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Publisher's Summary

No era is more pertinent to understanding how present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh evolved than the nearly 200 years of British rule. This colonial period was a time of deep change and transformation - for India and for the world. These 24 engrossing lectures offer you new perspectives on the history of European imperialism, on world economic history, on the features of British colonialism, and on the rich cultures of the Indian subcontinent.

Over the course of this remarkable saga you'll explore:

  • How the English East India Company, a commercial trading entity, established a presence in India and took the reins of power in one of the strangest political transformations in world history
  • How the monumental Mughal Empire, builders of the Taj Mahal and longstanding Muslim rulers in India, gradually came apart in the face of British conquest
  • How Britain extended its rule across the subcontinent, built a huge economic machine in India, and ultimately exacted a heavy price from the Indian people
  • How India finally achieved independence in 1947, through one of humanity's most noteworthy examples of resourceful and philosophically sophisticated leadership

You'll trace the economic motives that brought the British and other Westerners to India, like how the emergence of the English as a stereotypically tea-drinking society was directly related to the Indian colonial economy. You will also take stock of the incredibly lavish lifestyles of India's maharajahs and how the British leveraged alliances with them. And you'll grasp the fundamental moral contradiction of the Raj, the conflict between Britain's economic interests and the human needs of the empire's Indian subjects, and more. In A History of British India, you'll relive a crucial era in international relations, one with deep and lasting implications for our contemporary world.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Great Courses (P)2017 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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High school level

This is a fascinating period dominated by larger than life personalities, but this course doesn't do it justice and the prof functions at a high school level. He would do better to highlight specific personalities in each lesson and give more details. General statistics and overviews are important for context but the story needs to be fleshed out. Continual use of "remember', "think about it", rhetorical questions punctuated by a puerile "you got it" is annoying and patronizing. No profiles of individual maharajas, only a few eccentricities mentioned. Only major characters and incidents well known to anyone who knows even a little of Indian history are discussed. He gets animated with Gandhi and the National Congress. But this course either needs to be reworked for adults, both style and content, or recategorized as introductory. He hints numerous times that something is a subject for "another course". Oh my.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • PETER
  • LAWRENCEVILLE, GA, United States
  • 02-11-17

Good history - Annoying narration

Very interesting for a newbie to this important and interesting history of the region. I found the narrator a bit annoying, especially, about 100 times throughout the course his asking a question and then saying "you got it" like a half second after the question. About half way through I found myself shouting back at him #you got it" before he even said it, which most of the time he did. I'm surprised no one caught that, or that he wasn't annoyed at himself.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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every Indian and Pakistanis should read it

Great insight of India history during British time, definitely lot to learn from history .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ok
  • 04-30-17

Didn't know the British committed Genocide

Didn't learn this in school [Canada]
Using force and violence to collect money from India and suppress Indian industry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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learned a lot about British India

a lot of surprising information about British India including the starvation of 3 million during World War II and the death of another three million during the division of India and Pakistan

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Extremely Interesting

If you could sum up A History of British India in three words, what would they be?

Interesting, Engaging, Fascinating

What did you like best about this story?

Indian history is so vast and rich that it is very difficult to tell. Looking at the history of British India gives the course a nice starting point for people (like me) who don't know Indian history in depth. It gave me an accessible introduction to the subject and I definitely want more.

Have you listened to any of Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't but I greatly hope that the teaching company releases new courses from Professor Bellenoit. I would definitely enjoy a history of India before the British or post-colonial history of India or Pakistan.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The course was too long for me to do it in one sitting. However it was a great listen for my commute to and from work for a couple weeks.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Biased account

Professor Bellenoit castigates the British, mostly without citing any evidence. I am surprised this passes for scholarship.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Inaccurate, out of date, poor pronunciation

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The professor needs to read scholarship on caste and any scholarship that has been inspired by Orientalism--any mainstream scholarship from the past 40 years would do. It would also help if he learned an Indian language and learned how to pronounce terms with at least reasonable accuracy.

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Now I Understand

A few weeks ago, someone asked “how did Britain take over India? “. Years ago I saw a Bollywood movie where the British were cast as bad guys. I had always heard that Britain had left a Legacy of ‘good institutions’ in India. Now I understand how all of these fit together.

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  • KEITH
  • Canyon Country, CA, United States
  • 07-29-17

Economic History of India under England

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I would have heard more about the kinds of English that would travel across the world to work and serve in India. Dr. Bellenoit argues well that England did not do much good to India. This can probably be said of any imperial power who ruled native people. I wanted more of the English and not as much of the economic turmoil they caused to India.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

It appears that the creation of Pakistan was a bit of an accident that even the leading Muslims did not especially want nor expect.

Did A History of British India inspire you to do anything?

Earlier reviews were correct; this is very Pro Indian. If you wanted to understand the social history of the English, Indian or Muslim people (what was the day in the life of people at a certain time like), this is not the series for you.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr Deen Mirza
  • 10-18-17

Excellent. Well balanced and informative.

good overview of a complex phase of history. deals with the nuances of colonialism well

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • G Varsani
  • 02-26-18

New insights

I really enjoyed listening to this lecture series. I have learnt many new things. It has great breath but I wish it had slightly more depth. I felt many of the lectures ended suddenly without exploring the topic further with more depth with more stories and examples.

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  • Jeremy Collins
  • 08-24-17

Mindblowingly Biased

What would have made A History of British India better?

Some impartiality by the author.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Yes but not if they keep referring to BC and AD as BCE and CE.

What three words best describe Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit’s performance?

Historical white wash

What character would you cut from A History of British India?

The author.

Any additional comments?

This is not a historical lecture but a left wing rant.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy Murray
  • 01-29-17

Good book but so biased it is ridiculous

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The issue was the massive bias that the author clearly has. I'm neutral in this and certainly don't believe that the British were justified in what they did. They took over another country and sought to make as much money as possible. However, the author can't see anything good in anything the British did. For example:
* Increased education only lead to alienate the Muslims.
* Building railways was terrible as it didn't use local materials.
* Codifying and clarifying laws only served to remove local practises and traditions.
* Trying to remove traditions such as child marriage and Sati were unwise, basically just because it was change.
* Providing cheap clothing was not good as it reduced the demand for craftsmen's work

I agree that there were bad results for some people from the above items but it would be hard not to see the benefits as well. In particular the removal of work from craftsmen was happening all over the world after the industrial revolution so I don't see how it was the evil British that were at fault.

Essentially the author keeps saying "things changed, therefore it was bad".

Has A History of British India put you off other books in this genre?

No, I'd actually like to read others to get a better idea of what actually happened.

What three words best describe Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit’s performance?

Three items are:
1. Can't pronounce the word "Britain". Kind of important for this book. Ends up pronouncing it "Bri-en".
2. Way overuses rhetorical questions, specifically the words "well, think about it".
3. Has a nice sounding voice and speaks well.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A History of British India?

I would have cut some repetition and the constant rhetorical questions.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful