Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oriental licentiousness

First an excerpt from Balu.  He examines the question of whether Hindus are moral cretins, as so many Western analyses seem to show.  He dodges one bullet, and then continues:

Too soon to feel relieved, I think. At least that is how it appears, if we follow Van Den Bossche and Mortier (1997), in their exposé of a Jain text. (The Vajjalaggam, VL for short.) Composed anywhere between 750 and 1337 CE, the author of this text is a Jain poet – a certain Jayavallabha by name. The text itself, Van Den Bossche and Mortier tell us, belongs to the Subhashita literature and thus could be called an ‘ethical text’ and is a challenge of sorts:

“One problem with the study of Indian ethics is that the ancient Indians themselves did not make a clear-cut distinction between the ‘moral’ and other spheres. They did not have a word for our term ‘ethics’ at all.” (p. 85).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Macaulay's estimation of Ram Mohun Roy

This is from "A speech delivered at the opening of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution on the 4th of November, 1846", by Macaulay.  This can be found in Volume 8 of The works of Lord Macaulay complete, 1897, page 380.  The speech is a toast to the literature of Great Britain which among other things, is "that literature before the light of which impious and cruel superstitions are fast taking flight on the banks of the Ganges" -  if only he had known, Macaulay could have composed an ode to the cruel fate that has dispelled the empire before dispelling those impious and cruel superstitions!  Maybe global warming will put paid to the glaciers of Tibet and thus to the Ganga, the "superstitions" live on, and Britannica turned to be an empire of tin.

Macaulay talks about men who "are haunted" "by an unreasonable fear of what they call superficial knowledge".  Knowledge, to be meaningful,  they think, must be profound.  But what little we know is very small compared to what remains to be known, and we are then always shallow.
"It is evident then that those who are afraid of superficial knowledge do not mean by superficial knowledge, knowledge which is superficial when compared with the whole quantity of truth capable of being known. For, in that sense, all human knowledge is, and always has been, and always must be, superficial.   What then is the standard?  Is it the same two years together in any country? Is it the same, at the same moment, in any two countries?  Is it not notorious that the profundity of one age is the shallowness of the next; that the profundity of one nation is the shallowness of a neighboring nation?  Ramohun Roy passed among Hindoos for a man of profound Western learning; but he would have been but a very superficial member of this institute.  Strabo was justly entitled to be called a profound geographer eighteen hundred years ago.  But a teacher of geography, who had never heard of America, would now be laughed at by the girls of a boarding-school.  What would now be thought of the greatest chemist of 1746, or of the greatest geologist of 1746? The truth is that, in all experimental science, mankind is, of necessity, constantly advancing.  Every generation, of course, has its front rank and its rear rank; but the rear rank of a later generation occupies the ground which was occupied by the front rank of a former generation."
It is evident to me that Einstein too, would be laughed at by the girls of a boarding-school, but perhaps because of his hair.  It is equally evident that what Rammohun Roy knew of Sanskrit and Arabic literature, was not considered to be knowledge of any kind.   Lastly, it does not appear to be available online, who was in the audience for this speech, except people mentioned in the footnotes to the speech itself (Lord Provost Mr. Adam Black, and Archbishop Whately) and so the above is superficial knowledge onlee.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The rebel bureaucrat: Frederick John Shore

Following once again the trail that begins in Reginald Reynolds' "The White Sahibs in India", arrive at Notes on Indian Affairs (1837) by Frederick John Shore, in two volumes, only the first of which is available in Google books.  If there is a Wiki page for Frederick John Shore,  I've missed it.  There is this out-of-print title on, The rebel bureaucrat: Frederick John Shore (1799-1837) as critic of William Bentinck's India.  { His brother, John Shore, 1st Baron Teignmouth (1751-1834), was a governor-general of India; a friend of Sir William Jones, and a prominent member of the Clapham sect that included the Macaulays.   Per Wiki, "towards the close of 1768 he sailed for India as a writer in the East India's Company's service".   When Macaulay wrote that about his time, when a fortune such as Clive's was no longer possible, but a writer could expect to amass a fortune of £30,000, I wonder if he was thinking of Baron John Shore. }

One arrives then at the Eclectic Review, Vol VII, January-June 1840, page 304, where four works dealing with India are reviewed, the third one being Notes on Indian Affairs, by aforementioned Frederick John Shore.  It turns out to be quite a damning indictment of British rule in India.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The discretion of a critic

Once again, we draw on Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India" — several of my posts owe to tracing sources from his footnotes— for the following: writing about what William Jennings Bryan termed as the legalized pillage of India, (and, in my opinion, that Romesh Chunder Dutt could not term so, whatever he might have believed)

Quote: (emphasis added)

There could be no more fitting conclusion to this chapter than the words of Bishop Heber, whose praise for the administration and general prosperity in one of the Indian native states has already been cited. Once more we are reading the words of a writer of the early part of the century; but it must be remembered that after 1858 criticism of the British administration became more difficult and more rare, for reasons which we shall consider later.  Bishop Heber's words refer to a system which continued in all its principal aspects to be the administrative system of India; and those who have followed the instances we have selected will recognize the symptoms which alarmed the Bishop and the results which he feared. [64]

Bishop Heber toured the country extensively during three years from 1824 to 1826.  He inquired carefully into social conditions and was gravely disturbed by the heavy land-tax which then, as in later years, was the main source of supply for the growing tribute to England.  In a letter written in 1826 Heber tells how "half the gross product of the soil is demanded by the Government," and comments that such a rate of taxation (which still obtains throughout the greater part of British India) "keeps the people, even in favourable years, in a state of abject penury." [65]  He finds such excessive taxation, employed for a tribute to a foreign country, with no return to the cultivator, "an effective bar to anything like improvement," and notes that the tardy remissions made in times of scarcity "do not prevent men, women and children dying in the streets in droves, and the roads being strewed with carcasses." [66]

[64] Memoirs and Correspondence, London, 1830, Vol II, p. 413.  Letter to the Rt. Hon. Charles Wyndham Wynn, dated Karnatic, March, 1826.  Quoted by Dutt, Vol I, pp. 369-370.  Dutt points out that the Bishop avoided expressing himself on this subject in his journal, which was written for publication: even greater discretion was to become even more common in later years.  Dutt says that there was a reduction in the land tax in Bombay and Madras after Heber's time, but that it was "still excessive".

[65] According to H.H. Wilson (Mill, Vol VII, pp. 299-300) the Hindu law enacted that the King should have a twelfth, an eighth or a sixth of the produce, but in time of war he might take one-fourth. Assessments varied according to the quality of the land, and were taken in kind, which made the peasant less concerned with price variations.  Moslem rulers demanded more, but Akbar limited the land-tax to one-third of the produce.

[66] Mr. W.S. Lilley in India and its Problems gives a similar and equally gruesome description of famine in the latter half of the century.

End quote.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An American assessment of the British Raj, 1906

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) is probably most remembered today by people like me for his attacks on Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and more specifically, the Scopes Trial in 1925.

Wiki tells us that Bryan
was a leading American politician from the 1890s until his death. He was a dominant force in the populist wing of the Democratic Party, standing three times as its candidate for President of the United States (1896, 1900 and 1908). He served in Congress briefly as a Representative from Nebraska and was the 41st United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson (1913–1915), taking a pacifist position on the World War. Bryan was a devout Christian, a supporter of popular democracy, and an enemy of the gold standard as well as banks and railroads. He was a leader of the silverite movement in the 1890s, a peace advocate, a prohibitionist, and an opponent of Darwinism on religious and humanitarian grounds. With his deep, commanding voice and wide travels, he was one of the best known orators and lecturers of the era. Because of his faith in the wisdom of the common people, he was called "The Great Commoner."

In 1906, Bryan wrote a pamphlet "British Rule in India", after a visit to India.  It is available online.
This pamphlet is contemporaneous with Romesh Chunder Dutt's Economic History of India, which contains some praise for British accomplishments that fools the unwary. I expect Bryan's clear-eyed condemnation of British rule in India will be dismissed because he was also an anti-Darwinist.

As per "Indian Proscribed Tracts, 1907-1947", from Center for Research Libraries, Chicago, William Jennings Bryan's pamphlet was banned in India by the British government.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Freedom of the Press, India, 1934

In 1934, Bihar suffered a huge earthquake.  Of this episode, Reginold Reynolds writes, in "The White Sahibs in India" (1937):
Writing from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, a Second Lieutenant of the East Yorks Regiment described with pride in an English paper how his regiment had cleared the roads
"by getting four men of the platoon to stop every native that comes along the road and making him work for ten minutes.  It has been most effective.  If they refuse to work a bayonet is stuck in them." [*]
For criticising such aspects of the Government's policy after the earthquake, fifteen newspapers were penalised and obliged to cease publication. [**] 
[*] Letter from 2nd Lieut. C.M.S. Marsden in the Farnham Herald, Feb. 17th, 1934.
[**] Official statement on the operation of the Press Ordinances, circulated in the Legislative Assembly in 1935.
It might be possible to get more context about the shutdown of the fifteen newspapers. The Farnham Herald still seems to exist, but of course, its archives cover only the Internet Era. Few newspapers can digitize their archives like the New York Times has done, I suppose.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Conversion corrupts?!

Back in 1993, I had posted this on soc.culture.indian, thinking it to be a joke.  Yet, there appears to be a recurring minor theme in 19th century literature about India that conversion to Christianity by Europeans resulted in a corruption of the natives.  

Title: In the spirit of the Maharaj :-)  {Jai Maharaj was a poster on s.c.i., considered by many to be a joker}
"The British census of 1881 gives the record of {criminal} convictions:
        Europeans                1 in 274
        Eurasians                1 in 509
        Native Christians        1 in 799
        Mahommedans                1 in 856
        Hindus                        1 in 1361
        Buddhists                1 in 3787 
These statistics were reprinted in the leading Catholic organ
in Britain, The Tablet, with the comments: 
"The last item is a magnificent tribute to the exalted purity
of Buddhism...It appears from these figures that while we effect
a very marked moral deterioration in the natives by converting
them to our creed, their natural standard of morality is so
high that however much we Christianize them, we cannot succeed
in making them altogether as bad as ourselves."" 
(From an introduction to "The Light of Asia", for original reference,
see Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery, compiled and edited by
Joseph Head & S.L. Cranston, 1977, Warner Books).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

English & Vernacular - 1835-1840

The following is mostly based on A Review of Public Instruction in the Bengal Presidency, from 1835 to 1851, by James Kerr (1852).

Macaulay's Minute on Education was dated February 2, 1835.  On March 7, 1835, Lord Bentinck issued the resolution that the funds that had been spent on oriental education cease, and those funds be devoted to English education only.  After that, the President of the Educational Committee, a Mr. Shakespeare, resigned his office, and Macaulay was appointed to succeed him.  Macaulay remained President from 1835 through 1837 till he left India in December 1837. From 1838 into 1842, the president was Macaulay's friend, Sir Edward Ryan.

Kerr tells us -

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vindicator of the Hindoos - Maj. Gen. Charles Stuart

Read about Maj. General Charles Stuart (1758-1828), whose work "Vindication of the Hindoos" attracted vitriolic replies by the missionaries of his day.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain Part I of his work; only Part II, his reply to the attacks on his first work, seems to be available on the web.

PS: since I wrote the above, I have obtained a digitized version of part I, but I'm not sure all the pages are present.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Macaulay's Child no more

One perspective in reading Mahatma Gandhi's My Experiments with Truth is to see in it his manifold attempts to be an Englishman - one of "a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect".  This was a project that simply would not work, the psychic violence that Gandhi would have to inflict on himself was too much, and it failed.

One can mark Gandhi's Hind Swaraj  (1908), when Gandhi was 39, as a key marker in the evolution of his thinking.  (Without endorsing all that in this essay on interpreting Hind Swaraj, I nonetheless recommend it as an essential shortcut to understanding it.)   Even so (chapter 15) - and you can read this  in many ways -
By patriotism I mean the welfare of the whole people, and if I could secure it at the hands of the English, I should bow down my head to them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gandhi, on languages

In his autobiography "My Experiments with Truth" (1927), Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
It is now my opinion that in all Indian curricula of higher education there should be a place for Hindi, Samskrit, Persian, Arabic and English, besides of course the vernacular. This big list need not frighten anyone. If our education were more systematic, and the boys free from the burden of having to learn their subjects through a foreign medium, I am sure learning all these languages would not be an irksome task, but a perfect pleasure. A scientific knowledge of one language makes a knowledge of other languages comparatively easy. In reality, Hindi, Gujarati and Sanskrit may be regarded as one language, and Persian and Arabic also as one. Though Persian belongs to the Aryan, and Arabic to the Semitic family of languages, there is a close relationship between Persian and Arabic, because both claim their full growth through the rise of Islam. Urdu I have not regarded as a distinct language, because it has adopted the Hindi grammar and its vocabulary is mainly Persian and Arabic, and he who would learn good Urdu must learn Persian and Arabic, as one who would learn good Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali, or Marathi must learn Sanskrit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Missionary mentality

Europeans have had a hate-love relationship with India.  The source of the hostility?

Balu wrote:
From the 16th to the 21st century, the Christians have viewed their encounter with the Hindu traditions as a battle between Christianity and idolatry. This theological framework attributes certain characteristic properties to religion: it is conceived of as a struggle between the true and the false. The struggle has different aspects to it. Firstly, it involves rivalry between religions with regard to the truth of doctrines. Insofar as different religions are either true or false, they revolve around a set of doctrines or beliefs. Therefore, the Christians oppose the Hindu traditions to the Christian religion in terms of the beliefs these ‘rival religions’ proclaim. The main issue of religion is to make a choice between these different sets of beliefs – the message of the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the related precepts on the one hand or the errors of false religion on the other. Secondly, the competition between religions revolves around the gaining of converts. The true religion strives to save the souls of men and women, while false religion keeps them in the command of the devil. This can also be put in terms of their respective ends. The true religion is the only path to salvation. Hell is the fatal destination of all other religions. Thirdly, the rivalry does not only concern the life to come, but is also expressed in the conduct of the followers of the different religions here on earth. As false religion, Hinduism embodies immorality.  And the true religion of Christianity exemplifies morality.
It is this ideology of Hindu immorality that underlies much of the attitude behind the British "we must reform, enlighten the natives".  We shall see the truth of this in the 19th century Britishers who wanted to Christianize India, some of whom I may quote on this blog.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Gap between Text and Practice

There is often a huge gap between text and practice.  This is seemingly true even of such a relatively simple thing as the policy instituted by Macaulay and his minute of 1835.  Though Macaulay and his Committee on Education recorded in their report for 1835 that they were for the vernaculars and only against Sanskrit and Arabic, it was not during Macaulay's stay in India - when he was available to clarify policy - and only after Macaulay's departure from India that Lord Auckland took up the question in 1839, and allowed vernacular schools.  

Christian critics of Hindus who rely on the "Hindu scriptures" often make a mistake by overlooking this.  (Moreover, the more fundamentalist of them get upset when Hindus don't follow their "scriptures".)

An amusing case of the gap between what is in the texts (in this case the French law books) and practice was brought up in Fareed Zakaria's GPS program on CNN last Sunday.  Here is the item from elsewhere on the web:

France Revokes 214-Year-Old Law That Made It Illegal For Women To Wear Pants

Though long unenforced, women have been legally forbidden from wearing pants in the French capital since 1799 – a law that came out of the French Revolution, when female renegades would wear long trousers in opposition of the wealth’s fashionable knee-length culottes—instigating a political movement named, ‘sans-culottes.’ Government-obtained permission was required for a woman to wear any form of menswear in public, with a translated excerpt of the law reading: “Any woman who wants to dress as a man must come to police headquarters to get permission.” ...

In the century after the Revolution, France only has only amended its menswear law twice, to accommodate horseback riding and bicycles, the 19th century’s more fashionable forms of exercise. In this iteration, women could wear “pantalons” only if they were “holding the handlebars of a bicycle or the reigns of a horse,” reports French national news outlet France 24.

But last week, the law was finally declared “null and void,” with French officials calling the piece of legislature a “museum piece.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Masks of Conquest: Gauri Viswanathan

This passage from Gauri Viswanathan, The Masks of Conquest, I think is as brief a explanation as is possible of what allows people as varied as Niall Ferguson and Zareer Masani to claim that the British did some good in India, and for a lot of smart people to buy into it.  This is what the whole Macaulay episode is about; it is a key event "in the progressive refinement of the rapacious, exploitative and ruthless actor of history into the reflective subject of literature".  We are asked to look at what the English colonialist professed, most significantly through his literature, and not at how he actually behaved.
The affirmation of an ideal self and an ideal political state through a specific national literature—English literature—is in essence an affirmation of English identity.   But that identity is equally split along the lines of actual and ideal selves, and the Englishman actively participating in the cruder realities of conquest, commercial aggrandizement, and disciplinary management of natives blends into the rarefied, more exalted image of the Englishman as producer of the knowledge that empowers him to conquer, appropriate, and manage in the first place. 
The self-presentation of the Englishman to native Indians through the products of his mental labor removes him from the place of ongoing colonialist activity—of commercial operations, military expansion, and administration of territories—and deactualizes and diffuses his material reality in the process.   In a parodic reworking of the Cartesian axiom, the Englishman's true essence is defined by the thought he produces, overriding all other aspects of his identity—his personality, actions and behavior.  His material reality as subjugator and alien ruler is dissolved in his mental output; the blurring of the man and his works effectively removes him from history. 
The introduction of English literature marks the effacement of a sordid history of colonial expropriation,  material exploitation, and class and race oppression behind European world dominance.  The English literary text, functioning as a surrogate Englishman in his highest and most perfect state, becomes a mask for economic exploitation, so successfully camouflaging the material activities of the colonizer that one unusually self-conscious British colonial official, Charles Trevelyan, was prompted to remark, "[The Indians] daily converse with the best and wisest Englishmen through the medium of their works, and form ideas, perhaps higher ideas of our nation that if their intercourse with it were of a more personal kind." 
The split between the material and the cultural practices of colonialism is nowhere sharper than in the progressive refinement of the rapacious, exploitative and ruthless actor of history into the reflective subject of literature.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Natives in the General Committee of Public Instruction - 1835

When Macaulay became the president of the General Committee of Public Instruction, two Indians, Radhakant Deb and Russomoy Dutt, were added to the committee, and much is made of this in some places.    A fuller view would place this in the context of Lord Cornwallis's actions as Governor General (1786-93), when "all high Indian officials were dismissed and all posts worth more than £500 a year were reserved for Europeans".

Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest, tells us:
To Cornwallis, the abuse of power was the most serious of evils afflicting the East India Company, not only jeopardizing the British hold over India, but, worse still, dividing the English nation on the legitimacy of the colonial enterprise.......Convinced that contact with natives was the root cause of declining European morals, he resolved to excluded all Indians from appointment to responsible posts, hoping by this means to restore the Englishman to his pristine self and rid him once and for all of decadent influences....One historian, Percival Spear, has gone so far as to suggest that this event marks the point at which there developed "that contempt for things and persons Indian.....and which produced the views of a Mill or a Macaulay."  Denied all opportunities for expression as a result of the harsh measure, public ability declined steadily.  But curiously, when this occurred it was taken to mean that civic responsibility had never existed in India, thus giving rise to one of the most durable legends of British rule: that the Indian mind was best suited to minor pursuits of trade, but not to government or administration.
There is a further story to tell of how Indians were added to the committee, but that is for some other time.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Comment: The amendment may prevent the rise of our future robot overlords.

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. 
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. 
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable. 
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. 
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. 
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Puzzle: outsized influence of a lakh of rupees

The East India Company Act of 1813 [1] set aside a sum of not less than a lakh of rupees per annum to be applied to the revival and improvement of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories in India.  

This munificent sum of one lakh of rupees corresponded to £10,000.  This was Macaulay's annual salary in India - a huge sum for an individual, to be certain.  In 1834-35, the year when Macaulay arrived in India,  the Haileybury College where British recruits to the company were sent for training cost the Company that year £9914 1s. 1d.;  "Maintenance of Lunatics formerly of Civil and Military Services of the Company" were that year a charge of £4991 13s. 9d. [2] Compare that to one lakh of rupees for promoting education in the whole of the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Presidencies.

That year, the proprietors of the East India Company paid themselves dividends of  £636,825 17s. 5d. [2].  The land revenue of Bengal & Agra alone was £11,601,350. [3]  {That year, the East India Company had a revenue of around £4.4million from the trade of opium.}

Why was this minuscule 0.09% of the land revenue of Bengal & Agra dedicated for education so significant?  It can only be because all the traditional systems of patronage of education - via lands whose revenue was dedicated to education, via the traditional rulers, via village revenues - had been destroyed by the East India Company. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mystery novels: Keigo Higashino

Keigo Higashino is a Japanese novelist, winner of numerous awards.  I've read a couple of his books that have been translated into English by Alexander O. Smith - The Devotion of Suspect X, and Salvation of a Saint.  Clever murder mysteries, and the chief detective brain is a physicist, Professor Manabu Yukawa - so what is not to like? If you like mystery novels, I recommend these.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Macaulay's Finances

This page provides some information about Macaulay's money situation.
Thus distinguished, and justifiably conscious of his great powers, Macaulay began to aspire to a political career. But the shadow of pecuniary trouble early began to fall upon his path. When he went to college his father believed himself to be worth £100,000. But commercial disaster overtook the house of Babington & Macaulay, and the son now saw himself compelled to work for his livelihood. His Trinity fellowship of £300 a year became of great consequence to him, but it expired in 1831; he could make at most £200 a year by writing; and a commissionership of bankruptcy, which was given him by Lord Lyndhurst in 1828, and which brought him in about £400 a year, was swept away, without compensation, by the ministry which came into power in 1830. Macaulay was reduced to such straits that he had to sell his Cambridge gold medal.
 .....Macaulay was thus prepared to accept the offer of a seat in the supreme council of India, created by the new India Act. The salary of the office was fixed at £10,000, out of which he calculated to be able to save £30,000 in five years. His sister Hannah accepted his proposal to accompany him, and in February 1834 the brother and sister sailed for Calcutta.
Macaulay's annual salary in India, £10,000, translates to 1 lakh of rupees, which is the precise amount that the Charter Act of 1813 required the British East India Company to promote education each year.

For purposes of comparison, via Google Books, one is told that around 1830, a typical British lower-middle class income was in the range of £60 to £200 per annum. (Religion in Victorian Britain: Traditions, edited by Parsons and Moore).   Bankey Bihari Misra tells us in The Central Administration of the East India Company, 1773-1834, that around 1830, the "average income of munsiffs in Patna Division amounted to only rupees 21 per month", i.e., about £25 per year.

In 1901, Lord Curzon said in a speech that the average Indian agricultural income was Rupees 20 a year - so after seven decades of wonderful British-wrought improvements that Niall Ferguson boasts about, this £2 a year is an upper bound on what the peasant's income was in 1830.

For further comparison, the Huffington Post points out in modern USA: Income inequality between CEOs and workers has consequently exploded, with CEOs last year {i.e., 2011} earning 209.4 times more than workers, compared to just 26.5 times more in 1978.

NNDB : NNDB is an intelligence aggregator that tracks the activities of people we have determined to be noteworthy, both living and dead. Superficially, it seems much like a "Who's Who" where a noted person's curriculum vitae is available (the usual information such as date of birth, a biography, and other essential facts.)

But it mostly exists to document the connections between people, many of which are not always obvious. A person's otherwise inexplicable behavior is often understood by examining the crowd that person has been associating with.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A History of the Dept. of English, University of Calcutta

Worth a read.

For those writing a modern history of English in India, the following is noteworthy regarding college/university English (primary/secondary school English is a different story):
The Department went through a period of slump starting from the 1940s and ending in the 1960s.  Three major historical factors contributed towards it – reactionary attitude towards English language  and literature at the wake of nationalism and political independence, and the resultant growth in interest in the vernacular languages; a temporary shift in significance from English towards Political Science and  Economics in the 1950s within the humanities; and the flourishing and coming into beings of other  universities within West Bengal and in other parts of India.

By the end of the 1960s, interest in English was again growing. Two reasons contributed towards its  resurgence – first, the acceptance of English as one of the best linguistic means of communication  throughout the length and breadth of India; and second, the growing importance of the United States  and other English-speaking nations in terms of the control of global economics and politics.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Sanskrit - some 180 years after Macaulay

Via the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, see this rather large PDF report (I've barely scanned it).  The battle is ongoing, let us see if India is able to bridge over the colonial discontinuity in Sanskrit studies.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Rohit Pradhan: Confessions of an Indian Hawk

Part 1.

... if there is a genuine Pakistani desire for peace with India, why don’t we see its effects on the ground?....

,,,,{it is} Pakistan where liberals remain a scared and scattered bunch who have little influence outside social media and op-ed columns in the English media. Forget India, their inability to influence Pakistani domestic policies have been repeatedly demonstrated.


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Masani's Father

CIP is reading London-based author Zareer Masani's panegyrics on Macaulay, I think.  I mention it only because the author's illustrious father, Minocher Rustom Masani (or Minoo Masani) who was not such a lickspittle, finds mention in Reginald Reynold's "The White Sahibs in India" (1937), as follows, but before you read that, read this brief biographical note.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Girls lead in Science Exam

As per the New York Times, in an international science exam given to 470,000 students in 65 nations, girls outperformed boys in most nations. Eyeballing their chart, I think girls outperformed boys in general in Eastern and Southern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Islands; while boys outperformed girls in Western and Northern Europe and the Americas.

This is only an examination, not performance in a research career.  Nevertheless, don't you think it is premature to look for (or take any findings as definitive) evolutionary or biological reasons for the current male domination in science?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Exchange rates: 1800 - 1850

In [1], Edney tells us that one pound sterling (£1) contained 20 shillings, and one shilling contained 12 pence. A rupee, as Indians know, is made of 16 annas.

Edney tells us that in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century, rupees were coined in silver. The freshly minted version was the sicca, and the coins with wear and tear were sonat, worth only 15 sicca annas (instead of 16).

Edney tells us that the conversion of rupees to pound sterling equivalent depended on the going rate for silver (with respect to gold, I suppose) in London. He tells us that Coins, Weights and Measures of British India, part one of Useful Tables, forming an Appendix to the Journal of the Asiatic Society (Calcutta, 1834) gives an approximate conversion of one shilling, ten pence (£0.092) to a sonat rupee and two shillings (£0.1) to a sicca rupee.  Unfortunately, he ruins my confidence in him by confidently stating that "one lakh contained ten thousand rupees"; this in the second edition of his book.  Sorry, one lakh is one hundred thousand.

In [2], we are told that around 1806, the East India Company fixed the sikka rupee to be 180 grains troy of silver, 11/12 fine, 1/12 alloy. That is, they tell us: one rupee was 165 grains fine silver and 15 grains of alloy.  The Wiki article [3] on the great recoinage in Great Britain in 1816, tells us at at that  1 Dtroy pound which is 5760 grains of silver (0.925 fine silver) was set by definition to 66 shillings.

You can do the arithmetic, it turns out that 1 rupee =  £0.1 is reasonable based on the weight of silver.  In various other documents of the time, 1 rupee = 2 shillings (i.e.,£0.1) is the exchange rate that is used, so Edney is validated.

[1] Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India 1765-1843, Mathew H. Edney, (1997)

[2] Note on the history of the East India Coinage from 1753-1835, Edgar Thurston,  (1893).

[3] Wiki: Great Recoinage of 1816

Saturday, February 02, 2013

A review of Sullivan's Macaulay : The Tragedy of Power

Seems that being kind is good policy, too, apart from being good for the character.

Leslie Stephen on Macaulay

Education in England 1800-1850

(Posting from iPad) To be read in context of Rammohun Roy's 1823 minute to Lord Amherst asking for education in mathematics and science, and Macaulay's minute of 1835.  Roy's request, if it were made on behalf of Englishmen would be just as revolutionary.  Since the British upper classes were also primarily engaged in the study of Latin and ancient Greek, languages as alive or dead as Sanskrit, the proposal for an English education was quite revolutionary, too.  Please follow the link to Derek Gillard's page and read all of that, too. We have to examine what education might have meant to Macaulay, did it mean science and mathematics?  Apart from the English language itself, what is the evidence that Macaulay's idea of education matched that of Roy?  England was rife for educational reform, what were Macaulay's views in that regard?

Wiki tells us, regarding education in England,
In 1840 the Grammar Schools Act expanded the Grammar School curriculum from classical studies to include science and literature. 
The Grammar Schools Act 1840 made it lawful to apply the income of grammar schools to purposes other than the teaching of classical languages, but change still required the consent of the schoolmaster. 

( and )

Derek Gillard provides this:

The 'great' public schools were the least willing to adapt and modernise. The following description of attitudes to the curriculum at these schools in the 1820s was given by James Pillans (1778-1864), Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University, who was for some time a private tutor at Eton. In Contributions to the Cause of Education (1856:271) he wrote:

In the great schools of England - Eton, Westminster, Winchester and Harrow, where the majority of English youth who receive a liberal and high professional education are brought up - the course of instruction has for ages been confined so exclusively to Greek and Latin that most of the pupils quit them not only ignorant of, but with a considerable disrelish and contempt for, every branch of literature and scientific equipment, except the dead languages. It may be said that there are in the immediate neighbourhood of the College, teachers of Mathematics, Writing, French and other accomplishments to whom parents have the option of sending their sons. But as these masters are extra-scholastic - mere appendages, not an integral part of the establishment - and as neither they nor the branches of knowledge they proffer to teach are recognised in the scheme of school business, it requires but little acquaintance with the nature of boys to be aware, that the disrespect in which teachers so situated are uniformly held extends, in young minds, to the subjects taught and is apt to create a rooted dislike to a kind of instruction which they look upon as a work of supererogation. And this, we venture to say, is all but the universal feeling at Eton. (quoted in Spens 1938:18)
 He went on:

If we find in the country and town schools little preparation for occupations, still less for the future agriculturalist or mechanic, we find in the Grammar Schools much greater defects. The middle class in all its sections, except the more learned professions, finds no instruction which can suit its special middle class wants. They are fed with the dry husks of ancient learning when they should be taking sound and substantial food from the great treasury of modern discovery. The applications of chemical and mechanical science to everyday wants - such a study of history as will show the progress of civilisation - and such a knowledge of public economy in the large sense of the term as will guard them against the delusions of political fanatics and knaves, and lead to a due understanding of their position in society, are all subjects worth as much labour and enquiry to that great body, as a little Latin learnt in a very imperfect manner, with some scraps of Greek to boot - the usual stunted course of most of our Grammar Schools. (quoted in Spens 1938:19)

Friday, February 01, 2013

Be kind to the Fat Boy!

The old saw recommends before saying anything, consider whether it is true, whether it is necessary, whether it is kind.

Which leads to the thought, if one cannot be kind to long-dead and mostly forgotten people, then how can one be kind to the annoying and exasperating living ones?

In that spirit, I can say that Macaulay was a very smart man, and liberal for his times.  He had some mistaken notions about the Indians of his time, fuelled by works such as James Mill's History of India.  He therefore was on a civilizing mission and was quite sincere about it.  The unfortunate consequences of the British rule that he supported was impoverishing Indians, utterly draining rural India of its vitality, already attenuated by a century of political disorder; resulted in famines during which no respite was given on land revenues, and resulted in the deaths of millions.  Macaulay, perhaps more than most Britons of his time, was aware of these, but still thought that British rule for India was an overall good.

Macaulay is of interest today, because some of his prescriptions are still in force today.  He cannot be blamed for that because everyone has a choice to try to rise out of the prejudices instilled into them in childhood.   Indians internalized Macaulay's judgment of them, and arrived at an  attitude that Indians are basically second-class, no matter how much they strive and how much they excel.  Earning pats on the head from the West was about the best they could do. (If you read Allen Drury's novel, Advise and Consent, set in Washington, D.C., some particular comments about the character of the Indian ambassador, Krishna Khaleel, I think, are the other side of the coin.)   I remember  this attitude of despair very well from my childhood, my parents were the chief antidote.  My parents were ahead of their time; Indians in recent years are more confident.  However this confidence is in the spheres of business, technology, scienced and such, not in the area of arts and humanities.  Bollywood still craves for Hollywood acceptance; the good writers and artists are only those recognized by the West, and so on.

Symptomatic, I think, was that Jawaharlal Nehru University taught Arabic, and French and Persian, but not Sanskrit - until around 2001.

This negative attitude was imposed on Indians, to be sure, but to accept it and to perpetuate it, is a choice.

S'more Reginald Reynolds+

Reginald Reynolds, “The White Sahibs in India”, (1937)

Excerpt from the Author’s Preface

Impartiality is the virtue of a knave or a fool’s wisdom.  I desire neither.