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Processes And Consequences

Skand Tayal

Vyjayanti Raghavan  and R. Mahalakshmi
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 393, Rs. 1295.00


Colonisation: A Comparative Study of India and Korea edited by eminent scholars Vyjayanti Raghavan and R. Mahalakshmi is a timely study of the colonial experiences of the Indian subcontinent and the Korean Peninsula. The contributions from academics from both India and Korea primarily focus on the narrative from the present day perspective and seek to examine the motivation, implementation and impact of the policies of colonial rulers on the local societies and polity. In a very well written introduction the two editors give a snapshot of the history of the two countries in the period leading to their creeping colonization. For Korea, the Chinese suzerainty preceding the Japanese colonization has also been analysed. Colonization of the two countries was an outcome of the mercantilist urges of the metropolitan powers, their quest for raw materials and the growing sinews of their military prowess. Very perceptive comparisons have been made between the British and Japanese Imperial Armies and of the shrewd ability of the East India Company to mediate between quarrelling Indian rulers and the projection of Japanese intervention as ‘liberators from the Chinese hold’. The authors note an important difference that the Koreans considered themselves culturally superior to the Japanese whereas the Indian elite had by and large accepted the superiority of the western civilization over the prevailing Indian beliefs, administrative systems and social practices. Both Japanese and British colonizers relied on a large number of collaborators who acted as the agents of the colonizers—in civil services, in the army and police, the landowners and the business persons. In both the societies, the rulers and the ruling class had got separated and alienated from the masses. Both the societies were oppressively feudal, land was not owned by the peasants and both practiced evil social practices—untouchability in India and slavery in Korea. In the chapter ‘Colonialism, Issues and Perspectives’, R. Mahalakshmi examines the controversial question whether modernization in India and Korea was intrinsically linked to colonization. She also places the discussion on colonialism in the wider context of the growth of worldwide trade networks, capital formation and economic exploitation of colonies. The text has been organized in three well defined parts. Part I entitled ‘Historiography in Pre-colonial India and Korea’ presents the context in which colonial rule emerged in the two ancient civilizations which had a rich cultural heritage, organized ruling kingdoms and a largely feudal society. The article ‘Historical ...

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