History is often just a victors version of events


Mountbatten during the creation of the independent state of India and Pakistan

I write in response to the column by Tristram Hunt today on “Did our Empire really ruin the world?”  This is about the Prime Minister admitting on his trip to Pakistan that Britain is responsible for so many of the world’s problems including Kashmir. 

Despite Tristram’s argument, in the context of the Indian sub-continent, we should not forget that when the East India Company first went to India (Bengal), it was because it was one of the richest places in the world. When the British Raj left, it was one of the poorest.  Something clearly happened in between to leave it in such a state.

 Furthermore on leaving the sub-continent, two countries were created, one of which, Pakistan, had two parts with 1,000 miles between them and a potential adversary in-between so no wonder the east abandoned the west part in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.  India was left to deal with the princely states, which were given the option of staying in or out of India, essentially triggering the dispute over Kashmir.   To top all of that, when independence was declared in August 1947, the boundaries of the two new states had yet to be disclosed to the public, causing much of the panic that ensued and causing more them 1/2 million deaths as 14million people swapped countries.   Many consider this epsode to have been one of the worst cases of maladministration ever in the history of Empires.

So, surprisingly I find myself defending the PM’s remarks on the root of many of the world’s problems hence we should refrain from interfering in conflicts like Kashmir.  Less surprising, is that my grandfather’s lessons in history to me once again ring true.  He was the person who taught me “history is often just the victor’s version of events “.

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