cover image Last Days of Raj

Last Days of Raj

Trevor Royle. John Murray Publishers, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7195-5686-9

Combining historical narrative with interviews of Brits and Indians who lived through the final days of Britain's rule of India, Royle--an English historian--strives to create a balanced portrait, though his informative yet dry narrative ends up feeling skewed and narrow. Perhaps because the Indians he interviewed are mostly from the educated elite, he makes such reductionist conclusions as: ""The amazing thing is that there was never much animosity: however upset many Indians might have been about the lack of social ties [to the British] their feelings rarely turned to anger."" Royle's earliest impressions were colored by the nostalgia provoked by postcards recording ""the innocent pleasures"" of his mother's privileged childhood in India and photographs of ""Indians--my mother's servants, my father's soldiers--staring out at me, loyal, curious, smiling."" In fairness, he does see through this nostalgia to the British racism and elitism that were also part of the picture. Particularly clearheaded are his accounts of the rise of Indian nationalists Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah, and the clash between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs that culminated in the bloody Punjab massacres. Still, his nostalgia prevails (""In another incident... British good sense managed to win the day over religious fanaticism""), and in the end, his book feels more like a tribute to the British raj than a historical record. Photos. (Jan.)