If imperialism was unprofitable, there would have been no imperialism.
After going through the insight of Shashi Tharoor’s latest book entitled – Inglorious Empire: what the British did to India and a research paper by renowned economist Utsa Patnaik, which is published by Columbia University Press, we have got an approx idea how Britishers plundered and looted India, and that it was to the extent of 45 Trillion Dollar. Yes you got it right – 45 Trillion with a T.
The current generation of British, particularly English people are living in a romantic, proud bubble of a glorious past of delivering “civilization” to “natives”, of building cities, railways and what not for the “betterment” of the Indian people. From an opinion poll finding by YouGov in 2014, I quote “By three to one, British people think the British Empire is something to be proud of rather than ashamed of – they also tend to think it left its colonies better off, and a third would like it to still exists”. The present generation of British people owe nothing for the crimes of their forefathers, but a simple acknowledgement of a crime as a crime.
One of the aspect of this nostalgia and pride is the glorious military conquest where a nation of 7 million conquer a vast nation of 260 million inhabitants. The second aspect is of a perceived greatness, of delivering justice and benevolence to people who would have not fared better without them.
As for the facts around British conquest of India, I have detailed in one of my other answer that the conquest was based more on the chance presented by the the fragmented rule of India in the aftermath of Nader Shah invasion, and treachery, much less on valor and bravery. Recommend reading my other answer before proceeding .
Read on to explore some benevolence of the former Empire.
Before industrial use of the steam engine, industry meant mining, art and handicraft, textile, pottery, jewellery, masonry, hand-loom, sugar and cotton mills etc. India was world leading in this area before the British came. India was also a major shipbuilding nation.
When the soldiers of the East India Company conquered Bengal, they destroyed the weaving machines and often resorted to cutting off the thumb of the weaver and breaking the looms, because the East India Company would not allow export of finished product from India. This was perhaps to save the natives from the hard work.
Whenever the Company captured a territory, it blocked selling of raw materials and merchandise to any powers other than the British. This gave the company ability to drive down price, often getting raw materials and merchandise for free. These raw materials would then be sold by EIC, and later British companies to Europe and rest of the world at profit. Perhaps this was done to help Indian farmers as well.
By an Act in 1833, British Indigo planters were given free hand to exploit farmers. At one point of , farmers were being forced to cultivate Indigo for free and supply to British masters because Indigo demand was high in Europe. If a farmer would not complete daily quota, he would be killed. Often his wife would be raped and killed as well. This would later famously result in an revolt. In a 1860 commission report, E. W. L. Tower noted that “not a chest of Indigo reached England without being stained with human blood”. Reckon Indians enjoyed this exploitation, benevolently granted to them by the British.
A third of Bengali population and 5% of India population perished in the famine of 1770 because of de-industrialization of Bengal, takeover of farms and cotton mills, forcing farms to cultivate opium, stopage of exports and also British impositions of heavy tax (80–90% in some examples) on Indian farmers. Never before large scale famine was seen in India. Yet another benevolent policy – delivered. There would be a dozen major famines in India during its 200 year British rule, none since independence.
The use of Indian resources in the two World Wars are another topic for later. In the former, Bengal had to pay with a famine and lost 4.3 million people when Churchill diverted food from India to Europe as “buffer stock”.
Revenue from India largely funded the military of the British Empire.
Between the 1750’s and 1947, share of India in World GDP dropped from 24% to 3%. From an economic giant, India became a dirt poor country. Well of course it was due to the brilliant Governance and benevolence of the British.
Above are just a dozen and a half of example of British benevolence. There are thousands such examples of British benevolence.
So dear, London was not built on stolen money from India, it was an established city from well before, but the entirety of Britain, London at its heart, found prosperity through looting India.