Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2

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British Empire Series, I, 1 sqq. World History

316.

India and Her People to-Day

Of all the general features of India the most striking is not its size or even its vast population. Its area is scarcely greater than that of Arabia. Comparing it with a standard with which we are familiar, we may call it about twenty-five times that of England and Wales, a mere speck on the map by the side of the great peninsulas of Africa or South America. More respect is due certainly to its population, which is not less than one fifth of the estimated number of inhabitants of the world and ten times that of this country. But in this respect again, what is most worth notice is not the mass, but the extraordinary variety found within the country.

Climate

Looking at the range of climate, the different geographical features, the number of different races inhabiting India, and the babel of languages they speak, we can well say that India is not so much a country as a small continent. As regards physical differences, though all India is either tropical or subtropical, in the south and along the coasts the people are certain of a hot but equable climate, with a more or less heavy rainfall once or at most twice a year. In the north, on the other hand, there is a fiercely hot season divided from a piercingly cold one by a few months of rain of uncertain intensity and duration.

Agriculture

One part of India consists of vast plains of rice, another of small patches Of arable land cleared out of the forest or terraced out of the steep hillside. Here we find acre after acre of wheat, there long stretches of prairie upland producing little but scanty crops of millet. In one tract nothing will come up except under canal irrigation; in another, canal water brings to the surface latent stores of alkaline matter which sterilize the soil.

The racial differences

The life and customs of the people vary accordingly. In the matter of race, too, we range from the comparatively high type represented by the martial tribes of upper India and by the Brahmins and chieftains of the central tracts, to the dark colored denizens of the hills and forests which divide the continental part of the country from the peninsula. All along the mountain belt again, which bounds India on the north, and in the lower ranges which separate it from China on the east, the predominant type is that of the yellow or Mongolian races, which is slow in blending with any of the rest. A very brief study of these types will serve to indicate the wide gaps which exist between the different sections of the community in their original purity of race. . . .

The variety of languages

A further cause of the want of unity in the population is the extraordinary variety of language, which, of itself, is a serious obstacle to the obliteration of social distinctions. In the census of 1891 no less than 150 different tongues were sifted out of the number returned as current in India and recognized as worthy of individual mention in the tables. . . . What with real differences of language and local dialects of peculiar vocabulary or pronunciation, the native of any part of India cannot go many miles beyond his birthplace without finding himself at a loss in communicating with his fellows.

Religious differences

Finally, India lacks that important factor in human cohesion,—community of religion. It is true that on paper, at all events, three fourths of the people are nominally of one creed,—that which we call Hinduism. This, however, is but a convenient term covering any amount of internal difference, which deprives it of its most material weight as a "nation-making" characteristic. Then again the remaining quarter of the population left outside the general designation is not confined to certain localities except in the case of the Buddhists, who affect Burma and the Himalayas, and Sikhs, who remain in the Punjab, their birth province. The bulk of those who are not Hindus acknowledge the creed of Islam and are scattered all over the country to the number of nearly sixty millions. Our Empress accordingly owns the allegiance of the largest Mussalman population in the world.

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Chicago: "India and Her People to-Day," Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2 in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, ed. James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1908), 314–316. Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X23VHMRD9Z6MMU.

MLA: . "India and Her People to-Day." Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2, in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, edited by James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard, Vol. 2, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1908, pp. 314–316. Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X23VHMRD9Z6MMU.

Harvard: , 'India and Her People to-Day' in Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2. cited in 1908, Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.314–316. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3X23VHMRD9Z6MMU.