India under the Victorian Raj

It is hard to believe that, during the Victorian Raj period in India, 350 million people were governed by barely 1000 British civil servants, covering territory that alongside India included Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma.  How on earth did they do it?

The Ruling Caste, by David Gilmour, makes no attempt to assess the impact of colonialism nor make a commentary on the ethics of such enterprise. His focus is entirely on the nuts and bolts of how the British ruling caste were selected, trained and deployed. He takes individuals from recruitment to retirement. He explores the impact of the British presence on the day to day lives of the inhabitants, and gives us an inside perspective on the impact that the Indian subcontinent had on the lives of the incumbents (sometimes devastating). For instance, if people had been fully aware of the mortality rates amongst Europeans in India, I am sure that many would have opted for the dreary weather of Britain in preference to the malarial conditions of Asia.

Those who survived their 25 years service could retire back into the UK on a full pension, most dissolving into obscurity, some joining the ranks of the Anglo-Indian ‘bores’ who would endlessly try to entertain their friends with stories of their time in India, and others (about 10%) developing other careers, either in politics or public service.

A very readable and painstakingly researched volume.

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on July 20, 2012, in Book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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