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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars


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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 June 2017
Before I get to the problems, this is a masterpiece of compact historical writing. The prose is neat, the research is prodigious, the detail is amazing and it is packed with quotes from primary sources, with extracts woven into the text in every paragraph. Above all it gives a vivid feel for the fighting, the horror, the suffering, individual reactions, and the conditions including climate, food, clothes and transport. He gives good space to the plight of the wives, how they coped and how they suffered. He also gives an excellent introduction to life and attitudes in the colony leading up to the mutiny.

The weakness is that the book gives no strategic perspective of the war, no big picture. The focus on the detail was so close that throughout the book I had no idea where was the front, if there was a front, and if there wasn't, which parts of the country were in whose hands. The single appalling map was so small and unclear, I had no feel for where the battles took place relative to each other and how the troops were distributed, and was often frustrated by detailed references to the geography of a battle which the reader could not possibly appreciate unless he or she referred constantly to a historical map.

I would therefore recommend studying the overall course of the war on wikipedia or another book, then reading this one with a good series of maps open at the same time. Of course it's not the book's fault that at the time it was printed better maps could not have been including economically, so please take my rating as applying to the reading experience, not to the skill and work of the author.
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on 28 July 2017
looks good
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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.
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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".
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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.
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on 18 November 2015
An excellent and informative read..At times harrowing, for those of a sensitive nature..But this book details a way of life as it most probably actually was, Very far removed from the glitz of Hollywood and television film drama...An account written from Diaries, letters and official reports,by the people themselves, which paints a picture of the life in India in those times...This is not just a boring list of events, but a drama almost, which unfolds within its written pages..It shows the stark reality of life then, the squalor, poverty, and Idleness, the violence, arrogance, incompetence and brutality..
An absolute must on the to read list for anyone interested in Victorian India and life at that time.
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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.
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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!
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on 17 June 2016
Whilst the contents are very good the book itself was partially damaged. No great problem as I was able to re-glue it but it arrived as a collection of loose pages and clumps of pages. Well written but annoying to read as you need three hands. I'll probably get it in hard-cover as well.
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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.
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