An Era of Darkness
If the the viral Oxford University speech was just an appetiser, this book is the main course, accompaniment, and the dessert rolled into one grand four course meal.
But unlike his speech, the book is not just a rebuttal given by the opposition in a debate. It rips apart the majestic and wildly romanticized tales of the imperial British rule in India, and reveals the dark underbelly of the British colonial enterprise that slowly and systematically deprived, dismantled, and decimated a prosperous, multicultural nation in the two centuries following the Battle of Plassey.
This book provides a detailed and expansive counter narrative to the supposed benefits of the British rule in India, and describes a long series of deliberate and ignorant British policies that led to plundering and suppression of the Indian subcontinent for the benefit of the Great Britain.
Clarity in concept (Clarity of Narrative): This book stands apart from other books about the colonial rule in India likes of which include the Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, in that it provides an argument against the colonial rule in painstaking details instead of just merely telling a chronological sequence of incidents and events.
Dr. Tharoor makes his intentions clear early on in the book, and takes on the various British policies and practices of contention one topic at a time in a extremely analytical fashion, while giving the British their due credit wherever applicable. As mentioned before, the book does not follow a chronological order but rather subject-wise order, which gives one a clear perspective of the subject in discussion and its evolution across the ages, including its aftermath in various periods of history including present day India.
Factual Accuracy: The book has ensured that all facts are backed by adequate and verifiable sources. The book features a extensive References & Notes section containing references to sources of information with the title of the source article or book, its author and/or publisher, the edition date, and the specific page number in the original source publication, for every single chapter of the book. This section alone spans 22 pages with an average of 15 references per page. This approach is akin to that of an academic rather than just commentator of history.
This is followed by the the Bibliography section, which also happens to equally massive. Combine both, and it becomes near impossible to refute the accuracy of the statements and facts mentioned in the books.
Writing Style: Dr.Tharoor has used the best and the most appropriate words from his impeccable vocabulary to accurately present and describe his argument, which might make you run for the nearest dictionary available. The book is riddled with a fair amount of heavy words and has resulted in massive expansion of my own vocabulary.
By employing his characteristic wit and knife-edge sarcasm, Dr. Tharoor has a rather interesting style of narrating. Many a times he takes the arguments in support of the British rule, and proceeds to dissect them until the truthful reality is laid bare, at which point it becomes an autopsy since the Pro-British argument has now been murdered by words.
Cost Worth: I got the book off the shelf for around 600 rupees. At the time of writing of this review, the book is available for 437 rupees on Amazon, and for free on Kindle Unlimited. This book deserves a full score for value for money.
Entertaining:The book is slow in the start but soon becomes a gripping narrative which engages the mind, making it difficult to put down. Throughout the book Dr.Tharoor has ensured that no subject is dragged beyond its intended purpose, ensuring that the focus on the topic is maintained without boring the reader.
Verdict:A well written and telling book with clear and sharp focus, which leaves one enlightened and pondering over the consequences of colonialism in India. After reading this book, I don’t think I’ll be able to view the British Empire in all its imperial glory as I did before.