A group biography of seven remarkable men and women who arrived in India during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to join the freedom movement and struggle for a country and people other than their own.
Insightful ... Guha’s chosen subjects in Rebels Against the Raj were mainly inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent satyagraha protests ... The result is a curate’s egg, with some biographical portraits proving more engaging than others. Those of the featured rebels who witnessed the drama of the independence struggle serve up more captivating tales than those who ran ashrams in postindependence India ... One of the more engaging stories is that of the social reformer Annie Besant ... She was older than Gandhi, which makes her interactions with the up-and-coming Mahatma particularly fascinating ... Guha’s previous works have distinguished him as an exceptional chronicler of India’s modern history. His latest volume provides fresh perspectives on the independence struggle that will appeal to those seeking more obscure eyewitness accounts. And since the book’s main figures were born outside of India, Rebels Against the Raj may strike a chord with contemporary outsiders who themselves have been seduced by India’s history and culture.
[An] admirable book ... [Guha] is a man of the liberal left, as can be seen in his attempt to liken his Western champions of Indian freedom to the foreigners who volunteered to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Some readers will be unconvinced by the analogy ... Mr. Guha makes plain his admiration for these seven 'white-skinned heroes and heroines of India’s past,' as he describes them.
In an age of bigotry and narrow nationalisms, Ramachandra Guha’s new book is a welcome reminder that people’s opinions, passions and life’s work do not have to be dictated by their ethnic identities or their countries of birth ... In Rebels Against the Raj, the biographer of Mahatma Gandhi and historian of India has chosen to tell the colourful life stories of seven white foreigners ... The author is explicit about the purpose of what he calls his 'morality tale' ... It is about the state of contemporary India that Guha is most aggrieved. He has been a vocal critic of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and laments the rise of nativism and xenophobia in recent decades.