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Казакова Т.А. Практические основы перевода. English-Russian.doc
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9. The british raj in india

Images of the British raj in India are everywhere of late. On television returns, the divided rulers of Paul Scott's Jewel in the Crown sip their tea in scented hill stations and swap idle gossip in the palaces of local princes. We can savour all the hot intensities that blast a decorous English visitor the moment she steps ashore to be engulfed in a whirlwind of mendicants, elephants, snake charmers and crowds. The nine-hour production of an ancient Hindu epic poem, The Mahabharata, has lately been played to packed houses and considerable critical praise. Best-selling books like Freedom at Midnight re-create the struggle of two great cultures, mighty opposites with a twinned destiny, as they set about trying to disentangle themselves and their feelings before the Partition of 1947. Across the country, strolling visitors marvelled a few years ago at all the silken saris and bright turbans of the Festival of India and, even more, at the exotic world they evoke: the bejewelled splendour of the Mogul courts; dusty, teeming streets; and all the dilemmas confronting the imperial British as they sought to bring Western ideas of order to one of the wildest and most complex lands on Earth.

Behind all the glamour and the glory, however, lies one of history's mischievous ironies. For the raj, which did not begin until 1858 when the British government officially took over India from a private trading company, was in fact only the final act in a long, crooked and partly accidental drama. Much of the British empire, in fact, was acquired, according to a celebrated phrase, "in a fit of absence of mind."

When the London merchants of what became the East India Company first sent ships to the East in 1601, they were not bound for India at all but for the Spice Islands of the Dutch East Indies, and the English traders who set foot on the subcontinent a little later actually sought to avoid conquest. Directors back in London kept telling them that conquest would only cut into profits. 'All war is so contrary to our interest,' they reminded field employees in 1681, 'that we cannot too often inculcate to you our strictest aversion thereunto.'

But India was still part of the fading Mogul empire, which a century earlier had brought Muslim administrators and conquerors. Just to protect its ability to do business in a land already riddled with fierce animosities, the company found itself forced to defend trading posts with hired soldiers. Before long, the posts became cities (Calcutta, Bombay, Madras) and their soldier garrisons, small private armies. As assets and responsibilities mounted, the merchants, who had come out as supplicants bearing gifts to local princes for an inside track on trade, gradually became soldiers, and then became local rulers themselves.

By the time the company was disbanded in 1858, hardly more than a thousand British officers controlled India, an area the size of Europe in which 200 million people — about a quarter of them Muslim, but a majority Hindu — spoke more than 200 different languages. By then, the company had carried home such Indian terms as "bungalow", "verandah", "punch", "dungarees" and "pyjamas". They had also imported back to Britain many habits such as smoking cigars, playing polo and taking showers. Most of all, they had laid the foundation for, and forced the British government to get involved in, what was about to become the most ambitious, and the most anguished, empire in modern history.