The Theft of India: The European Conquests Of India (1498-1765)

The Theft of India

‘The Theft of India’ highlights the terrible suffering inflicted on Indians by the
European powers during the three centuries that followed Vasco da Gama’s
discovery of the sea route from Europe to India.  The Europeans, during this period,
exported not only vast amounts of India’s wealth but thousands of Indian slaves
too.

Here are excerpts from the book:

“Accounts by early travellers of India’s riches – its spices, gold and gems – had
excited the imagination of the Europeans. Some of these luxuries had been
brought to Europe by the Romans, but when the Roman Empire collapsed, the
Europeans became reliant on supplies coming through Arabia and Persia. In the
fifteenth century, Portugal and Spain developed ships equipped with powerful
artillery that could travel beyond Europe. To avoid clashes between the two
Catholic countries, the Pope divided the world into two spheres of influence. The
East, which included India, would be explored by the Portuguese. In 1498,
Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route from Europe to India. Thereafter,
Europe would no longer be dependent on India’s riches being supplied through
the Middle East.
With their control of the seas, the Portuguese established a monopoly over
trade between India and Europe. They seized Goa and several other enclaves.
Events in Europe then began to impact on India. Portuguese naval supremacy
was gradually eroded by the Dutch and the English, who themselves began to
travel to India, and who eventually destroyed the Portuguese monopoly. The
English largely confined their activities to trade while the Dutch, alongside
trading, colonized parts of India. The Danes also established colonial enclaves.
The French were the last great European power to arrive and set up colonial
enclaves. The wars in Europe between the French and the British then spread
into India. Eventually the British were victorious.
…The Theft of India highlights the terrible suffering inflicted on Indians by the
European powers during the three centuries that followed Vasco da Gama’s
discovery of the sea route from Europe to India. For most Indians, life under the
Mughals was considerably worse than is generally portrayed, but at least the
Mughal spoils were generally retained in India. The Europeans, however,
exported not only vast amounts of India’s wealth but thousands of Indian slaves
too.
European oppression began with a reign of terror by the Portuguese. Entire
communities were massacred, and those who survived were often forced to
convert to Christianity. Many of them were victimized by the Portuguese
Inquisition and atrocities continued to take place under the conquests of the
Dutch and French. All these European powers exported slaves, mostly to the
East Indies. Finally, the British, who until the eighteenth century had largely
confined themselves to peaceful trade, conquered Bengal. They imposed a
chaotic administration and seized much of Bengal’s wealth, which they then
exported to Britain. The impoverished population, without money to purchase
food from other parts of India, could not fend off famine as they had in previous
years. Millions starved to death.”

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