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Plain Tales from the Raj by Charles Allen

Plain Tales from the Raj (original 1975; edition 1988)

by Charles Allen

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271841,869 (3.93)5
Title:Plain Tales from the Raj
Authors:Charles Allen
Info:Abacus (1988), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, india, colonialism, oral history

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Plain Tales from the Raj by Charles Allen (1975)

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As a child growing up, we studied all about Indian History, of course, and the tales of how people like Robert Clive entered and slowly conquered India. History books have not generally been kind to the British rulers, and certainly they have much to account for. Yet, there are precious few books that have done good service to unsung English people. John Keay's "Into India" is one such book, as is his "The Great Arc."

This is another such book. Of course, it covers much ground beyond India, South East Asia as well as Africa. These lands, and the times, through the voices of English people who lived during those times brings history to life. These tales bring those times to life, and give us a very good insight into how the English lived their lives in our countries, how they interacted with the local people, their hopes and ambitions, and finally, their thoughts when they departed.

This is an excellent book, and to be read by anyone who wants to get a glimpse into the British Empire beyond the tales of swashbuckling Generals, battles fought and treaties negotiated. ( )
  RajivC | Oct 13, 2013 |
This is the first book of a trilogy based on the personal and recorded accounts of residents of the British Empire between the world wars and the closing stages of British rule. This book is on India, the sequel on Africa is Tales from the Dark Continent, and the third on the magical lands of the ”Far East” is Tales from the South China Seas. These books are edited extracts from the British Broadcasting Company Radio archives. Charles Allen, the ‘oral historian’ for the series was himself born (1940) in India to a family of six generations who served in the British Raj.

Each of the chapters (of all the books in the series) are edited narrations from BBC radio 4 interviews with the actual raconteurs. Many of them, if not most, are now gone of course, so these works form their last true oral history.

Despite our rather jaundiced modern view of imperialism these fascinating accounts show some of the very positive benefits of realistically benevolent government. These voices from an imperial past offer insights into the motivation of the British Raj in India, including a sense of giving service, great courage and leadership and of personal sacrifices. But they also reveal the class-ridden lifestyle of relative luxury that was perhaps at the core of the eventual resentment and strengthening of the Indian emotional need for independence.
  John_Vaughan | Aug 17, 2011 |
How the British lived in the time of the Raj ( )
  GlenRalph | Jul 24, 2009 |
Many - possibly all the participants in Charles Allen's oral history will now be dead, and yet their voices come through clearly, full of reminiscence of a bygone age. This is a very readable and compelling book and quite poignant as it recreates life during a time which has often been romanticised. The truth of course is quite different, and athough there were privileges there were also hardships, and life was not always easy. There was also a terrible snobbery, and the conventions and traditions of various sections of society were petty and suffocating.
1 vote Heaven-Ali | Apr 8, 2009 |
Curious collection of memories and stories from pre-independence India. Interesting to compare this with the fictionalized tales of Kipling (not to mention Harry Flashman) and my own visits to modern India.
  jjones42 | Dec 6, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
However, this oral tradition also provides some of the ammunition that might be levelled against this book as being a rather muted collection of nostaligic reminescinces of a bygone era. Indeed, the contributors do sometimes lapse into sentimentalism and see their role in India through somewhat rose tinted glasses. In addition, this book presents a very upper middle class view of the world, but then again most Anglo-Indians were drawn from this very class and I think that it is worth allowing these individuals their nostalgia in return for their highly illuminating and informative anecdotes about a period of history that is slipping quickly from human experience and memory.

Has the (non-series) sequel

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To the men, women and children, British, Anglo-Indian and Indian who were the British Raj in India
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The Shrine of the 'Baba-log' She will be zealous in guarding her children from promiscuous intimacy with the native servants, whose propensity to worship at the shrine of the Baba-log is unhappily apt to demoralize the small gods and goddesses they serve....The sooner after the fifth year a child can leave India, the better for its future welfare. One after one the babies grow into companionable children. One after one Englan claims them, till the mother's heart and house are left unto her desolate. Maud Diver The Englishwoman in India 1909 'I grew up in bright sunshine, I grew up with tremendous space, I grew up with animals, I grew up with excitement, I grew up believing that white people were superior.'
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This work gathers together Charles Allen's best loved books on the British experience across the Empire. These vivid stories and recollections give an evocative and unique glimpse into the lost days of the Empire across India, Africa and the territories fringing the South China Sea.… (more)

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