- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (August 12, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312263821
- ISBN-13: 978-0312263829
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 226.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India Paperback – August 12, 2000
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When Robert Clive, a "harum-scarum schoolboy" not yet out of his teens, arrived in India in 1744, he found himself in the middle of chaos: English merchants fought against French traders, Indian princes warred among themselves, Portuguese and Dutch privateers plied the coasts, and throughout the country, anarchy reigned. Clive flourished amid the confusion. He quickly distinguished himself both in battle, showing bravery and unusual presence of mind, and in trade. The combination was profitable for his employer, the East India Company, and although Clive committed suicide in the wake of political scandal in 1774, he set in motion what would become the British conquest of India and the establishment of the Raj, a mixed form of government in which the English ruled through a network of Indian politicians and civil servants. Outwardly stable, the Raj was constantly under threat both by Indian aspirations to self-rule and by other imperialists' intrigues, notably on the part of Russia, Britain's chief competitor in what would come to be called "the great game." Lawrence James, a longtime student of British military history, offers a sweeping, and wholly absorbing, narrative account of the Raj, taking it from Clive's time to the era of Mahatma Gandhi and the flamboyant Viscount Mountbatten, the last British viceroy of India. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Even though James gives relatively short shrift to the period between the battle of Plassey (1757) and the second Maratha war (1817-1818), when the East India Company used arms and bribery to take over the Indian subcontinent, this is still a big book. But for what the British historian and author of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire wanted to do, it had to be big. James is a very lucid writer on a variety of topics, whether military, economic, social or political. His primary interest has been military history and it shows here. While not every reader will be fascinated by detailed descriptions of, say, military maneuvers of Sikh wars, these same details add intensity to the narrative of the Indian Mutiny (1857-59); the Great Game, that tortuous Anglo-Russian squabble over Afghanistan; or the doings of Subhas Chandra Bose during WWII. Opting against a simple chronology, James works in chapters on the position of Indian princes in the Raj, the differences between British and Indian sexuality and the romanticized, Kipling-esque vision of India that pervaded Britain in the early 20th century. There is a great deal about Britain here: the reception back home of newly rich Nabobs (a corruption of nawab); the British reaction to reports of the Indian Mutiny and the 1919 Amritsar massacre; the irreconcilable friction between Britain's devotion to economic expediency and liberal paternalism. In fact, some may find that the emphasis is a little too much on the "British" of the subtitle and not enough on the "India," but James presents a consistently intriguing take on a deeply complicated history.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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From the East India Company's conquests all the way through to the Partition, James chronicles British India's history at the macro and micro levels. Not only that, but Raj is accessible -- not Erik Larson-style narrative over history, and FAR from the crackling desiccated tone of the Oxford or academic-style histories that lay out names, dates, and events without insight into WHO these people were. James sketches major characters quickly with an eye for the little things that really stick in your mind (like Gough's "could steel"...)
I first read this book 15 years ago (random take-home from the library) and it made such an impact I sought it out again for a re-read.
rather than an insurgency. From my limited observation the British response to the Mutiny was very similar to the American response to the Iraqi insurgency in that in both instances liberal disbursements of cash purchased tribal loyalty to the government. Secondly I realize the author is a Brit but I was still amazed that he can conclude that the British conquest of India, despite the wholesale destruction of Indian culture and the deaths of God only knows how many Indians, was beneficial to the Indians. I would highly recommend the "RaJ" to
anyone looking for a primer on the British Empire in India with the caveat that this is an anglophile's version of events.
The book is highly informative. James loads facts on his readers. He uses quotes and anecdotes well. He is also even-handed in his treatments. The fact of the matter is: the British took power and maintained power in India for a reason. The United Kingdom was effective in using a "divide and conquer" approach to governance. Simply put, India is a region as diverse as Europe. The various ethnic and linguistic groups had different interests. The British used these differences to their advantage. (Imagine if the Indians took over the Roman empire and used the Spanish to control the English, and had the Greeks monitor the French). Technological superiority in military matters was far less significant than is commonly thought. Given the huge disparity in numbers, there is no way the British could have maintained their control without some form of acquiescence from the peoples of India.
When the Raj was wrong, James is more than willing to say so. He notes the incompetence and arrogance of British rule when it is appropriate. A sense of superiority among the British alienated the Indians and work against the long-term interests of the United Kingdom. Challenging the conventional wisdom, James criticizes the actions of Gandhi and Mountbatten in the 1940s. Gandhi never faced the cold hard fact that the Nazis were something far worse than the British and that there were important divisions in India that he could not simply ignore away out of existence. He also blames Mountbatten, in part, for the bloodshed that came with partition.
James's conclusion that British imperialism was something good for India, though, is a bit hard to swallow. It is true that the United Kingdom did made positive contributions to public life and it is also just as accurate that rule from another foreign power (Portugal, which arrived before and stayed after the British, or Japan, which threatened to take over in the 1940s), but no one wants foreign rule no matter how benign.
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The book has 6 sections that overlap at times.Read more