Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings

Jeremy Bernstein, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $28.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-56663-281-2
Acclaimed biographer Bernstein (Albert Einstein and the Frontiers of Physics) looks at the history behind the impeachment trial of the 18th century--a trial that lasted seven years, involved some of the epoch's greatest figures (Edmund Burke, Richard Sheridan) and ended in acquittal. At the center of these events was the colonialist Warren Hastings--India's first British governor-general. Hastings, Bernstein claims in this descriptive account, was the man responsible for planting the seeds of the British Empire in India. A brilliant, intellectually curious man, Hastings ruled India arrogantly, efficiently and by personal decree; he set up a postal service, sponsored a geographical survey of India's vast regions, unified the currency system, sponsored a diplomatic mission to Tibet and encouraged the codification of Indian law. But he served two demanding, and often contradictory, masters: the British East India Company and the British government. When, in the late 18th century, the East India Company sent ""Company men,"" such as Philip Francis, overseas, most of them believed Hastings was an autocrat who needed to be reined in. That's when Hastings's troubles began. Drawing on his powerful friends back in Europe, Francis began a successful campaign to besmirch Hastings's reputation, and when Hastings returned home in 1785, he was charged with taking bribes, profiteering and genocide. Although occasionally lacking in narrative focus, this thoroughly researched, rich chronicle recalls an important chapter of European history, providing a fresh perspective on the roots of the British Empire and the labyrinthine politics of late-18th-century Britain. B&w photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/27/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!