Read The Men Who Ruled India by Philip Mason Online

Title : The Men Who Ruled India
Author :
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ISBN : 9780393019469
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Men Who Ruled India Reviews

  • Tariq Mahmood
    2019-05-02 09:51

    It's a subject which has intrigued me for some years now, how we're a handful of foreigners able to rule over millions of Indians for so long? Are the Indians inherently pliant and servile by nature? Or did the Indian see some clear benefit from the new master race? The author starts from 1600, when the East India Company applied for their first warehouse in Surat from a drunken and debauched Emperor Jehangir. One of the first differences to be noted by English ambassador Hawkins was the nature of law in India, Kings word was law and his noble men were noble because they were his favourites, and also that Muslim law ran only when the Emperor wished. But surprisingly, the English started working within the Moghul law like any other local strongmen of the day, the only difference being that their allegiance lay with their parent company based in London.The book doesn't disappoint for long as a base feature definition of an Englishman in India late 1780's...Proud and tenaciousHe feels himself a conqueror amongst vanquished people and looks down upon them.Indolent.A cool apathy a listless inattention and improvident carelessness accompanies most of his actions.Secure of today, he thinks not of tomorrow.Ambitious of splendour, he expends freely.Generosity is a feature of character.Minutely just and inflexibly upright even when prone to calumny & distractions.Matchless Integrity.Another interesting historical cross-roads was the fact that in the early 1800's, a hot debate between colonisation and outright settlement was waging in India. The debate was whether large number of Englishmen were to be invited settle the waste lands of India against the continuance of old education policy to educate the native Indians. Fascinating that opting the later course changed the course of India instead of settlement which could have resulted in another Africa or South America like India. It also demonstrates that colluding with the master race can have some benefits for the colonised races in the long run as opposed to fighting them incessantly. I also found it fascinating that around the same time education to the ordinary was about the same standard in England as in India, where the government policy was to teach the people to read and write only, that implies that modern education foundation in India and England was kept around the same time. This clearly explains the huge number of Anglophiles in India, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh.This book has to be taken with a pinch of salt though as it harps on about how good the British overlords were for India and Indians only, with little mention of the revenues made from the tax collected directly because of the new developments. For example mentions of great changes and developments are made with much fanfare but any direct reference to benefits to the Company profits is masked slyly. The author squeamish attempt to portray Sepoy Mutiny as merely an army rebellion is a case in point. If the Mutiny was organised by Brahmins than why was the Moghul king in Delhi dishonoured and exiled to Rangoon? Why were all Muslims exiled from their homes for upto a period of three years after the fall of Delhi if the Mutiny was led by high caste Hindus? If the Mutiny was caused by the machinations of the upper cast Hindus than why did these Hindus decide to form a partnership with an almost defunct Mughuls who should have been equally hated by them? As the author slithers and justifies the 'local' nature of Mutiny I could almost feel the brevity of the chapter as he obviously wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.Mutiny brought the worst atrocities out of gallant English, in one incident alone a certain civil servant Cooper bound and killed around 286 mutinous soldiers in Amritsar. These ex-soldiers all hailing from central India were having first being subdued by local Sikh villagers were killed in batches of ten by an unapologetic Cooper citing that this wanton extermination was necessary as it probably saved the lives of thousands in the long run. Similar argument was later made by Dyer seventy years later.Met the Titans of Punjab as well, Henry Lawrence, Herbert Edwards (Bannu) , John Nicholson (Rawalpindi), James Abbot (Hazara) , Lumsden (Yusufzai) , Reynel Taylor, George Lawrence, Vans Agnew and Arthur Cocks. Whatever their reason might have been, these select coterie of gentlemen with almost superhuman dedication and infinite amount of valour, were able to make lasting changes in the most arable province of India, affects of which can still be felt in the Punjab of now. The most significant park in Lahore is still Lawrence gardens and a whole city is named after Abbot called Abbotabad, now infamous after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Bet Abbot sahib never imagined such fate.By the end the author had made a pretty significant defence of the British takeover of India, and I stand convinced that all of the Indian colonised benefited from the 350 year relationship between the two. Yes Britain benefited from the arrangement in trade and commerce but so did the Indians, for the education policy and for breaking g the archaic traditions like sati, daughter killings and human sacrifice. But most of all they learned about nationalism, which helped them attain independence. There is an understanding of sorts between the masters and slaves, that both needs are to me met. The relationship breaks if either one of them is not keeping their part of the bargain.Also the way India and Pakistan got independence says a lot about different roads taken after independence as well. Hindus/Indians managed to construe a bigger country using democracy than their greatest leader Ashoka while Muslims/Pakistanis got a country by lobbying the British into giving them one. Funny how both countries choose to keep faith in democracy and lobbying even after so many years of independence!

  • Pramod Pant
    2019-05-14 02:20

    'Men who ruled India' could have gained a bit more of credibility by adding 'for 200 years' to the title. That actually is the problem with the Raj period. It is close to us, it is personal to a lot of people, both British and Indians and some tend to forget that the men who ruled 'India' go way back thousands of years. British Raj was merely a blip. The idea of India as 'a Nation created by the Raj' was orchestrated by the British to make the occupation comfortable for them. It was a fable. Travels and concerns of Shankaracharya conform to India of today as a Nation a millenium back. You read the old Sanskrit texts, like Mrichhakatikam, and realize that India as a Nation existed more than a thousand years back. Abu Rehan (Al Beruni) confirms that too. All this is the background against which Mason's book has to be considered and judged. Thus considered, and judged, unfortunately the real review has to be short. Mason is good with details and not so with conclusions. Nevertheless, please do read it for the references, if you are interested in that period of Indian history.

  • Sajith Kumar
    2019-05-24 06:06

    India has a tradition several millennia old, of which the last two centuries wrought more change than all the others combined. A great part of this last period saw the country ruled by the British, who first came here as traders, then accumulated military power for the protection of trade from brigands who arose from the unsettled nature of affairs caused by the political vacuum of post-Mughal era, and who afterwards found it expedient to set their own rules and administer the country. This strange combination of factors is unique, as the British were unique in their deals with the conquered. Indian mainland had colonies, albeit very small, of the French and the Portuguese. These colonies were administered as part of metropolitan France or Portugal, but India was always separate from the home country for the Britishers, she was a jewel in the crown – a thing to show off, but then to be safely tucked away from the reaches of a predator. This book is about the founders and administrators who made the empire and ruled it, till at last the educated Indians found their hegemony resentful and the ‘guardians’ left the country for good. Philip Mason (1906 – 1999) was himself an English civil servant who joined the ICS in 1928 and served nearly two decades in India in many administrative capacities. Don’t read this book to know the history, read it only if you already are familiar with it which is essential for understanding the background on which Mason weaves his web of personalities. This book tells the story of the personnel who built up an empire and then dismantled it themselves, right from the arrival of William Hawkins in August 1608 to the departure of the last platoon of the Somerset Light Infantry in February 1948, which has more reason for pride than shame, as the author asserts. This book was first published as two volumes in 1954, titled the Founders and Guardians. This general bifurcation is still visible in the two main parts along which this volume is divided. The book is pleasant to read, but the author’s wit is heartier in the first part. Mason reiterates one fact repeatedly to drive home the point that the British never ruled India with an iron hand. At its most numerous, the Englishmen in India who administered the country numbered around 1200 as against the population of 300 million.The first two parts of the narrative tells the story of how the English who came as merchants dug themselves in and assumed administrative control of Bengal, the richest province at that time, by the end of 18th century. We also learn about the excessive centralization of power and dispensation of officials at the mere whim of the emperor under Mughal rule. When the English landed at Surat in 1608 and wanted to build a warehouse (called factory in those times), no official in the local administration was competent enough to grant permission. Trade and commerce were incomprehensible entitites for the Mughals. William Hawkins trudged all the way to Agra to get proper sanction from Jehangir, who was too busy with heavy drinking and eating cartloads of opium. The officials, who were entrusted with the task of collecting revenue from villagers called zamindars, performed their duties only at the pleasure of the emperor. When he died, his employer inherited all worldly possessions of his subordinate and if the family had been lucky enough, they might hope to get some meager amount for their maintenance. The English East India Company stepped into this tumultuous state of affairs in the 18th century, when their power began to be felt around the middle of the century in India while the Mughal Empire slowly disintegrated into nothingness. Strange it might seem, but the first positive acquisition of the company was facilitated by the over ambition of Dupleix, the French governor who meddled freely in the internal tussles of Indian kings. Robert Clive led a force against Arcot and settled his nominee, Mohammed Ali, on the throne as Nawab in 1751. This marked the beginning of British dominance in India. When the century ended, we see the company establishing the right to collect taxes and conduct administration in the provinces of Bihar and Bengal and exercising civil and judicial powers. The country lay vulnerable to the forays of Afghans and Marathas, who tried to exploit the state of lawlessness caused by the weakness of Mughal Empire.Mason’s moral justification for the establishment of British rule in India hinges on the benefits accrued to the populace who were reeling under anarchy, lawlessness or the law of a single man, excess demands of taxation and the inhuman superstitious rituals like Sati and human sacrifices. The British reduced the tax demand after assessing each plot and its crop-bearing capacity, but collected the revenue efficiently. Under the Mughals, the burden was far higher, but the net revenue to the state was less, as the peasants opposed them fervently. The British established the concept of ‘Rule of Law’, whereas the whims of one person controlled the destinities of the poor in earlier times. This was so alien to the Indian psyche that the rulers and the common folk alike could not digest the strange notion that the governor general or the resident who was the most powerful man on the subcontinent or the province couldn’t do what he wished! Attempts to curb the practice of Sati were opposed by Brahmins on the plea that it constituted an affront to Hinduism. This line is familiar to us even today. When reason revolted against a boorish religious ritual, conservatives fight against the intellectuals citing this same argument. Christianity faced this acid test in 18th century Europe, Hinduism did in the 19th and Islam is facing the challenge now. Opposition to light that reveals every dark corner in the religion’s cupboard comes out in the form of armed struggle or terrorist attacks, but it is certain that sooner, rather than later, the cold light of reason shall prevail. It must also be remembered that there were some genuine cases of voluntary immolation by grieving widows, which is mentioned in the text. By setting this glorious picture of an India that turned enlightened to some extent by British rule, Mason is compelled to explain why the people resented their rule, even though it was so magnificently benevolent for them. And his reasoning is far from convincing, because he argues that life became dull, since the law was predictable and brigands were suppressed. This looks as if the people were denied an adventurous life by British administration. Mason goes on to say that people looked at nearby princely states and longingly wished for the unexpected twists and turns of life over there.The conqueror’s role changed to that of guardians after the Mutiny in 1857 to 1909, when serious reforms were contemplated to hand over ‘some power’ to Indian hands. The Mutiny came as a surprise to the British, though Mason observes symptoms pretty clearly with the benefit of hindsight. For about four months, the British Empire in India teetered on the edge of an abyss. The number of white soldiers in India was much less as compared to the rebels and minuscule when compared to the total native population. After the initial success of the mutineers, their decision to flock to Delhi and accept the overlordship of the last Mughal sultan proved to be their undoing. Indecision and ambivalence made the king to be equivocal. Meanwhile, the British strengthened their positions and greatly augmented their strength by importing soldiers. The siege of Delhi was the critical moment. As soon as the city fell, passive spectators who were keenly watching the state of affairs entered the fray on the side of the British, especially the Punjabi soldiers, whose kingdom was the latest in the long list to be annexed to the Raj. After the Mutiny was over, the distrust was soon overcome and the Indian Civil Service confidently undertook the burden of administration unmolested by considerable reforms. Several famines occurred during this period, particularly in Orissa in 1866, in which a large portion of the population perished, but that of Bihar in 1874 is reported to have dealt with decisive measures that helped to minimize deaths directly attributable to starvation.It has been the pet fad of patriots in India to ascribe all responsibility of partitioning the country on religious lines on the shoulders of the British. ‘Divide and Rule’, they would say, was the policy of the colonialists. No body stops sufficiently long to examine this fallacious argument in more detail. Hindus and Muslims were two separate communities without any sense of common destiny at the time of partition. Except for a small section of the Muslims who had access to secular, universal education, most of Muslims and also the Hindus were illiterate or subjected to viciously partisan teaching at a local madrassah. Communal riots were common. Mason describes in blood chilling detail some incidents related to the Moplah Rebellion of Kerala in 1921, in which thousands of Hindus were mercilessly butchered in cold blood. Even though there have been attempts by pseudo-secularists to glorify this communal riot in which only one party suffered, as an episode in the freedom struggle, nothing can be farther from the truth in its wanton cruelty and mass conversion of Hindus to Islam. Mason remarks that victims were often skinned alive, and were forced to dig their own graves before they were mowed down (p.288). This was ethnic cleansing on a large scale and was crushed by the British. The stamping down had been so effective that no large scale violence was witnessed again in that area.As the author subconsciously lets out, the British respected those tribes who were unlawful and uncivilized, but obeyed them after an initial struggle. He has sweet memories of the north eastern tribes who assisted them in the war against the Japanese, or the north western tribes who had a working relationship, though an uneasy one, with the British or even the fanatic Hurs of Sindh. It is said that the British were affectionate with them, but not so with the people of the mainland who never fully digested the strangeness of British rule and rebelled whenever an opportunity presented itself.The book is graced with numerous colour and monochrome plates of paintings and photographs that are priceless in sharing an informative moment in the lives of the people depicted in them. A comprehensive index adds value to the material, which can’t be compared to the rigour of an academic publication.The book is highly recommended.

  • Martin
    2019-05-02 02:17

    A wonderful read, although a difficult subject. This is a history of the British and Indians of Civil and Provincial services under the British Raj. Mason, who held a post himself in the Garwhali district, traces the history of the services from the earliest days of the "East India Company" in the 1600, when the British came to trade, through the middle "company" period where the British took up the reins of the taxation and legal systems, to the 1858-1947 period of gradual retreat from rule and transfer to political control. The horrors of the eventual Partition, are addressed head on- and the reader gets a chance to see how it anguished the British that they could not afford to keep India whole, nor keep a peacable divorce. The writing is wonderful, the telling anecdotes are colorful, and the love of the country permeates every page like a pungent curry. A book written in the 50s does show its age a touch, with some passages seeming to be condescending, but a closer reading proved to me that Mason's position is more candor than derision. Everywhere, he is understanding of all sides of the struggle, having clearly heard versions of many of the subject petitions himself in his former role. I found the whole book, albeit a version condensed from the 3-4 Volume original, a joy to read. The florid prose might be a challenge for Junior readers, but the adventurous will be rewarded, and might improve their own writing into the bargain. This is not a book for the Military Enthusiast/Modeller/Gamer, although for deeper background on India, Burma, and Afghanistan, it is really excellent. A strong recommend, and I may take on the full version some day.....

  • Kaustubh Kirti
    2019-05-05 10:16

    A beautifully written book circa 1955, a great power pact account of the 350 years of British rule in India but as what people say about history it is always open to interpretations. The book is a great account of Generals and Viceroys since Hawkins and Roe walked in India. It talks of the British against the Mughal Rule, against the French the Carnatic Wars etc. War after war they story progresses towards 1947 when the British grant India freedom. The key issue that I find in the book are a few. The book being a Britishers' account praises and talks greatly of the policies of permanent settlement or the actions of RObert CLive. Definately they must been great boon to the British rule in India " a just rule brought in a land of slaves" something what the writer tries to attempt!!! But biased history also has a perspective, a sense of underlying truth. When the author points out massacre of Jalliwala Bagh by General Dyre in 1919 as if the general was controlling a group of militants who had but taken hold of Amritsar from the BRitish is but a misreporting of facts and tries to say in the next page itself that Englishmen always valued every India life. It was in 1947 they realized that it was the right time to leave this country because now it was ready !! I may have apprehensions from this piece of history but it puts the Indian side of the story in a scanty/ dirty light. The author goes on to praise the policies of Morley Minto in 1909 and many more communal policies which actually led to partition and strengthened the two nation theory.South Asia is holding a baggage and it was not in our hands to solve it because it was a colonial legacy. South Asia definitely prospered under British rule under a rule of law and a great executive in the form of British ICS but it was an Unbritish rule of degradation, deprevation and divide and rule. I want to expect an independent foreign author to point this out. There is just too much goos about Lord Curzon, or for that matter Lord Auckland who took the Afghans out. However the best of the book is in the last paragraph which I have tried to capture. British might have squeezed money out of the country but did instill the sense of "rule of law" over which we still stand today. We are still based on the GOI 1935 Act and still hear cases on the Code of Macaulay. We are eternally/ inherently British after all in this sense. Writer writes Wavell's quote on leaving India -"The english would be remembered not by the institutions but by the ideal they left behind of what is a district officer should be. "Today after 1947 if the peasants look upto an India district officer they would expect the same justice and sympathy imbibed in the British law and that would be memorial of the BRitish in INdia.

  • Mansoor Azam
    2019-05-06 05:51

    If you haven't read much on British Raj in India then this one is an ideal first picking, for a couple of basic reasons. The author, Philip Mason, was a civil servant in India in the last days of Raj and thus a reliable first hand man to read on the subject. Secondly, comparing to the years in question, (early 1600's till 1947), a whopping 350 years give or take, the book is not tons of pages but around same as the years i.e 350 pages (give or take a few). Thus for starters it's a comprehensive summary that shall give the reader what all went there and how ... keeping back enough detail and pointing you between lines towards other sources from which the author took knowledge. I wasn't a novice reader on Raj. But what attracted me was the name of Philip Mason. The man has a style of writing that is an absolute pleasure. One can't put the book down before finishing it. He takes you on and on and you wish it never finishes. So for those who think there's nothing new in this one; think again, there's a pleasure in it beyond description coupled with very interesting pointers. Mason wrote the book in some detail, comprising of two separate parts, aptly named 'The Founders' & 'The Gaurdians', published in 1950's, but despite their quality and massive circulation, they were so long that he was suggested to compress both volumes into one which resulted in this masterly piece of historiography published in 80's. There is a certain angle to his work. A civil servant himself, one pillar of the Raj, there is a certain romance in the tale as it's told. It sometimes skips over the worst crimes done by the British in India but then to be fair to the author he isn't writing the history of India but of the men who ruled it. The biggest draw back in this one lies with the publishers i guess. There are no corresponding maps . As so much history is compressed (in a beautiful way i must say) so much is passing in every three or four pages that you need corresponding maps. Otherwise i fear a reader who doesn't know the place or area will not understand the point of the author if he/she doesn't understand which geo-political area the author is talking about. To a novice two different cities are names but there is no understanding of the thousands of miles of distance between them. Thus different decisions by civil servants of the areas for seemingly similar problems posed. Therefore, i believe, lack of maps is a disservice to this rather interesting workOverall a good one worth your expenditure. want a TIP: never miss a title from Philip Mason :)

  • Jrohde
    2019-05-09 04:03

    a classic that gives a lot of the early English figures - though this is abridged version of his more thorough work. I am taking this one slowly. Enjoyed in the end but not for everyone - Only really of interest in modern Indian History

  • Gareth Hughes
    2019-04-26 07:16

    An interesting book with regards to insight in to certain events and the culture of the EIC and the ICS, and the privileged wealthy elite class who staffed them, and their self belief that they were 'superior', to the Indian population, and also the lower classes of Britain...and to other Europeans....actually to basically everyone. the factual narrative is quite detailed, but culture the author demonstrates is more. The author often turns from a character description, to adoration of the 'heroic past' and individuals of the EIC & ICS. The author also has a tendency towards numerous prejudices, which interestingly he shows most clearly when arguing they were rarely present amongst the ICS staff.

  • Ryan
    2019-05-18 10:09

    A quite detailed expose of the English administrators, soldiers, traders, merchants who made up the British imperial tide washing over India, tracking their progress beginning from the 16th century through the gradual buildup and accumulation of territories by the EIC, the Mutiny and taking over by the Crown and so on till postwar Independence that marked the end of this jewel of the empire. Mason tells brief stories of all sorts of characters involved, from the famous to the lesser known, so it requires some patience to sift through. The reader is rewarded with frequent broad brushstrokes giving overviews of the situation at various points over the 300+ years, but I would say this book would interest historians who are into specifics, rather than the general reading public looking for succinct insights. Attractive illustrations from the period are peppered throughout the book, bringing some of the themes to life.

  • Rohan Puri
    2019-05-10 06:10

    A great book for any Indian who wants to see both sides of a coin.Throughout all known works in India regarding the British rule, they have always been portrayed to be on the negative side.(Though which side they actually belonged to is not the point.)This book gives us an understanding of the British rule from the British perspective. A fine and extensive piece of work which enlightens a lot more than what is typically presumed to have occurred during the British times in India.

  • Syed Naser
    2019-05-03 01:55

    The book is inclined to convince the reader that the British Rule in India has been a blessing and the poor Indians were always in love with their British Rulers over the native Rajas which cannot be always true. But is a good account of two hundred years of British Rule from the perspective of Britishers.

  • Parthan Ramanujam
    2019-05-25 04:08

    A nice look back at how British went into ruling our country, but from a different perspective. Enlightens us about the difficulties they had to face and problems they had to solve, which is often not said anywhere in the stories we hear about the British raj. Also, shows the differences among the different kingdoms that made the sub-continent and how it was advantageous to someone taking over.

  • Margareth8537
    2019-04-30 10:10

    Mason was an officer in the Indian Civil Service and his books were written almost to justify the British role in India. They were well written and accurate, and are now fascinating to see how the British felt about themselves in this colonial role

  • Pradeep
    2019-05-25 06:08

    This book gives a clear insight about the British rule in India. An engrossing read put down in admirable style by the author. A must for anyone interested in history and India's past.Revealing, wish i had read it earlier.

  • Subroto Chattopadhyay
    2019-04-24 03:57

    Plato scripted the philosophy, the English put it into the curriculum in hailebury ..... Wonderful book

  • Tom
    2019-05-01 01:53

    Older book. Interesting perspective of the British in India.