By Jon Wilson

For the century and a part prior to the second one global warfare, Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent. Britain's East India corporation governed enclaves of land in South Asia for a century and a part sooner than that. For those three hundred years, conquerors and governors projected themselves as heroes and improvers. The British public have been offered a picture of British authority and advantage. yet underneath the veneer of pomp and splendour, British rule in India was once frightened, fragile and fostered chaos. Britain's Indian empire used to be equipped by way of those that desired to make sufficient funds to dwell good again in Britain, to prevent humiliation and probability, to place their slim specialist services into perform. The associations they created, from legislation courts to railway strains, have been designed to guard British energy with no connecting with the folk they governed. the outcome was once a precarious regime that supplied Indian society with out management, and which oscillated among paranoid paralysis and low moments of utmost violence. the inability of love among rulers and governed eventually prompted the system's cave in. yet even after its dying, the Raj lives on within the fake notion of the efficacy of centralized, authoritarian energy. Indians replied to the atypical nature of British strength by way of doing issues for themselves, growing corporations and pursuits that created an order and prosperity of its personal. India Conquered revises the way in which we expect approximately nation-building up to empire, exhibiting what percentage of the associations that formed 20th century India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been inbuilt reaction to British strength. the result's an attractive tale important for an individual who desires to comprehend the heritage of empires and the origins of latest South Asian society.

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Extra info for India Conquered: Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire

Sample text

Coningsby’s point was that politics in Britain was the only proper pursuit for a gentleman, and that empire in India was a romantic distraction. In real life ‘India’ was a career that did not link to any great national or social purpose. 8 Careers in the British Indian government were often transmitted from father to son. Some British elite families had four or five generations holding government office. Take the Stracheys, whose most famous son, the Edwardian writer Lytton, wrote a coruscating attack on the hypocrisy of Victorian values.

There were millions of public spaces in villages, towns and cities where the acts and beliefs of the powerful could be debated and challenged. India before British rule was not a particularly deferential society. It was not unusual for the preacher in a mosque to be interrupted in the middle of a sermon and be challenged to a debate, nor for disciples to correct their masters, or subjects to challenge sovereigns in their courts. Ordinary people were continually part of public debate in the street, in bazaars and at fairs.

With his family’s life so deeply immersed in talk of empire, Strachey was no anti-imperialist. He spent his early twenties writing a 400-page thesis on Warren Hastings, a work which saw its subject as ‘the one great figure of his time’. Strachey’s critique was that empire was banal, lonely, purposeless. There was no grand imperial mission; the British were merely ‘policemen and railway makers’. Strachey was filled with pity for his relatives, seized by a sense of ‘the horror of the solicitude and the wretchedness of every single [English] creature out there and the degrading influences of so many years away from civilization’.

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