The Men Who Ruled India
A book on the history of British rule in India, written by a British ICS bureaucrat. A distinctive Anglo bias, but only after reading it can one get an objective view of the Indian saga under the British. Our textbooks have a one-sided view. Demonizing the British rule almost in its entirety and eulogizing all Indian characters even remotely associated with the freedom struggle. It gives a warped image. Maybe at the school level it is not expected to have any debates on the merits and demerits of British Rule in India, but at least a somewhat balanced view is needed. Reading the book I have come to believe that the British did do a lot of things for India, foremost being the unification of India. a lot has been said about their policy of divide and rule, but anyways the Indian rulers were so fragmented in nature, insular in their outlook and puny in stature, that it couldnt have made a difference.
Coming to the 1857 mutiny . I will not call it a war of independence, which is the current politically current name for it since it was localized in nature and didnt have a broad based backing, the peasants were totally disinterested. Plus there was no leadership to talk about. A senile Mughal, a few Maratha chieftains: brave but not leaders, and a few usurped rulers : like the gallant Lakshmibai. The butchery and savagery in the mutiny from both the sides was unimaginable, first by the Indians especially the cowardly massacre of English women and children ordered by Nana Sahib in Kanpur. And then the equally brutal British reprisal.
Some advantages of British Rule which the book talks about are the improvement in the life of the peasant in the form of lower taxes , irrigation network, transparent land records, and rule of the law. Plus they gave us topnotch railway, police force , army and educational institutions. Admittedly there were faults in all , but it was definitely superior to what India could have managed on its own.
He gives glimpses in the life of many famous men like Hastings, Canning, Elphinstone, Curzon etc as well as ordinary Britishers who served as magistrates, collectors, businessmen, armymen etc. One can get a picture of the Raj in its full glory, plus an overview of life in the Indian hinterland away from the major cities of Calcutta,Madras, Shimla, Bombay etc. An informative and descriptive book overall.