Review by Choice Review
One of the most widely read and highly praised recent books on the British Raj is William Dalrymple's brilliant "White Mughals" (2002), a tale of love across racial and cultural frontiers. Dalrymple's larger point, in that and other writings, is that there was a road not taken in British relations with their Indian subjects. Perhaps. However, before succumbing to the seductiveness of Dalrymple's argument, one ought to read Villanova historian Kolsky's fine monograph, which painfully details the other side of the coin. Drunken, brutal, often astonishingly sadistic Britons who rarely were required to answer for their crimes (or, if they were, were reprimanded rather than punished) march through Kolsky's thoroughly researched, depressing pages. Most were "unofficials," and a very high percentage were tea and indigo planters. (Plantation agriculture brought out the worst in its managers, whether in Assam, Antigua, or Alabama). The law, constructed to observe and reinforce the distinction between white Britons and all others, became the shield of criminal Britons rather than their judge. Long before (and after) their "white mutiny" over the Ilbert Bill (1883), the unofficial British in India were almost impossible to control, although the best of the officials tried, which needs to be remembered. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. A. Callahan emeritus, University of Delaware
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.