On this day, Thomas Babington Macaulay, a British politician, circulated his Minute on Education, a document that argued emphatically in favour of English language education and promotion of European learning, especially the sciences, in India, and would play a major role in deciding the course of colonial history in the country.
Macaulay’s minute remains an important document not only for its objective to start western education on a strong foundation in India, which had far-reaching implications, including on Indian languages, but also for its underlying assumptions about Indian “nature”, which reflected the typical colonial mindset.
“A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia,” he wrote. “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.”
The minutes were followed by the English Education Act of 1835, which would allocate the funds required for the new areas of learning.