• The British in India

  • A Social History of the Raj
  • By: David Gilmour
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 23 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Asia
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

An immersive portrait of the lives of the British in India, from the seventeenth century to Independence

Who of the British went to India, and why? We know about Kipling and Forster, Orwell and Scott, but what of the youthful forestry official, the enterprising boxwallah, the fervid missionary? What motivated them to travel halfway around the globe, what lives did they lead when they got there, and what did they think about it all?

Full of spirited, illuminating anecdotes drawn from long-forgotten memoirs, correspondence, and government documents, The British in India weaves a rich tapestry of the everyday experiences of the Britons who found themselves in “the jewel in the crown” of the British Empire. David Gilmour captures the substance and texture of their work, home, and social lives, and illustrates how these transformed across the several centuries of British presence and rule in the subcontinent, from the East India Company’s first trading station in 1615 to the twilight of the Raj and Partition and Independence in 1947. He takes us through remote hill stations, bustling coastal ports, opulent palaces, regimented cantonments, and dense jungles, revealing the country as seen through British eyes, and wittily reveling in all the particular concerns and contradictions that were a consequence of that limited perspective. The British in India is a breathtaking accomplishment, a vivid and balanced history written with brio, elegance, and erudition.

©2018 David Gilmour (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about The British in India

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Superb. Loved every beautifully read minute!

This very long and brilliantly researched book is about the individuals, Hundred s of them who left England and went to India for myriad reasons,. It’s not about politics or rebellion or the record of imperial British rule. Rather it’s about the people who, high or low in social station, speak to us through their letters and other written memories, leading the reader through a bazaar of forgotten history as it was lived at the time in its own context . Fabulous.

9 people found this helpful

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A Social history!

I just loved this book, loved and learned so much from the angle of social information it contained! The book helped me find commonality in my own 10 year expat experience in France and the Middle East!

4 people found this helpful

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Thorough, entertaining

This book is what it proclaims itself to be; a social history. There is little of the standard history books' descriptions of wars, conquests, treaties and the like. Instead, Gilmour goes into extraordinary detail about how Brits in the subcontinent warded off boredom, insects and maddening heat by playing golf, tennis, polo, hunting jackals (foxes apparently didn't do well in India) and other traditional pursuits. All told, I came away with what I think is a good understanding of this large population of "colonialists", their motivations, their satisfactions and disappointment.

The book would not be a good introduction to the subject as a whole, but if one already knows the broad outlines of the underlying history, it is a terrific fleshing out of that bare bones knowledge. At the very end, the author considers the bad name "Imperialism|" and "Colonialism" have in our time, but it is not a major focus of the book; it's more of a coda.

The text is definitely worthy of five stars. I have a bit less enthusiasm for the narration. I found Michael Page's voice a bit soporific. On the other hand, his pronunciation of foreign terms seems to me pretty darn good. All told, I found this a worthwhile and enjoyable listen.

7 people found this helpful

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Loved it

Not what I was expecting, as I missed the word "social" on first glance, but very glad for my mistake!

2 people found this helpful

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A Stunning Social History!

David Gilmour's work on India is unparalleled: erudite, lucid and learned. Everyone should read this book!

2 people found this helpful

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Pinkies Up

Fantastic story if social histories are your thing. The absurd British accent of the narrator is a Chef’s kiss. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting

A scholarly contrast to the disturbing story of The Jewel In the Crown by Paul Scott, a minor character in this book. Has memorable characters and a conclusion hopefully not too sanguine in the current days of Modi.

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Excellent history, surprisingly humorous

I really this book’s personal stories devoid of political commentary. The narration was superb. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. There were many times I laughed outright, and rewound it to be sure that I’d heard it correctly. It’s the kind of book that could make anyone love history, even something so dry sounding as the British in India.

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Just a string of unrelated incidents: no cohesion

I was really thrilled to start reading this--so much romance, adventure, cruelty, money, characters. And an intro when he mentions that one pundit said that England had four "episodes" in India: Adventures, Greed, Fear, Disdain, or something similar. Which sounded like an interesting thesis. But once past the intro, he starts relating a string of sentences that detail minute details about one character, completely unrelated to the sentence previously. To wit:
"India was attractive as an escape. A 14-year-old orphan named John Orwell, left the streets of London on a Clipper called the Emily Rose on May 16, 1782 and arrived in Delhi likely six months later, and went off to find work. Another lad, a 14 year old son of an Anglican minister who had very little income, sailed as a Cabin Boy on the Freddy Payne out of Bristol.'
HUH? So what?

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Enjoyable

Nothing bad to say about this book. I found it well written and well narrated.