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India, Old and New   By: (1852-1929)

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(Transcriber's Note: [=x] notation indicates a character with a macron.)




"We shall in time so far improve the character of our Indian subjects as to enable them to govern and protect themselves." Minute by Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras, Dec. 31, 1824.



It is little more than ten years since I wrote my Indian Unrest . But they have been years that may well count for decades in the history of the world, and not least in the history of India. Much has happened in India to confirm many of the views which I then expressed. Much has happened also to lead me to modify others, and to recognise more clearly to day the shortcomings of a system of government, in many ways unrivalled, but subject to the inevitable limitations of alien rule.

At a very early stage of the Great War the Prime Minister warned the British people that, after the splendid demonstration India was already giving of her loyalty to the cause for which the whole Empire was then in arms, our relations with her would have henceforth to be approached from "a new angle of vision." The phrase he used acquired a deeper meaning still as the war developed from year to year into a life and death struggle not merely between nations but between ideals, and India claimed for herself the benefit of the ideals for which she too fought and helped the British Commonwealth to victory. When victory was assured, could India's claim be denied after she had been called in, with all the members of the British Commonwealth, to the War Councils of the Empire in the hour of need, and again been associated with them in the making of peace? The British people have answered that question as all the best traditions of British governance in India, and all the principles for which they had fought and endured through four and a half years of frightful war, bade them answer it.

The answer finally took shape in the great constitutional experiment of which I witnessed the inauguration during my visit to India this winter. It promises to rally as seldom before in active support of the British connection those classes that British rule brought within the orbit of Western civilisation by the introduction of English education, just about a century ago. It has not disarmed all the reactionary elements which, even when disguised in a modern garb, draw their inspiration from an ancient civilisation, remote indeed from, though not in its better aspects irreconcilable with, our own. A century is but a short moment of time in the long span of Indian history, and the antagonism between two different types of civilisation cannot be easily or swiftly lived down. It would be folly to underrate forces of resistance which are by no means altogether ignoble, and in this volume I have studied their origin and their vitality because they underlie the strange "Non co operation" movement which has consciously or unconsciously arrayed every form of racial and religious and economic and political discontent, not merely against British rule, but against the progressive forces which contact with Western civilisation has slowly brought into existence under British rule in India itself. These forces have been stirred to new endeavour by the goal now definitely placed within their reach. That we were bound to set that goal and no other before them I have tried to show by reviewing the consistent evolution of British policy in India for the last 150 years, keeping, imperfectly sometimes, but in the main surely, abreast of our own national and political evolution at home and throughout the Empire. Once placed in its proper perspective, this great experiment, though fraught with many dangers and difficulties, is one of which the ultimate issue can be looked forward to hopefully as the not unworthy sequel to the long series of bold and on the whole wonderfully successful experiments that make up the unique story of British rule in India... Continue reading book >>

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