civilisations of East and West, in reconciling wide differences of history, of tradition and of race, and in bringing the spirit and the genius of a great Asiatic people into willing co-operation with our own. Important changes have been effected in India this year, and India is making rapid strides towards the control of her own affairs. She has also proved her right to a new status in our councils; that status she gained during the War, and she has maintained it during the peace, and I welcome the representatives of India to our great Council of the Empire today.
    • David Lloyd George, quoted in Conference of Prime Ministers and Representatives of the United Kingdom, the Dominions, and India, Held in June, July, and August 1921. Summary of Proceedings and Documents, Volume XIV (1921), pp. 14-15
  • What were those practical difficulties? The first was that never in the history of India had India or any part of it, any of its many peoples and nations, ever enjoyed the slightest measure of democratic self-government until 1919. The second is that 95 per cent. of the population is illiterate. What is the third? That there are as many different races, nationalities and languages in India as there are in the whole of Europe. To talk about India as a unit, as if it were one people, is to display an ignorance of the elementary facts of the case. There has never been unity in India except under the rule of a conqueror.


  • It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government, that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.
  • The official history of the freedom movement starts with the premises that India lost indendence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries. Real history, on the other hand, teaches us that the major part of India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely changed masters in the eighteenth century.
    • R.C. Majumdar. History Of The Freedom Movement In India Vol. 1 [11] quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 310-311
  • Cambridge University established a prize named for an essay competition on the topic: 'The best means of civilizing the subjects of the British Empire in India, and of diffusing the light of the Christian religion throughout the eastern world.'
  • Indeed, when I turn my eyes either to the present condition or ancient grandeur of that country, when I contemplate the magnificence of her structures, her spacious reservoirs, constructed at an immense expense, pouring fertility and plenty over the land, the monuments of a benevolence expanding its cares over remote ages, when I survey the solid and embellished architecture of her temples, the elaborate and exquisite skiU of her manufactures and fabrics, her literature sacred and profane, her gaudy and enamelled pottery on which a wild and prodigal fancy has lavished all its opulence, when I turn to the philosophers lawyers and moralists who have left the oracles of political and ethical wisdom to restrain the passions and to awe the vices which disturb the commonwealth, when I look at the peaceful and harmonious alliances of families, guarded and secured by the household virtues, when I see amongst a cheerful and well-ordered society, the benignant and softening influence of religion and morality, a system of manners founded on a mild and polished obeisance and preserving the surface of social life smooth and unruffled — I cannot hear without surprise mingled with horror, of sending out Baptists and Anabaptists to civilize or convert such a people at the hazard of disturbing or deforming institutions which appear to have hitherto been the means ordained by Providence of making them virtuous and happy.
    • Charles Marsh, who had a seat in the House of Commons, during the Indian Debate of 1813, and delivered a very effective speech. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994. also in [12] [13]
  • England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.
  • British India... was as much infected by caste as Indian India.
    • Philip Mason, quoted in Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire by David Cannadine
  • There were certain unwritten rules in the Punjab service. There must be no hesitation. Show a bold front, take the offensive at once, a blow in time saves nine — that was the first commandment. And the second, supplementing it, was this; because the junior must not wait for support, the senior must back him up. With confidence, one can rule a million. Every officer must be sure he will be supported.
    • Philip Mason, The Men Who Ruled India: The Founders (1953), p. 370
  • No one in the average rural district could picture a party system and an opposition which might one day be the government. No one therefore could separate in his thoughts the government of the moment, the actual human government which made plenty of mistakes, from the ideal of government, the principle of law and order as opposed to anarchy. Opposition to the ruler in the traditional systems of India, whether Hindu or Muslim, is a crime and a much more serious crime than gang robbery. No one could understand why the English had suddenly become so tolerant of one form of crime, and it occurred to some people that it might be worth an experiment or two in other kinds.
    • Philip Mason, The Men Who Ruled India: The Guardians (1954), p. 247
  • The India of the Raj stood forth as a model, not only for the empire, but for Britain itself.
    • Thomas R. Metcalf, quoted in Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire by David Cannadine and in [14]
  • [W]hen you say that "if reforms do not save the Raj nothing else will" I am afraid I must utterly disagree. The Raj will not disappear in India as long as the British race remains what it is, because we shall fight for the Raj as hard as we have ever fought, if it comes to fighting, and we shall win as we have always won.
    • Lord Minto to John Morley (27 May 1908), quoted in Nicholas Mansergh, The Commonwealth Experience (1969), p. 13 and Bal Ram Nanda, Gokhale: The Indian Moderates and the British Raj (2015), p. 488


  • Just as Portuguese rule had given a great simplicity to the history of Goa, so British rule gave a direction to later Indian history and made it easier to grasp. Events, at a certain stage, could be seen to be leading up to British rule; and, thereafter, events could be seen leading to the end of that rule. To read of events in India before the coming of the British is like reading of many pieces of unfinished business; it is to read of a condition of flux, of things partly done and then partly undone, matters more properly the subject of annals rather than narrative history, which works best when it deals with great things being built up or pulled down.
    • Naipaul, V.S. - India_ A Million Mutinies Now (Vintage, 2011)


  • The spread of tension between Hindus and Muslims in turn, became a key legitimating factor for continuing British power in India. From the well-worn argument of colonialism’s ‘‘civilizing mission,’’ the new justification became one of ‘‘defense of the minorities.’’ In reality, however, minority interests were protected only to the extent that they served imperial power. To quote Lord Olivier in 1926 ‘‘No one with a close acquaintance with Indian affairs will be prepared to deny that, on the whole, there is a predominant bias in British officialdom in India in favour of the Muslim community, partly on the ground of closer sympathy, but more largely as a make-weight against Hindu nationalism.’’
    • Lord Olivier, Quoted in Review by Koenraad Elst in : The Journal of Asian Studies (Cambridge), volume 69, issue 02, pp. 637-639. Review of The Politics of Extremism in South Asia. By DEEPA M. OLLAPALLY. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 40. With quote of Lord Olivier, 1926.
  • All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency.


  • Patel's presidential address to the Congress, 1931: No one would die of starvation in independent India. Its grain would not be exported. Cloth would not be imported by it. Its leaders would neither use a foreign language nor rule from a remote place 7,000 feet above sea level. Its military expenditure would not be heavy. Its army would not subjugate its own people or other lands. Its best-paid officials would not earn a great deal more than its lowest-paid servants. And finding justice in it would be neither costly nor difficult.


  • The native is to be treated as a child and denied franchise. We must adopt a system of despotism, such as works in India, in our relations with the barbarism of South Africa.
    • Cecil Rhodes, quoted in Magubane, Bernard M. (1996). The Making of a Racist State: British Imperialism and the Union of South Africa, 1875–1910. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press. ISBN 978-0865432413.
  • Conquest is very rarely an evil when conquerors are more civilised than the people conquered, because they bring to them the advantages of civilisation. Many years of English domination will be necessary before India will be able to resume her political independence without losing much.


  • I am afraid a mistake was made by Lord Macaulay and others in the direction they gave to educational efforts in India. Popular education would have enabled the millions to raise themselves a little out of their extreme poverty. The University education only manufactures a redundant supply of candidate for the liberal professions in a country where the demand is small, and as a by-product turns out a formidable array of seditious article-writers.
    • Lord Salisbury to Lord Northbrook (25 March 1875), quoted in M. N. Das, Indian National Congress versus the British, Vol I (1978), p. 24
  • As to action the matter is simple: India is held by the sword: and its rulers must in all essentials be guided by the maxims which benefit the Government of the sword.
    • Lord Salisbury to Sir Philip Wodehouse (4 June 1875), quoted in Michael Bentley, Lord Salisbury's World: Conservative Environments in Late-Victorian Britain (2001), pp. 233-234
  • It was time to put a stop to the growing idea that England ought to pay tribute to India as a kind of apology for having conquered her: & you have done it effectively.
    • Lord Salisbury to Benjamin Disraeli (16 July 1875), quoted in Marvin Swartz, Politics of British Foreign Policy in the Era of Disraeli and Gladstone (1985), p. 17
  • The vast multitudes of India I thoroughly believe are well contented with our rule. They have changed masters so often that there is nothing humiliating to them in having gained a new one.
    • Lord Salisbury, speech to a prize-giving ceremony in Cooper's Hill (July 1875), quoted in Frederick Sanders Pulling, The Life and Speeches of the Marquis of Salisbury, K. G. (1885), p. 222
  • Speaking generally, I am desirous to push forward the argument from the interests of the people more than has hitherto been done. As I have said, I consider it to be our true rule and measure of action, and our observance of it is the one justification for our presence in India.
    • Lord Salisbury to Lord Northbrook (25 August 1875), quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 65
  • If England is to remain supreme, she must be able to appeal to the coloured against the white, as well to the white against the coloured. It is therefore not merely as a matter of sentiment and of justice, but as a matter of safety, that we ought to try and lay the foundation of some feeling on the part of coloured races towards the crown other than the recollection of defeat and the sensation of subjection.
    • Lord Salisbury to the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton (7 July 1876), quoted in S. Gopal, British Policy in India, 1858-1905 (1965), p. 115
  • Mohammedanism has the only organization and pretty nearly the only ambition hostile to us that is left in India.
    • Lord Salisbury to Lord Lytton (25 June 1877), quoted in David Steele, Lord Salisbury: A Political Biography (2001), p. 122 and Shih-tsung Wang, Lord Salisbury and Nationality in the East Viewing Imperialism in Its Proper Perspective (2019)
  • As India must be bled the lancet should be directed to the parts where the blood is congested or at least sufficient, not to those (the agricultural people) which are already feeble from the want of it.
    • Lord Robert Arthur Salisbury, (1830-1903), attributed at Poverty and Un-British Rule in India - By Dadabhai Naoroji and at [16] [17]
  • Sahebji, I am sorry I have been misunderstood. Forgive me for what I am being forced to say. The reference to freedom of speech was made by me in a specific context. It was not at all my intention to uphold the British usurpation of my country. Make no mistake. I consider the British Raj to be a curse. I stand for svarãjya [self-rule].


  • It is commonly said that it was the Mahomedans whom the British displaced as rulers in India. This is true only in a restricted sense. It would be nearer the truth to say that it was the Mahrattas in the main, whom we displaced.
    • Sir Richard Temple quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • There are countries with an extensive Asiatic Empire, who, faced by political activity of a kind that in India has long been accepted as mild and entirely constitutional, promptly shoot and hang it out of existence, and inform the outside world that it was "communism". If you call a thing communism, you can do what you like to it, and get away with it. (American Women's Clubs, which have suffered much distress by the spectacle of England's wickedness, never vex themselves about these other Colonial Empires.) The Indian Government, faced by murderous organisations, prosecutes their members anachronistically, for such crimes as "proposing to wage war against the King-Emperor", "seeking to deprive the King-Emperor of his sovereignty over India"... It has invented a form of martyrdom which is mostly garlands for its more distinguished practitioners.
  • Britain has become heir to the monuments of Indraprastha raised by the descendants of Budha and Ila; to the iron pillar of the Pandavas, "whose pedestal[20] [32] is fixed in hell"; to the columns reared to victory, inscribed with characters yet unknown; to the massive ruins of its ancient continuous cities, encompassing a space still larger than the largest city in the world, whose mouldering domes and sites of fortresses,[21] the very names of which are lost, present a noble field for speculation on the ephemeral nature of power and glory. What monument would Britain bequeath to distant posterity of her succession to this dominion? Not one: except it be that of a still less perishable nature, the monument of national benefit. Much is in our power: much has been given, and posterity will demand the result.
    • James Tod, Annals and antiquities of Rajast'han


  • He spoke very bitterly of the attempts of the English and Mohammedans to civilize the country by the bayonet and fire and sword. English civilization was composed of the three "B's" - Bible, bayonet, and brandy. "That is civilization, and it has been carried to such an extent that the average income of a Hindu is 50 cents a month. Russia is outside, saying. 'Let's civilize a little,' and England goes on and on."
    • Vivekananda [19](Article on Vivekananda)

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