A change of pace for the authors, who have written extensively on Germany (The Fall of Berlin, 1994), but their history of...

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THE PROUDEST DAY: India's Long Road to Independence

A change of pace for the authors, who have written extensively on Germany (The Fall of Berlin, 1994), but their history of the British in India is just as good. The British government got into the act with the Honorable East India Company in 1773 when the company was baled out of a financial embarrassment. British rule of the subcontinent was always remarkable for the way in which a tiny civil service, some 1,000 strong, and a small army controlled a country that, by the end of British rule, had a population of 400 million. Equally remarkable was the loyalty of the Indian people: During the WW I, nearly one and a half million Indians volunteered for military service. By the end of the war, the mood had soured, in part because expectations had been raised as to what Britain's reaction would be. The history of the next 30 years, in less skillful hands, could have been a dreary tale of misunderstandings, mistrust, and missed opportunities, but it is relieved by the unflagging zest of the authors and their lively understanding of the frailties and foibles of the participants: Gandhi, part politician, part saint, of whom it was said ""Ah, if the Mahatma only knew what it costs us for him to live the simple life""; Nehru, who followed him and spent nine years of his life in prison; Jinnah, a brilliant lawyer who found in Pakistan his last and greatest client; and Mountbatten, whose charm rescued negotiations time and again, but at whose door the authors lay the blame for the haste of the British departure and the huge loss of life. They may be too severe. Something drastic was needed just to bring the arguments to an end. The authors may also err in describing this as Britain's proudest day. But their history is a stirring achievement.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0393318982

Page Count: 566

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998