THE OXFORD UNION SOCIETY is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. It has been established for 189 years, aiming to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.
For this particular debate, THE MOTION IS: This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies.
Below is the full text [Edited version] of Dr Shashi Tharoor’s speech “Britain Does Owe Reparations“.
Madam President and gentlemen, ladies of the house.
I, standing here with eight minutes in my hands in this venerable and rather magnificent institution, I was going to assure you that I belong to the Henry VIII School of public speaking — that as Henry VIII said to his wives “I shall not keep you long”.
But now finding myself the seventh speaker out of eight in what must already seem a rather long evening to you, I rather feel like Henry VIII’s the last wife. I more or less know what’s expected of me but I am not sure how to do it any differently.
Perhaps what I should do is really try and pay attention to the arguments that have advanced by the Opposition today. We had, for example, Sir Richard Ottaway suggesting — challenging the very idea that it could be argued that the economic situation of the colonies was actually worsened by the experience of British colonialism.
Well I stand to offer you the Indian example, Sir Richard. India share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23%. By the time the British left it was down to below 4%. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain.