[ilds] Retirement Age during the British Raj

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 22 13:48:07 PDT 2015


My sense is that normal retirement age in the U.S. has (always?) been age sixty-five.  But I may be wrong.  The U.S. Social Security Act of 1934 set retirement at sixty-five.  Dunno about the UK.  Edward Said’s point is quite tendentious.  It has nothing to do with average lifespan.  His main point is that “Orientalism,” by his definition, is an attitude, concept, or policy that enforces the will of the strong on the weak and that it illustrates Western/Occidental prejudices about Eastern/Oriental subjects.  It is also inhumane.  In short, the British governments retirement age of fifty-five is an aspect of Western imperialism, political and cultural, as Said’s statement shows.  By the way, Said was extremely hostile to Durrell, so much so that he refused to even discuss him in any serious way.

Bruce





> On Oct 22, 2015, at 12:15 PM, William Apt <billyapt at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> In the States the typical retirement age used to be 55 not that long ago, as late as the 1960s or 70s. Its likely a simple answer: people didn't used to live as long. And because people also didn't used to be as health conscious and exercise regularly, they aged or degenerated faster. 
> 
> On Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 1:23 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
> 
> Does anyone have an opinion why the Brits made fifty-five the retirement age for their civil servants in India during the nineteenth century?  In Orientalism (1978), Edward W. Said claims they did this so that, “no Oriental was ever allowed see a Westerner as he aged and degenerated” (p. 42).  Said cites as a source V. G. Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind:  Black Man, Yellow Man, and White Man in the Age of Empire (1969).  In a website, Sinn Fein makes the same claim in the same language.
> 
> My sense, however, based on my experiences in Singapore (which followed the Brit tradition of retirement at fifty-five), was that Brits (on the average) did not fare well in tropical climates and had high mortality rates due to heat, disease, and too much gin.  So, they retired at fifty-five because they didn’t have many years left.  By fifty-five, they were on their “last legs” and already “degenerate” in Said’s sense.
> 
> Compare Dane Kennedy’s The Magic Mountains:  Hill Stations of the British Raj (Berkeley, U of California P, 1996).  Kennedy writes, “That British sojourners had ample reason to fear for their lives is borne out by mortality statistics; the cost of entry into these new and rich disease environments was high” (p. 19).  I lean towards Kennedy’s statement as an explanation.  Does Durrell discuss this issue anywhere?
> 
> There must be a definitive and authoritative answer to this question somewhere in the record.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
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