Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Wilson, senior lecturer in history at King's College London, ambitiously challenges the image of the British Raj as stable, unitary, and fully sovereign over the millions of Indians it claimed to govern. Tracing the history of British power in India from the founding of the East India Company and its claim to monopoly power over Asian trade to the cusp of Indian independence in 1947, Wilson paints a picture of an unruly, fragmented empire riven by violence and unrest. British officials shunned open engagement with Indian rulers, preferring to sequester themselves in Europeanized enclaves and churn out reams of paperwork that served to cover up the messy realities of British rule in India. Wilson's major intervention is to resist the temptation to take the Raj at face value. "In reality," he writes, "the British proclaimed their strength and purpose when their authority seemed the most fragile," rendering largely meaningless historians' preoccupation with analyzing the rhetoric of the civilizing mission and other justifications for empire. Puncturing myths about the Raj, Wilson may understate the material and epistemological transformations occasioned by imperial rule by limiting his definition of power to political power, but his bold claim is ably supported by deep research. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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