David Gilmour

Colonial Conundrums

India Conquered: Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire

By Jon Wilson

Simon & Schuster 549pp £25 order from our bookshop

Favourable judgements on the British Raj are in short supply nowadays. We have come a long way from the time when Bismarck was predicting that Britain’s work in India would be ‘one of its lasting monuments’ and Teddy Roosevelt was praising the British for doing ‘such marvellous things’ that they would transform the subcontinent as thoroughly as Rome had transformed Western Europe. Even conservative historians now only hesitantly suggest that possibly or ‘on the whole’ British rule might have had some benefits, that it established the rule of law and preserved religious freedoms, and that it bequeathed a fine civil service and set India on the road to constitutional government.

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