First published in 1952, imperialism is a regularly recurring historical phenomenon, calling for neither approval not condemnation in the abstract. A more profitable exercise is to consider particular imperialisms and assess their spirit and their achievements. From this premise Sir Percival Griffiths proceeds to examine the political, administrative and economic effects on India of British rule. Formerly a member of the Indian Civil Service, later the leader of the British representatives in the Indian Legislative Assembly and now closely connected with commerce and industry in India and Pakistan, he has the advantage of a three-sided approach. He was, moreover, playing an active part in Indian public affairs throughout the years leading to the transfer of power. In 1942 he declared that he would fight any government which resiled from the promise of independence for India and when the Cabinet Mission visited India in 1947, it fell on him to assert - on behalf of the British community in India – their conviction that independence must be granted without further delay. It is because he has thus been a close eye-witness of the events of the last three decades in India that he has written this book.
Although Western civilization is often regarded by Indians as materialistic, it is the spiritual rather than in the material sphere that British influence has been greatest. It has built up Indian nationalism; it has engendered in Indian minds a new concept of equality and of human rights; it has rekindled the scientific spirit; and is has profoundly modified the Indian intellectual approach to the problems in life. In all this there have been losses as well as gain – not least among the losses being the partial destruction of village corporate life and the spread of specticism among the intelligentsia – but there can be little doubt which way the balance lies. A further fifty years may have to elapse, Sir Percival suggests, before a final assessment of the impact of the British is possible. In the meantime the present book may be confidently recommended as the most authoritative and objective examination of the history and influence of British administration in Indian, which has yet appeared; a book, furthermore, that may be expected to achieve the status of a standard work.