|Wars of aggression to seize the entire country did not end after 1757. The Company continued to swallow up large tracts of land, using guile to play off one Indian aristocrat against another, using the wealth of the Company’s trade to finance the development of lethal weapons. By 1803, the English East India Company had taken Delhi – reducing the Mughal Emperor to a pensioner. India gradually became a crucial part of a global system of leeching wealth into Britain. Hungry for the goods of China (particularly tea), the Company and the British monarchy found the Chinese unwilling to take payment in anything other than gold. Cultivation of opium on the Company lands suggested a method out of the balance of payments problems faced by Britain. The British began to ply opium into China as a way to prevent having to pay gold for tea. This opium trade was fabulously successful until the Chinese Emperors tried to block it, at which point the British prosecuted the first and second Opium Wars to force the Chinese to buy opium. Britain became – effectively – a drug dealer on a global stage, using the full force of the military to ply opium to the Chinese in order to settle a balance of payments problems. In all this, the Indian peasantry was forced to grow opium and to live lives in near chattel slavery.
Britain never came to terms with its brutality. When word came from China in 1856 about the seizure of a British pirate ship (Arrow), Lord Palmerston said that Britain had to go into China with all guns blazing to teach a lesson to a ‘set of barbarians – a set of kidnapping, murdering, poisoning barbarians’. The word ‘barbarian’ is key. It was used to describe those that the British wanted to dominate. In the Indian archives, file after file of incidents before the uprising of 1857 showed Englishmen beating to death the little boys who were hired to pull the pieces of cloth that cooled the air; when the little boys fell asleep at their job, they were rewarded with the boots of the Englishmen. None of these men were charged with anything; their murders just went into a file. After the uprising, when the British took Delhi, soldiers were tied to cannons and their bodies ripped apart as these cannons were fired over at the city. Entire neighbourhoods were razed, men hung from lampposts, their feet eaten by pigs set loose by the British soldiers.
In the aftermath of the uprising, the British Crown took over the Indian subcontinent. Theft of wealth became routine. Social development of the Indian people was ignored. By 1911, the life expectancy for Indians was a mere 22 years. When the British finally left India in 1947, the literacy rate was an abysmal 12%. Britain took Indian money, made England one of the wealthiest places in the world and left India bereft. The economist Utsa Patnaik has carefully looked at the ‘drain’ of this wealth to the United Kingdom. She finds that between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to £9.2 trillion (or US $45 trillion). India was drained of between 26% to 36% of the government’s budget. Indian wealth was used as a down payment for England’s development. The entire Industrial Revolution in England was funded by this theft from India and by the Atlantic slave trade. The peoples of Africa, Asia, and the Americas funded Europe’s technology. It is African, Asian, indigenous American wealth that enabled European universities to thrive and European students to come up with their breakthroughs. Inside James Watt’s steam engine is the blood of an enslaved African plantation worker and a starving Indian peasant.