Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Excerpt of the day

Wow, what a bitch-slap from the colonial era this is.

I have no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic – but I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works. I have conversed both here and at home with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.

Just a little background: the speech was given by Lord Macaulay, who was President of the Committee of Public Instruction, an advisory body to the British government on educational policy in India. It's from February 1835, when the question of what language was to be used to teach the natives - English or "native" tongues - came to a head. Read the whole thing, it's truly brilliant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish I had a response to this, but I'm afraid it's well and truly beyond me.

Also - I request that no one else post as anonymous so I don't have to differentiate myself every time. because we all know i'm never creating an account.

incidentally, this has become quite a pastime for me at work - look forward to plenty of comments going forward.

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