On Empire and Education

On Empire and Education - Back to Modern History...

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Back to Modern History SourceBook Modern History Sourcebook: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): On Empire and Education The first selection a speech on the India bill of 1833 and expresses his view of the achievements and goals of the British Empire in the East. Between 1834 and 1838 he lived in Calcutta and served on the British "Supreme Council for India". His "Minute on Education, " from which the second selection below comes, touches on the relation of Western and Indian civilizations. Education and the English Empire in India I feel that, for the good of India itself, the admission of natives to high office must be effected by slow degrees. But that, when the fulness of time is come, when the interest of India requires the change, we ought to refuse to make that change lest we should endanger our own power, this is a doctrine of which I cannot think without indignation. Governments, like men, may buy existence too dear. "Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas," ["To lose the reason for living, for the sake of staying alive"] is a despicable policy both in individuals and in states. In the present case, such a policy would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed by every statesman of our time that the prosperity of a community is made up of the prosperity of those who compose the community, and that it is the most childish ambition to covet dominion which adds to no man's comfort or security. To the great trading nation, to the great manufacturing nation, no progress which any portion of the human race can make in knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the wealth by which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of indifference. It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves. Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do
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This note was uploaded on 12/17/2010 for the course ASIA 150 taught by Professor Hewison during the Fall '08 term at UNC.

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On Empire and Education - Back to Modern History...

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