History Society debate colonialism

Warwick’s History Society hosted their first ever debate last Tuesday positing that “Colonialism Brought More Benefits Than Disadvantages to India”.

For the statement was Professor Margot Finn, whilst against it was Professor David Hardiman, both of Warwick’s History Department. Chairing was Professor Maxine Berg also of the History Department.

The attracted proved to be popular with the organisers who estimated that 70 people attended.

The President of HistorySoc James Cleaver was pleased by the attendance and interaction shown by the students concluding that the event was a success.

The principal organiser Ed Hunt, Academic and Welfare Officer for HistorySoc, added that it was “a stimulating discussion. The students really engaged with Colonial history”.

They added that the attendance was bolstered by the inviting the India and Pakistani societies to be involved in the debate.

The Professors involved both specialise in and teach colonial history. Professor Margot Finn delivered a pithy and well organised presentation of the arguments for benefits of British colonial rule which drew on her research into the Victorians legal, consumer and family cultures in India.

Professor David Hardiman attacked the notion using his expert knowledge on India’s condition during the 19th and early 20th centuries describing Colonialism as a “great tragedy for India”.

Professor Finn pointed out it is not her opinion that British Colonial rule in India was beneficial.

In Professor Finn’s words India’s history was an “onion” in which British rule was only a layer indicating that the period must be seen in context of India’s longer history.

She added that “If we start by condemning we will never reach understanding. Condemning is easy.”

The debate concluded that the issue was too complex for either side to be entirely right or wrong. Students enjoyed the event.

Rachel Hutchinson commented that she would like to attend another but it “depends on the question”.

The Indian themed debate preceeds the History Society’s annual ball called ‘A Passage to India’.


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