India: Or, I am posting a lot because I spent 3 hours grading papers this afternoon and I deserve it.
This week, I finally started reading a history book about British imperialism in India. I borrowed it from the library three weeks ago (in fact, I didn't even start reading it until the day after it was due), but kept putting it off in favor of the New Yorker or just drowsing to music. Guess what? It's fascinating!
I'm only on page fifty-something, and here are some things I've learned:
1. Several major cities in India were founded as such by the British East India Company. These became centers of commerce and government. Madras, Calcutta, Bombay.
Note: A reader emailed the following,
mumbai (vombay), kolkota (calcutta) and chennai (madras) have existed before british india. they grew big as they exist today because of british rule and trade. of course, british (bloody!) rechristened the names.
To clarify my original posting, I never intended to suggest that these cities did not exist at all prior to the British arriving.
2. The word "thug" comes from a phenomenon in India called thugi, in which roving bands of thugs would befriend travellers for several days, then suddenly turn on them and sacrifice them to the goddess Kali. It was abolished and eradicated in the 1930's by the British. (Some claim that the whole thing is a conspiracy theory arising from British paranoia).
3. Kashmir came to be coupled with Jammu when the British defeated the Sikhs in 1846. They offered the Sikhs a fairly generous settlement at the end of the war, but demanded a large sum of money. The ruler of Jammu bailed out the Sikhs in exchange for Kashmir, and the rest is history (or current events).