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The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj [Kindle Edition]

Anne de Courcy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The adventurous young women who sailed to India during the Raj in search of husbands.

From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain's best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband. They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold.

For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time. By the early 20th century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas and gymkhanas, with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja's palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent. But after the honeymoon, life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company, and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival.

Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.

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Product Description


Fascinating, although the narrative is over-romantic. (OLDIE Rachel Redford)

Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is spiced with countless personal anecdotes and reminiscences. (INDEPENDENT ONLINE)

Book Description

The untold stories of the young women who went out to India during the Raj in search of husbands. Unabridged edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2394 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition (12 July 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007N6VHE2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #37,609 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
108 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj 15 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have always loved Anne De Courcy's biographies and books about social history of women, including the excellent The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters (Women in History), 1939: The Last Season and Debs at War: 1939-1945: 1939-45 and I was equally delighted with her latest work, which looks at the rather bizarre subject of 'husband hunting' in the Raj. This book spans all the years of the British in India, although most of the stories are from the twentieth century.

When the British first went to India to trade and work, the men who left the country knew they would probably not return and married Indian wives or took Indian mistresses. As time went on and the East India Company and trade was replaced by government and the ruling classes, men were curtailed from doing this by various means which meant their children were punished by being unable to obtain good jobs and positions. Obviously, as men did not want either their wives or children to suffer through being married to them, gradually their only option was to marry girls from home - easier said than done as travel difficulties meant finding British brides difficult. The Company then began to pay passage to India of a number of willing women who were maintained for a year and expected to marry within that time. For young women, perhaps not pretty or rich enough to make a 'good match' at home, it was a chance to find a husband with better prospects than they could at home and women flocked to India, willing to try to make a go of it.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just how my mother told it! 24 Oct. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for obvious reasons - my mother (born Ooticamund 1908, living in Ceylon with her family in the mid 20's, met & married my father who visited in an RN Warship) was one of the kind of people written about. Her own mother's family went back at least two generations in India and all met and married similar families out there. Obviously, with quite a lot of background, I found it riveting, loved the pictures and thought the style elegant and informed. I wasn't concerned about the piecemeal nature of the memoirs, and thought them well marshalled and edited.

I only forebore from giving it 5 stars because I can hear my mother's snort from beyond the grave. She was very precise about the "Fishing Fleet"; they were girls who were sent out to India from England to Indian based relatives to find a husband. As distinct from "country-born" girls, who may (by my mother's, but not in her mother's time) be sent back to England to be educated, and who then returned to live with their families. The author seemed to use the epithet for all who met and married in India, including girls from Indian based families.

It also delightfully emphasised the tremendous importance of brothers in this whole operation - my mother often told me how important it was that her brother was there to introduce her to brother officers and chaperone her.

We used to laugh that my parents were reverse fishing fleet - she lived there and my father sailed out and met her in India, although they were married in England and she never lived in India or Ceylon again after her marriage to a Naval Officer. Undoubtedly a partial review, but I loved it and will look out Anne de Courcy's other books (some of which I have heard of, but not yet read).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story, well told 10 Nov. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A really good read about a fascinating subject. Anne de Courcy clearly did extensive research and it has paid off. The sheer boredom of women's lives in India hadn't occured to me before and yet they managed well. The men, although very bright, seemed to be only really interested in riding, polo and tiger hunting. Class was all-important, particularly amongst the wives for whom precedence at social events was their main interest. The British class system was only matched by India's caste structure, which may be one of the reasons the Raj survived for so long. Victorian values and morals appeared to have lasted until the 1939/45 war. Strongly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful research - terrible editing. 22 Jan. 2013
The amount of research done was huge, but the book was dull. Anecdotes/facts were jumbled together with 'stories' about individuals - but these 'stories' would 'end' with no resolution and I found myself reading another anecdote/story, which would end just as unresolved to begin another anecdote.

After reading 1/3 I just wanted to give up.

Truly interesting 'facts'/anecdotes made into unbearable reading by 'fractured' writing/editing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive 31 Dec. 2013
By Mrs P D
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's a catalogue of girls telling about their time in India. It was interesting to read some of the facts but was all a bit repetitive. There were so many facts it was difficult to remember whether you'd read about that particular girl before. Not a novel but a diary of facts. I'd be reluctant to recommend this book as I think some would find it quite boring.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Days 12 Oct. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A thoroughly enjoyable yarn, particularly if one has served in the Sub-Continent. Although a lifetime ago, this book has brought back memories, and plenty of smiles.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
As always excellent informative historical book by Author
Published 21 days ago by S. M. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
took my dad back to his childhood 1930
Published 28 days ago by misto44
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 29 days ago by robert ward
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight into India & the British.
I never leave a book unfinished but in this case I made an exception. Most enjoyable to begin with but after 40 pages (approx. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very good
Published 2 months ago by David Phillips
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
The one disappointment of this book for me is that most of its sources are 20th century rather than 19th century but that is a matter of taste. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Stephen Bishop
5.0 out of 5 stars ... piece of social history which also makes it an excellent read by a...
A very well documented piece of social history which also makes it an excellent read by a top class auther
Published 2 months ago by C. B. C. Sharples
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than just husband hunting!
Not just about husband hunting but an excellent insight into the social life and mores under the Raj - the good, the bad and the ugly! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dennis Mills
4.0 out of 5 stars A pretty good evocation of the Raj
A pretty good evocation of the Raj, pity the writers of the recent TV travesty appear not to have read it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Crayfish
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting
Overall good and readable. Well researched, although written in a rather 'colloquial' style and it's hard to see the subject matters stand out clearly as indicated by the chapter... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth Currie
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