Clearly this is wrong, but why?

George Monbiot tells us that:

colonial looting and much of the £30tn bled from India were invested into grand houses and miles of wall: blood money translated into neoclassical architecture.

As all British land and housing added together ain’t worth £30 trillion that’s not where the money went. An as India never did have £30 trillion to steal it wasn’t either. So, where’s the idea come from?

A book review at Al Jazeera. Hmm. A book – or a bit of it – by Utsa Patnaik.

The method is, apparently, something to do with India Council Bills. If you wanted to transfer money to India to buy stuff you paid in gold (or sterling, obvs) in London, the bill was sent, the seller received silver or rupees in India. This means – according to the book – that you were paid out of Indian tax revenues. Thus all exports were stolen.

I think that’s the nub of the argument. Looks a bit handwavey to me to be honest. I have found references to people thinking prices were a bit out of line at times so they sent silver direct instead. Which would seem to indicate that the buyers of goods saw no difference at least.

Just wondering where this idea came from – the theft of £30 trillion – and then, well, what is it that those alleging have got wrong? Any financial historians of the Raj around here?

59 thoughts on “Clearly this is wrong, but why?”

  1. What you’re describing looks like an entirely conventional letter of credit transaction. The bank that disbursed the money to the exporter in India would have the corresponding amount (plus commission) standing to it’s credit in London at the bank which had opened the l/c on behalf of the importer.

  2. From wikipedia: “Utsa Patnaik is an Indian Marxist economist.”

    Colour me unsurprised. Marxism has damaged India and the rest of the developing world far more than imperialism ever did and Marxist rulers extracted far more from their nations than the imperialists.

  3. Wasn’t this all or mostly trade? That is someone selling and someone buying with a mutually agreed price. Were not the Indian suppliers of the goods paid? Presumably the silks and other goodies from India were made and supplied by Indians?

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    The problem with the idea that we were making a fortune out of the colonies is that if we were, why were we in such a rush to get out? It was often claimed that the Treasury pushed it and the reason for the rush was that after WW2 we couldn’t afford them, the implication being that before WW2 we could and those riches didn’t disappear in the interim.

    Of course there were political pressures, not least from the UN and the USA, who were keen to get their own hands on some of them, but France clung on to most of hers.

  5. Oh, and a unified India only ever existed as part of the Empire and even then it was divided into individual units each ruled by a Rajah or some such. The Rajahs built plenty of castles and houses with the money they ‘stole from the peasants’. Likewise the Neo-classical houses in England were built by paying workers to build them. Money going to poor people, much like a public works project.

  6. It’s a pretty common conspiracy theory among Indians, if you can get one to be honest with you. They still haven’t cracked universal indoor plumbing but apparently they’d all be living in golden lunar mansions by now if it wasn’t for the Breeteesh (wobbles head)

    Was India poorer in 1947 than it was in 1848? Seems unlikely, but I dunno.

  7. What would India have been like without the British? Well, conquered by the French obviously so let’s say without any European imperialism.
    The 18th and 19th centuries would have been a series of civil wars between the remains of the Mughal Empire, no doubt generating a lot of unpleasant despots.
    Add in a drop of religious genocide and continue until the 20th century by which time some bright spark would decide Marxism was the only way to deal with these pesky Rajahs, thus ushering in a whole new wave of misery and oppression. All suffered without the benefits of the irrigation and railways British engineers built.
    Fast forward to today and I reckon China would have conquered all the way down to Mumbai and be quite far advanced in replacing the natives with Han Chinese.

  8. Proposition: There are more Indians and Pakistanis in the UK right now than Brits in India in total over the period of the EIC and later the Empire. Who is colonising whom, right now?

  9. ” Who is colonising whom, right now?”

    This is a question you’re not supposed to ask, but if you do the replies will be along the lines of:

    A) It’s not happening.
    B) Why do you hate Brown people? You must be a Nazi!
    C) It is happening, and it’s punishment for Colonialism.

  10. “MC
    August 21, 2020 at 9:42 amWhat would India have been like without the British? Well, conquered by the French obviously so let’s say without any European imperialism.”

    It’s generally accepted that in Africa neither Liberia or Ethiopia were ever colonised and we can see what economic powerhouses and bastions of liberal democracy they are.

  11. Marxist bullshit.

    Likely compounded by Hindu revivalist horseshite.

    Nothing particular against Hindoos and that revival helps bolster India against Paks and Chicoms but it also throws up revisionist history bollocks.

    I downloaded some vid–cant find it as I have 40000 odd YT vids awaiting sorting/filing –with some Indian bloke–in English–moaning that we had built our Industrial rev buy forcing the thriving folk markets /teeming artisans of Indian out of business in favour of machine made goods. I don’t believe Indians were forced to buy our stuff at an individual level and the fool is essentially doing Ned Ludd’s ( the real one not the blog’s ) job for him.

  12. Liberia was colonised.

    By freed African American slaves.

    Guess what the first thing they did was?

  13. @ Diogenes
    Not half a rusty as my Latin. A year of it when I was 12. It’s the nearest Google could get to “magic money tree”. Obviously, the Romans had never encountered one..

  14. MC: Your little sketch of India without the British seems quite plausible to me. Perhaps instead of Mao the Murderer we’d have Bao the Bestial overrunning India after WW2. Of course after the fall of China, maybe the Yanks would have supported Hao the Hero (known in the north, naturally, as Hao the Horrible) to prevent the conquest of the south. So we could have had North India and South India as well as North Korea and South Korea.

    Rhoda: It’s only wicked when horrid white Europeans do it. I’ve seen articles by Mahometans settled in the UK complaining about the racism of the Brits in not opposing the vile Jewish settlers in Palestine and the loathsome Indian settlers in Kashmir.

    As for the financial aspect, I have seen reference to complaints by the Indians that when the Brits developed mechanised spinning and weaving, it ruined Indian exports. So I can’t take the whinge about them being paid for by the Indian taxpayer too seriously.

  15. Thanks BIS and indeed that is what Google produces. However if you reverse it it comes up with “the price of wood sterilised”. Something wrong with that piece of software, methinks

  16. Yandex comes up with “magia pecuniam arbor” or magicis pecuniam arbor for magical money tree. Both work in reverse

  17. The clue is in the name India Council Bills, in other words some form of Bill of Exchange. Because of the time/distance element these would probably be the equivalent of Cashiers Orders, like a cheque, a specialised form of a BoE

  18. An economic historian once told me that people had searched unsuccessfully for any evidence that HMG had attempted an economic analysis of the costs and profits of Empire. But he did comment that HMG was perpetually aware that most colonies were a cost not a benefit. Look at the North American colonies – the most lightly taxed civilisation in history. No profit there, I expect.

    I suspect that India may be one of the few bits worth weighing up, since when the EIC was in charge its cost to HMG may have mainly been demands put on the Royal Navy. That suspicion may, however, be miles off the truth.

    As for Indians writing Indian History – I am reminded of the argument of my Irish grandpa: all Irish history is lies.

  19. Steve,

    “Was India poorer in 1947 than it was in 1848? Seems unlikely, but I dunno.”

    If it was such a shit deal, why didn’t the Indians rise up? Millions of them can’t have beaten a few hundred honkies?

    I look at it like the thousands of Geordies working for the Japanese at the Nissan factory. They don’t care what the guy in charge looks like. They like the thing of getting paid.

  20. £30 trillion is a tidy sum, much more than this

    Economist proposes slavery reparations of up to $12TRILLION – equivalent to $800,000 per black household or more than half of the American GDP
    Duke University economist William Darity Jr made the proposal in a report
    Co-authored a paper with wife Kristen Muller calling for slavery reparations
    Proposes $10 to $12 trillion in payments to black descendants of slaves
    Argues that this is the amount needed to close the black-white wealth gap

  21. On top of the 30 trillion looted, the British divided Indian society into with classes or castes of human, with no Indians being allowed at the top.

    This caste system could only have been imposed by whites, as it’s a product of White Supremacy.

    The Indians could or would never accept such a thing. And rightly so.

  22. Bloke on M4,
    As the Nissan factory is in Sunderland, the workers are not Geordies, but Mackems. It may be me being pedantic, but it’s like calling someone from Manchester, a Scouser.

  23. “BraveFart

    $10 to $12 trillion in payments to black descendants of slaves
    Argues that this is the amount needed to close the black-white wealth gap”


    They are given this money, they squander it, the black-white wealth gap returns to what it was. This turns out to be because of some collective disadvantage in money management suffered by blacks because of whites so they ask for the same amount of money again.

    Do I win?

  24. I would argue that India was never colonised by the British. At the very height of Empire there were fewer than 175,000 Brits in India, about half of whom were soldiers. The rest were either administrators or those catering in some way to administrators and soldiers.
    The number of actual colonists? Zero.

  25. Dennis: Oppressor, Warmonger, Capitalist and Consumer of Petroleum Products

    When you’re intent on stealing other people’s property for your own benefit – and that is what Monbiot is advocating – then the justification presented is always nothing more than window dressing, and should be treated as such.

    You’re thinking about this as an economist, Timmy, and this isn’t economics. This is politics. The correct response to a totalitarian thief isn’t to refute his justifications, it’s to call him out as a thief and a totalitarian. And then tell him to fuck off.

  26. Proposes $10 to $12 trillion in payments to black descendants of slaves
    Argues that this is the amount needed to close the black-white wealth gap

    Does that include black sportsmen and women on multi-million dollar per year contracts?

    On second thoughts, ban black sportsmen and women from competition. They are nothing more than modern day gladiators partaking in competition for the enjoyment of the privileged wypipo.

  27. Dennis, Pointing Out The Obvious

    Proposes $10 to $12 trillion in payments to black descendants of slaves

    The fun part?

    The requirement that African-Americans provide evidence that they are actually descendants of slaves. Any AA whose family arrived in the States after the Emancipation Proclamation (Sept. 22, 1862) need not apply.

    That would do wonders for unifying the country, wouldn’t it?

    Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Louis Farrakhan wouldn’t qualify for a payment. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey might have trouble qualifying due being born out of wedlock (parentage is accepted, but not proven in either case).

  28. Yes, Andrew C, you win.

    The problem is, blacks can’t learn to fish on the Grand Banks.

    The American White Left created a welfare state, starting in the 60s. To assuage their guilt; not to help people. We continue to give them a fish. They continue to complain that we aren’t giving them enough fish.

    We’ve already spent double the proposed reparations (sic) amount. It bought us DOUBLE OUGHT ZERO. Should we actually pay this ‘reparations,’ as you say Andrew, it will buy us nothing and they will soon be crying for us to give them more fish.

    As long as we keep paying it, they’ll keep demanding it. But, Andrew, you miss the role of the white left here. This is all for them, not the blacks.

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    OT Perhaps bis can put in context

    This has just been posted in a sailing forum use under the headline: “Only in Spain”:

    Spain’s equality minister calls on regions to close brothels over coronavirus fears

    These establishments are often registered as hotels or other businesses, meaning they have not been affected by recent closures of nightclubs and bars

    Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero on Thursday called on the country’s regional governments to order the closure of all brothels in a bid to avoid coronavirus infections. The establishments, she said, can cause “a potential rise of positive cases that are difficult to trace.”

  30. Dennis, Woker'n The Rest Of You Fucks

    The American White Left created a welfare state, starting in the 60s. To assuage their guilt; not to help people.

    That is only partially correct.

    The factor you’ve ignored is the racism inherent in (white) liberal politics. White liberals really believe that AAs simply cannot get from A to B on anything without their help.

    White liberals really do view AAs as inferior. It is one of the things that accounts for their fury when AAs leave the political plantation they’ve created.

  31. Bloke in North Dorset

    Inflation is a difficult subject, so I made a video about it.

    That must be a short video: “Inflation is when the prices today or higher than yesterday”. Even with Spud’s renowned verbosity he can’t string that out for more than 30s, can he?

  32. The number of actual colonists? Zero.

    MC, that is an incredibly good point. I live in Australia, so yes we were colonised by the British. And you can tell the difference, the evidence being the number of Indian doctors and engineers that have moved here over the last 50 years or so. We had a shortage of both and they were fairly Anglophile, so happy to take them.

    Actual colonisation worked, India’s nationalism not so much.

  33. You really want to know, BiND? You sailing south?
    I presume what they’re talking about is what’s known as puticlubs. There’s one a couple of kliks from here. Basically a hotel with bar. Girls rent rooms, hang around the bar. House makes it’s living out of the room rents & drink takings. So I suppose a bar, but not a club in the disco sense. I heard they’d been leaning on them.

  34. Well ….the West collided with India. it wasn`t just the British it was thew Dutch and the French and the French might easily have won. Some bad, quite a bit of good was done, overall, but either way allocating blame is alright for a prep school balloon debate but not reality.

    Lets say every Indian was offered the opportunity to walk through a door and arrive in an alternative reality in which the old Mughal Empire was undisturbed.

    How many do you think would walk through that door ?

    Can I get a zero?

    I rew]ckon…pretty much no-one

  35. “The factor you’ve ignored is the racism inherent in (white) liberal politics.”

    Ignored? I was commenting on what Andrew C said.

    Racism permeating Dem politics is OT. Correct, but OT.

  36. And, frankly, you give too much credit to Dems. They aren’t altruistically helping the hapless AAs, they are cynically exploiting them in the quest for power. Actually, they are exploiting other people’s concerns. Like all Lefty coalition groups, they are tools of no intrinsic value to the Left. Cannon fodder.

    Notice how quickly they sold out their biggest group, women, for tranny sports?

  37. Bloke In Spain: but that’s not going to stop the problem because people are going to just get onto sites like Adultwork, chatrooms, whatever. The sex forums out there have people trying to hook up but there’s also strippers, porn girls and escorts doing business.

  38. Mid 19th century: gold standard vs bimetallism. Part of this debate that raged at the time
    following the onset of the Long Depression post-1873 concerned payments by India to Britain. The Government of India received its revenue in silver but paid in gold for goods and services received from Britain. At this time the reduction in the gold price of silver hit British India hard. It pleaded with the Mother Country to allow greater use of silver in currency and to encourage the free exchange of silver internationally i.e. allow it to be used alongside gold for making international payments.

  39. I can see Johnson enjoying the frisson of slave ‘reparations’.

    Always remember: modern British government exists to administer punishment beatings to the better part of the population.

  40. @FSB ” but that’s not going to stop the problem because people are going to just get onto sites like Adultwork, chatrooms, whatever ”

    Or a certain web site….

    It is a slightly more serious problem. The clubs tend to have 40 or more girls living in close proximity. Each one seeing several clients a shift.(In good times) And the girls themselves are migratory. There’s a circuit of them move from club to club. Effectively, you could say all the puticlubs in Spain are the same club. Just that the decor is different in whichever part you’re standing in. Trouble is, these are not good times. If the girls are not earning they go to another club. Which is no better than the one they left. And so… Puts a lot of girls on long bus trips. The turnover velocity’s very high. Hard to think of a better way of spreading a disease.

  41. As we agreed before the election, M’Lud. The Labour Party were merely the Opposition. The Conservative Party are the enemy.

  42. Dr K.A.Rogers – that’s fascinating. Effectively the Indian currency (Ag) depreciated against the British reserve currency (Au) which should have have stimulated India’s export trade.

    Why was it necessary for the British government to interpose itself in this trade and why could British importers not have had l/cs opened in Britain on the basis of the proforma invoice values of the exporters? Where can one read up on this?

    I’d be grateful for a lead or link.

  43. @MC August 21, 2020 at 9:42 am

    What would India have been like without the British?

    Indeed. What would Britain be like without the Romans and the Normans?

    Nobody knows, but we don’t constantly whine about them, in fact we appreciate their buildings & infrastructure and learned from them

    Bath owes much to Romans

    @Commander Jameson

    +1 Although I’d add they became a cost because Gov wanted to have them as private sector was making so much profit by trade. Even then, Gov could break what worked

  44. Dennis the Observant

    Did anyone else notice that Newmania wrote a post that didn’t mention Brexit?

    2020 is truly the strangest of all years.

  45. TMB, as I understand it Dr Rogers’ explanation refers to government money paid to India rather than trade transactions. Presumably the UK charged India for services, maybe the Army, perhaps the expenses of the Viceroy and his administration. Commercial transactions would indeed have used the letter of credit system.

  46. “The number of actual colonists? Zero.”

    Exactly. Nobody in their right mind removed thweir family from Britian to go and stake out a chunk of land in India, to farm it, settle there, have descendants and build a new country.

    The problem was calling them all “colonies”, compounded with administering them from the “Colonial” office. India wasn’t a colony, it was a possession. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, America, yes even Kenya were colonies. Almost the entirity of the British Empire were actually possessions.

  47. So Much For Subtlety

    jgh August 22, 2020 at 8:36 am – “The problem was calling them all “colonies”, compounded with administering them from the “Colonial” office.”

    I take your general point but India was not administered from the Colonial Office. It was administered from the Indian Office. Sri Lanka was administered by the Colonial Office I sort of remember. And Burma may have gone either way.

    The real problem is that we let the Communists and the rest of the Left define “colonialism” as a bad thing.

  48. ‘define “colonialism” as a bad thing’

    I am of the Star Trek generation. I believe colonialism is a bad thing. Indigenous people should be left alone. The West shouldn’t be trying to “help” them.

    In the case of the American colonies, the settlers moved in between the Indians generally, later displacing them. I don’t consider it colonialism; the land was generally uninhabited.

    Today’s talk of electrifying sub-Saharan Africa is colonialism. Leave them alone.

  49. The mistake Patnaik is making is identifying the Indian Government purchases abroad/Council bills mechanism as representing the whole of indian exports.In fact it was only a part of Indian trade. Importers in Europe were free to buy rupees from the Exchange Banks quire independently of the India Office.

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