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Customer Review

on 14 May 2013
Any book by Richard Holmes is worth reading but it has to be said that this is not his best book. I think the problem is the breadth of the subject and the decision to cover it thematically. I can see the logic but the consequence is that the large number of characters quoted drift in and out of the narrative leaving anyone not already well versed in indian military history somewhat adrift and confused. Nonetheless how the British came to rule their vast Indian Empire and how they want about their task is an absorbing subject. The military, both those of the British Army and those of the East India Company, were a central part of the story but are rarely considered in their own right. To that extent this Book fills a gap and gives a very good impression of what it was like to be a British soldier in India. It was a daunting proposition because if death in battle did not get you then disease probably would. For the fortunate few fame and wealth were the result and there were enough of them to ensure the lure of India never dimmed. Considering the comparatively short period of overseas service rotations in the modern army it is staggering to reflect how long a private soldier would spend away before returning home, 10 or even 20 years. No wonder the survivors found it so hard to adapt to life when they finally returned home. I have to admit to having more admiration for those times prior to the mutiny when relations with the local population were closer and many officers went native. The stuffier more paranoid and class based period after the Mutiny reads much less well to modern eyes.
An enjoyable read for anyone interested in India during the time of the Raj.
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