PositiveThe New YorkerHow did the British get to be so blinkered about their own history? In Time’s Monster: How History Makes History , a probing new book, the Stanford professor Priya Satia argues that British views of empire remain \'hostage to myth\' partly because historians made them so ... Time’s Monster joins a dense body of scholarship analyzing liberal justifications for empire ... Historians, whether mythmaking or record-righting, draw on sources that are themselves shaped by historical pressures—and these, too, played a role in distorting the picture of the imperial past ... Satia joins Gopal, Hirsch, and a growing number of historians—many of them scholars of color—in trying to change [the colonial/imperial] storyline ... Satia, taking inspiration from the work of Urdu poets, calls on historians to step away from narratives of moral progress and seek fresh ways to connect the present and the past.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Dalrymple’s first achievement in The Anarchy is to render this history an energetic pageturner that marches from the counting house on to the battlefield, exploding patriotic myths along the way ... However well-known these events may be to some—thanks not least to his own work—Dalrymple’s spirited, detailed telling will be reason enough for many readers to devour The Anarchy. But his more novel and arguably greater achievement lies in the way he places the company’s rise in the turbulent political landscape of late Mughal India ... He has a particular talent for using Indian paintings as historical sources, a skill complemented by the volume’s sumptuous illustrations. And nobody sets a scene as well as he does, whether scoping out an enemy fleetthrough an informant’s spyglass, or watching the waterlogged bodies of famine victims floating down the Hooghly river, or roaming the rubbished and ruined streets of ransacked Delhi ... This story...needs to be read to beat back the wilfully ignorant imperial nostalgia gaining ground in Britain and the poisonously distorted histories trafficked by Hindu nationalists in India.
MixedThe New RepublicBenfey strolls through Kipling’s American years with the sensibility of a flaneur, pausing here over particular points of interest, turning back there for another look. The approach delivers memorable insights ... But too often Benfey lets go of the bright ideas that bob through If like a fistful of balloons and allows them to float away ... If concludes with an unsatisfying epilogue on citations of Kipling during the Vietnam War, which feels both too little (in terms of what it says about Kipling) and too late (leaping straight from the 1910s into the 1970s) ... What If makes clear, however, is that Kipling’s offensive politics must be understood as a product of American influence as much as British ... Anchoring Kipling in American history and literature shows how much more extensive and complicated the legacies of empire actually are.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
PositiveThe New Yorker\"The opening stories of At the End of the Century introduce Jhabvala’s remarkable economy of expression, devoid of sandalwood-scented, curry-flavored, bangle-clanging exoticism. Jhabvala sketches character, and by implication plot, in a few quick flicks ... Jhabvala’s prose does share Austen’s acerbic wit and a well-cadenced fluency, confident in the strength of syntax to sustain explication—and comedy—without flashy language ... It’s in the later stories in this volume that one becomes aware of how much triangulation pervades Jhabvala’s work. It’s not just classic love triangles, though there are many of those—best portrayed in the collection’s final story, \'The Judge’s Will,\' in which a widow discovers the existence of her husband’s longtime mistress. Jhabvala is an artful geometer, and she skews her angles boldly ... These stories, set primarily in New York, are among the weakest in the collection—or maybe it’s that by the time one gets to them the pattern appears formulaic.\
RaveThe GuardianOne of the pleasures of this immensely readable volume is its unapologetic emphasis on high politics, a historical fashion so old it’s new again ... Cannadine’s attention to parliamentary politics also lets him unspool the wranglings over Irish home rule, easily the most divisive issue in later 19th-century politics, and replete with legacies and lessons for the age of Brexit. Another satisfaction lies in Cannadine’s polymathic command of the cultural life of the period ... Cannadine has pulled off the hat-trick of commanding erudition, original interpretation and graceful writing.
MixedThe GuardianThe New Odyssey provides, in effect, his reporter’s notebook from the migrant trail ... Kingsley has been a determined reporter, and his book captures the remarkable range of actors involved in making this migration happen ... But urgency is a cousin of haste, and The New Odyssey misses chances at deeper reflection ... [it] start[s] to do for the refugees what British abolitionists did for the slave trade. It mobilizes eyewitness testimony to promote empathy, and through empathy, better policy.