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  • Published: 1 March 2007
  • ISBN: 9780712665650
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $27.99

The Ruling Caste

Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj



Acclaimed historian David Gilmour gives us a compelling account of the public and private lives of the Britons who ruled India.

For nearly 200 years a small group of British officials administered vast areas of south Asia. In 1900 just over a thousand civil servants ruled a population of nearly 300 million people spread over a territory now covered by India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh. It was, as Stalin said with a mixture of envy and annoyance, a 'ridiculous' situation.
In its time the Indian Civil Service was universally regarded as efficient, benevolent and incorruptible. Yet recent revisionist historians have questioned its competence and derided its altruism. Fascinated by the men who administered the Empire at ground level, in the districts, in the courts and in the provincial governments, David Gilmour has worked for much of the last fifteen years in archives, public and private, examining the structure of power: Magistrates and Judges, Residents and Political Agents, Lieutenant-Governors and Members of the Viceroy's Council.
His absorbing account traces their lives 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. He explains why they went to India, what they did when they got there, and what they thought about it all. 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.

  • Published: 1 March 2007
  • ISBN: 9780712665650
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $27.99

About the author

David Gilmour

David Gilmour's books include the prize-winning biographies, Curzon and The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa. He is also the author of Cities of Spain, The Hungry Generations and several works on the politics of Spain and the Middle East. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a former Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, he is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.

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Praise for The Ruling Caste

Beautifully written and endlessly diverting... Excellent.

Denis Judd, Times Literary Supplement

A book that is not only informative, but also lucid, witty, and extremely well-written.

Daily Telegraph

Based on stunningly exhaustive research in official archives and family papers, and written with tremendous wit, style and sense of pace, Gilmour's book is a masterful account of British life in India. If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to run the Raj, The Ruling Caste has all the answers.

Dominic Sandbrook, Scotsman

Masterly and fascinating.

Sunday Times

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