For nearly 200 years a small group of British officials administered vast areas of south Asia. In 1900 just over a thousand civil servants ruled a population of nearly 300 million people spread over a territory now covered by India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh. This absorbing book traces their lives from recruitment to retirement, from a jungle ...
For nearly 200 years a small group of British officials administered vast areas of south Asia. In 1900 just over a thousand civil servants ruled a population of nearly 300 million people spread over a territory now covered by India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh. This absorbing book traces their lives from recruitment to retirement, from a jungle to Government House, from a bungalow in Burma to a Residency in Rajputana. It describes their work and their leisure, their intellectual and their private lives, explaining their reasons for going to India and what they did when they got there. The result is a portrait more varied and complicated than that painted by their old admirers, and yet fairer and subtler than those routinely produced by postcolonial detractors.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-11-28 How much do we really know about the lives of the British in imperial India? Gilmour's deftly organized, encyclopedic account of the day-to-day existence of the members of the Indian Civil Service (ICS) upends the view of the British rulers as tyrannical, racist philistines, an image born out of such works as E.M. Forster's A Passage to India and advanced strenuously since postcolonial studies emerged in the 1970s. Gilmour, author of highly regarded biographies of Rudyard Kipling and Lord Curzon, assembles a wealth of light, amusing anecdotes on an astounding range of topics concerning the members of the ICS, including their college days, bad habits, job duties, gripes about the weather and courtship practices. Though lacking in analysis, the sympathetic general portrait gives a good insider's view of how these men fared in an unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous region. A firm understanding of the British mindset and playful characterizations of its idiosyncrasies provide entertainment and insight, but, lacking a central thread or thesis, the book often feels inessential. The flatness of its prose may make reading wearisome, though the breadth and care of the scholarship merit esteem. Maps, b&w photos. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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