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A History of British India

A History of British India

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A History of British India

Course No. 8431
Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
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3.7 out of 5
13 Reviews
84% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 8431
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for diagrams, illustrations, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. While the video version can be considered lightly illustrated, there are graphics, onscreen text, photographs, graphics, custom maps, portraits, and illustrations, which may help reinforce material for visual learners.
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the transformative era of British India, and its world-changing legacy.
  • Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India and how they governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance.
  • Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857.
  • Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi.
  • Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor.

Course Overview

Shaped by its richly diverse cultural heritage and by immensely significant historical events, the Indian subcontinent holds a unique place in world civilization. Perhaps no era is more relevant to our understanding of how present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh came to be than the nearly two centuries of British rule, beginning in 1757, during which India emerged as the most valuable colony of any empire in history. This was a period of seminal transformation and change—for the subcontinent, for Britain, and for the world.

In the 24 engrossing lectures of A History of British India, Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit of the U.S. Naval Academy, a highly respected expert on colonial India, leads you on a panoramic excursion into the history of British rule of the subcontinent and its repercussions. With a keen focus on the politics and economics of the period, Professor Bellenoit digs deeply into both the British and the Indian points of view, providing a wealth of information and insights that will be new to many in the West.

Professor Bellenoit shows the British conquest of India and its governance of the subcontinent to be one of the most compelling, dramatic, and colorful meetings of cultures in all of human history. Over the course of this extraordinary saga you’ll explore:

  • how the English East India Company, a commercial trading organization, established a foothold on the subcontinent and took the reins of governance in one of the most unusual political transformations the world has ever seen;
  • how the mighty Mughal Empire, builders of the Taj Mahal and longstanding Muslim rulers of large swaths of India, gradually unraveled in the face of British conquest;
  • how Britain greatly extended its rule across the subcontinent, built a massive economic machine in India, and ultimately exacted a heavy price from the Indian populace; and
  • how India finally achieved independence in 1947, through one of humanity’s most remarkable examples of resourceful and philosophically sophisticated leadership.

Professor Bellenoit brings into relief the motives of the British throughout their long stay in India, the moral hypocrisy of the Raj, and the sometimes devastating effects of Raj policy on British Indian subjects. A History of British India offers a revealing look at how the modern nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh emerged from the crucible of the Raj, and it examines the long-term effects of British rule on regional politics, religion, culture, economics, race relations, and more.

This account of the British encounter with India will enlighten your perspectives on European imperialism, world economic history, the specific features of British colonialism, and the rich and dynamic cultures of South Asia.

The astonishing narrative of A History of British India sheds new light on a region that is home to nearly a quarter of the planet’s total population, as well as two nuclear powers, the world’s largest democracy, and the second-, third-, and fourth- largest Muslim nations. Given how South Asia’s importance in the 21st century world is only increasing, this is a history we all need to know.

An Epic Story of Empire and Dissent

In the course of the lectures, you’ll study core topics that bring the story of British India alive in all its drama, complexity, and poignancy, such as

  • The British Conquest of India—Discover how the East India Company, having metamorphosed into a political entity in Bengal, expanded its territorial power through military actions and power-brokering; examine how the Company co-opted the Mughal revenue and administrative system and governed India for the first 100 years of British rule.
  • The Great Uprising: 1857—Witness the attempts of the British colonials and evangelical Christians to “reform” India along European lines; track the growing economic, political, and cultural resentments against the East India Company that culminated in the Great Uprising of 1857 and the resulting shift to direct rule of India by the British crown;
  • Economics under the Raj—Take a penetrating look at how the colonial economy functioned, and how British rule refashioned India’s role in the global economy into one serving Britain and its imperial interests; grasp how British economic policy benefited certain classes of Indians while causing great hardship and tragedy for others;
  • The Advent of Indian Nationalism—Observe how both Hindu and Muslim identity were affected by the Raj, and how both became linked with conflicting notions of Indian nationhood; study the remarkable story of how Indian nationalism emerged through the efforts of English-educated Indians, and how nationalist action increased through the late 19th century;
  • Gandhi, Jinnah, and the Struggle for Independence—Follow the quest for independence undertaken by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League; explore the brilliance and sophistication of Gandhi’s political philosophy, which exposed moral faults in the Raj, the shrewd maneuvering of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and how they reorganized the nationalist cause into mass movements;
  • The Birth of Modern India—Relive the events of the Noncooperation, Civil Disobedience, and Quit India movements, the escalating calls for independence, and the simmering Hindu-Muslim violence that shaped the partition of British India into the nations of India and Pakistan.

A Transformative Encounter between West and East

Throughout this course, you’ll delve deeply into fascinating and illuminating cultural features of the British rule in India. Early in the course, you’ll trace the economic motives that brought the British and other Europeans to India—where, in the 18th century, one quarter of the world’s commerce passed through the subcontinent, and where a single Bengali family had holdings larger than the Bank of England.

You’ll learn about British Orientalism, the colonials’ studied effort to “know the country” in order to effectively govern it, and how their tendency to traditionalize and romanticize India had consequences for both policy and the well-being of Indians. And you’ll observe how, under the Muslim-ruled Mughal Empire, there was very little Hindu-Muslim religious conflict in 18th-century India, and how over time British policies distanced and polarized the two cultures.

Among other intriguing subtopics, Professor Bellenoit reveals how the emergence of Britain as a tea-drinking culture was directly linked to the economy of colonial India, as tea became a crucial commodity in the fiscal maneuvering of the East India Company. And he brings into focus the lavish lifestyles of India’s royals—one Nizam of Hyderabad maintained over 200 wives and concubines—and how the British cultivated ties with regional Indian princes as a means of undergirding the Raj’s power and authority.

Again and again, you’ll assess the fundamental contradiction that underlay both the English East India Company and the British Raj: the conflict between Britain’s economic interests and its obligations as the political sovereign of the Indian populace.

An Unforgettable Historical Journey

Professor Bellenoit breathes life into the events of British rule, combining a talent for communicating the broader patterns of history with dramatic storytelling, in a detailed, gripping account of this world-changing epoch. Illustrative maps, graphics, portraits, photographs, and artwork greatly enrich the video version of the course. In the dynamic and revelatory lectures of A History of British India, you’ll relive a crucial era in international relations, one with deep and enduring implications for our contemporary world.

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24 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to India
    Delve into core aspects of Indian culture that provide a rich background for the story of British rule. Grasp the key precepts of Hinduism, and the notions of dharma, karma, and samsara. Study the caste system, the features of Indian families and marriages, and explore how society and religion shape politics in India. x
  • 2
    The Mughal Empire in 18th-Century India
    Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India. Investigate how the Mughals governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance. Look at the state of Indian society in the 18th century, and how changes in Mughal politics and economics laid the foundation for the British conquest of India. x
  • 3
    Indian and British Economic Interests
    Here, explore further how the Indian subcontinent drifted toward colonialism. Observe how the regionalization" of the Mughal Empire compromised the emperors' ability to govern. Take account of India's prominence within the broader global economy, and chart the rise of powerful banking families who played a critical role in the emergence of British rule." x
  • 4
    British Expansion in India (1757-1820)
    Witness how the English East India Company, a trading organization, expanded its early footing in Bengal. Study the Company's extraordinary transformation, through military conquests, from a merchant venture into a political entity. Finally, follow the Company's expansion into other regions, employing the Mughal revenue system to tax India's agrarian countryside. x
  • 5
    Knowing the Country: British Orientalism
    Learn how British scholars and administrators pursued knowledge of Indian culture, and how the early British colonials adapted to living within Indian society. Grasp the ways in which British romanticizing of India and misunderstanding of traditional customs had major consequences for colonial policy and the well-being of the Indian populace. x
  • 6
    Race, Gender, and Culture (1750-1850)
    The opening up of India gave rise to a discourse on race that became central to the colonial relationship. Study British racial paradigms in Company-ruled India, which emphasized differences between Indians and the British to justify" colonial rule. Also explore the British notion of masculinity and how it bolstered their self-perception as colonial masters." x
  • 7
    The Age of Reform (1830-1850)
    Contemporary currents of thought in England affected the ways in which India was governed. Learn how utilitarianism and Christian evangelicalism undergirded attempts by the British to educate and "reform" India. Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857. x
  • 8
    The Great Uprising (1857-1858)
    Study the accumulation of religious, economic, and political grievances against the East India Company that set the stage for the Great Uprising of 1857. Then witness the outbreak and bloody unfolding of the Uprising itself. Observe how the mutiny" changed British attitudes toward India, and the way Britain governed it under the Raj." x
  • 9
    Economics and Society under the Raj
    Examine the nature of the colonial economy, and trace economic decisions by the British that constrained the livelihoods of artisans and peasants. Assess the Raj's fiscal policy, which privileged British interests over public works. Observe how these policies affected the lives of millions who toiled to produce the wealth of the Raj. x
  • 10
    Caste and Tribal Identity under Colonialism
    As a social institution, caste changed markedly under British colonial rule. First, examine how the British encountered caste and tried to understand it. Then see how caste became significantly linked with the colonial tax revenue system. Take account of the ways in which caste distinctions became more prominent, codified, and pervasive under colonialism. x
  • 11
    The Nationalization of Hinduism (1870-1900)
    Discover how the broader traditions of Hinduism were affected by the colonial experience. Examine the theological assault on Hinduism by European Christian missionaries, and the responses of high-caste Hindus. Look at important Hindu reform movements, which sought to modernize Hinduism, and grasp how key currents of reformist thinking linked Hinduism with Indian nationhood. x
  • 12
    Indian Muslim Identity and Colonial Rule
    Indian Islam underwent profound shifts under colonial rule. Investigate how the British codifying of Islamic law changed Indian Muslims' communal identity. See how the advent of English language and education, and the Indian census, distanced Muslims from Hindus. Lastly, assess how the Deobandi reform movement reinvented Indian Islam to ensure its survival. x
  • 13
    The Late-19th-Century British Raj
    Study British racial attitudes toward Indians in the late 19th century and how these conceptions were manifested in the way India was governed. Learn about the officials who administrated the Raj, the Indian Civil Service, and the modernization of India. Grasp how all of these elements reflect the mindset of the British Raj. x
  • 14
    Princely States and Royalist Relationships
    India's princely states played a crucial role in maintaining British power. Examine the history of the princely kingdoms, and why they remained separate from British-controlled territory. Follow how the British cultivated ties of loyalty with Indian princes and exerted indirect rule." Explore the contradiction of a modernizing British Raj that supported feudal princes." x
  • 15
    Indian Nationalism and the Freedom Struggle
    Analyze how a new generation of English-educated Indians spearheaded Indian nationalism. Trace the emergence of the Indian National Congress, which initially represented moderate nationalists, and observe how repressive British policies sowed anticolonial sentiment. Witness the strengthening of nationalist fervor, as it erupted into political extremism and violence in the early 20th century. x
  • 16
    The Great War and Its Impact on India
    Examine the severe effects of the First World War on India's economy. Learn how both moderate and radical nationalists responded to the war to press for concessions and independence. Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi. x
  • 17
    Gandhi's Moral-Political Philosophy
    Investigate Gandhi's early life and how he became a nationalist leader. Study the elements of his political philosophy, the political tools of ahimsa (no harm) and satyagraha (force of truth), and the forces of modernity and British rule that Gandhi critiqued. Finally, examine the 1919 event that thrust him onto the national stage. x
  • 18
    The Noncooperation Movement
    Observe how Gandhi reorganized the Indian National Congress into a mass political machine, as witnessed in the Noncooperation Movement, where Indians boycotted the British on a national scale. Note how these actions and others exposed moral faults in the Raj, and track the Raj's counterstrategies that attempted to marginalize those nationalists seeking independence. x
  • 19
    Indian Muslim Politics between the Wars
    Indian Muslim identity began to change in important ways in the 20th century. Study the impact on Indian Muslims of the First World War, and the resulting Muslim Khalifat Movement, which opposed Britain's war aims against the Ottoman Caliphate. See how Hindu/Muslim religious-political rivalries gave birth to the idea of Pakistan. x
  • 20
    The Civil Disobedience Campaign
    Now examine the second round" of Indian nationalist action against the British Raj. Witness the effects on India of the global economic depression after 1929, which triggered the Civil Disobedience Campaign, a massive boycotting of British goods, services, and institutions. Assess the Raj's countertactic of extending constitutional concessions to stem nationalist agitation." x
  • 21
    Britain and Its Empire in the 1940s
    Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor. Study the resulting Quit India Movement, the largest uprising against the British since 1857, and the events of the war's aftermath that set the stage for the end of 200 years of colonial rule. x
  • 22
    The Raj on Its Knees (1945-1947)
    Investigate the increasing levels of dissent, mutiny, and agrarian suffering and unrest that followed World War II. Chart the astonishing rise of the Muslim League after 1940, its presence in the negotiations for independence, and the League's actions in key provinces that sparked terrible communal violence in the Raj's final days. x
  • 23
    A Split India: Negotiating Independence
    Examine the factors in Britain's decision to quit" India. Take account of the final negotiations between the National Congress, the Muslim League, and the British, noting the contrasting visions of an independent India held by the Congress and the League. Grasp how Hindu-Muslim violence affected the ultimate partition of India and Pakistan." x
  • 24
    Reflections on Postcolonial India
    Learn about the harrowing events following Partition, which saw widespread killings and the largest displacement of human populations in history. Assess what the events of 1947 meant for the Indian National Congress, Pakistanis, and the British. Finally, reflect on the lasting legacy of the British Raj and its rule of India. x

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  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
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  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available
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CD Includes:
  • 24 Lectures on 12 CDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Illustrations and photographs
  • Questions to consider
  • Suggested reading

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Your professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit

About Your Professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
Hayden J. Bellenoit is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating summa cum laude in History and Economics from Wheaton College, he attended Oxford University, where he completed his master of studies in Historical Research and his doctor of philosophy in Modern History, focusing on late colonial India. While studying at Oxford, Dr. Bellenoit spent a year in India conducting research in...
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Also By This Professor


A History of British India is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 11.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from U A fascinating look at a crucial period in the history of India, colonialism, and nationalism. The professor clearly has deep knowledge of and passion for the subject. One critique is that he posed too many questions to the audience and assumed the responses. The technique would have been more effective in moderation.
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Fabulous Topic, Very Disappointing. The subject of these lectures is absolutely fascinating. Yet the whole topic was let down by a number of factors especially the following: 1. The lecturer is heavily biased against the British. There was no consideration that they may have been any problems with 18th Century Indian Society. Every single act that the British did was condemned. 2. He is condescending, asking obvious questions and then saying "that's right" as if the audience was a bunch of 5 year olds. 3. He judges things in a modern liberal 21st Century viewpoint without even trying to put context to what happened. This is, again, condescending and not in my view good history.. This is a shame as the Great Courses have given us brilliant history given by captivating historians.
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed! I was very much looking forward to this course. This course is long on intellectual and economic history and very short on actual events. Each lecture should be titled "How the British screwed up Indian." British build railroads and roads did more harm than good. The same for cheap British textiles. Each lecture was just broad, repetitive generalities. I would have liked to hear about events. It doesn't convey much information to repeatedly point out that the British where racist, sexist and stupid.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A precious gift to this Indian-American viewer Beyond a lesson or two about Gandhi, I learned virtually nothing about Indian history in American public schools. This is understandable since Indian-Americans are a small (but growing) minority in the U.S.; yet it left a regrettable gap of knowledge about my own heritage. And I'm a mixture of different Indian heritages: my paternal grandparents were Sindhis who fled to India during Partition; my maternal great-grandfather was a zamindar in Bihar; and my wife, a Bengali from Kolkata, has a grandfather who was in the Indian Civil Service (a rare accomplishment, as I would learn). Dr. Bellenoit's course was therefore a gift of not only educational but immense personal value. It tied all those different threads of my own family's history together, informing me not just about India's identity but also my own. I had tried to learn about all of this on my own, of course; but as anyone who's even peeked at books about Indian history will tell you, it's a MASSIVE subject that's often difficult to navigate without expert guidance. The great service Dr. Bellenoit has done for you in this course is that he's done all that hard work for you! You just get to sit back and learn from all the research (which must have been quite extensive) that he's organized and presented very clearly in his lectures. I think he'd be the first to say that there was quite a bit he had to leave out, but overall I felt that what made it into the course gives a broad but complete overview of the subject. And what a subject! The sheer size and scale of India and its population makes the events that transpired there of truly world significance. Americans might be surprised to learn that some of those gold bars in Fort Knox might have once been jewelry worn by Indian housewives, for instance; or that Britain's success in the Industrial Revolution, or the World Wars, was in no small part thanks to the vast resources (and even soldiers) that India provided them. Overall I think anyone interested in world history generally would find this course fascinating and worthwhile. For me however, it was even more than that and I am very grateful to Dr. Bellenoit and The Great Courses for providing me with this amazing experience.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating History, Superbly Taught Wow. The divergence between the positive and negative reviews so far is striking. I understand and appreciate the objections, but I come down strongly on the enthusiastically favorable side. The material is inherently fascinating - the convoluted interactions of two remarkably complex cultures over several centuries, from first contact through coexistence and imperium, to the final disastrous rupture. And the extraordinary diversity within Indian society, along caste and class, poverty and wealth, rural and urban, and religious dimensions is fully brought out, in both positive and negative aspects. The focus is very much on the effect of the British on the Indians, causing what there is of an examination of the colonizers' morality, personalities, and motivations to be given short shrift, as others have pointed out. If this is a weakness, so be it. But I do not agree that the strongly negative depiction of the British influence over India is a case of prejudicial "political correctness." Rather, I see it as a realistic description of what tends to happen when one culture imposes itself on another, without that other's agreement, for the primary benefit of the dominant culture. Professor Bellenoit does a superb job of teaching, covering this amazingly intricate and elaborate history in great detail and with excellent organization, always letting us know where each lecture is going and reminding us where we have been. His lecture style is straightforward and conversational, clear and focused. Agreed, it would be nice if he didn't continually answer his own rhetorical questions with "Yes, you got it", and his constant and unvaryingly symmetrical hand gestures are eerily reminiscent of some of the figures in Disney's "It's A Small World" ride. But after getting used to these minor quirks, I found him to be outstanding in the ways which count. The visuals include a number of not-very-detailed maps, as well as illustrations and photographs of important events and characters, but little would be lost by taking the audio version. The Course Guidebook is a well-written summary; however, the bibliography is unfortunately not annotated, and it should be considered a crime for a course such as this to be lacking a timeline and biographical notes. So - do consider the widely varying perspectives of the reviews. But I give this my highest recommendation for any with an interest in the history of India or of the British Empire.
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A British Perspective When I was born India was still under British rule. As children we were taught to be proud of Britain's achievements in India, the "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire. Well, we've come a long way since those days and we know that the Raj was no bed of roses. However the judgemental presentation of this course is hard to stomach. I found not one positive word about British involvement in the sub-continent. My point is that the people who went out to serve in India, from Viceroys down to administrators, functionaries, Christian missionaries, were overwhelmingly well-intentioned. They were dedicated and had the welfare of the Indians at heart. How they carried out those good intentions.....autres temps, autres moeurs. We should not judge them by today's politically correct standards ( in my view a scourge of modern day living). Queen Victoria's parting words to Lord Curzon when he was leaving for India were "Be kind to my poor Indians". Patronizing? Well, if a Queen can't be patronizing towards her subjects, who can? The serious tone of the course could have been lightened by something on British social life in India: the balls, the tiger hunts, tales of derring-do on the Northwest frontier. All politically incorrect, I'm sure, but still part of the story. Professor Bellenoit uses some harsh vocabulary: arrogance, hypocrites, cynical, parasites (on this latter word I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was quoting someone else) to - as another reviewer put it - hit us over the head with. After having said all that, can I recommend the course? Well, the facts are all there so if you can overlook the anti-Britishness I suppose it can be recommended.
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A steep learning curve, but well worth it. Video download Dr. Bellenoit's HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA starts with a good general introduction to India's geography, history and Hinduism. But most of it focuses on the 290-year period between the initial incursions of the East India Company in Bengal (1757), and India's partition following the departure of Britain's colonial administrators in 1947. A course on China covering an equivalent period would start with the establishment of trading rights by the British and Dutch in Canton (1756) and end with the collapse of Republican China before Mao's forces in 1949. Such a course would be much more specialized than any China course TGC offers as of this date. Naturally, India and China are apples and oranges when it comes to the influence of European colonialism. My only point is that the narrow focus of this course makes it a relatively specialized product. It demands a high degree of interest in South Asian history. I would almost say that TGC's other course on this subject — A HISTORY OF INDIA — is a prerequisite to BRITISH INDIA. _______________________ PROS • Dr Bellenoit is a clear and well-organized speaker. His lectures all follow the summary → content details → recap format. • India's evolution under British rule is a complex interplay between various social groups divided by religion, language, wealth and education. Bellanoit does a great job of parsing out their different perceptions. • India's economic development before and during British rule is also well explained. Not surprisingly, this development was skewed to reflect British priorities. • The rise of nationalism across different ethnic and religious groups is also covered in summary fashion as many personalities are involved. • Finally, the influence of missionary pressures on Hinduism is not neglected. There is a brief introduction to the thought of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, whose books and speeches on Hinduism influenced American perceptions of Asian thought. CONS • India is a huge entity, in some ways more like Europe than a single country. Bellenoit crams a lot of political and economic history in 24 lessons. Unless you have some background knowledge, the learning curve might feel steep. • He makes little use of private journals or the visual arts to enliven his course. The British, for example, are often portrayed as unimaginative, incurious bureaucrats putting in their time before retirement. I'm sure most of them were like that. But enough contrarians like Sir Richard Burton got through to give a different picture. We don't hear from them • Indian influence on British culture is not really covered. The focus is on the weaker side of a two-way relationship. ________________________ Overall then, this is a solid political and social overview of India under British administration designed for motivated and patient audiences. The depth and pervasiveness of England's influence over India's self-perception and development is unique in human history. How did tiny Britain maintain control over a far larger and older country so far away? Another example might be America's control over Japan's government right after WW II. But that influence was relatively brief and superficial compared to India's case. The course guidebook is excellent with plenty of maps, but the bibliography is not annotated. Nor is there a timeline or glossary. Overall, maps make the video version a better choice than the audio one. ___________________________ Some reviewers thought the course lacked "balance". The British are not portrayed as a bunch of sensitive scholars who somehow blundered into control. From the beginning of this course, we know they will conquer India, create middlemen to help run the place and then get kicked out as these middlemen discover nationalism and come to understand India's economic exploitation. European colonizers faced the same pattern all over Africa, the Arab world and Asia. The ending was for-ordained. There was no way the British could remain masters in India forever. This foreknowledge structures every part of this course, just as knowing about the American Revolution structures our view of America's early development under British control. The future "pulls" the story forward, even though it does not yet exist. That's the nature of history as a discipline and the reason why it becomes so much more complex as we approach the present. The future is unclear. The sense of direction is lost. We are midpoint in a pointless story.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This course explores quite deeply the British rule of India, THE central chapter in the British Empire, which was in turn a pivotal aspect of modern history. Professor Allitt covers this topic quite extensively in his wonderful course “Rise and fall of the British Empire”, but this course is offered from the perspective of understanding how and why the British Empire evolved the way it did. India and Indian history are objects rather than subjects. This course’s perspective is reversed: it focuses on the history of India and of the Indian people as they evolved under British rule. Professor Bellenoit begins the course by surveying the economic, political, social and cultural landscape prior to British rule under the Mughal empire, and though this survey is far from comprehensive, I found it to give a solid and helpful context for the lectures to come. The next group of lectures describes how a political mutation came to be, and how it ruled until 1857 – The East India company. This publicly owned commercial company, owing dividends to its stock holders, came to rule hundreds of millions of people, collected tribute from them and exploited them economically and culturally in order to maximize their gains. Professor Bellenoit devotes quite a few lectures to explain the perspective with which the British judged the Indians: starting from enthusiastic and interested Orientalist studies in the Eighteenth century, directed at understanding the complex and profound Indian culture; but degenerating in the early to mid-nineteenth century into a racist, patronizing attitude that facilitated the raw economical exploitation that was taking place. I found the thematic explanations of how this evolution came about fascinating and very well explained, and to be one of the highlights of the course. The course continues to follow a primarily narrative course all the way to Indian independence in 1948, with particular attention given to the 1857 uprising, and to the rise of Indian nationalism and Mahatma Gandhi. The heart of the course, illustrated beautifully through the narratives and through many thematic lectures, describes how the lust for money of the British led them to develop racist attitudes towards the Indians, and erode systematically the social and economic structures that were originally in place to make economic exploitation easier still. Some of this happened in an evolutionary manner without anyone directing the process, but much of it was cynically manipulated and directed by British rule. These social and cultural changes affected India for centuries profoundly and continue to this day. I found the course to be absolutely fascinating and to give an interesting, and not often heard perspective of the exploited Eastern cultures under Western rule. The lecture style is stark and not particularly entertaining, but I did not find this to be detrimental. Professor Bellenoit does provides a decisive condemning perspective of the British; it is not pleasant to Western ears, but it must be heard… It is true that the British were not the worst exploiters or racists of all Western powers of that era. A different, more understanding perspective can be heard in Professor Aillt’s course. This one is dedicated to understanding India from the Indian side – and I found it very well done and fascinating.
Date published: 2017-02-09
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