22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2003
This is a gripping read of the events of the famous Indian Mutiny of 1857 in the India of the East India Company. The narrative of the actual famous sieges - Lucknow, Cawnpore, Dehli, etc, is fascinating and very moving. This book is also interesting for the depth it goes into of the causes, on both sides. I especially liked the look at the origins of the Mutiny, how certain Indian nobles were upset at the British putting a stop to their anarchic fleecing of the countryside - replacing it with their own, more organized taxation. Nothing is left out of the savagery of the Indians at Cawnpore when massacring the women and children who they had agreed to offer safe conduct to (a really harrowing tale), nor of the "Old Testament-style wrath" the British meted out in return. A fascinating book. I agree with the other reviewer who says this book makes yo want to travel to India. I did; the three books on modern India by V.S. Naipaul were especially helpful and cogent for other aspects of India on my visit, especially for the no-nonsense look at India's outstanding problems. But bring Hibbert, too, for this chapter of history. The sites of Lucknow and Cawnpore are marvellously maintained by the government of India.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2012
An absolute corker. This is how history should be written. Fascinating, funny, easy-to-follow and balanced, every chapter is packed with tales of amazing heroism or shocking barbarity (on both sides). Some of the characters who appear are unforgettable, like the meticulous and fastidious Sir Thomas Metcalfe "who could not bear to see women eat cheese".
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2007
I suppose the best way to describe it is to say that it gives a wonderful picture of the good and the bad sides of the British at the time. He discusses the change from India being run by people who understood the locals quite well, to a ruling class imported from India. In many accounts this is glossed over, as are the various attempts at correcting the mistakes made just prior to the rebellion.
As an account of the Great Rebellion itself it gives not so much a birds eye view, but more of a narrative view; anecdotes, narrative accounts of what happened, excerpts from letters, all help to draw a surprisingly detailed picture without losing sight of the overall situation. I think that is one of the best parts of the book, it has a good balance between a dry birds eye view of the situation, discussing only strategy and politics, and a overly detailed view where you lose sight of the big picture.
It also takes the view that this was not a nationalist uprising, not the first revolution, but an explosion of violence as a result of growing pressure against the old way of life.
The book does follow the British point of view far more than the Indian one, perhaps because sources for the British point of view are much easier to find. There are also some other slight flaws, the end is a bit weak, but this is a book about the Great Mutiny not the aftermath of the Mutiny, or, really, the Honourable East India Company.
Overall highly recommended, my copy is getting worn.
on 24 June 2015
An outstanding history book by Mr Hibbert. He describes colonial India, with the understandably increasing suspicions of many Indians, regarding the perceived intentions of the Europeans to westernise their culture(s). By the 1840's the wiser 'live and let live' attitude of the British in India in previous times, was being replaced by general feelings of racial and cultural superiority. To a significant extent this was driven by a revival in Christian orthodoxy at the time, as the Europeans sought to 'enlighten' the natives regarding the 'superiority' of Christian doctrine. This was never official Imperial policy, but a blind eye was turned to it by those in authority.
This together with the stripping/reducing of some native rulers of their power, turned India into a powder keg. The spark was then supplied by the equipping of the Sepoy's with the new Enfield rifles. The lack of trust felt by many in India towards the British led them to believe that the cartridges for the new rifles were coated in beef or pig fat, and were therefore unclean to both Hindu's and Muslim's.
The resulting uprising very nearly threw the British out of India. The only reason this didn't happen was because of the continuing loyalty of enough Indians to the British, the lack of coherent rebel leadership , and the incredible guts of the British troops who were stationed in India. Has a British army ever shown more desperate or savage heroism? For example, read about Havelock's 'flying column', as half a dozen infantry battalions (one of them Indian) speed across India in summer, fighting battle after battle, to raise the siege of Lucknow, and be both amazed and shocked as events unfold.
This is a must read for anyone interested in India and British Imperialism. When the book first came out it was described as the best single volume on the Mutiny, and I think it still is. It's very well written, shocking, gripping, and I fully recommend it.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2001
This is an excellent account of the 1857 Mutiny; Hibbert manages to convey something of what it must have been like to have suffered through the siege of Lucknow and the massacre at Cawnpore, at the same time pulling no punches about the British response, and rejecting (quite convincingly, and while eschewing emotionalism) the attempts in modern times to turn the Mutiny into some sort of independance movement - the rapaciousness of the local Indian elite (eg, Nana Sahib), insensed at the British encroachment on their revenue/extortion rackets, he argues, fueled the fire of the rebellion, along with those awful pork cartridges.
This is a compelling read, both for the events themselves (the events/massacres of European women and children at Dehli are as gripping s those of Cawnpore and Lucknow) and for the author's inquiry into the causes behind it. Don't be surpised if it makes you want to go to Indian to see the sites themselves (which have been preserved by the Indian government - the Residency in Lucknow is a beautifully maintained park); when I went, I met a Frenchman at the Cawnpore memorial church who had likewise just finished this book and had also felt compelled to see it. Now that's good writing!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2010
This was one of the first books to get me hooked on military history. It covers a significant part of British imperial history in what was a bloody and brutal mutiny / rebellion depending on your point of view. The author does the subject great justice albeit mainly from the british viewpoint - which is probably understandable.
on 11 June 2015
A good read, not in perfect condition, but complete. It gave a detailed account of the events and facts that were new to me.
on 11 September 2014
Gift for my dad, who likes to read historical tomes on world history
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2001
As the other reviews say, it is good stuff. He pulls together different sources brilliantly and weaves it into a compelling narrative.
Mainly because of the extant evidence, though, it has got a totally British bias, and you don't get much sense of what it was like, say, to have been one of the people besieging Cawnpore, or mutinying at Meerut. Yes, you see first the paralysis and then the bloodthirstiness of the Brits from their own mouths, but what did the Indians think was happening?
More seriously, the last chapter is a great disappointment. So, the Indian Mutiny was "the swan song of the old India". What is that supposed to mean? Hibbert actually finishes the book by quoting someone else, which to me is a sign he hasn't actually thought it through that deeply. I was crying out for a deeper analysis of how the British psyche changed, how the Indian psyche changed, what in retrospect caused the level of brutality etc.etc. from someone obviously totally at home with the sources, but it never came.
So, yes, very enjoyable read, compellingly put together, but a bit disappointing as well.
on 13 April 2015
I like it. Tough language though!!