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The Empire of Good Intention

In: Film and Music

Submitted By jaey88
Words 1237
Pages 5
Jea Yoon Han
Prof. Curley
November 3rd, 2014
The Empire of Good Intention
The video, The Empire of Good Intentions, presents a complete account of the idealistic British Empire’s presence in India. Simon Schama reveals the fundamental aspects of governing principles of the Empire in India. He shows the effect of the free market economies and the liberal politics on the presence and the influence of British Empire in India. Some transformational occurrences in India such as the mutiny and Irish Potato Famine are greatly highlighted. As a result, the attempts of Britain to civilize Indians and simultaneously transform them into British people through education and legal reforms are the main points demonstrated in the video.
The video indicates the way, in which the noble principles of the British Empire were not appropriate for handling the situations in India. Although the empire was supposed to provide benefits associated with Western civilization, the inhabitants of Ireland and India endured poverty because of the laissez faire economic policy. The lack of religious sensitivity, famine and mutiny resulted in the conflict between Indians and Britons. Moreover, the great Irish potato famines led to mass migration from Ireland to New Zealand, Australia, Canada and America.
According to Simon Schama, Britain witnessed the establishment of the liberalism ideology and fast development of political institutions in the mid-19th century. As Britain continually developed and the public attained more freedom, liberalism was distributed to different colonies, in which settlers in New Zealand, Canada and Australia established their political institutions. In India, however, the British Empire intended to civilize the society in India. The empire used virtues rather than military or forceful approaches to occupy India, and focused on getting rid of poverty, diseases, and other societal problems. The Britain’s ideals of imperial greatness were characterized by the uplifting of the impoverished and ancient society in India by enabling them to be self-reliant. The plan did not succeed due to failure to consider the complex aspects of the Indian society.
One of the subjects covered in the video was the influence of liberalism on the imperial discourse, which had a direct effect on Britain’s ideologies on the empire’s presence in India. It describes that the perceptions of civilization indicated the extent to which the trends in liberalism were shaped by the imperial ideology. The video also points out that the utilitarian supported a unique form of utilitarian liberal reform and considered cultural and political assimilation of Indians into Britons through education and legal methods. Additionally, the empire planned a novel concept of governing the subcontinent that replaced the conservative liberalism in the attempts to advance the influence of Britain in India and enhance the significance of the empire. Several viceroys embodied the novel trend in ideology, abandoned the reform and concentrated on the ‘fundamental differences’ of Indians. In this case, Britain focused on legitimization by considering the reinterpretation of Indian history.
In the video, Schama highlights the liberal nature of ideology of imperialism in India, which was eventually overwhelmed with conflict and changes in the system. Schama explains the clash between the conflicting elements of Victorian conservatism and liberalism of utilitarianism. The clash was characterized by the differences between the interests of conservatives that focused on political and cultural differences and the Indian traditions preservation, and the opposing utilitarian ideas that emphasized on the civilizing power of reformation. The conflicting ideologies also described the inconsistency of Britain’s undertaking, which depicted the role of Britain in India as the embodiment of the ancient Mughal rule, or as the role of a reformation. The combination of Victorian conservatism and liberalism of utilitarianism eventually defined India’s liberal empire.
Another subject covered in the video is the concept of free market and utilitarianism, which were intensely influential in Britain’s presence in India. As the British rule sought to bring improvement to India, utilitarians and free traders fashioned a novel ideology of imperial governance based on the principles of liberalism. Schama points out that the development in liberal philosophy in regard to imperial governance was reflected in India. However, considerable opposition occurred, which had to be overcome. It seemed that liberal reformers had identified an appropriate opportunity for implementing the imperial governance. These reformers had projected India as a suitable subject of implementing the ideology typified with people’s minimal capacity to protest. As such, India was considered as a laboratory for liberal experimentation with the introduction of various measures such as a competitively chosen bureaucracy, the codification of laws and state sponsored education.
The video indicates the function and significance of the law during the civilization process in India. The utilitarians held that the law was vital in bringing civilization to India, which was supported by the adverse effects of the 1857 Mutiny. The introduction of the rule of law in India in the attempts to preserve private property was an imperative aspect of the reform. In addition, the codification of Muslim and Hindu law constituted a significant innovation that formed the basis for future reforms, including the institution of property law. As the presence of Britain in India intensified due to the implementation of legal measures, India was strongly engrossed in the process of civilization as well as ‘sameness’ with Britain. By mid-nineteenth century, the civilizing mission guided by liberalism based on law was in ascendancy. It seemed that the utilitarian’s liberal projects that had been opposed in Britain were working in India. The complacency and ascendancy, however, was devastated by the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The mutiny led to a decline in the implementation of legal reform and the introduction of the penal code, and codes addressing criminal and civil procedures. Consequently, a novel aspect of the imperial mission was introduced after the failure of the utilitarian reform program in India.
After watching the video, I understood the British mainly focused on bringing civilization to India by turning Indians into British people. I have acknowledged that the notion of civilization was to be achieved through the transformative influence on education of Indians. Additionally, the knowledge of English was considered to be essential to civilize the Indian and directed the intended intellectual improvement by enhancing Indians’ ability to learn the Britons way of life. The video has indicated that literature was a significant tool in the liberal enterprise of educating Indians. Although English literature did not have an academic element in Britain, it was used in India to deliver instructions on individual conduct, and morals. The reform in education was intended to help Indians become conversant with the fundamental tenants of civilization, which include morals, literature, law and arts. In this sense, the reforms were fashioned to make Indians more western and British. It focused on utilitarian opinions that emphasized on the Indians attaining ‘sameness’ with the Britons.
The video has also significantly enhanced my understanding of the hidden aspects of the presence of British Empire in India. It has highlighted the influence of the Victorian conservatism and liberalism of utilitarianism in India. Additionally, the video presents and explains various factors that led to the decline of the British liberal and utilitarian rule in India. In this case, Schama offers comprehensive explanation of the Indian mutiny as well as the Irish potato famine. In general, the video offers a more detailed account of the fundamental aspects of the governing principles of the Empire in India, including the free-market economies and the liberal politics.…...

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