Sunday, 12 May 2013

Lord Macaulay on India in 1835

BFTF received a post on Facebook recently that contained a newspaper clip claiming to be from 1835 and with the following quote from Lord Macaulay, which he alledgedly gave to the British Parliament on 2nd Feb 1835 :

"I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation!"

Scary stuff and if true BFTF would be keen to publicise this as much as possible.

But a picture on Facebook is hardly what one could call "robust evidence" so, with a critical thinking hat on, BFTF wondered how one could check that the quote was real.

As it was allegedly given to Parliament, a good first step would be to consult Hansard - which said that there was no sitting in 1835 until 19th Feb (link here)

Okay, so perhaps he gave it in some kind of meeting etc that is not in Hansard. So BFTF checked some other resources on Lord Macaulay and found that, according to Columbia University, he was in India at this time (link here)

The quote is now starting to look pretty dodgy - perhaps it has already been investigated as a fake. Time to put "Lord Macaulay myth" into Google, which throws up this link and this link both of which confirm that Macaualay did not make the comments stated.

Ironically, during this search, BFTF stumbled upon this article on a book called "Churchill's Secret War" which alleges that wartime policies caused large numbers of deaths in the famine of 1934 - a famine whose worst effects could have been avoided had the British Government sent food aid there (or even diverted some of the food laden vessels passing by from Australia to the UK.

And then, of course, there was the Great Famine of 1876-78 in which the British Administration in India behaved in a shameful manner

"In part, the Great Famine [of 1876-1878] may have been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau. However, the commodification of grain, and the cultivation of alternate cash crops also may have played a role, as could have the export of grain by the colonial government; during the famine the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat.

The famine occurred at a time when the colonial government was attempting to reduce expenses on welfare. Earlier, in the Bihar famine of 1873–74, severe mortality had been avoided by importing rice from Burma. However, the Government of Bengal and its Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Richard Temple, were criticized for excessive expenditure on charitable relief. Sensitive to any renewed accusations of excess in 1876, Temple, who was now Famine Commissioner for the Government of India, insisted not only on a policy of laissez faire with respect to the trade in grain, but also on stricter standards of qualification for relief and on more meager relief rations. Two kinds of relief were offered: "relief works" for able-bodied men, women, and working children, and gratuitous (or charitable) relief for small children, the elderly, and the indigent."


Grain awaiting loading onto ships for export, Madras, 1877

Image Sources
Grain for Export

2 comments:

  1. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1833macaulay-india.asp

    " That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves."

    "I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the Committee who support the Oriental plan of education."

    These quotes indicate that while Lord Macaulay did NOT have high opinions about Indian culture or literature, he sure wanted to educate Indians (using English as the language)...

    Despite his clear words about making hundred million men their customers, he sure wanted to educate Indians.

    Now the irony is that Indians are taking up jobs in the Western world, just because they thrust their language upon Indians !!!

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  2. It's ironic when Indians were inventing zero, europeans were roaming half naked in jungles... and they talk about educating india. Sigh!

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