We all know about how Great Britain traveled the world and conquered nations. However, few know the intricate details connected to these colonial times.
Much more happened than an army of men on horses with funny hats proclaiming a land to belong to their queen. When we look carefully into the details, we will find surprising yet not surprising information about the escapades of Great Britain.
There are a lot of places to touch and several happenings to consider. However, one we will be focusing on is the looting in India. Some estimate that Great Britain looted up to $45 trillion from India, which is a lot of money for a country their size.
Did this happen? Was it legal? And if it happened, what are the steps taken to recover this vast sum, if possible? When it comes down to accurate information on what happened many years ago, there comes the need to separate the facts from the presumptions.
Now, let’s go down history lane to understand just when and how Great Britain looted $45 trillion from India.
How did this happen?
So how did Great Britain steal from India? Did they walk around their homes armed with guns and weapons, requesting their best jewelry and treasures? Not exactly.
It all happened during pre-colonial times. Just as they did with other countries, Great Britain engaged in trade with the Indians. There are two sides to this story.
In Great Britain, it is commonly said that Britain had no significant economic gain during the trade period. Great Britain considered the administration to be more of a cost to them than it was to India. However, this is but one side of the story and not one of the entire truth.
If this was so, why did the engagement of Britain with India go on for so long? Was it merely out of the kindness of their heart? Or is there something not open to the rest of the world?
The research of Utsa Patnaik, a renowned economist, deals a heavy blow to this narrative, opening up some fundamental truths. These truths will lead us to find that not only was the trade anything but a cost to Great Britain, a large sum of money could be linked to Great Britain as a result of the trade.
What Was This Research About?
The research dived into centuries-long history, examining the details of the tax and trade between India and Great Britain. The study covered between the years 1765 and 1983.
Between these time frames, the study deduced that Great Britain drew out a total of $45 trillion, which accounts for more than 17 times the current GDP of the UK today.
Looking at the numbers, the narrative that seemed like a straight line begins to take somewhat of a curve.
What Was This Trade About?
Like other parts of the world, Great Britain had a trade relationship with them; payments were made for things like textiles and rice to India, mainly in the form of silver.
The payments were made to Indian producers right before the monopolization of the Indian trade in 1765. First, the East Indian company took over a subcontinent and brought about a monopoly of the Indian trade.
What happened after that was that this company began to collect taxes from Indians.
What Were the Taxes Used For? Where Did They Go To?
As a clever move, the company dedicated a third of the taxes collected, which was used to fund the purchase of Indian goods for Great Britain. So, putting it plainly, what does this mean?
Great Britain stopped paying for goods obtained from Indian producers during this period of monopolization. These producers included peasants and weavers who, from the money earned from their trade, paid taxes to fund the business with Britain.
It means Great Britain bought Indian goods from Indian producers with their own money.
It was a grand-scale heist. Looting of a whole different level entirely, yet so cleverly executed that it was hard to pick out just what was going on from the surface of the trade.
The people responsible for collecting taxes differed entirely from those who came to get goods. As a result, Indians were oblivious to the theft under their noses.
What Did Great Britain Do with The Stolen Goods?
Some of India’s goods were consumed in Great Britain. A large part of it was reexported to other countries and sold for a much higher price than purchased which, to be fair, was nothing at all.
In a way, we can say that the Indians unknowingly funded the British economy and played a vital role in the position Britain held where international trade was concerned.
Asides from rice and textiles, some high-demand materials necessary to civilization were also a part of the one-sided trade, like iron and timber. These materials also boosted Britain’s development and refinement rate until this very day.
So basically, Great Britain pocketed 100% of the original value of everything they got from the Indian trade between 1765 and 1983.
What Happened In 1858 When the East Indian Company Monopoly Broke Down?
Great Britain came up with a whole new twist for the tax and bought the system they benefited from over the years. While Indians were allowed to sell their products to other countries, the payments ended up in London!
How? Special council bills. These were the medium of exchange through which goods were bought from Indians. A paper currency tied to the British crown.
So how do you get your hands on this currency? By buying them from Great Britain. When Indians cashed out these bills, they were paid out of the tax revenues they collected in rupees.
What Did This Mean to India?
It meant that even though the Indian trade was impressive over decades within this period, there was nothing to show for it as their national account was running at a deficit.
At the same time, London ended up with gold and silver- things that should have gone to the Indians from their trade.