. A Teaching Tool for High School English Language Arts or Global History Teachers by Evan Mantyk . Background of Kipling and British India Rudyard Kipling The poet, Rudyard Kipling, was born in British India in 1865 and spent much of his life there. He produced many works of fiction and prose set there, the most famous being the Jungle Book. The British Empire is generally recognized as having been a force for good in India through the 19th century and arguably beyond. When India was given independence from the British Empire and partitioned in 1947, the devastation that the British had warned of came to fruition: around 1 million died when Muslims fought against Hindus and other groups. The law and order brought by British rule, known as the British Raj, were no more. There were, of course, at least two sides to how people viewed the British Raj. Introduce students to the complexities of the situation with Dadabhai Naoroji’s piece on the benefits and detriments of British rule. Naoroji was a founding member of the Indian National Congress and the first Asian to serve as a Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, 1892-1895. . Background of the Poem “The White Man’s Burden” was written in 1899, at a time when imperialism was still a perfectly normal and healthy way of ensuring the survival and prosperity of one’s nation or empire. Particularly, this was before World War II and the Holocaust, which was enabled by the rise of Nazi German imperialism. (It is important to note here that Nazi German imperialism was ideologically driven by social Darwinism, part of the underpinnings of communism.) Kipling wrote “White Man’s Burden” as a response to the American takeover of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898. The phrase that forms the poem's title and refrain, “White Man’s burden,” is a metaphor for the tremendous hardship and responsibility of carrying out effective and positive imperialism. Representing imperialist Britain, the narrator is speaking like an older, wiser brother to his new imperialist younger brother, America, explaining what difficulties lie ahead on this path. . The White Man’s Burden by Rudyard Kipling, 1899 Take up the White Man’s burden— __Send forth the best ye breed— Go bind your sons to exile__To serve your captives’ need;To wait in heavy harness,__On fluttered folk and wild— Your new-caught, sullen peoples, __Half-devil and half-child. Take up the White Man’s burden—__In patience to abide, To veil the threat of terror __And check the show of pride; By open speech and simple,__A hundred times made plainTo seek another’s profit,__And work another’s gain. Take up the White Man’s burden—__The savage wars of peace—Fill full the mouth of Famine __And bid the sickness cease; And when your goal is nearest__The end for others sought,Watch sloth and heathen Folly __Bring all your hopes to naught. Take up the White Man’s burden—__No tawdry rule of kings, But toil of serf and sweeper— __The tale of common things.The ports ye shall not enter,__The roads ye shall not tread,Go mark them with your living,__And mark them with your dead. Take up the White Man’s burden—__And reap his old reward:The blame of those ye better,__The hate of those ye guard—The cry of hosts ye humor__(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—“Why brought he us from bondage, __Our loved Egyptian night?”* Take up the White Man’s burden—__Ye dare not stoop to less—Nor call too loud on Freedom__To cloak your weariness;By all ye cry or whisper,__By all ye leave or do,The silent, sullen peoples__Shall weigh your gods and you. Take up the White Man’s burden—__Have done with childish days—The lightly proffered laurel, __The easy, ungrudged praise.Comes now, to search your manhood__Through all the thankless yearsCold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,__The judgment of your peers! . *quote: reference to Moses bringing Jews out of slavery in Egypt. The fictitious quote seems to suggest that the Jewish slaves are angry at Moses for leading them out of more comfort in Egypt into the wild desert, where they are free but suffer through 40 years of wandering. A printable version of the poem with line numbers can be obtained here: White Man's Burden Rudyard Kipling . Question for Students What are three ways that the British had to suffer while ruling over the natives of India, according to the poem? You may quote, but make sure to also write in your own words for each of the three ways. Answers will vary. Sample answers: “Send forth the best ye breed— / Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need” (lines2-4): Many of the best and brightest young men of England were sent to run the Empire in various locations around the world, including faraway places like India, which was “the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire.” Back then, before air travel that would mean weeks or months of travel by boat and had a similar feeling to exile from one’s home. These men might go to India for years at a time without returning. “The blame of those ye better, / The hate of those ye guard” (lines 35-36): Although the British did much good in India, as discussed in the Naoroji reading, they naturally took much criticism based on the fact that they were a minority ruling a majority. Such criticism should, ideally, be based on the merit and character of one's rule rather than categorically applied. It is good to note here that some Indians have praised the British for ruling better than the Mughals (who were invading Muslim Persians and also a ruling minority in Hindu-dominated India.) “Fill full the mouth of Famine / And bid the sickness cease” (lines 11-12): This may seem confusing. Did not the British cause famine in India? Indeed, there is some blame to be had for the inevitable failures of a command economy the size of the British Empire ("the sun never sets on the British Empire"), but such blame should again not be categorical. We cannot observe all of the famines or epidemics that did not happen and that very likely could have happened. The British were in charge and it was their responsibility, day and night, to look out for the best interests of India and the Indian people, to protect India, and to make sure its people are healthy, strong, and, to a degree, happy. Consider for a moment too that India was likely the second most populous nation on earth at that time. Such was the weighty yoke---"the White Man's burden"---of the British imperialist. . Additional Resources Publication History, Background, and Notes on the Text, from the Kipling Society. "Rudyard Kipling and the Language of Manhood" by Joseph S. Salemi, Expansive Poetry Online. "An Analysis of 'The Gods of the Copybook Headings' by Rudyard Kipling" by Ted Hayes, the Society of Classical Poets. 1899 cartoon created by Victor Gillam showing how Kipling's poem was used to justify American imperialism. .