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Review

Legacy Is Grand Delusion

An up-to-date history shows how the idea of a beneficial Raj is a sham

Legacy Is Grand Delusion
Legacy Is Grand Delusion
outlookindia.com
2016-09-30T16:24:50+05:30

In 2005, Manmohan Singh, the then prime minister, was conferred an honorary doctorate by Oxford University. Decades after independence, argued Manmohan, one can take an unbiased view of the colonial legacy, including its beneficial aspects.

‘Legacy’ is a controversial word, involving standards of living of the average Indian in 1947, compared with 1757, 1848 (when Dal­­housie became governor-general) or 1858. Jon Wilson probes this too and finds the economic legacy wasn’t all that great. Though this is at best a cou­­nter-factual proposition, it could have been better. However, the use of the adjective ‘beneficial’ makes the probing a bit more tractable. Manmohan’s list had a free press, constitutional government, a professional civil service, modern universities and research laboratories and rule of law. Others would probably include railways, irrigation, post and telegraphs and perhaps even finger-printing. There are multiple ways of looking at history, with different lenses, and it is not as if one view is true, others are false. This Kurosawa/Rashomon perspective is true of all social sciences, and is truer of history.

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