Born in India in 1865, Kipling was a product of late nineteenth-century British imperialism, an expansionist policy that justified the economic benefits to be had in conquering undeveloped lands with a language of paternalism and benevolence. In 1899, Kipling’s poem, “White Man’s Burden” (which was in fact addressed to Americans as they took control of the Philippines) revealed the racism inherent in imperialism and, historically, did much to tarnish Kipling’s reputation. The purpose of British imperialism in the second half of the nineteenth century was to find a solution to longstanding economic depression in England. The answer seemed to lie in the previously untapped natural and cultivated resources of other countries. Many people shared Kipling’s belief that the British were racially superior and that this supposed superiority obliged the British to impose their culture, government, and education system on other countries.
The propaganda of the day, openly attacked in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness (1902), claimed that the dark races in non-industrialized regions of the Earth would be given the lamp of progress. In truth indigenous cultures were destroyed, natives were often virtually enslaved, and local resources were exploited. However this situation was not initially the perception back home. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the British Empire controlled one-fourth of the inhabited land on the Earth. In 1877, Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. When she celebrated her fiftieth and her sixtieth anniversaries as queen (in 1887 and 1897), Victoria was heralded as the greatest of monarchs. Kipling believed in imperialism; he believed in the responsibility and duty of spreading British laws and their administration and enforcement. In stories, like “Mowgli’s Brothers,” the effect of British imperialism on Kipling’s storytelling is evident. He created stories and characters that are ruled by laws. While creating entertaining plots, Kipling used these rules to create tension, cause conflict, and provide a means for expressing lessons and morals.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 22, Rudyard Kipling, Published by Gale Group, 2010