Review of Colonialism

1 March 2023.

John Root of the ‘Out of Many, One People’ Substack reviews Colonialism. An excerpt is provided below.

‘In the mid 1930s my wife’s parents migrated from Kerala in South India to Malaya. My father-in-law got a job as a civil servant. When war threatened in the Far East my mother-in-law returned to Kerala with her two infant sons. The speed of the Japanese advance prevented my father-in-law from following her and so for the next five years they were separated, with no news of each other. During this time the colonial government in India paid her as the wife of a colonial civil servant, giving her dignity and independence as a woman. Was this the crafty British doling out a pittance in order to keep the oppressed docile? Or was it a good government fulfilling its legal obligations in a humanitarian spirit? She was certainly appreciative and, a Hindu, believed it was also because they were Christians.

‘The centuries of British colonial rule produced countless billions of interactions between rulers and ruled. If some seem benignly positive, others were definitely not. It was accumulating accounts of the negatives that recently led to the Scottish actor, Alan Cumming, to return the OBE he received fourteen years ago, because ‘the way the British Empire profited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples across the world really opened my eyes’.

‘His fellow Scot, Nigel Biggar, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford, would argue that Cumming’s eyes are short-sighted and far too narrowly focused. He seeks to provide a deeper and more balanced analysis of the whole phenomenon of British colonialism. This week I want to look at the material in the book; next week to step back and look at the wider issues raised by the expansion of western European power across much of the world.’

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