Thursday, September 20, 2007

Killing a bad myth

"Some recent historical accounts, most notably Empire, by historian Niall Ferguson, praise the British Empire's spread of technology and knowledge to India and other colonies. These are misleading accounts in my view, for although empire did extend infrastructure and technology, it did so to Britain's advantage. Without empire, the same technologies could have diffused in many other ways: trade in capital goods, imitation and reverse engineering, the purchase of technical advice (always available at a price), and the spread of scientific knowledge through textbooks, global conferences, student exchanges, and scientific academies. Japan, for example, did not fall prey to empire to achieve the technological benefits of the industrial age. By keeping its sovereignty, Japan enjoyed an even quicker ascent into industrialization than did the colonies. Indeed, as Maddison notes, «Indian industrial efficiency was hampered by the British administration's neglect of technical education, and the reluctance of British firms and managing agencies to provide training or managerial experience to Indians.»"

(Jeffrey Sachs, "The end of poverty, economic possibilities for our time", chapter "India's market reforms")

No comments: