John Keay

Little Tin Gods

The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj

By

John Murray 328pp £25 order from our bookshop

Organising an empire doesn’t come cheap, but in the nineteenth century the manpower required to run India, compared to the prestige of ruling it, was modest. David Gilmour quotes Stalin: ‘that a few hundred Englishmen should dominate India’ was, according to the Russian leader, ‘ridiculous’. The same point was made both by critics keen to show up the submissive depths to which India had supposedly sunk and by apologists keen to extol the Olympian heights to which its foreign administrators aspired. In the ease with which a subcontinent of 300 million souls was directed by a shoestring administration, the British discovered a justification for their presence, a warm sense of satisfaction, and some nasty notions of superiority.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,
    • 'The day produced countless stories of chance, of people taking one route or another without realising that the dec… ,