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Britain Owes Reparations to India: Justifying the Claim Term Paper

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2022

History is one of the most controversial spheres in the world. It is so because it allows for offering the completely opposite interpretations of the same situations. For example, a war can be a proud moment for one country, while another nation can consider it the most tragic event. Simultaneously, the rise of an empire can bring higher benefits to the wealthy population, while the middle-class workers assess this process negatively because they are exploited. That is why it is a typical case that the United States and some European countries face criticism regarding their past attitudes toward other nations and peoples. Some experts believe that the US and Europe should pay reparations to those they oppressed, while others state that there is no credible reasoning behind this claim. The paper will introduce the example of Britain and India to justify that Europe and the USA owe reparations and refute a leading counterargument to prove this point of view.

Justifying the Reparations

To begin with, one should comment on the connection that was between India and Britain. It refers to the fact that this Asian country was under British rule for 190 years. This time was not prosperous for the nation because “there was no increase in India’s per capita income from 1757 to 1947” (Davis, 2001, p. 311). It means that local people’s standard of living did not rise under British rule. This statement becomes even more surprising when it appears that India witnessed cash-crop booms and exported opium, cotton, and rice (Davis, 2001). However, one can say that this period provided Britain with entirely different outcomes. The European country strengthened its economy, which allowed it to become the world’s leading industrial and commercial power and hold global economic supremacy in the 19th century (Parsons, 2019). It is possible to suppose that the colony essentially helped Britain achieve this goal because the empire is said to drain out “over $45 trillion from India” (Sharma, 2018, para. 1). It means that Britain significantly enriched its resources at the Asian colony’s account.

It is reasonable to clarify why the European nation followed the strategy above. According to Buck-Morrs (2009), that time witnessed as Europe actively dealt with slavery. Merchants and other wealthy people significantly benefited from the cheap labor force. This fact denoted that this practice had a strong position in that society. That state of affairs resulted in the case that racist beliefs became widespread (Buck-Morrs, 2009). Consequently, the British rulers and ordinary people felt their superiority over slaves and colonies, which allowed them to use the Indian resources as they wished. Thus, the British economic growth against the background of India’s stagnation and its consumer’s attitude toward the colony justify the claim for reparations.

At this point, one should explain what reparations are and when they can be claimed. Pasricha (2019) states that three conditions should be present to make them possible. The first requirement is that reparations should be made when a country subjected another nation to injustice and benefited from this situation (Pasricha, 2019). The second condition implies that the injured nations should have lost specific goods or objects as a result of this injustice (Pasricha, 2019). A real ability of the aggressor nation to transfer these objects to their country of origin is the third requirement to claim reparations (Pasricha, 2019). Since the current paper focuses on Britain and India, it is necessary to consider whether the three conditions are present in this case, and the following paragraphs will comment on it.

One should focus on the specific consequences of British rule for India. Numerous experts claim that British policy was devastating for this Asian country. For example, Hickel (2018) admits that millions of Indians died because of the European colonizers’ policies, including tax collection, subjecting farmers to hard labor, exploitation of local natural resources, and others. All these actions contributed to the fact that the local people lived in harmful conditions, which adversely affected their health and well-being. Sharma (2018) confirms this claim by stating that poverty and famine were typical characteristic features of the Indian colony. This state of affairs became possible because Britain relied on dictatorship principles to rule the given Asian country. As a result, the rule of law, property rights, and other democratic values were not available for Indians (Hickel, 2018). These examples demonstrate that Britain subjected India to significant injustice and suffering, while the European country witnessed economic development during this period, which has already been discussed.

Since the first condition has been met above, it is reasonable to consider whether the others can be satisfied. When it comes to specific goods or objects, Sharma (2018) cites Utsa Patnaik, a renowned economist, and explains that Britain took away more than $45 million from its Indian colony. In addition to that, the empire appropriated Indian gold, forex earnings, and food grains. Even though these do not count for specific objects that can be returned, it is possible to convert them into currency. Thus, one can say that the second requirement is also satisfied. As for the third condition, it can also be met. It is so because the United Kingdom has a relatively strong economy. It is possible to determine a certain reparation sum and divide it into smaller parts if the total amount is high.

The information above demonstrates that Great Britain owes reparation to India since all the three conditions are satisfied. However, this question is still a controversial issue, meaning that opposing points of view exist. That is why it is reasonable to identify a leading counterargument against this research paper’s topic and try to refute this thought. Thus, the following section will present the refutation of such a counterargument.

Refuting a Counterargument

One can deal with a few arguments that try to prove that Britain does not owe any reparations. For example, it is possible to state that British rule brought some benefits for India, and the introduction of the English language was one of them. This fact is said to have promoted the spread of democracy in the Asian country and made it a prominent player in the modern world’s economy. However, a leading argument against the reparations is that there were many aggressor states except for Britain. According to Hickel (2018), the Mongols, the Roman Empire, and others also subjected their subordinates to cruelties and injustice, supposing that reparations should be demanded from all historical empires, which is absurd. This point of view denotes that it is not fair and reasonable to consider the case with Britain and India in isolation from other similar examples.

Even though the claim above seems to have logical reasoning, it is possible to refute it. The most significant difference between Britain and all the other states from the counterargument is that no empire used the cruelties and injustice to establish a robust economic system that exists today (Hickel, 2018). Neither the Mongols nor the Roman Empire managed to appropriate their subordinates’ resources to enrich and strengthen their own economies that are currently in place. However, credible evidence demonstrates that Britain significantly benefited from the exploitation of India. This information indicates that it is not reasonable to rely on other empires’ examples to justify that Britain does not owe reparations to its former colony.


The essay has considered a significant issue of whether Britain owes reparations to India. This paper has relied on credible evidence from both class readings and outside sources to support the ideas. Furthermore, logical reasoning has played an essential role in justifying the argument. This scientific approach to the case results in the fact that the essay offers a valuable conclusion on the topic under investigation.

The paper has identified that a country owes reparations to another nation if three conditions are present. They refer to subjecting a colony to suffering and injustice, the loss of specific goods or objects, and the aggressor state’s ability to return these items. As for the example with Britain and India, this case meets the three conditions. That is why it is possible to claim that the European country owes reparations to its Asian colony. Even though some experts try to justify that the reparations should not be paid, the essay has identified a leading counterargument and refuted it. Consequently, the United States and Europe should only pay reparations to those they oppressed if the three requirements above are present.


Buck-Morrs, S. (2009). Haiti and the creation of Europe. In Hegel, Haiti, and universal history (pp. 87-107). University of Pittsburgh Press.

Davis, M. (2001). India: The modernization of poverty. In Late Victorian holocausts: El Niño famines and the making of the Third World (pp. 311-340). Verso.

Hickel, J. (2018). The case for reparations. Jason Hickel. Web.

Parsons, T. H. (2019). The British imperial century, 1815-1914: A world history perspective. Rowman & Littlefield.

Pasricha, P. (2019). Identifying colonial harms and reparations: A study of Britain and India. Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, 1(1), 24-28.

Sharma, M. (Ed.). (2018). How much money did Britain take away from India? About $45 trillion in 173 years, says top economist. Business Today. Web.

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