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The ruling caste : imperial lives in the…
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The ruling caste : imperial lives in the Victorian Raj (udgave 2005)

af David Gilmour

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1732121,586 (3.84)2
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. It was, as Stalin said with a mixture of envy and annoyance, a 'ridiculous' situation.In its time the Indian Civil Service was universally regarded as efficient, benevolent and incorruptible. Yet recent revisionist historians have questioned its competence and derided its altruism. Fascinated by the men who administered the Empire at ground level, in the districts, in the courts and in the provincial governments, David Gilmour has worked for much of the last fifteen years in archives, public and private, examining the structure of power- Magistrates and Judges, Residents and Political Agents, Lieutenant-Governors and Members of the Viceroy's Council.His absorbing account traces their lives from recruitment to retirement, from jungle to Government House, from a bungalow in Burma to a residency in Rajputana. He describes their work and their leisure, their intellectual and their private lives. He explains why they went to India, what they did when they got there, and what they thought about it all. 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 their post-colonial detractors.… (mere)
Medlem:DramMan
Titel:The ruling caste : imperial lives in the Victorian Raj
Forfattere:David Gilmour
Info:London : John Murray, 2005.
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:****
Nøgleord:History, 19C, British Empire

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The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj af David Gilmour

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Read 2011. Good study of life in India during the peak of Imperial power, drawing back a veil on an era of high pomp. Full of good personal anecdote. ( )
  DramMan | Jul 22, 2012 |
After many months of reading nothing but airy-fairy novels. I thought it was high time to get stuck into some serious history again. "Imperial Lives" is a mixed bag, however.

On the plus side, It would be an excellent resource for researchers trying to find out more about the day-to-day lives of the British civil servants who ran India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I really enjoyed the level of detail and the copious use of anecdotes, which displayed an impressive breadth of research into diaries and memoirs (though the general reader would likely find such minutiae to be tedious).

Overall, however, the book's lack of analytical argument and its hagiographic tone leads me to dismiss it as a bunch of conservative nostalgia for the glory days of the British Empire. The author is not an academic historian, and it shows - he makes no attempt whatsoever to view the men of the Indian Civil Service through a postcolonial lens, and no voice is ever given in the book to the vast multitudes of Indians who found themselves ruled by these men. How are we to take seriously statements such as: "Civilians may have been racially aloof and even dismissive, but they were not racist in the sense that they considered racial difference to be permanent and innate....Their prejudices had little to do with race of the colour of skin. They were expressions of a self-confidence that may have been unattractive but was perhaps not unnatural in citizens of a prosperous country with a large empire and a long and relatively peaceful history of political development". I'm still trying to figure out how someone could be "racially aloof" and "dismissive", yet not also racist.

Along with Indians themselves, women get similarly short shrift in this book, with the wives of Civilians mentioned largely in passing, and being described in more detail only at the very end of the book, in a very slim chapter (which, curiously, makes no reference at all to Margaret MacMillan's book "Women of the Raj" - the definitive work on the "memsahibs"). The author even trots out the tired old cliche that "it was the women who lost us the Empire". There are many historians of women and Empire whose excellent work would surely have persuaded the author otherwise, had he bothered to read it.

In summation - while the research and level of detail is impressive, this book comes across as an uncritical, celebratory (and some might say racist) account of a group of professional men whom the author decided to rescue from historical obscurity. Its conservative interpretation leaves a great deal to be desired - surely we don't need more books about dead white men and their career exploits in far-flung lands?
2 stem Panopticon2 | Feb 12, 2011 |
I'm having the hardest time finishing this book. I really DO want to read it, it just keeps putting me to sleep!! Deep down I believe it is a good book though. The cover is attractive anyway. ( )
  denidecimal | Jul 7, 2006 |
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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. It was, as Stalin said with a mixture of envy and annoyance, a 'ridiculous' situation.In its time the Indian Civil Service was universally regarded as efficient, benevolent and incorruptible. Yet recent revisionist historians have questioned its competence and derided its altruism. Fascinated by the men who administered the Empire at ground level, in the districts, in the courts and in the provincial governments, David Gilmour has worked for much of the last fifteen years in archives, public and private, examining the structure of power- Magistrates and Judges, Residents and Political Agents, Lieutenant-Governors and Members of the Viceroy's Council.His absorbing account traces their lives from recruitment to retirement, from jungle to Government House, from a bungalow in Burma to a residency in Rajputana. He describes their work and their leisure, their intellectual and their private lives. He explains why they went to India, what they did when they got there, and what they thought about it all. 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 their post-colonial detractors.

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