British atrocities: The Blood Never Dried

Last updated: March 2, 2017

The British government, through their actions have caused the deaths of more than a million civilians, during the "Irish Potato Famine", and other atrocities as well. Similar actions were taken in other countries throughout the world.

British empire was built on corpses of millions of Asians, Africans and native Americans. Praising British empire is as bad as praising Japanese empire or Nazi Germany.

I was shocked to read that the greatest genocide of the 20th century was not Auschwitz, but the Bengal famine in India as late as 1943, caused due to English atrocities. Mass stockpile of food grain harvested in the state of Bengal,were taken away and horded by the English in anticipation of Japanese attack. Very seldom has this genocide been mentioned in historical records.More than 3 million lives perished. Never has England acknowledged this fact, and never will they include this in their historical records. It is an absolute shame. This aspect places England not much better than some of the merciless regimes of the modern era that have absolutely no remorse for the crimes they have committed . I hope that a renowned historical writer can be found who can clearly document these dark facts. The world deserves to know the truth.

British atrocities: The Blood Never Dried
Yes because...

Empire in 'a fit of absentmindedness'

There is much that is true in the saying that Britain created its Empire absentmindedly.

It is also unfortunately true that it ran its empire in much the same way leading to a lot of atrocities by neglect that could have been fixed had the government wished to do something about it. This is not to excuse all atrocities as being simply bad management rather than evil (some like concentration camps were pretty barbaric) however many were simply mistakes that the government had little interest in rectifying.

This was in part due to a combination of a philosophy where by everything was up to the individual rather than government (why should government hand out food if the people are suffering from a natural drought?) and in some cases racism as was the case in all the European empires the natives mattered rather less than the colonists.
No because...
None the less the difference in motivation matters. Atrocity through absentmindedness to our current mindset is horrible but it should be remembered that Britain was until the end of the Victorian period (19th century) doing very little to help its own urban poor. There was no ideal of intervening with aid when there was a crisis somewhere as there is now and this showed in the continuing famines in India.

Judging the British empire based upon today's standards is wrong. The empire fell as those standards changed after the end of the second world war in part because of the way it was becoming obvious that empire could no longer be justified as 'civilising/civilizing'.

"This was in part due to a combination of a philosophy where by everything was up to the individual rather than government (why should government hand out food if the people are suffering from a natural drought?)" - this philosophy is new, "And son my fellow Americans;ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country"-JFK.
Governments gathered tax revenue from their people just as they do now. They were fully aware of their responsibility.

British atrocities: The Blood Never Dried
Yes because...

Malthusian Theories.

India was, and still is quite susepitble to famines and droughts. Before the british came along they were met with varying success in an ad hoc fashon. Britain had a policy, and that was exactly in line with prevailing thought of the day, Adam Smith and the free market was king. [[S. Ambirjan, 'Malthusian Population theory and Indian Famine Policy in the Nineteenth Century' Population Studies, Vol.30, No.1 (Mar., 1976) p.5]]

Thomas Mathus's population theory that there was an uper limit for population at which famine occured was widely accepted in Europe, Frenchman abbe Dubois said "I am persuaded that as the population increases, so in proportion do want and misery" India hit something of a Malthusian limit in the 1860's. British officials argued that Famine War and Disease had held the population in check, british riule did away with the second and softened the third. The result they perceved was that famine was now an inevitable and necessary check on population growth. Sir James Caird, a member of the Indian Famine Commission of 1880 said "The produce of the country on an avarage of years is barely sufficient to maintain the present population" [[Ambirjan p.6-8]]

The result was the view that if not actually desirable Famine was not a terrible thing. If the government was to intervene in a famine and save people, then that in itself would cause the next famine. famine releif needed taxes, these would fall upon the self supporting and likely drive them to penury to support those who were not self supporting, simultaniously escalating the problem and undermining the tax base. [[Ambirjan p.9]]

The bengal famine of 1943 has been mentioned, by this time the wheels were comming off the British laissez-faire waggon. Systematic famine releif existed. A Famine Manual had been published in 1941 just for this very situation. They were however still free market based, sell off stocks bring down prices, and import more for the same effect. The Famine was also no worse in total shortages than another the British had handled in 1936, very successfully with little loss of life.
In funding the War with Germany by use of pretty wellevery availible method, taxes and the printing of money the British government inflicted the indian labourer with a considerably smaller take home pay. [[Lance Brennan, 'Government Famine Releif in Bengal 1943' The Journal for Asian Studies Vol.47, No.3, (Aug., 1988) p.542]]

A combination of factors then came into play. A cyclone devastated Midnapore in Oct. 1942 resulting in government efforts there to the exclusion of already apparent warning signs. More damning was the british were purchacing grain and rice along the probable Japanese line of advance in order to deny the Japanese. [[Brennan p.543]] Nonetheless as early as March the government began selling its stocks to bring prices down. But in attempting only to manipulate prices the poor were relieved but at the expense of not giving hand outs for the really destitute [[Brennan p.545-6]] Belated shifts in emphasis (august) to gurel kitchens only made matters worse as to provide for the destitue the government requisitioned from the better off [[Brennan p.547]]
There was not a terrible lack of food there was a distribution problem. The government destroyed boats in case the Japanese could use them, but of course in sprawling river systems the locals needed them more than the distant Japanese. The result was very few died in Calcutta where government effort was based and centered. [[Amartya Sen, Ingredients of Famine Analysis: Availibility and Entitlements. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 96, No.3 (Aug., 1981) p.445-6]]
The government made systematic errors in not providing enough food cheaply through existant cheap grain (ie subsidised) shops and concentrated principly on flooding the market, principly because they were essentially already subsidising imports, selling it below market rates would be second subsidies. The result being that the cheap grain shops for the destitute ran out very fast. The government basically erred by failing to channel resources to those in most risk, rather than supporting those with a modicum of purchasing power by cheapening the general supplies. [[Brennan p560-1]]
In total there was probably no great shortage, but when the free market is left in these situations those with money, the middle class Indians automatically horde to tide themselves over, the result is a crisis that is to some extent artificial.
No because...
Inaction was not absolute even in nineteenth century India, famines hit certain areas and so an emigration policy was favoured. This failed because even if some subsidies with transport costs were offered, Indians were hardly happy to move, being very attachched to an extended family. [[Ambirjan p.12-13]]

The Famine releif on 1936 relied heavily on three factors. An availible surplus in Burma, cheap grain prices, and the ease of transportation by rail or boat. In 1943 none of these applied and only in the last case had the lack anything to do with British errors. Burma was a partially occupied warzone. This in itself and the war in general raised food prices and war traffic clogged the communications. [[Brennan p.542]]

British atrocities: The Blood Never Dried
No because...

What is Genocide?

genocide [ˈdʒɛnəʊˌsaɪd]
(Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the policy of deliberately killing a nationality or ethnic group
[from geno-, from Greek genos race + -cide]
genocidal adj [[Collins English Dictionary]]

The UN definition in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide article 2 states "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" [[]]

Both of these stress intent: Neglegence in the face of a natural disaster of famine cannot count as intentional and thus not genocidal.

Yes because...
Negligence of course can be criminal. Galtung's theory of structural violence has been most influential in redefining what can and should be classed as violent. The argument goes that "violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realisations are below their potential realisations" [[Galtung, would include negligence as a form of violence. It is still needless and preventable death.

British atrocities: The Blood Never Dried
No because...

Repetitive history

I think this just a generalized topic of attacking britain's history mainly coming from americans who still don't understand a great detail of britain's history. the 1943 bengal famine was unfortunate but the holocaust is still considered to be the worst in human history...and rightly so. it's very easy to attack britain's traits where as if you look at other countries they had similiar traits too during the same period (the 19th century).

America has been responsible for atrocities too and they as well had colonies. Other countries too like france or japan had been responsible for atrocities. Yes absent mindness was up in the air back then but that didnt just apply to the british only, it applied to everybody else. Including today with the usa and the war in iraq and afghanistan, nobody really knows who the real enemy is and the situation hasn't really improved dramatically.

The british empire has probably done more good to india than bad as they did manage to keep law & order between rival religions. And india was full of religious groups believing in all kinds of gods. We must remember that it was britain that formed the country pakistan in order to seperate the muslims from the hindu's. We should also remember that not all the states in india were administered by the british but rather administered through suzerains and princes who probably didnt know how to sort the problem out as soon as famine hits.

it is wrong or potently illogical to consider the atrocities that the british had done during the 19th century by today standards, as you can see now with the war in iraq and afghanistan the USA is stepping into the same boots that britain had worn once before. And again the absent mindness cycle is re acurring again.
Yes because...
That others, the USA, France, Italy, all now equally thought of as nice modern liberal(ish) countries did it too cannot excuse Britian entirely. It does not mean that these events are not crimes or that they should be considered to be good. The main problem is that the British Empire as a whole is often considered to be a good thing. In many ways it may well have been but this obscures that there are bits of Britain's imperial history that is every bit as squalid as anyone else's, even if it did not quite fall to the lows of either Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. It simply means that these other countries crimes sould be remembered as well. Italy's part in WWII and the Holocaust, its invasion of Abyssinia. France's role in Africa (that even now continues[[]]) and the war in Vietnam. And the USA's march across the continent forcing out and killing the native americans as they went, and then on the the philippines and a bloody campaign to suppress rebellions there. All of these things are often glossed over as each country tries to portray itself as having been reasonably moral and better than the rest. Indeed one of the worst would be little Belgium's actions in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps 10 million deaths between 1885 and 1908.[[]]
Now it was interesting to read that British empire did more good to india than bad!!!! Well i completely agree if somehow anybody can make me understand how the killings of hundreds of innocents at Jalliwalan Bagh can be justified.

For a european, to understand and accept that socio-cultural fabric of india was tolerant, much prior to the advent of East India Co is impossible to say the least.It is evident from the fact that religions(both Hinduism & Islam) not only coexisted but prospered under the reign of great kings and emperrors such as Akbar The Great.

It was only after the British came with their hideous plans and policies such as "Divide And Rule", the cracks started showing up.Not only did they rob and exploit India for more than two centuries, the damage they did to the social and cultural heritage is evident in day to day life as of today.

And they say that nazi rule was bad, how about enslaving whole villages to send them off as bonded labours to work in colonies in Africa and West Indies.I am pretty sure at this point british must have felt pity on filthy indians, so they decided to absolve them of their misery, how magnificient?????

Continue the Debate - Leave a Comment

2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
1 Comment authors
Notify of
Philip Roy Wild

Why do you interchange British & English? It was the British Empire so that included all the countries in the UK.
As a modern day Briton I’m totally open to recognising past atrocities, but as I was born after the Empire had long gone other than that what else can the current generation do? The Romans occupied much of Briton for over 350 years but we don’t blame todays Italians. It’s very easy to give a modern day take on empire & it’s morals or lack of them, at the time of all the empires of Europe the consensus was Europeans were superior to other races, a view that any right minded person today would be horrified by. For much of the period of empire it also has to be remembered the majority of the people of the UK had no vote, so they themselves had no choice in the governments of the day & it’s policies both at home & in the colonies. Since the end of Empire the UK has given millions of pounds in aid to many former colonies & that is really the only practical way the current generation can say sorry for previous generations atrocities.

Joe Canning

I’m not surprised at the lack of responses.The British are in a state of denial regarding their history of atrocities.They don’t even teach their true history in schools,more like a brainwashing of past glories which ultimately in the children growing up with a feeling of Greatness.