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Review

How The Ruling Caste Played

Casting aside anti-colonial truisms, Gilmour peeps into personal, official documents to present complex British motives and a strong devotion to duty

How The Ruling Caste Played
How The Ruling Caste Played
outlookindia.com
2018-09-28T14:39:15+05:30

David Gilmour disclaims any int­ention of exploring empire as a political institution or of ass­essing its benevolence or opp­­r­ession. This is a social history, brimming with human interest and anecdote; but its magisterial scope and depth make it a valuable contribution to the debate about imperialism.

Gilmour’s previous book on the Raj was a definitive portrait of the Indian Civil Ser­vice, dubbed “heaven-born” for their brilliance and incorruptibility.  Individual ICS officers figure in this book too; but the author resists the temptation to generalise about their motives. Rejecting the ideological stereotyping by anti-Orientalists like Edward Said, Gilmour works outwards from his research into personal letters and diaries, memoirs and official reports, which he rightly regards as the foundations of historical insight.

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