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The Indian Mutiny: 1857 Paperback – 4 Sep 2003
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About the Author
Saul David was born near Monmouth in 1966 and educated at Ampleforth and Edinburgh University. His previous books, include Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (made into a BBC Timewatch documentary), The Homicidal Earl: The Life of Lord Cardigan, and Prince of Pleasure: The Prince of Wales and the making of the Regency. He lives in Somerset with his wife and two children.
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Reviewing the mutiny per se there is a great deal of dwelling on the few hundred Europeans killed, regrettable though those are. There is a great glossing over of the Indians killed. Even as per the author the Indians killed were 'a few hundred thousands'. Most historians put that the figures in millions. In the hagiography, which the book indulges in, there is no mention of Nicholson shooting a small boy who came to ask for payment of food he had eaten. The man was simply blood thirsty. Nor is there any mention of Hodson's correspondence with Zeenat Mahal, promising her and Bahadur Shah safety, in return for Rupees two crores. He also, when discussing the reorganization of the Indian Army, dwells on the measures to control any future mutiny. He entirely skips a discussion of Col. Skinner and Skinner's horse. Col. Skinner, born of a British father and a Rajput mother, raised an irregular cavalry unit, Skinner's Horse which fought on the British side. Skinner's horse was the model on which the Indian Army was reorganized. The officers wore dress with elements of Indian dress, including turbans, ate periodically with their men and held 'durbars' to hear grievances. The author seems to want a picture of British victory followed by tight control. The reality is that the British followed a more accommodating policy, including better pay and allowances for the sepoys, prompt redressal of grievances for them by the civil administration, greater fraternization by the officers, vastly better respect and treatment of the princes and a huge improvement in outlays for development. The British fought desperately to save India for the empire, because it was hugely profitable for them. However, after the mutiny they were on notice that their time in India was limited and the corrective steps they had to take made it far less profitable for them.
The Japanese and the Nazis, in World War II, did not have to pull their punches in describing the correct state of affairs. The Japanese referred to India in justifying their desire for an empire in China. Hitler, commenting on British condemnation of the Nazi atrocities, said "The hypocrisy of our Anglo-Saxon cousins astounds! Was India conquered with lily white gloves? Russia is our India".
There could not be a better description of the British enterprise in India. The Germans, after all, also upgraded the infrastructure in the conquered territories in Eastern Europe. They, also, were looking to their strategic interests rather than the needs of the territories they conquered.
On the whole, no matter what one reviewer, Jvalant N. Sampat, on Amazon suggests [Modern Mein Kampf is the title of the review], the author's text is a balanced, unemotional reading of the Mutiny and its consequences. Even Mr. Sampat in the comments section of his review concedes that he "may have gone overboard". This is to be expected in a world where India is now a power to be reckoned with and has issues with the hundreds of years [1526-1947] they were ruled by foreigners [Mongols/Mughal Empire and Ferenghi - Europeans...Ferenghi is also spelt Ferengi and, yes, this is where Star Trek took the name...Ferenghi was a bastardization of Franks via the Arabs and to India. Ferenghi were European Traders].
Nonetheless, The Indian Mutiny: 1857 is an excellent introduction to the subject and is reasonably fair to both sides. That said, many post-colonialists will take issue with the reading, as has been mentioned above.
Recommended for readers of history with a special emphasis on the British Empire and the British Raj as well as those interested in The East India Company.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.