The Ruling Caste. Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj (953036)


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In 1900 just over a thousand British civil servants ruled a population of nearly 300 million people spread over a territory now covered by India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh. In its time, the Indian Civil Service was regarded as efficient, benevolent and incorruptible, but revisionist historians have recently questioned its competence and derided its altruism. In this absorbing, extensively researched new book, David Gilmour traces the lives of its officials, from recruitment to retirement, from jungle to Government House, from a bungalow in Burma to a residency in Rajputana. He describes their work and their leisure, their intellectual and their private lives. The result is a portrait more varied and complicated than that painted by their old admirers, and yet fairer and subtler than those routinely produced by their post-colonial detractors.