White man's burden : Daily Current Affair Article

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India joins Brazil and the US in an exclusive club, “Tier zero,” for hate speech and disinformation on Face book.


White Man’s burden is a duty formerly asserted by white people to manage the affairs of nonwhite people whom they believed to be less developed. It is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, about the Philippine–American War (1899–1902), that exhorts the United States to assume colonial control of the Filipino people and their country. American imperialists understood the phrase "the white man’s burden" to justify imperial conquest as a mission-of-civilization that is ideologically related to the continental-expansion philosophy of manifest destiny of the early 19th century.

White Man’s burden and colonialism at world level

  • Colonialism is a political-economic fact whereby different nations discovered, conquered, settled, and exploited large zones of the world.
  • Colonialism happens when people from one terrain establish or acquire, maintain, and develop colonies in another region. In colonialism, the colonizing power claims dominance over the colony
  • European discoveries of a sea route around Africa's southern coast (1488) and of America (1492). With these events, sea power shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and to the developing nation-states of Portugal, Spain, the Dutch Republic, France, and England.
  • The invasion of the North American continent and its peoples began with the Spanish in 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida, then British in 1587 when the Plymouth Company established a settlement that they dubbed Roanoke in present-day Virginia.
  • The first European settlement in southern Africa was established by the Dutch East India Company in Table Bay (Cape Town) in 1652.
  • In April 1500, Brazil was claimed for Portugal on the arrival of the Portuguese fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral.

White Man’s burden in the context of Indian imperialism

  • British economic interest in India began in the 1600s, when the British East India Company set up trading posts at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. At first, India’s ruling Mughal Dynasty kept European traders under control. By 1707, however, the Mughal Empire was collapsing. Dozens of small states, each headed by a ruler or maharajah, broke away from Mughal control. In 1757, Robert Clive led East India Company troops in a decisive victory over Indian forces allied with the French at the Battle of Plassey. From that time until 1858, the East India Company was the leading power in India.
  • Active steps were taken by British to transform Indian society and culture so that India could be hegemonized ideologically. The British tried to prove their benevolent character and they said that they were here in India for the upliftment of Indians (White Man’s burden).
  • To prove their benevolent character they raised following steps-
  • The Bengal Sati Regulation which banned the Sati practice in all jurisdictions of British India was passed on December 4, 1829 by the then Governor-General Lord William Bentinck.
  • Slavery was abolished in the possessions of the East India Company by the Indian Slavery Act, 1843
  • The Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act 1856, also Act XV, 1856, passed on 16th July 1856, legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in all jurisdictions of India under East India Company rule.

British India education reform and White Man’s burden

  • In pre-British days, Hindus and Muslims were educated through Pathsala and Madarssa respectively, but their advent created a new place of learning i.e. Missionaries
  • To rule in India, they planned to educate a small section of upper and middle classes to create a class “Indian in blood and colour but English in taste” who would act as interpreters between the Government and the masses. This was also called the “downward filtration theory”.
  • Calcutta Madrasah was established by Warren Hastings in 1781 for the study of Muslim law and related subjects.
  • Sanskrit College was established by Jonathan Duncan, the resident, at Benaras in 1791 for study of Hindu law and philosophy.
  • Fort William College was set up by Wellesley in 1800 for training of civil servants of the Company in languages and customs of Indians..
  • Grant was sanctioned for Calcutta College set up in 1817 by educated Bengalis, imparting English education in Western humanities and sciences.
  • The government also set up three Sanskrit colleges at Calcutta, Delhi and Agra.
  • Lord Macaulay’s Education Policy, 1835 was an attempt to create a system of education that educates only the upper strata of society through English.
  • Wood’s Dispatch (1854): It asked the government of India to assume responsibility for education of the masses, thus repudiating the ‘downward filtration theory’, at least on paper. It systematized the hierarchy from vernacular primary schools in villages at bottom, followed by Anglo-Vernacular High Schools and an affiliated college at the district level, and affiliating universities in the presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. It recommended English as the medium of instruction for higher studies and vernaculars at school level. It laid stress on female and vocational education, and on teachers’ training. It laid down that the education imparted in government institutions should be secular. It recommended a system of grants-in-aid to encourage private enterprise.

Racial supremacy Vis-à-Vis White Man’s burden (How true or False)

  • The initiation of the Christian religion brought many modifications to the colonies. For example, in Southern Nigeria, Christianity helped stop the killing of twins as the religion addressed equality and encouraged education for all people.
  • Colonialism had contributed in modernization of underdeveloped regions. Progressive technological equipment and amenities necessary for improvements in medical and healthcare services, building of railroads and other developments in transportation, modern education, all have helped in the development of the colonies
  • The implementation of the language of the colonial masters by the colonies have promoted unity to an extent in most multilingual and multicultural nations.

Role of Christian missionaries in promoting White Man’s burden Theory

  • The social activities of Christian missions were directed towards bringing about moral reforms in Indian society and helped in the emancipation of individuals including women from their age old superstitions and other social evils like sati pratha, child marriage, untouchability, caste discrimination etc.
  • British Parliament added a clause in the 1813 charter that Governor-General-in Council less than one lakh for education and allowed the Christian Missionaries to spread their religious ideas in India.

Learning for India and The world

  • Politically, Asian, South American and African states were to be united.
  • To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries,
  • To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest.
  • To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and∙ scientific fields.

Way forward

The addictive social media products that captured the attention of billions in the global south from a safe distance .They spent precious little in time or resources to truly understand the complexities and local contexts they were in the process of altering with their products. What is new with the latest turn is that Facebook’s critics seem just as clueless with their own post-colonial colonial savior mindsets. Whistleblowers and the Western media have exposed how the social media platform allows dangerous social media manipulation in developing countries and creating a new world order of Digital age, white man burden.

We have to spread awareness of fake news and anti-misinformation practices such as fact-checking.

Source- Indian Express, NIOS, NCERT

General Studies Paper 1
  • History & Society