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Monday, Mar 10, 2003

liner notes

"The element of tragedy here is arguably implicit in the whole imperial project. Ever since Rome conquered and partitioned Gaul, the best-known colonial precept has been divide et imperaŚ"divide and rule." Yet after the initial subjugation the name of the task soon becomes the more soothing "civilizing mission," and a high value is placed on lofty, balanced, unifying administration. Later comes the point at which the colonized outgrow the rule of the remote and chilly exploiters, and then it will often be found convenient for the governor or the district commissioner to play upon the tribal or confessional differences among his subjects. From proclaiming that withdrawal, let alone partition, is the very last thing they will do, the colonial authorities move to ensure that these are the very last things they do do. The contradiction is perfectly captured in the memoir of the marvelously named Sir Penderel Moon, one of the last British administrators in India, who mordantly titled his book Divide and Quit.