A solid work of social history, full of insight into how empire shaped Anglo-Indian culture.




Engaging study of the intersection of British and Indian lifeways during the long history of the Raj.

Who changed the most, the British who came to India and ruled for 350 years or the Indians who encountered and accommodated the British? Historian and biographer Gilmour (The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples, 2011, etc.), who writes here of Britons who “lived in India from shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth I until well into the reign of Queen Elizabeth II,” offers countless examples of an interchange that altered both. Some Britons found themselves in a kind of sexual Shangri-La; some devoted themselves to trying to win the people to Christianity, causing Queen Victoria to sigh that she “wished the Mohammedans could be let alone by missionaries.” Some arrived wanting to learn, some with an eye to having it their way. The author writes spryly of the eccentrics among the British contingent who are remembered in the phrase “going native,” including the explorer Richard Francis Burton, “whose research into the homosexual brothels of Karachi had been deemed too diligent for an officer of the Indian Army.” As Gilmour makes clear, many of the Britons were there by accident: soldiers who, having enlisted, found themselves posted to the Raj; or the children of mixed marriages left behind in hilltop orphanages; or more fortunate children, such as the actress Joanna Lumley, who carried happy memories of the place, and Norman Wisdom, who shipped off to India to escape an abusive father and found himself in an army band, where he found he had the aptitude for music and showmanship that would later make him famous. As for the Indians: Their encounters were sometimes accidental, too; though, as the author acknowledges, the imperial exchange was not always respectful or friendly, it endowed India with institutions that, as one Indian economist opined, “have served our country exceedingly well.”

A solid work of social history, full of insight into how empire shaped Anglo-Indian culture.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-11685-9

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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