The British in India

A Social History of the Raj
Narrated by: Michael Page
Length: 23 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: History, Asia
4.5 out of 5 stars (122 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.
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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

6 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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Loved it

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

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoyable

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

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Arduous Listen

I very much wanted to love this book. I thought this would make a most interesting listen. Unfortunately, it meandered and was nearly impossible to follow. What I wish is the last 2 chapters could have what the book was about, instead of the bizarre rabbit tracks it goes on. Then it would have been a great book. Those last two chapters deal with actual life in India for British settlers, the realities. While the others do too, they don't congeal. One cannot learn from this book per say, but must have a knowledge of the subject to get anything out of it. The narrator does the best he can with what he has to work with. Will try again!

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating & encyclopedic

Can't recommend it highly enough. Heavy on primary sources, this book extensively examines how individual Britons of all social backgrounds living in colonial India lived, thought, and died. A comprehensive documentation of a vanished society.

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mehhh

The book over references names in an effort to give it credibility, but makes it very dense.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Let down

I really wanted to like this book! Definitely not what I expected!! I’ve been interested in British History, but not this book!

1 person found this helpful