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|Destination of my job and probably yours|
There was a lot of scrapping and not a few drubbings on our part, but it wasn't until Robert Clive stuffed the opposition at Plassey in 1757 that a sizable slab of the sub-continent was claimed for the King - or rather the Honourable East India Company. Hurrah!
The trouble was that it was only Bengal that came within our remit, and there was plenty left for the taking. A few scraps here and there and the other bits were duly taken. India was ours!
All was well for nigh on a century - with the odd war with the Sikhs here and there - but on the whole it was all pink & fluffy until the Indian Mutiny of 1857, which was a nasty ol' business. But the rebellious natives were quickly(ish) dealt with and all was well. The Mutiny, however, showed up all the 'Honourable' East India Company's faults - and in a bad light (especially the bits when it all went tits) and it was decided that rather than have an entire country run by the 19th Century equivalent of Microsoft, it would be far better if it was incorporated in to the Empire proper - with Queen Victoria eventually becoming Empress in 1877. Quite right too.
The Brits have had some rather bad press over the whole Raj business, but on the whole if it hadn't been for the British - who introduced a common language and opened up communications with railways and the telegraph - India would either be:
- Still a feudal mess, or
- Exactly as it is today, but speaking French, or
- In a right mess and speaking Russian.
The Mutiny and the Amritsar massacre aside, we must have been doing something right for a mere thousand or so government officials to effectively run an entire sub-continent (with 500 billion inhabitants) armed with nothing more than a bottle of gin and a thorough knowledge of the rules of polo and cricket, and of consequence little enclaves of India will be forever Surrey.
The writing was on the wall, however. Resentment had been festering in some quarters since the Mutiny a century earlier, and the nationalist rumbling got louder and louder. It finally all went pear shaped when Sons of Nippon decided to fuck our 'nice little earner' up beyond all recognition - proving that the great white sahib could be roundly shoed - and by a bunch of speccy, buck-toothed dwarfs to boot!
The independence movement that had been brewing for some time finally came to fruition out of the post war chaos, by which time Britannia had pretty much had enough and thrown the towel in. The UK was bankrupt and running an empire was an expensive business.
India split up and gained independence in 1947, but not before millions had slaughtered each other in the melee of partition - something that had never occurred before, and certainly not under British tenure.
Thankfully - for us at least - India's finest legacy is the myriad restaurants that are scattered around our sceptic isle. As for the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, well... we taught them cricket, and what more could they possibly want for?
India, always a country of extremes, is dragging itself into the 21st century at a rate that is alarming the traditionalists. A highly educated middle class is evolving through the offshoring of British jobs [Mine included, cnuts!] who want to do more than just survive from day to day. This is causing inflation, rapidly increasing demand and increased poverty amongst the poorest.
According to the Department for International Development (DfID), India is the top recipient of UK Overseas Aid. Over the last five years we've given India £1045 million - and there'll be a further £825m by 2011. Great!
Interestingly, they're putting rockets in space with a view to a Moon mission. Money well spent then? Go figure.