مجلة عصور الجديدة
Volume 9, Numéro 3, Pages 417-437

An Analysis Of The Railway Enterprise In Nineteenth-century British India (1849-1900)

Authors : Boumeddane Larbi .

Abstract

Making increasing profits was a major aim of the British in India. So, land conveyance therein was revolutionized in the second half of the nineteenth century by railway promotion. This enterprise is seen as amongst the main British colonial infrastructural undertakings in the Indian subcontinent due to the magnitude of devotion it received. However, not always positive is the vision of historians or scholars regarding what that fulfilment involved or had as its underlying calculus. A comprehensive analysis of that railway enterprise shows that public opinion is polarized on the utility of railways. While contemporary or post-nineteenth-century thinkers see that new means of transport as highly beneficial for the colonized, many others rather see them as systematically beneficial for the British and harmful for the colonized Indians. While many observers claim that railways came as a civilizing and modernizing blessing for the Indians from a paternalistic colonizer, many others contradict this view arguing that this technology was rather a destructive curse undermining Indian economy. The railways are often said to have served the needs of metropolitan Britain through the exploitation of Indian natural riches to the detriment of Indian development. Indian local and foreign trade is said to have increased but for the benefit of Britain only.

Keywords

colonization, Britain, India, railways, economy, trade, exploitation, transport, raw materials, cotton, regeneration, destruction, paternalism.