Customer Reviews: The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain
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3.8 out of 5 stars6
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on August 15, 2008
Scandal of Empire is a disturbing book.
Disturbing because it goes back to the earliest times of English presence in India and pieces together events at a level of detail unheard of in Indian history texts (which are mostly written by "eminent historians").

Dirks explains how cleverly England converted an open grab of resources into a civilising mission first in the eyes of its own citizens and then even in the eyes of the citizens of occupied India.
The whitewash was so effective, that India's most recent (and arguably her worst) Prime Minister actually claimed, in Cambridge itself, that india benefited hugely from Colonial occupation (which was estimated to have resulted in the vacuum cleaning of resources and economic value of over 10 trillion dollars in today's monies, not including the cost and pain of lives lost).

Replete with references to actual notes and documents, this is a solid piece of work.

A must read for every Indian.

Scandal gets only 4 stars for Dirks' writing style; his sentences are over-long and his style academic. Readers will have to work to extract his messages.
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on May 18, 2014
An interesting and important history to explore. At times the author spirals off into incredibly dense academic meanderings covering scatterings of ideas and arguments - based upon other ideas and arguments - upon other ideas and arguments... eventually leaning directly or indirectly towards supporting finer points of his hypothesis. This can become so tedious as to give one the powerful urge to shout profanities and/or throw the book against an adjacent wall.

As frustrating as that can be, most of the book pulls you along. I do recommend reading it. I also think that this subject deserves to be written about in a more accessible way. I believe ideas like this are best demonstrated and absorbed through narratives that focus primarily around an account of history, of facts, events, incentives, and outcomes - rather than a convoluted dictation of them with the "story" being almost secondary to the hypothesis.
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on October 30, 2013
Thanks to Internet. The truth is slowly coming out. I'll give a brief summary of British occupation of India for 200 yrs

India (then hindu kingdoms) was the largest economy and richest civilization in the world from 1AD to 1700 AD with a GDP average of 25 to 30% until the time of British invasion in the 18th century, according to eminent economist Angus Madisson who did a 20 yrs research on world economy for 2000 yrs funded by OECD (Organization for Economic cooperation and development)countries. His book "World economy,a millennial perspective and historical statistics", prove it all.

British Indologists did not study Indian Traditional Knowledge System but quietly documented them as systems competing with their own, and facilitated the transfer of Indian technology into Britain's industrial revolution. What was found valuable was quickly appropriated, and its Indian manufacturers were forced out of business, and this was in many instances justified as civilizing them.

Meanwhile, a new history of India was fabricated to ensure that present and future generations of mentally colonized people would believe in the inherent inferiority of their own traditional knowledge and in the superiority of the colonizers' `modern' knowledge. This has been called Macaulayism, named after Lord Macaulay who successfully championed this strategy of Britain most emphatically starting in the 1830s.

It is important to note that amongst all the conquered and colonized civilizations of the Old World, India is unique in the following respect: Its wealth was industrial and created by its workers' ingenuity and labor. In all other instances, such as the Native Americans, the plunder by the colonizers was mainly of land, gold and other natural assets.

But in India's case, the colonizers had a windfall of extraordinary profit margins from control of India's exports, taxation of India's economic production, and eventually the transfer of technology and production to the colonizer's home. This comprised the immense transfer of wealth out of India.

From being the world's major exporting economy (along with China), India was reduced to an importer of goods; from being the source of much of the economic capital that funded Britain's industrial revolution, it became one of the biggest debtor nations; from its envied status as the wealthiest nation, it became a land synonymous with poverty;

from the nation with a large number of prestigious centers of higher education that attracted the cream of foreign students from Eurasia, it became the land with the highest number of illiterate persons. This remains a major untold story. The education system's subversion of India's Traditional Knowledge System in its history and social studies curricula is a major factor for the stereotyping about India.

It is a shame that descendants of Indian slaves or in other words post independence Indian generations are totally out of sync with their true history. The reason for it is because of Indian socialists/communists created history books which are fed to Indian school children. If BJP comes to power, intellectual Rajiv Malhotra will be given the task of correcting the distortion present in current History books of India.
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on November 5, 2006
To a layman like me this book offers an interesting glimpse to a dark side of the birth of british India. At the same time it provides a vivid account of the battles engendered by indian affairs in british politics in the second half of eighteenth century.
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on September 30, 2013
The author makes very compelling statements about British Imperialism, its development and its impacts on both the Indian subcontinent and domestically. I appreciated learning more about that historical perspective. The book does not do a good job of telling the story of the British in India; I still know little about its origins, how the British came to be there. The author seems to assume that the reader already knows the background. As a result, I would not recommend this as the reader's first book on the subject, but perhaps the second.
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on October 31, 2008
Nicholas Dirks is an outstanding scholar who undermines his case with a mistake no first year graduate student would make. On page 22 he refers to Governor General Wellesley as Arthur, Marquess Wellesley --later known as the "Iron Duke". The Gov Gen of India was Arthur Wellesley's older brother Richard who at the time of appointment was Lord
Mornington. He only became an Irish Marquess after HIS CAREER IN INDIA ENDED. Arthur Wellesley served in the army in India and later in Europe where his success against Napoleon led him to the peerage as the "Iron Duke" of Wellington. This ridiculous confusion is repeated in the index. How Dirks could have allowed this error to appear is beyond me, especially as he cites over twenty names of people who supposedly read this manuscript. How could an editor at Harvard U.P. allow such nonsense? Dirks take many scholars to task--perhaps justifiably- in this book, but how can we believe anything if the simplest information is just wrong?
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