Hugely researched and elegantly written, sensitive to the ironies of the past and brimming with colourful details, [Gilmour's] book has no time for academic jargon or pretentious theorising ... Large numbers arrived with their prejudices fully formed. But Gilmour comprehensively dismantles his friend Edward Said’s argument that the British were uniformly racist and domineering ... Gilmour is interested in human complexity, not in moralistic posturing. Perhaps that is why his books sell, and [oher historians'] don’t.
With The British in India: A Social History of the Raj, Gilmour, metaphorical microscope in hand, has written a broad-ranging but precise and intimate examination of the British men and women who served and lived on the subcontinent ... It is a finely wrought history of the British in India that does not really examine what the British did to India — or to Indians ... Part of the pleasure of this book is that Gilmour has clearly spent eons of time scouring archives for diaries and letters, and has a real feel for domestic life. Some of the best sections concern relations between the sexes ... Gilmour does not offer much in the way of assistance to people who may be unfamiliar with the workings of the British administration in India, or the contours of Indian history, but he is so wide-ranging and diligent that it almost doesn’t matter ... But some of the gaps in his story eventually become glaring ... [Gilmour's conclussion] is a straw man, and about as convincing as several of his comparisons between British imperialists and modern NGOs.
The [book's structure's] success owes as much to its simplicity as to Mr. Gilmour’s remarkable feel for detail, perspective and proportion ... The British in India isn’t merely colorful trivia. Mr. Gilmour grapples with systematic injustices and suffering and the frequent debility and loneliness of the Anglo-Indian lot ... Mr. Gilmour’s command of primary and secondary texts imbues these stock types with nuance and humanity ... The erudition, balance and wit of The British in India are in keeping with Mr. Gilmour’s superb Anglo-Indian biographies...
David Gilmour, in his highly readable social history The British in India, conveniently skirts that historical debate, finessing it with an a-bit-of-good-a-bit-of-bad conclusion, focusing instead on the human aspects of British life in India over three centuries ... He thus gives a voice to the distant denizens of imposing government houses, mysterious bungalows, out-of-bounds cantonments and whites-only clubs. In an uncertain post-Brexit world, this nostalgic dive into life during the Raj could provide timely comfort and a sense of a powerful, sepia-tinted past ... Gilmour’s narrative, however charming, cannot airbrush the ugly realities of colonial rule: the duplicity, greed and smug self-justification that fuelled British political and racial domination of India or indeed the economic looting of a once wealthy civilisation.
... impressive ... Gilmour writes about the viceroys and governors, but also about men and women at lower levels ... This is a rich and nuanced social history that does not treat every British footstep on the subcontinent as if it were a step on the way to the Amritsar massacre. That does not make it an imperial whitewash. Gilmour throws an interesting light on the massacre of 379 unarmed Indians in 1919, which punched a hole in the claim of British rule to moral authority.
Gilmour, author of biographies of Rudyard Kipling and Curzon, in this book draws on more than 30 years of research in the archives, and presents an astonishing harvest from diaries, memoirs, letters and official documents of the era, many previously unused ... All British colonial life in India is here presented in elegant prose, 350 years of battles and durbars, maharajahs’ balls, viceregal tiger shoots and Shimla shenanigans telescoped down into telling anecdotes and witty, skilfully sketched vignettes. The only problem is what the book fails to address...Gilmour has chosen to write about the extremely diverse lives of British colonials in India. It is emphatically a social history, not an economic or political one and, as he writes, he 'has not tried to … make a particular argument.' I found the decision not to engage in the current debate on empire frustrating, and it is a book that contains far fewer Indians and far fewer Indian perspectives than it should ... Though Gilmour writes about such men admiringly, we are left wondering whether these lives, even if led with moral probity, were in fact guilty of slowly ruining India ... however remarkable his achievement within the limits he sets himself, you still end up wishing, in the words of EM Forster, perhaps the best of all British novelists on India, that he would 'only connect.'
...he gives us just about everything one has ever heard of, or would wish to know, about the British in India, from what these expatriates ate–anglicised curries and kedgeree, with chicken as a backstop–to their painful separation from their children, who were sent 'home' to school at the age of five. Superbly researched, The British in India is authoritative and comprehensive ... Gilmour captures this peculiar existence in elegant prose and superbly evocative photographs.