Queen Elizabeth II: How much money Britain's inglorious empire stole from India—15 times UK’s current value

India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in 2019 quoted a study saying that British loot from India was close to $45 trillion in today’s monetary value

FP Staff September 12, 2022 18:31:59 IST
Queen Elizabeth II: How much money Britain's inglorious empire stole from India—15 times UK’s current value

Queen Elizabeth II. PTI

New Delhi: The world, at least most of it with some exceptions, mourns the passing of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, it has once more brought to the fore the scars of British colonialism and the concomitant organized loot of scores of nations that were pushed decades and centuries back in mankind’s long march to freedom and prosperity.

India’s case is most peculiar: Great Britain became so only as it lorded and looted India to the death and detriment of millions. Even British industrialization was, but an outcome of their clutches over India.

Several estimates have been drawn as to quantify the amount of this loot—not considering the opportunity cost for India and Indians—and the consensus is $45 trillion.

India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar in 2019 quoted a study saying that British loot from India was close to $45 trillion in today’s monetary value.

“India had two centuries of humiliation by the West in its predatory form it came to India in the mid-18th century. An economic study tried to estimate how much British took out of India, it ended up at a number of $45 trillion in today’s value,” Jaishankar had said while delivering an address at think tank Atlantic Council in Washington DC.

Noted economist Utsa Patnaik tried to explain this figure in an interview with the Mint. “Over roughly 200 years, the East India Company and the British Raj siphoned at least £9.2 trillion (or $44.6 trillion; since the exchange rate was $4.8 per pound sterling during much of the colonial period).”

“Between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to £9.2 trillion (equal to $45 trillion), taking India’s export surplus earnings as the measure, and compounding it at a 5% rate of interest. Indians were never credited with their own gold and forex earnings,” Patnaik said in the interview.

“There was virtually no increase in per capita income between 1900 and 1946, even though India registered the second largest export surplus earnings in the world for three decades before 1929,” she added.

Late Prof. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya has explained this loot in another way, exposing the juxtaposition of political-military power of the British with its economic needs. “…the evolution of the English East India Company from the Voyage system to factory system, from that to forts and eventually to the position of a territorial power helped in business; it was not just a fit of absent mindedness and an aberration from the proper task of merchants that led to the political hegemony of the Company that later became the British Empire. It was useful to have military power to back up coercion of the artisans, to bully local merchants and to eliminate other foreign merchants particularly the French and the Dutch,” Bhattacharya is quoted by IGNOU.

Considering the British GDP has hovered just under the $3 trillion mark in the past few years, at current monetary value the UK stole 15 times its current value from India.

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