A History of British India

Course No. 8431
Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
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Course No. 8431
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the transformative era of British India, and its world-changing legacy.
  • Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India and how they governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance.
  • Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857.
  • Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi.
  • Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor.

Course Overview

Shaped by its richly diverse cultural heritage and by immensely significant historical events, the Indian subcontinent holds a unique place in world civilization. Perhaps no era is more relevant to our understanding of how present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh came to be than the nearly two centuries of British rule, beginning in 1757, during which India emerged as the most valuable colony of any empire in history. This was a period of seminal transformation and change—for the subcontinent, for Britain, and for the world.

In the 24 engrossing lectures of A History of British India, Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit of the U.S. Naval Academy, a highly respected expert on colonial India, leads you on a panoramic excursion into the history of British rule of the subcontinent and its repercussions. With a keen focus on the politics and economics of the period, Professor Bellenoit digs deeply into both the British and the Indian points of view, providing a wealth of information and insights that will be new to many in the West.

Professor Bellenoit shows the British conquest of India and its governance of the subcontinent to be one of the most compelling, dramatic, and colorful meetings of cultures in all of human history. Over the course of this extraordinary saga you’ll explore:

  • how the English East India Company, a commercial trading organization, established a foothold on the subcontinent and took the reins of governance in one of the most unusual political transformations the world has ever seen;
  • how the mighty Mughal Empire, builders of the Taj Mahal and longstanding Muslim rulers of large swaths of India, gradually unraveled in the face of British conquest;
  • how Britain greatly extended its rule across the subcontinent, built a massive economic machine in India, and ultimately exacted a heavy price from the Indian populace; and
  • how India finally achieved independence in 1947, through one of humanity’s most remarkable examples of resourceful and philosophically sophisticated leadership.

Professor Bellenoit brings into relief the motives of the British throughout their long stay in India, the moral hypocrisy of the Raj, and the sometimes devastating effects of Raj policy on British Indian subjects. A History of British India offers a revealing look at how the modern nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh emerged from the crucible of the Raj, and it examines the long-term effects of British rule on regional politics, religion, culture, economics, race relations, and more.

This account of the British encounter with India will enlighten your perspectives on European imperialism, world economic history, the specific features of British colonialism, and the rich and dynamic cultures of South Asia.

The astonishing narrative of A History of British India sheds new light on a region that is home to nearly a quarter of the planet’s total population, as well as two nuclear powers, the world’s largest democracy, and the second-, third-, and fourth- largest Muslim nations. Given how South Asia’s importance in the 21st century world is only increasing, this is a history we all need to know.

An Epic Story of Empire and Dissent

In the course of the lectures, you’ll study core topics that bring the story of British India alive in all its drama, complexity, and poignancy, such as

  • The British Conquest of India—Discover how the East India Company, having metamorphosed into a political entity in Bengal, expanded its territorial power through military actions and power-brokering; examine how the Company co-opted the Mughal revenue and administrative system and governed India for the first 100 years of British rule.
  • The Great Uprising: 1857—Witness the attempts of the British colonials and evangelical Christians to “reform” India along European lines; track the growing economic, political, and cultural resentments against the East India Company that culminated in the Great Uprising of 1857 and the resulting shift to direct rule of India by the British crown;
  • Economics under the Raj—Take a penetrating look at how the colonial economy functioned, and how British rule refashioned India’s role in the global economy into one serving Britain and its imperial interests; grasp how British economic policy benefited certain classes of Indians while causing great hardship and tragedy for others;
  • The Advent of Indian Nationalism—Observe how both Hindu and Muslim identity were affected by the Raj, and how both became linked with conflicting notions of Indian nationhood; study the remarkable story of how Indian nationalism emerged through the efforts of English-educated Indians, and how nationalist action increased through the late 19th century;
  • Gandhi, Jinnah, and the Struggle for Independence—Follow the quest for independence undertaken by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League; explore the brilliance and sophistication of Gandhi’s political philosophy, which exposed moral faults in the Raj, the shrewd maneuvering of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and how they reorganized the nationalist cause into mass movements;
  • The Birth of Modern India—Relive the events of the Noncooperation, Civil Disobedience, and Quit India movements, the escalating calls for independence, and the simmering Hindu-Muslim violence that shaped the partition of British India into the nations of India and Pakistan.

A Transformative Encounter between West and East

Throughout this course, you’ll delve deeply into fascinating and illuminating cultural features of the British rule in India. Early in the course, you’ll trace the economic motives that brought the British and other Europeans to India—where, in the 18th century, one quarter of the world’s commerce passed through the subcontinent, and where a single Bengali family had holdings larger than the Bank of England.

You’ll learn about British Orientalism, the colonials’ studied effort to “know the country” in order to effectively govern it, and how their tendency to traditionalize and romanticize India had consequences for both policy and the well-being of Indians. And you’ll observe how, under the Muslim-ruled Mughal Empire, there was very little Hindu-Muslim religious conflict in 18th-century India, and how over time British policies distanced and polarized the two cultures.

Among other intriguing subtopics, Professor Bellenoit reveals how the emergence of Britain as a tea-drinking culture was directly linked to the economy of colonial India, as tea became a crucial commodity in the fiscal maneuvering of the East India Company. And he brings into focus the lavish lifestyles of India’s royals—one Nizam of Hyderabad maintained over 200 wives and concubines—and how the British cultivated ties with regional Indian princes as a means of undergirding the Raj’s power and authority.

Again and again, you’ll assess the fundamental contradiction that underlay both the English East India Company and the British Raj: the conflict between Britain’s economic interests and its obligations as the political sovereign of the Indian populace.

An Unforgettable Historical Journey

Professor Bellenoit breathes life into the events of British rule, combining a talent for communicating the broader patterns of history with dramatic storytelling, in a detailed, gripping account of this world-changing epoch. Illustrative maps, graphics, portraits, photographs, and artwork greatly enrich the video version of the course. In the dynamic and revelatory lectures of A History of British India, you’ll relive a crucial era in international relations, one with deep and enduring implications for our contemporary world.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to India
    Delve into core aspects of Indian culture that provide a rich background for the story of British rule. Grasp the key precepts of Hinduism, and the notions of dharma, karma, and samsara. Study the caste system, the features of Indian families and marriages, and explore how society and religion shape politics in India. x
  • 2
    The Mughal Empire in 18th-Century India
    Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India. Investigate how the Mughals governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance. Look at the state of Indian society in the 18th century, and how changes in Mughal politics and economics laid the foundation for the British conquest of India. x
  • 3
    Indian and British Economic Interests
    Here, explore further how the Indian subcontinent drifted toward colonialism. Observe how the regionalization" of the Mughal Empire compromised the emperors' ability to govern. Take account of India's prominence within the broader global economy, and chart the rise of powerful banking families who played a critical role in the emergence of British rule." x
  • 4
    British Expansion in India (1757-1820)
    Witness how the English East India Company, a trading organization, expanded its early footing in Bengal. Study the Company's extraordinary transformation, through military conquests, from a merchant venture into a political entity. Finally, follow the Company's expansion into other regions, employing the Mughal revenue system to tax India's agrarian countryside. x
  • 5
    Knowing the Country: British Orientalism
    Learn how British scholars and administrators pursued knowledge of Indian culture, and how the early British colonials adapted to living within Indian society. Grasp the ways in which British romanticizing of India and misunderstanding of traditional customs had major consequences for colonial policy and the well-being of the Indian populace. x
  • 6
    Race, Gender, and Culture (1750-1850)
    The opening up of India gave rise to a discourse on race that became central to the colonial relationship. Study British racial paradigms in Company-ruled India, which emphasized differences between Indians and the British to justify" colonial rule. Also explore the British notion of masculinity and how it bolstered their self-perception as colonial masters." x
  • 7
    The Age of Reform (1830-1850)
    Contemporary currents of thought in England affected the ways in which India was governed. Learn how utilitarianism and Christian evangelicalism undergirded attempts by the British to educate and "reform" India. Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857. x
  • 8
    The Great Uprising (1857-1858)
    Study the accumulation of religious, economic, and political grievances against the East India Company that set the stage for the Great Uprising of 1857. Then witness the outbreak and bloody unfolding of the Uprising itself. Observe how the mutiny" changed British attitudes toward India, and the way Britain governed it under the Raj." x
  • 9
    Economics and Society under the Raj
    Examine the nature of the colonial economy, and trace economic decisions by the British that constrained the livelihoods of artisans and peasants. Assess the Raj's fiscal policy, which privileged British interests over public works. Observe how these policies affected the lives of millions who toiled to produce the wealth of the Raj. x
  • 10
    Caste and Tribal Identity under Colonialism
    As a social institution, caste changed markedly under British colonial rule. First, examine how the British encountered caste and tried to understand it. Then see how caste became significantly linked with the colonial tax revenue system. Take account of the ways in which caste distinctions became more prominent, codified, and pervasive under colonialism. x
  • 11
    The Nationalization of Hinduism (1870-1900)
    Discover how the broader traditions of Hinduism were affected by the colonial experience. Examine the theological assault on Hinduism by European Christian missionaries, and the responses of high-caste Hindus. Look at important Hindu reform movements, which sought to modernize Hinduism, and grasp how key currents of reformist thinking linked Hinduism with Indian nationhood. x
  • 12
    Indian Muslim Identity and Colonial Rule
    Indian Islam underwent profound shifts under colonial rule. Investigate how the British codifying of Islamic law changed Indian Muslims' communal identity. See how the advent of English language and education, and the Indian census, distanced Muslims from Hindus. Lastly, assess how the Deobandi reform movement reinvented Indian Islam to ensure its survival. x
  • 13
    The Late-19th-Century British Raj
    Study British racial attitudes toward Indians in the late 19th century and how these conceptions were manifested in the way India was governed. Learn about the officials who administrated the Raj, the Indian Civil Service, and the modernization of India. Grasp how all of these elements reflect the mindset of the British Raj. x
  • 14
    Princely States and Royalist Relationships
    India's princely states played a crucial role in maintaining British power. Examine the history of the princely kingdoms, and why they remained separate from British-controlled territory. Follow how the British cultivated ties of loyalty with Indian princes and exerted indirect rule." Explore the contradiction of a modernizing British Raj that supported feudal princes." x
  • 15
    Indian Nationalism and the Freedom Struggle
    Analyze how a new generation of English-educated Indians spearheaded Indian nationalism. Trace the emergence of the Indian National Congress, which initially represented moderate nationalists, and observe how repressive British policies sowed anticolonial sentiment. Witness the strengthening of nationalist fervor, as it erupted into political extremism and violence in the early 20th century. x
  • 16
    The Great War and Its Impact on India
    Examine the severe effects of the First World War on India's economy. Learn how both moderate and radical nationalists responded to the war to press for concessions and independence. Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi. x
  • 17
    Gandhi's Moral-Political Philosophy
    Investigate Gandhi's early life and how he became a nationalist leader. Study the elements of his political philosophy, the political tools of ahimsa (no harm) and satyagraha (force of truth), and the forces of modernity and British rule that Gandhi critiqued. Finally, examine the 1919 event that thrust him onto the national stage. x
  • 18
    The Noncooperation Movement
    Observe how Gandhi reorganized the Indian National Congress into a mass political machine, as witnessed in the Noncooperation Movement, where Indians boycotted the British on a national scale. Note how these actions and others exposed moral faults in the Raj, and track the Raj's counterstrategies that attempted to marginalize those nationalists seeking independence. x
  • 19
    Indian Muslim Politics between the Wars
    Indian Muslim identity began to change in important ways in the 20th century. Study the impact on Indian Muslims of the First World War, and the resulting Muslim Khalifat Movement, which opposed Britain's war aims against the Ottoman Caliphate. See how Hindu/Muslim religious-political rivalries gave birth to the idea of Pakistan. x
  • 20
    The Civil Disobedience Campaign
    Now examine the second round" of Indian nationalist action against the British Raj. Witness the effects on India of the global economic depression after 1929, which triggered the Civil Disobedience Campaign, a massive boycotting of British goods, services, and institutions. Assess the Raj's countertactic of extending constitutional concessions to stem nationalist agitation." x
  • 21
    Britain and Its Empire in the 1940s
    Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor. Study the resulting Quit India Movement, the largest uprising against the British since 1857, and the events of the war's aftermath that set the stage for the end of 200 years of colonial rule. x
  • 22
    The Raj on Its Knees (1945-1947)
    Investigate the increasing levels of dissent, mutiny, and agrarian suffering and unrest that followed World War II. Chart the astonishing rise of the Muslim League after 1940, its presence in the negotiations for independence, and the League's actions in key provinces that sparked terrible communal violence in the Raj's final days. x
  • 23
    A Split India: Negotiating Independence
    Examine the factors in Britain's decision to quit" India. Take account of the final negotiations between the National Congress, the Muslim League, and the British, noting the contrasting visions of an independent India held by the Congress and the League. Grasp how Hindu-Muslim violence affected the ultimate partition of India and Pakistan." x
  • 24
    Reflections on Postcolonial India
    Learn about the harrowing events following Partition, which saw widespread killings and the largest displacement of human populations in history. Assess what the events of 1947 meant for the Indian National Congress, Pakistanis, and the British. Finally, reflect on the lasting legacy of the British Raj and its rule of India. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Illustrations and photographs
  • Questions to consider
  • Suggested reading

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Your professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit

About Your Professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
Hayden J. Bellenoit is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating summa cum laude in History and Economics from Wheaton College, he attended Oxford University, where he completed his master of studies in Historical Research and his doctor of philosophy in Modern History, focusing on late colonial India. While studying at Oxford, Dr. Bellenoit spent a year in India conducting research in...
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Reviews

A History of British India is rated 3.6 out of 5 by 51.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor delivery and a bit polemical The lecturer certainly knows his stuff but the style is rather bland and he seems to consistently be trying to make whatever the British happened to do sound bad. Don't get me wrong. He's often right. But it just doesn't come across as an objective history. For example, he argues that the codification of law made things more rigid and strict than they had been before. No doubt true. The example he gives is 'blood money' being able to make up for murder in the older, less formal system. Wait, is that really better? So wealthy people would get away with murder more than poor people (something that lamentably happens even with strict law)? The many times he does this and the overall tone make this a rather dull affair, unfortunately.
Date published: 2018-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and focused overview of the British Raj Every lecture was packed with information and ideas by a professor who clearly knows his subject matter. I especially liked his style which identified key themes he was going to cover and which organized his presentation. He frequently identified differing interpretations given to the subject matter and made a major effort not to oversimplify a very complex history. Over all, a really well done and enjoyable course.
Date published: 2018-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I found the lectures most interesting. I am pleased to have bought the ssries.
Date published: 2018-09-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from So boring Not at all what I expected. Many chapter titles led me to believe I would learn about the lives of the various castes. Not at all. I am as much in the dark as I was. I must admit I skipped some chapters and only listened to about half of most chapters. expected. I e
Date published: 2018-07-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lectures, well decorated and nervous professor I bought this several weeks ago and have been painfully aware that I have trouble with the professors discourse. I have been aware that although he is very neatly dressed, his nervousness with continuous motion of his arms and the fact that there are no even photographs of the regions discussed. My wife and I question whether we will be able to complete this course.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting Expose of Colonial Misrule Combine the opportunity to exploit territory, with a supercilious attitude towards non-Europeans, add military backing, and you have the history of modern-era colonialism throughout Asia and Africa in the course of the past three centuries. Having been born and brought up in a Middle Eastern country that was under British Occupation, I can attest to the veracity of the self-serving tactics and the condescending attitude towards 'the natives' described in these lectures. Railroads and other infrastructures were built, but by employing thousands of underpaid, malnourished laborers whose lives saw no improvement, with profit going to the stockholders of the foreign sponsoring institutions (whether governmental or private). The benefits of colonial rule that are touted by the vociferously critical reviewers of this course would have been achieved eventually by the targeted countries without the massive draining of their resources.
Date published: 2018-04-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The course reviewed England’s negative effect on India. The lack of caring reaction to droughts was just like England’s reaction to the Irish famine. The never understood local history. The 1857 Mutney was unjustified. On and on. Poor India. Did the English do anything well? You will listen in vain for a compliment or any discussion of a good. I did not make it to CD #2. I was worn out by the negative on CD#1.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Much Good Information, But Tediously Slanted There is good and bad in this course. On the plus side, the lecturer knows the subject reasonably well and provides much good and interesting information. On the minus side, if I hear the phrase, "Well, you got it" one more time, I may scream. He clearly lectures to undergraduates who need to feel "included" in the lecture, so the lecturer asks lots of unnecessary rhetorical questions. His bias against the British is palpable, and his constant references to their racism gets old very quickly. Most listeners will be aware of the fact that 19th Century attitudes were often different from our own, and that racism and enlightened self-interest are not unique to the British Empire; no need to beat it to death.
Date published: 2018-03-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from poor I wasted my money buying this course. The professor loathing for the British so dominates his lectures as to give no more than a biased history.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from History of British India More opinios, less factsn did not learn much, too many repetitions
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from VERY DISAPPOINTING I had been expecting - and hoping - for an unbiased account of the British influence on the Indian sub-continent. What I mostly got was a very partial and to a large extent distorted view of the history of this great land. I would be amongst the first to accept that the colonisation of many countries by the British of past generations created divisions and injustices which should have been avoided. I do not feel at all comfortable by much that was done in the name of "The British Empire" in colonial settings. What I do not accept is that everything bad that happened to India after about 1750 was caused by the British - and that it was caused deliberately and with evil and purely selfish intent. The British could not have done anything in India without the willing support of many Indians. No account is given of the countless British citizens who went to India to enhance the lives of Indians, not damage them. To say I found the content and presentation disappointing is an understatement. I have completed very many Great Course lectures. This is the first to occasion such a feeling.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Terrible One-Sided History Lesson I purchased this lecture series as part of a series of TGC on India. Having more than a basic education on this period of history I was genuinely interested in learning more about this period of time. Sadly, this is a terrible one-sided history lesson that has two goals: 1. Romanticize pre-colonial Indian history and Islamic rule. 2. Reduce colonial rule to over-simplifications of greed, ignorance and cruelty. Even a passing history of colonialism cannot dismiss the errors and at time crimes against people. But this series cherry picks its history and leaves the listener to think every colonial Christian, soldier, educator and leader was 100% evil while the various Indian peoples were a peaceful people without their own challenges cultural or religious diversities and rivalries. At times the lecturer will make mention of a more balanced approach to this period of time, by showing the other side of the history, but he quickly dismisses it as a passing thought highlights the colonial "barbarians." Sadly, this deep and important chapter of history is reduced to a specific historical position without real balance. On a personal note the lecturer does a terrible job presenting the materials as he is almost giddy as the lecture series ends and he can "put a nail in the coffin." Very disappointing!
Date published: 2017-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and very knowledgeable lecturer! The lectures were so engaging that despite a full time job as an attorney and contending with my family obligations, I managed to listen to all the course in 10 days.
Date published: 2017-10-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Oh, what the Brits have done! I just finished this course and while it might not be the most balanced course (all the courses have their biases) it was full of new information. I have to chuckle at the Anglophiles who berate this guy for talking about how the British ruined India. The Brits (and most colonizers) are well know for running colonies for their benefit and not the natives. Their justifications run as hollow now as they did 2000 years ago with the Romans. To say the problems of modern India are not in fair part the result of bad British policies is to be naïve in the extreme. I was amused by his "tell it like is" attitude in the last episode. All even handedness was forgotten. I agree his lecture style was not the best. Reading text and moving around was annoying but increasingly common and his constant hand jive was distracting. All in all, pretty interesting.
Date published: 2017-10-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very satisfactory overview of Indian history. My wife and I watch The Great Courses together. We found this lecture set very informative about a period of history that influences the world today. The Prof. was clear in diction, but spoke quickly requiring continuous concentration to follow. However, his hands should be tied into his pockets...the constant flapping was disturbing to my concentration. We were left with a deeper understanding of India, its population, and its struggles to achieve its position among the world's nations.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many new insights! My husband and I listened to this together on a series of long car trips. Before listening we thought we already had a fair understanding of the subject -- my husband lived in India for 4 years after all. But what was so completely amazing in these lectures was the integration of political, military, cultural, and religious aspects that contribute to a true understanding of history. Really outstanding!
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lot of little known facts I originally bought this course to fill in a void in my historical knowledge. How did a small Island nation take control of a large populous country like India. Professor Bellenoit filled many of the gaps plus presented the answers to many questions that I had not thought of asking. This was an excellent course. Finian Blake
Date published: 2017-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title is clear about what the course covers. I have been listening to this since it arrived. I listen to each lecture at least twice because they contain so much new information not covered in history courses in another former colony.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Potential, but Disappointing I have now watched more than 150 TGC courses. Unlike most of the courses, I was very disappointed in this one. Like the recent course on the history of India, the instructor just seemed to read his script from the teleprompter. In addition, his writing was certainly not at all masterful. After a while I just cringed when he asked a somewhat simplistic question followed by "You got it!" or "That's right!" as he often did in each lecture. Probably both this professor and Michael Fisher, the other instructor on India, are much more capable when in their regular classroom habitat. The closed-captioning was done very poorly as well; in one of the lectures the date years were almost universally incorrect, often by as much as a century, even though they were clearly stated. And in Lecture 12, a short section was repeated – an editing error in making the DVD. In my opinion, TGC has made a mistake in getting so far away from the academic setting of earlier courses. Good professors don't just read their lectures in their real life settings and they don't teach in a semi-circular room that they have to rotate around in to face the camera. Lastly, in my view the closed caption feature on the DVDs are done so poorly that they distract from the content of the lectures.
Date published: 2017-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very important topic because India is a future great power and the British period set India on the path of democracy and free market economics.
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A biased, anti-Western overview of the Raj I highly recommend that before you take this course, you take the “History of India” course, which gives a broader overview. It will also inoculate you against some of the misleading information given by Prof. Bellenoit. Listening to his lectures, you’d almost believe that India had been some sort of paradise, where Hindus and Muslims got along just fine until those nasty Christian Englishmen came along and spoiled everything. He conveniently leaves out the many clashes over the centuries which left millions of Indians dead, long before the first Brit set foot there. Obviously, the British made many mistakes during their years of rule in India. But Prof. Bellenoit simply doesn’t want to cut them slack for anything. If they built trains, it was to move their troops around. If they taught Indians to read, it was because they needed fodder for their civil service. If they took a census, it “created” a divide between people of different religions. If they stayed, it was bad; if they LEFT, it was bad. There is no problem in modern Indian history which can’t somehow be blamed on the British.Yet clearly (and the professor eventually acknowledges this grudgingly), India has benefited greatly from what Britain did to and for their country. And even worse were those horrible missionaries! Can you believe that they actually wanted to CONVERT Indians to Christianity? The horror! Perhaps the professor, despite his study in this area, doesn’t quite understand what a “missionary” does. Listen to the words that he uses in the chapter on missionaries: they “unleashed a chorus of contempt,” they “lashed out,” they “unleashed a theological assault,” and on and on. This certainly doesn’t sound like the missionaries I’ve met or read about, or heard about from Indian believers. The professor won’t even give them credit for reaching out to the untouchables; there’s an ulterior motive for that, too. The professor also tends to conflate Christianity with Englishness when it’s convenient for his arguments. He should know better. There is a lot of useful video content to this course, including maps, pictures, and other illustrations. The professor’s presentation is marred by repetitive hand movements, odd pronunciations, and other verbal gaffes (they “sometimes often” did something was one I recall). But my main complaint about the course is the one-sided presentation, something I haven’t run into since “The Other 1492” course, in which that professor also seemed to have a bias against Western Civilization. So take this course with a grain of Dandi salt, and be sure to give yourself a broader context than you will receive here.
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No nonsense history of British India Very happy to hear the unwhiteshed history of the British Raj from an American!
Date published: 2017-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! The professor was an articulate story teller and the course was well presented and captivating. It was, undeniably, a harsh and unbridled tale of exploitation of British India. Prof. Bellenoit unveiled it systematically, layer by layer. It must pain some of the Anglophils to hear a version of British colonialism that has not been whitewashed, distanced and dispassionate like those in our history textbooks. However this story needed to be told and Prof. Bellenoit need not be judged for telling a tale that his critics would prefer not to hear. They should note that he did not blame the British solely for the exploitation of their colonies and in fact made it quite clear that some segments within the colonies which benefitted under their rule were complicit in making the "divide and conquer" policy workable. He also gave the British credit for the successful practice of democracy in modern India. Certainly there is a great deal of India's history that was not covered in this course and I would like to see Prof. Benoit's take on other topics. Great Course!
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Biased and boring Very disappointed with History of British India. After purchasing over a hundred courses over 15 years I will be asking for a refund. Mr. Bellenoit's course is rife with anti- British and anti-western bias. For example he downplays Britain's success in abolishing satti and also partially blames the caste system on Britain as well. In addition, his speaking style is condescending and repetitive. The colonial Brits certainly had blood on their hands and used India to their own devices but a bit of historical context is required. On the brighter side, "A History of India" is very good.
Date published: 2017-05-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from This is by a long way the worst course I have ever purchased from The Great Courses. It is simplistic and superficial, with a style more appropriate for young teenagers that educated, intelligent and interested adults. It is repetitive, with the same words and phrases used repeatedly (crucially and nuanced, over and over). The same stories are repeated throughout the course at different times, and one entire section is repeated immediately, with a change in word from “colour” to “flavor” (perhaps the first being deemed politically incorrect). There are errors of grammar and history. “Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto” would not be called “Sir Bhutto. “A newly elected Gladstone liberal government appointed Lord Minto”, quite a trick given that Gladstone had been dead for seven years. Apparently, “Marquess Ripon (sic) took sincere interest in (Indians) between 1800 and 1884”, another neat trick for the Marquess of Ripon who was not born until 1827. We have “literal seas of people” (not very literal, me thinks), and on and on. Most of all, it is an extremely biased rendering of the story of British India, with the British blamed for every ill affecting the subcontinent, from poverty and starvation, to caste and religious animosity. The British are first blamed for leaving Indian society alone and not modernizing (because of a romantic view of Indian culture), then blamed for destroying traditional Indian society and culture by modernizing. He complains when the British did not spend enough on education, and then criticizes when they did (“only” 30% of the national Indian budget!) His understanding of economics is flawed. He describes events and developments—such as the 1930s Great Depression or the loss of civil liberties during wartime—as though they only affected India, and only because of the evil British. Apparently, Britain built railroads in India only so it could move troops quickly from one place to another to put down riots, ignoring the fact railroads were being energetically built around the world at that time. In discussing Britain’s legacy he gives no weight to common law and democratic institutions. He even compared the British to the Nazis. This is not academic argument and not appropriate for the Great Courses. (I rated one star only because the system will not accept zero.)
Date published: 2017-05-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Terrible Lecturer Interesting history, of which we Americans know little, or at least I did not. I'm not sure I agree with those who accuse the lecturer of being anti-British, since the British made some terrible mistakes in the later years of the Raj including economic exploitation, mass starvation, and a failure to prepare India for self-governance. My complaint is with the lecturer, as others have noted. I can't believe he teaches to students of the Naval Academy in the same style. It's always "Well why would the British do that", or "You might be asking this question", with a perfectly obvious answer. I almost gave up because of they style, but in the end the content was worthwhile.
Date published: 2017-05-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great history Enjoyed the lectures, but would have liked more discussion about the leaders who ruled India.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't Trust The Negative Reviews I was interested in this course from the day it came out, but I bought it because of the bogus reviews of the Anglophiles who expected hagiography and instead got real history from a professional scholar. After watching the course, I can honestly recommend the lectures to any student of history who wants a fair interpretation of British imperialism in India, warts and all. Imperialism was a nasty business, and to ignore its realities is to distort the facts.
Date published: 2017-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from British India I was interested in this subject and wanted to learn more. This course more than met my expectations, it was great. The course covered the 18th century beginnings to the establishment of an independent India in 1947.
Date published: 2017-04-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring & too anti British This course provided a solid (and I think realistic) overview of how a relatively small country (Great Britain) came to rule India, how Britain retained power for so long, and how this impacted the Indian Peoples. To make the course really great, I would have liked far more “anecdotes”. For example, I would have been fascinated to have a full lecture on how Tata Industries started and how/why the British let it grow. The professor also engages in a lot of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” with various decisions by the British Raj. Personally, I doubt his retrospective suggestions would have worked out any better.
Date published: 2017-04-22
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