Frank Fairfield

The Day the Raj Died

The Butcher of Amritsar: General of Reginald Dyer


Hambledon & London 575pp £25 order from our bookshop

The Amritsar Massacre was the biggest and bloodiest blot on the generally benign record of British rule in India, and by its long-term results effectively doomed that rule – indeed, arguably, the British Empire itself. Amritsar was a watershed: before it, imperialism was broadly regarded as a good thing by the British public, and even by many Indians – and, of course, by the rulers themselves. After it, confidence in the moral legitimacy, as well as the practical efficacy, of empire slowly ebbed away. The thirteenth of April 1919 was a momentous day: 379 men, women and children died, and it is astonishing that this book, published on the eighty-first anniversary of the slaughter, is only the second biography of the massacre’s architect, General Reginald ‘Rex’ Dyer. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter