A SUNDAY TIMES, THE TIMES, SPECTATOR, NEW STATESMAN, TLS BOOK OF THE YEAR
The British in this book lived in India from shortly after the reign of Elizabeth I until well into the reign of Elizabeth II. Who were they? What drove these men and women to risk their lives on long voyages down the Atlantic and across the Indian Ocean or later via the Suez Canal? And when they got to India, what did they do and how did they live?
This book explores the lives of the many different sorts of Briton who went to India: viceroys and offcials, soldiers and missionaries, planters and foresters, merchants, engineers, teachers and doctors. It evokes the three and a half centuries of their ambitions and experiences, together with the lives of their families, recording the diversity of their work and their leisure, and the complexity of their relationships with the peoples of India. It also describes the lives of many who did not fit in with the usual image of the Raj: the tramps and rascals, the men who 'went native', the women who scorned the role of the traditional memsahib.
David Gilmour has spent decades researching in archives, studying the papers of many people who
have never been written about before, to create a magnificent tapestry of British life in India. It is
exceptional work of scholarly recovery portrays individuals with understanding and humour, and makes an original and engaging contribution to a long and important period of British and Indian history.
The British in India is an exceptional book. It evokes those animated crowd scenes painted by William Frith, full of people going about their workaday lives, or enjoying themselves. These paintings enchanted the Victorians, prompting them to ask: who are these people, where do they come from, what are they saying and thinking, and what will become of them? David Gilmour's canvas is British India and he provides the answers in a penetrating and vivid portrait of the British men and women who ran the show from the mid-18th century to 1947.
Hugely researched and elegantly written, sensitive to the ironies of the past and brimming with colourful details, his book has no time for academic jargon or pretentious theorising ... Gilmour is interested in human complexity, not in moralistic posturing. Perhaps that is why his books sell
This is the best kind of history: meticulously researched, elegantly and entertainingly written, and as wide in its sympathies as it is long in its reach
The narrative is studded with nuggets that illuminate the relationship between Britain and the sub-continent ... magisterial