Colonialism and Welfare

Colonialism and Welfare

Social Policy and the British Imperial Legacy

Edited by James Midgley and David Piachaud

The British Empire covered three centuries, five continents and one-quarter of the world’s population. Its legacy continues, shaping the societies and welfare policies of much of the modern world. In this book, for the first time, this legacy is explored and analysed.

Chapter 10: Higher Education in India: The Legacy of Colonialism

Ruth Kattumuri

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Ruth Kattumuri From a modern perspective, it is almost unimaginable that Britain, a tiny island, ruled India and a quarter of the world’s population during the early twentieth century. The chief intention of the British Empire had been building the wealth of a nation ‘for Queen and Country’. At the same time reformers and missionaries were committed to creating a better world. The nationalistic movement led by members of the Indian elite, most prominently Gandhi and Nehru, effectively secured India’s independence in 1947. It has been argued that through disseminating distinctive features of its then society, Britain was able to influence and enhance global welfare through flows of knowledge, culture and institutions (Ferguson, 2003). In India these included democracy, education and the English language, railways, the legal system, cricket, Christianity, and the idea of equality and liberty. India has benefited from the positive influences of the British legacy. On the other hand there were several negative impacts: the British assumed racial superiority, they imposed themselves by force, they were prepared to control the Indian economy for British self-interest, many were contemptuous of Indian culture, and some exploited Indian wildlife for game. Colonialism was exploitative when they governed by flexing their military and financial muscles. So too, corrupt governments in parts of Asia, have condemned their own people to poverty and underdevelopment while serving their self-interest. India, albeit slowly, has made considerable progress towards development in the last 60 years of self-governance but has some way to go towards achieving its...

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