HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the…
Loading...

The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj

by David Gilmour

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
121299,547 (3.85)1
None

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 1 mention

Showing 3 of 3
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?
1 vote 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 |
Showing 3 of 3
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374283540, Hardcover)

A sparkling, provocative history of the English in South Asia during Queen Victoria's reign

Between 1837 and 1901, less than 100,000 Britons at any one time managed an empire of 300 million people spread over the vast area that now includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma. How was this possible, and what were these people like? The British administration in India took pride in its efficiency and broad-mindedness, its devotion to duty and its sense of imperial grandeur, but it has become fashionable to deprecate it for its arrogance and ignorance. In this balanced, witty, and multi-faceted history, David Gilmour goes far to explain the paradoxes of the "Anglo-Indians," showing us what they hoped to achieve and what sort of society they thought they were helping to build.

The Ruling Caste principally concerns the officers of the legendary India Civil Service--each of whom to perform as magistrate, settlement officer, sanitation inspector, public-health officer, and more for the million or so people in his charge. Gilmour extends his study to every level of the administration and to the officers' women and children, so often ignored in previous works.
 
The Ruling Caste is the best book yet on the real trials and triumphs of an imperial ruling class; on the dangerous temptations that an empire's power encourages; on relations between governor and governed, between European and Asian. No one interested in politics and social history can afford to miss this book.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Between 1837 and 1901, fewer than 100,000 Britons managed an empire of 300 million people spread over the vast area that now includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma. How was this possible, and what were these people like? The British administration in India took pride in its efficiency and broad-mindedness, its devotion to duty and its sense of imperial grandeur, but it has become fashionable to deprecate it for its arrogance and ignorance. In this balanced history, author Gilmour goes far to explain the paradoxes of the "Anglo-Indians," showing us what they hoped to achieve and what sort of society they thought they were helping to build. He deals with the real trials and triumphs of an imperial ruling class; the dangerous temptations that an empire's power encourages; and relations between governor and governed, between European and Asian.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
5 wanted1 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.85)
0.5
1
1.5
2 1
2.5 2
3
3.5
4 7
4.5
5 3

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 91,479,140 books! | Top bar: Always visible