There is an important story which needs to be told. This is the story of the contribution of the lesser known players involved in Britain`s imperial pursuits. History as we know is complicated. The British Empire is no different in this regard yet it is the shameful actions which are prominent in our memory and not the benevolent ones.
The notion of an imperial power colonising other states was not solely British in origin. The British Empire was just one example of an archaic geo-political system which remained a prevalent force until the Second World War ended.The British Empire is singled out for its perceived notoriety as the most extensive enterprise of its kind in contemporary history.
Colonisation was a typically aggrandising process to secure resources, including a compliant workforce in order to enrich the Empire. Exploitation and subjugation of the indigenous population occurred and it was held in place with a military force. As the Empire was a vast and all encompassing game there were those who played a reluctant or dissenting role. These included people who were motivated by compassion rather than cruelty and charity rather than greed. These Britons empathised with Indians as fellow humans, something which was unusual at that time.
There is one corner of the Empire which has received an unfair reputation as a pariah state. Britain`s role in India is frequently cited as a prime example of imperial arrogance. This is only partially correct. Britain also had an army of missionaries who were committed to improving the health and educational prospects of the poorest people in India. Unlike the elites these individuals were motivated by their sincere faith in humanity rather than any thirst for glory.
Schools and hospitals were built and campaigns were undertaken to stop practices like child marriage and the burning of widows. These acts of simple humanity need to be remembered, along with one other important legacy of British India. We need to recognise the contribution of the Indian born children of the British, who were known colloquially as the “Anglo-Indians”. They have left an indelible impression upon our culture.
The symbiosis of Britain and India is part of our literary heritage. One prominent example of this is the work of M.M Kaye. Kaye was the author of “The Far Pavilions” and a writer who evoked the love and mutual respect between India and Britain.
Also Indian born writers like Sir Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth and others are part of a tradition of literature called the Indo-Anglian canon. Their unique contribution to our cultural life has been incalculable. Their powerful testimonies illuminate the darker side to the Empire. History is a mixture of light and shade and this is the only way that we can make sense of our combined destiny as the players of a questionable political game where only a few of us were willing participants.