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September 20, 2005

The Enfield
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:31 PM * 81 comments

There I was, pottering away, quoting some Kipling in an attempt to make a point about novels (specifically, “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, / And every single one of them is right!”).

This led back to the poem itself, “In the Neolithic Age.” There we find another line: And I stepped beneath Time’s finger, once again a tribal singer / And a minor poet certified by Traill.

So who was Traill? Me an’ Google are chums, so off I went and soon found H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill, editor of the weekly Literature. Sounds good to me, I think we have a match. But along the way I found this:

On that last day in Lucknow fort!
We knew that it was the last;
That the enemy’s lines crept surely on,
And the end was coming fast.

To yield to that foe meant worse than death;
And the men and we all worked on;
It was one day more of smoke and roar,
And then it would all be done.

“The Relief of Lucknow” by Robert Traill Spence Lowell

The Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Rebellion, the First War of Independence … hadn’t been touched on very hard in World History when I was in high school. Other than it happened, that is.

Most of what I knew of the Sepoy Insurrection had come from Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser, a book I recommend to everyone. Not many other novels make it worthwhile to keep a bookmark in the endnotes. It’s part of a series of what you might call an unusual treatment of the military history of the 19th century, told by a villain from Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes.

“Was Flashman here then?”

“Yes; and a dirty, little, snivelling, sneaking fellow he was too. He never dared join us, and used to toady the bullies by offering to fag for them, and peaching against the rest of us.”

“Why wasn’t he cut, then?” said East.

“Oh, toadies never get cut; they’re too useful. Besides, he has no end of great hampers from home, with wine and game in them; so he toadied and fed himself into favour.”

I suppose you could call The Flashman Papers Tom Brown fanfic.

But what of the Great Mutiny?

The rule of the East India Company wasn’t marked by cultural or religious sensitivity.

Torture became a financial institution in colonial India, and was challenged by a petition from the Madras Native Association presented in January of 1856. The petition was dismissed on the basis of a lack of evidence, despite the fact that, according to the Marx, “there was scarcely any investigation at all, the Commission sitting only in the city of Madras, and for but three months, while it was impossible, except in very few cases, for the natives who had complaints to make to leave their homes”. Marx also refers to Lord Dalhousie’s statements in the Blue Books that there was “irrefragable proof” that various officers had committed “gross injustice, to arbitrary imprisonment and cruel torture”.

“John Company” trusted its native troops (the Sepoys). One of the sparks to the rebellion came when those troops were issued the very newest, top-of-the-line modern military rifles.

Enfield Rifle Musket: British - (1857) .577 caliber. British service rifle 1857-1866. Muzzle-loading, percussion. The Enfield’s paper ammunition wrapper, said to be greased with the fat of cows and pigs, was one of the causes for the Indian Mutiny.

Three years later that same Enfield rifle was being used widely by both sides in the American Civil War.

The sepoys took the initiative in killing women and children although in most cases this was done by riotous civilians and the riff raff. Still the sepoys are to be blamed since overall they were in charge. The British reprisals took place mostly in retaliation but as the adage goes i.e. two wrongs don�t make a right. The British reprisals were, however, much less in magnitude if we compare them with atrocities against civilians committed by Nadir Shah in 1739 or by Ahmad Shah in 1756-61 or even by the Indo-Pak armies in 1971 in Bangladesh, or later in Balochistan, Indian Punjab or Kashmir.

The British behaviour may perhaps be closely compared to Pakistan Army behaviour in East Pakistan in 1971. The initial atrocities were committed by the Bengalis but the martial races settled the �duby� a very large margin, exceeding at least by 100,000 to 200,000 men perhaps! But then Karl Marx made some very profound remarks about 1857 and these can be applied to any such situation. Karl Marx said “However infamous the conduct of sepoys, it is only the reflex, in a concentrated form, of England�s own conduct in India, not only during the epoch of the foundation of her Eastern Empire, but even during the last ten years of a long settled rule. The characteristics that rule it suffices to say that torture formed an organic institution of its financial policy. There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historic retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself.”

The Sepoy Rebellion was marked by atrocities on both sides. Butchery, hangings, men blown from the mouths of cannon, others forced to lick clotted human blood from the floor, sold into slavery, floggings … it’s all here.

There had been a prophecy, widely repeated, that the rule of the British would soon come to an end. Then….

Somewhere about the end of the third week in January 1857, a khalasi, that is to say a labourer, accosted a high Brahmin sepoy and asked for a drink of water from his lotah (water-pot). The Brahmin refused on the score of caste. The khalasi then said, “You will soon lose your caste, as ere long you will have to bite catridges covered with the fat of pigs and cows,” or, it is added, “words to that effect.” (Palmer 15)

Here’s a bit of a timeline.

March 29, 1857: Mangal Pandy, a Hindu Sepoy of 34 Native Infantry at Barrackpore, shoots at British sergeant-major and Regiment Adjutant. A jemadar (non-commissioned officer) is told to arrest Pandy, but refuses to do so.

Mutineers in general were later referred to by the British as “Pandy” or “Pandies,” much as later foes would be referred to as boche, jerries, slopes, gooks, Charlie, or ragheads.

March 31, 1857: 19th Native Infantry disbanded.

The practice of disbanding or disarming regiments which were disaffected may have added a number of recruits to the rebel cause. These men were thrown out of the army losing their pay and pensions with little prospect of securing other employment. They bore a considerable grudge against the British for this.

April 7, 1857: Mangal Pandy, and the jemadar who refused to arrest him, are hanged. 34th Native Infantry regiment disbanded.

May 3, 1857: 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry Regiment refuses to handle rifle cartridges.

May 9, 1857: 85 members of 3rd Light Cavalry refuse to handle the cartridges at Meerut. They are stripped of their uniforms in public, sentenced to ten years of hard labor.

May 10, 1857: 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry Regiment disbanded. The sepoys revolt at Meerut, free their imprisoned comrades, then march on Dehli.

May 11, 1857: Sepoys capture Delhi, and proclaim Bahadur Shah II the emperor of all India. British defenders blow the magazine.

May 12, 1857: Lahore secured by British.

May 13, 1857: British march on Dehli.

May 14, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Ferozepur; march to Dehli.

May 20, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Aligarh, British east-west connection between Punjab and Calcutta cut.

May 22, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Mainpuri. Native troops disarmed in Peshawar.

May 23, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Ettawa. Rebels dispersed at Mardan by British; surviving sepoys sold into slavery.

May 24, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Bulandshahr.

May 30, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Lucknow.

May 31, 1857: British regain control of Lucknow.

The Indian Mutiny
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British had come to believe they were a chosen race; chosen to distribute the benefits of western civilization to the backward areas of the globe. That the inhabitants of such areas often didn�t want these benefits and certainly not the accompanying British control of their lives was immaterial to Britain�s sense of a mission. Native opposition frequently required military force to be brought against it and few years passed without the British Army being involved, somewhere in the empire, in a continual series of border skirmishes and punitive expeditions.

May 31, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Bareilly and Shah Jahanpur.

June 1, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Badaun. and Moradabad

June 3, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Sitapur, Nimach, and Moradabad.

June 4, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Cawnpore and Khairabad. Road cut between Lucknow and Calcutta. British garrison at Cawnpore takes defensive positions in the Entrenchment, besieged by forces under Nana Sahib.

The Siege of Cawnpore
… the siege of Cawnpore was not a protracted affair. It lasted just over three weeks, but it took place in June when the Indian sun is at its most merciless. The entrenchment had almost no shade and contained only one serviceable well. This, the only source of water was in an extremely exposed position, covered by enemy fire. Many men died trying to get water. Inside the position were about a thousand Britons, including 300 women and children. Ammunition, at least, was plentiful but the food supply was dangerously small. The mutineers never actually took the place by storm though they made a few half-hearted attacks. They could, however, cover almost every inch of the entrenchment with their muskets and kept up a constant stream of fire into the British position. The British could get no rest and their movement was severely restricted. Still they held on, hoping for relief from Lucknow to the north-east or Allahabad downstream on the Ganges.

June 5, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Jhansi.

June 6, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Allahabad but are unable to take the magazine which is held by Sikh troops.

June 8, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Faizabad.

June 9, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Mehidpore, Gwalior, and Nowgong.

June 18, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Farrukhabad.

June 27, 1857: British surrender at Cawnpore. British troops are massacred.

June 30, 1857: Sir Henry Lawrence defeated at Chinhat, retreats to Lucknow Residency.

July 1, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Lucknow and Indore. Central India is no longer in British hands. British columns reach Dehli; seige of Dehli begins.

July 7, 1857: British/Sikh forces meet Sepoys at Jhelum; British are repulsed with heavy casualties.

July 9, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Sialkot.

July 15, 1857: Massacre of British civilians at Bibi-Ghar (Cawnpore Well).

July 16, 1857: Sepoys reinforce Dehli. British victory at Maharajpur.

July 17, 1857: British retake Cawnpore.

July 19, 1857: British take Bithur.

July 25, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Dinapur, attack British garrison at Arrah but are repulsed; rebels then move to Lucknow.

July 29, 1857: British victory at Unao.

August 2, 1857: Hindustani troops reach Agra.

August 31, 1857: British enter Dehli.

September 16, 1857: Pubjabi Muslim rebellion at Gugera.

September 25, 1857: Reinforcements reach Lucknow Residency.

The Siege of Lucknow
Finally, 90 days after the siege began, gunfire was heard on the outskirts of the city. Two days later, on September 25th, a mob rather than an army burst into the residency. The lead troops were highlanders and in their furious push into the Residency they bayoneted a few loyal sepoys by mistake. The highlanders’ uniforms were ragged and patched and their bearded faces were grimy with the smoke of powder. They were under the joint command of Sir Henry Havelock and Sir James Outram and had fought a gruelling campaign up from Cawnpore. Unfortunately, there were only a thousand of them and no sooner had the Residency gates closed behind them than the siege continued.

September 29, 1857: British forces take the Red Fort at Dehli. Bahadur Shah arrested; his sons are shot and their heads presented to him.

November 4, 1857: Muslim resistance suppressed in the Punjab.

November 15, 1857: Brigadier Gerard defeats Jodhpur Legion.

November 18, 1857: Relief of Lucknow.

And they wept, and shook one another’s hands,
And the women sobbed in a crowd;
And every one knelt down where he stood,
And we all thanked God aloud.

The relief force made no attempt to enter the Residency for its numbers were small. Instead it pacified the city long enough for the inhabitants of the Residency to be withdrawn. On November 18th the withdrawal began with, of course, the women and children leaving first. The city was not completely quiet and much of the withdrawal was made under fire. When the non-combatants were safe, the garrison left. It was no proud march past and the soldiers broke step to disguise their leaving. Finally the rearguard slipped out and the Residency and city of Lucknow were given up to the mutineers. The British remembered to take down the Residency flag before they left.

The whole force now made its way back to Cawnpore and safety. With their going the mutiny sputtered out into a sordid series of punitve hunts and guerilla engagements. Lucknow was retaken the following year and though sporadic fighting continued into 1859, with the relief of the Residency the mutiny was effectively over and it was only a matter of time before the British re-established themselves as rules of the north of India.

March, 1858: British troops retake Lucknow; advance on Jhansi.

June 1, 1858: Rani of Jhansi captures Gwalior.

June 21, 1858: Sepoys surrender at Gwalior.

July 8, 1858: Peace signed.

May 28, 1859: Battle of Sirwa Pass. Remaining Sepoys flee into Nepal.

“The scale of the Indian Mutiny should not be exaggerated. Three quarters of the troops remained loyal, barely a third of British territory was affected” — Sir Winston Churchill

1858: The East India Company abolished.

The Sepoys’ errors:
a) Failure to organise as brigades or divisions.
b) Failure to effectively threaten the British line of communication.
c) Failure to launch timely counter-attacks.
d) Failure to use cavalry to protect flanks.
e) Failure to have contingency plans in case of unforeseen enemy movement.
f) Failure to resort to manoeuvre warfare.
g) Failure to maintain a reserve to meet unforeseen enemy manoeuvres.

Nana Sahib was never captured. His fate is unknown.

Due to the bloody start of the rebellion, and the violence perpetrated upon the Europeans by the Indian forces especially after the apparent treachery of Nana Sahib and butchery in Cawnpore, the British believed that they were justified in using similar tactics. The British press and British government did not advocate clemency of any kind, though Governor General Canning tried to be sympathetic to native sensibilities, earning the scornful sobriquet “Clemency Canning”. Soldiers took very few prisoners and often executed them later. Whole villages were wiped out for apparent pro-rebel sympathies. The Indians called it Devil’s Wind.

History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. But history does echo. Tell me — in Iraq, as we train and arm the Iraqi armed forces, as “they stand up” and “we stand down,” what would happen if one-quarter of the Iraqi forces in one-third of that unhappy country were to mutiny and turn their weapons on the American forces on the ground? What would it look like? And what would George, Dick and Donald say on that day?

Comments on The Enfield:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 01:41 PM:

"And what will George, Dick, and Donald say on that day?"

Something like:

"Just a few short-timers getting desperate because they know democracy is on the way!

Because if you say something over and over again, it will come true.

#2 ::: Flaede ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Y'know, I was just thinking about his, as I had my kipling out. The paralel is sobering, for sure.

#3 ::: Karl Kindred ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 02:12 PM:

They'll say, "we couldn't have anticipated this because the distributing of democracy in this forceful and ultimately effective way is unparalleled in history."

Which I'm pretty sure is the basic framework for justifying every imperial expansionist mindset throughout history.

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Not a good day for this, reading as I do that the Iraqui police arrested a couple of British soldiers for shooting a policeman, and the British army staged a jailbreak... Link

#5 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 02:56 PM:

I suppose this isn't a good time to bring up arming the taliban or baptista or the shah or other numerous more recent possiblities.

::happy thoughts:: ::happy thoughts:: ::happy thoughts:: ::happy thoughts:: ::happy thoughts:: ::happy thoughts::

#6 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 02:58 PM:

Flashman's adventures in Afghanistan also make for interesting reading; in particular the way in which rank idiocy leading to failure and retreat gets reconstructed into Heroism. (Is that the first of the series? I don't recall at the moment.)

I recall Kipling's giant crocodile, the Mulla-Mulgar, has his own perspective on the mutiny, remembering it as two periods of gloriously good food drifting downstream in the water - first British bodies, then native bodies for weeks. This implicitly makes the point about the scale of the British retaliation.

I find Kipling interesting reading because despite the splashes of surface jingoism, his innate sympathies and admiration are clearly much more evenly divided between the British and their subjects.

#7 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Any comments on John Masters? Discredited or deservedly forgotten - perhaps due for rediscovery as at least a guilty pleasure?

His son got some notice for actions in the Falklands - there really are family tradtions and perhaps the Logic of Empire is hard to escape.

#8 ::: ashni ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Speaking of the poet of Empire, I found this one yesterday:

The Old Issue

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King -

#9 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 03:46 PM:

Fascinating. This reminds me of one of my favourite guilty pleasures, M. M. Kaye's two-part historical novel, The Far Pavilions, which used the various mutinies as part of its backdrop.

The main character was raised as a low-caste Hindu for part of his childhood, even though he happens to be English. When he finally gets shipped back to England, it's too late to make a normal English lad out of him. Eventually, he goes back to India as an adult, where his nickname locally is "Pandy" because he literally feels at home with the natives. Needless to say, he's looked on with suspicion by his compatriots in the Army. It's a little bit of a stretch, but I think Kaye made it work. It was necessary and effective.

Every time I've re-read it lately, Ashton's comments on the military situation always seem to bring home the dangers of imperialism. I can't help drawing comparisons between the situation in India then, and the situation in the Middle East now.

And then, my boyfriend and I watched Lawrence of Arabia on our anniversary last month. (Granted, there are some liberties taken with timeline and dramatisation, but I think it's still an excellent movie, if you want to see a history of imperialism at work.) Hrm....maybe I should suggest to my parents that they see LoA again.

#10 ::: Shane ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 04:09 PM:

And what will George, Dick, and Donald say on that day?

Let me guess:

Freedoms untidy.
Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.

#11 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 04:33 PM:

One of the things I always have to recalibrate when thinking about historical events is the much smaller population size then. India in 1850 had perhaps 250 million people, or 1/4 of what they do now.

Now another interesting thing is that the population of Britain at the time was about 27 million.

Today, Iraq has a population of 26 million, and the US has a population of 297 million. Things have changed. I think that says something about the effects of having floods of cheap weaponry available to insurgents or partisans or guerillas or whatever you want to call them. Tanks and laser-guided bombs can only do so much when everyone has access to an AK-47 and a pile of RPGs.

#12 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 04:34 PM:

Great post, Jim. This is my favorite kind of scholaship, one phrase leads you to another until you've pieced together a fascinating picture that sheds light on both the past and the present. Thanks for writing it all down.

I've added Flashman to my shopping cart on Amazon, it looks fantastic. I never, in a million years, would have heard of this book anywhere else.

#13 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 04:58 PM:

Not that it made any difference to the eventual outcome, but IIRC the pig/beef fat rumours were just that; the cartridges were in fact greased with vegetable fats.

#14 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Yes, that's true, Jakob...though now that Jim has put it in context, I can see that the real reasons may have had more to do with, say, the friggin' torture. Thank you, Jim.

#15 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Jacob Davies said: "Tanks and laser-guided bombs can only do so much when everyone has access to an AK-47 and a pile of RPGs."

I know this is a serious subject, but all I could see for a minute was a bunch of insurgents sitting around, rolling 20 sided dice, and arguing about armor class. (Now that I think about it, RPGs were primarily how a lot of my friends explored their lust for firearms and explosions.)

#16 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:39 PM:

"History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just yells, 'Can't you remember anything I told you?' and lets fly with a club." -- John W. Campbell, Jr.

#17 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Yes, that's true, Jakob...though now that Jim has put it in context, I can see that the real reasons may have had more to do with, say, the friggin' torture.

Well, and the fact that the British never said "no, we wouldn't do that, it's vegetable fat." They just said "You'll do as you're told!"

Reading this story I must say I'm sorry more British weren't killed.

#18 ::: Sajia ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:05 PM:

As far as I know, it was the West Pakistani army which began totally unprovoked atrocities on the East Pakistani (now Bangladeshi) population following the 1971 elections when an east Pakistani political party gained the majority of parliamentary seats. I have never heard of the Muktijuddho (freedom fighters) committing atrocities at the very start of the conflict, although I wouldn't be surprised if they had done so later on.
It's a long story, and I'm not sure how on-topic it is, but I felt the neccessity to point out that the 1971 genocide was completely unprovoked. There's a reason why Chomsky named the 1971 genocide in the same breath as WWII as one of the few situations where outside military intervention (in our case by India) was justified.

#19 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 06:59 PM:

One of my high school friends was a huge fan of the Flashman novels, though I only read one of them back then. I think his very canny father may have tricked him into reading them as being a completely painless way of learning a lot about major events of 19th century history. I still haven't read more than a couple of them but I keep meaning to.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:06 PM:

I give in. People on this site keep bringing up Flashman so I guess I'll go look it up. But does it matter where I start in the series? If not, which of the books would you recommend?

#21 ::: Sara Rosenbaum ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:29 PM:

As fate would have it, an excellent film about the Sepoy Rebellion was released last month entitled "Mangal Pandey: The Rising." Starring Aamir Khan, it's a three-hour Bollywood extravaganza and I recommend it highly to all Making Light readers (although its account is extremely fictionalized). Those of you who live in cities with sizable Indian populations may be able to find it playing on the big screen at specialty theaters; check you local Indian grocery store, the one with the spices and the wall full of Bollywood DVDs.

#22 ::: Bez Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:44 PM:

Serge- The best place to start is, unsurprisingly, the first book - Flashman. If the style and content floats your boat, you have a choice of reading the rest of the series in order of publication, or in chronological order.

George MacDonald Fraser is a remarkably prolific author - aside from the Flashman books, there's a pile of screenplays (Octopussy and Red Sonja would probably be the most infamous) and other books, fiction and non. I recommend Pyrates (a swashbuckling comedy) and Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers.

#23 ::: Garrett Fitzgerald ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:48 PM:

I'm surprised nobody's brought up Captain Nemo yet.

#24 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 07:59 PM:

Serge: It's not critical where to begin with Flashman, but I would suggest reading them in order of publication -- which is not their chronological order. This is mainly because of a few fictional supporting characters who are best encountered in the order that Fraser introduces and then develops them. (Flashman himself makes frequent references to adventures beyond the scope of the current volume, some of which are expanded on later, while others are Giant Sumatran Rats.)

While the first book isn't my favorite, the style and tone are generally constant (the historical detail increases later, probably because Fraser discovered that the audience liked it), so if you dislike Flashman you probably won't care for the rest -- though Royal Flash* is atypical in being a comic novel with historical allusions rather than a historical novel with a singular view of events.

The series so far, in publication sequence, with principal events covered therein:

1. Flashman -- Background/Afghan uprising
2. Royal Flash -- Sendup of "The Prisoner of Zenda" with historical characters (Lola Montez and Bismarck) added
3. Flash for Freedom -- American slave trade
4. Flashman at the Charge -- Balaclava/Central Asia
5. Flashman in the Great Game -- Sepoy Mutiny
6. Flashman's Lady -- Borneo Piracy (Madagascar) Told partly from the POV of Flashman's wife.
7. Flashman and the Redskins -- Little Big Horn
8. Flashman and the Dragon -- Taiping Rebellion
9. Flashman and the Mountain of Light -- Sikh Rebellion
10. Flashman and the Angel of the Lord -- Harper's Ferry/John Brown
11. Flashman and the Tiger -- three short tales
12. Flashman on the March -- Abyssinian Campaign

All of them are in print; the last is just out.

*There is a film version of Royal Flash. It's well cast (with Malcolm McDowell as Flashy and Oliver Reed as Bismarck), and meticulously put together by Richard Lester (recall that Fraser did the screenplay for Lester's Musketeers movies), but it establishes why there shouldn't be Flashman movies; seen from within, you see that the character is a coward and a cad, but he's not a hypocrite, and he acutely records the hypocrisy around him. Seen from the outside . . . well, he's a coward and a cad, and not much fun to watch.

#25 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend one of my absolute favorite books, "Our Bones are Scattered:Cawnpore Massacres and the Indian Mutiny of 1857" by Andrew Ward. It is a marvelously well-written, deeply researched history. He has a gift for making people come alive on the page. He presents primary sources from all sides, and weaves it all together beautifully. Highly, highly recommended.

As are the Flashman books, and everything else by Frasier.

#26 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 09:27 PM:

As Mr MacDonald notes above, the Mutiny was sparked by fears on several fronts that the British were about to carry out an assault on the caste system. There might very well have been other causes - the effective disestablishment of the native tax-farmers, who formed an important part of what passed for a middle class, was one - but the proximate cause was the suspicion that the British were about to 'break caste', and thus dishonour their own soldiers. It was overwhelmingly a military rebellion. It was mostly a mutiny, mostly not a general rising.

It was crushed with brutality that was as great a scar on the British in India as their mishandling of the famines of forty years later. (Mind you, they'd done no better with the Irish.) This is in no way excused by the fact that the initial atrocities - and many of the worst - were committed by the mutineers. Nevertheless, consider what the Indian troops mutinied for: a system that made it moral and right for a man to refuse another water on the grounds that it would break the former's caste.

I regret my inability to get too worked up about the justice of such a cause.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 09:43 PM:

Still, there are striking similarities with our current situation:

The disbandment of Indian regiments with the disbandment of the Iraqi army; the presentation of Bahadur Shah with his son's heads with the display of Saddam's sons' on TV; the trained soldiers who are placed into a position where they feel they have nothing to lose.

If the US fails to establish liberal representational democracy in Iraq, what will we see there? Just as the Indian caste system had severe inequalities, so too does the likely Islamic fundamentalist government that will form after our departure support severe inequalities.

At some point, the Iraqi troops will outnumber the US troops. At that same time, the Iraqi troops will be armed as well as the US troops.

That is a day that should loom large in everyone's plans.

#28 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 09:59 PM:

Some more of what that particular torture consisted of described here, from British parliamentary hearings on the subject post hoc. (The "kittee" is a kind of giant thumbscrew, btw.)

#29 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 10:33 PM:

And what would George, Dick and Donald say on that day?

Shit happens?


Oh, shit.

#30 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 11:21 PM:

There is one non-parallel. In India in 1855, the British were represented by the East India Company, and colonisation was taking place largely in a policy vacuum, more or less by default, for largely commercial reasons - that is, because it profited the Company. In this process only very small numbers of British troops were used, and there was little sense of an invasion by a foreign power. The Company was perfectly happy to leave native rulers in place, and to allow native systems to govern, so long as Company interests were protected. After the Mutiny, the British home government took over formal control, and governed as a colonial power, reducing native rulers to mere figureheads.

In Iraq, the sequence is more or less the reverse. The invading powers did so for reasons of State, using entirely their own troops. They started out by occupying, but are now trying to establish a native government amenable to their interests. The latter half of that objective might be unattainable, but native government of some kind there will be. I don't doubt that some in the current US administration hope that such a government will be a successful marionette, and I don't doubt that those hopes will be (and should be) dashed, but so far as I know, nobody thinks for a moment that there is any prospect of ruling Iraq directly as a colonising power.

Hmm. But that is now; a military and nationalistic rising by Iraqis against that government and remaining US forces in the future would be then. What would happen in that event? A re-invasion with a level of reprisal and brutality to match the British suppression of the Mutiny, justified by the hideous atrocities that would, no doubt, have already taken place? That would imply the comprehensive destruction of any prospect of Iraq governing itself, and perforce the installation of an alien colonial regime, not so?

I don't think there would be the will, or the capacity. I think such a rising, if it were to occur, would simply accelerate the process of US withdrawal to the point that it would resemble the helicopters in Saigon. And out of that would come - what?

#31 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2005, 11:58 PM:

Another poem on the same subject, perhaps more illustrative of the tenor of the times (I don't say better verse) is J G Whittier's "The Pipes at Lucknow"

"Louder, nearer, fierce as vengeance,
Sharp and shrill as swords at strife
Came the wild MacGregor's clan-call
Stinging all the air to life,
But when the far-off dust-cloud
To plaided legions grew,
Full tenderly and blithesomely
The pipes of rescue blew!

Round the silver domes of Lucknow,
Moslem mosque and Pagan shrine,
Breathed the air to Britons dearest,
The air of Auld Lang Syne.
O'er the cruel roll of wardrums
Rose that sweet and home-like strain;
And the tartan clove the turban,
As the Goomtree cleaves the plain."

#32 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 12:25 AM:

A couple of coincidences here:

I first heard about Fraser's book last night when a friend said much the same thing that you have said - that it is the sole source of what he knows about the Mutiny. The topic came up when I talked on my lj about some online resources on the Mutiny. I had been going through the contemporary Merkin newspapers to see what they had to say about the same. As I remarked, with definite amusement, some of them read much the same as a leftist British columnist's condemnation of the Iraqi adventure. There were concerns about imperialistic hubris, looting of Indian wealth and the complete lack of accountability, stuff like that. :)

#33 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 12:45 AM:

Nevertheless, consider what the Indian troops mutinied for: a system that made it moral and right for a man to refuse another water on the grounds that it would break the former's caste.

That is a bit of an over-reach. It was a system which condoned such a refusal of water. It never declared it was moral and right [the way it did with Sati]. And that statement would only explain the mutiny of the Hindu sepoys - the Muslims were not caste-bound and they rebelled too.

The cartridges were the spark that set off the rebellion, the unrest had been fomenting for years. Government missives proclaiming the desire to Christianise the subcontinent helped, as did the famines and the lack of pay, as did the dissolution of the Zamindari and Talukdari system, the heavy taxes, and the Doctrine of Lapse, as did the refusal to let an Indian rise to the higher levels of administration. The Indians who rebelled, sepoys and kings, did so for many different reasons. Jhansi, fr'ex, rebelled directly as a result of the Doctrine of Lapse.

If one were to give a one sentence reason for the mutiny, it would be that they were fighting for their way of life. So they fought for their right to keep their castes, for the right to adopt a child and pass on their property to their adopted heir rather than to have it lapse into the Company's ownership, they fought to keep their religion [Muslims], so on and so forth.

#34 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 03:25 AM:

By the time of the Mutiny, the East India Company was effectively controlled by the British Government. It had started as a privately-owned trading company, which had taken control of parts of India under the authority of the Emperor at Delhi. Essentially, they were tax-farmers who were merchants rather than princes.

Also, there was no single British administration. Which is partly why the Mutiny didn't flare up in the whole of India.

Things got more complicated, with increasing government control of the Company, and wars of conquest interleaved with the wars against the French. This is why Wellington was known to Napoleon as the Sepoy General.

And in the years between Waterloo and the Mutiny, most of the wars fought by the British were essentially about India, either in India or to do with the Indian Trade. There was a move towards the cantonments as little Englands, rather than bachelor company clerks living in native style, with the delights of mistresses and the chance of substantial wealth when they went back to England to retire and marry.

I summarise excessively, but there wasn't as huge a change after the revolution as some might think; much that characterised the Raj had already happened. The key difference was that the British were scared, and that fear is a part of what made the character of the Indian Army of myth. Consider the whole idea of "martial races", and compare that with which troops mutinied and which did not.

(Not that the mutiny started that idea. The Sikhs acquired their reputation when they fought well enough that multiple Sikh wars were needed to annex the Punjab.)

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 05:44 AM:

"Octopussy", Thomas? Well, one has to pay the grocery bills. Thanks for the suggestion where to start in the series.

Thanks to you too, John. So,MacDonald-Fraser also worked on Lester's Musketeer movies? I can see why. I read the original novel as and the movies captured d'Artagnan the way Dumas originally conceived him - as an idiot.

#36 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 06:31 AM:

Sarah Rosenbaum mentioned the Bollywood movie "The Rising." It may be obscure in the US, but when I was in London last month, I saw posters for it all over the tube, with Aamir Khan in red coat over billowing cotton, jaw jutting proudly forward.

The empire striking back.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 06:40 AM:

Someone once pointed out one big difference between the British Empire and France's: the latter wanted the colonies to consider themselves as part of the family while the former only cared about extracting wealth from the colonies.

Not being a History expert, I don't know how accurate that is. But that might explain why France had a hard time letting go: see Algeria and Vietnam.

#38 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 07:24 AM:

The Iraq adventure involves lots of mercenaries and is substantially being run as a means of enriching private companies. (Haliburton is the poster child for this, and in the structural position of the East India Company, but there are many others.)

Keep in mind that policy in the case of the second Bush administration is very nearly reducible to 'bring hither the money'.

#39 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 08:28 AM:

Keep in mind that policy in the case of the second Bush administration is very nearly reducible to 'bring hither the money'.

The Company, of course, waited more than a century before it started denying that that was its basic motive. They were refreshingly honest to begin with. :)

#40 ::: Zoe ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 09:12 AM:

Another non-parallel is that nobody has planted a Great Hedge across Iraq to enforce collection of the salt tax.

India's full of collectible salt, having a long coastline and plenty of salt pans. The salt tax meant that the sale or production of salt by anyone but the British government was illegal so people had to pay for something they'd picked up freely before. The prices tended to be extortionate and well beyond the hopes of manual workers, so the people who sweated most were the least able to replace their salt.

The body doesn't respond to severe salt deprivation by screaming for it urgently, as it does when it doesn't get enough water. Instead, the person feels breathless and exhausted to begin with, and if salt intake doesn't rise they start suffering much more seriously - cramps, weakness, sever breathlessness and cardiac distress when they exercise. Fevers and diarrhoea become much, much more dangerous.
Cattle need salt, too, or their milk yield goes down. All in all, it was very bad for your agricultural labourer who wasnt able to afford the salt anyway but whose income went downhill as he stopped being able to work so hard and his cattle dried up. It wasnt so simple to make a direct connection between all these woes and reduced salt levels its easier to say someones died of a disease than to work out theyre suffering from mineral deficiency. Also, medical history is written by the winners; why should the people cashing in on salt note their accountability for the wastage of the poor?

The Great Hedge was a strange-but-true method of clamping down on salt smuggling in the Bengal Presidency in the last few decades of the C20th. It was a heavily guarded mass of thorns about 20 feet high and 8 feet wide. It was theoretically impossible to get through: even if a smuggler got past the soldiers hed have infinitely more trouble hacking his way through 8ft of dense vegetation than sticking a ladder up against a wall.

So the British built (grew?) a 2300 mile long hedge across India in the 1860s and now nobody knows about it because it was made of plants and died. How weird.

Roy Moxham found some funny lines on a map, investigated, and wrote the first account of this crazy piece of horticultural history in 2001.

And in the spirit of picking up cool links while skipping over the internet trying to repair my memory of this book, heres something about the Harappa civilisation which stretched over India being technologically advanced and knocking the socks off the bronze age folks in Europe, who didnt exactly have socks at least, not socks as we know them.

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 09:45 AM:

Iraq: Insurgents infiltrate police

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security forces, a senior Iraqi official said, as the fallout continued over British forces' used of armed vehicles to smash their way into a police station to rescue two undercover soldiers.

The British government said it would not pull troops out of Iraq after the fury over the controversial rescue of two special forces soldiers arrested in Basra and allegedly handed over to local militia.

Two Iraqis died in the violence, Reuters reported.

Iraq's National Security Adviser, Dr Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said he did not know how far security forces had been undermined by insurgents.

He told the BBC: "Our Iraqi security forces in general, police in particular, in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit, have been penetrated by some of the insurgents, some of the terrorists as well.

#42 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 10:59 AM:

And what would George, Dick and Donald say on that day?

They'll be trying to pin it on Bill and Hillary.

#43 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 11:14 AM:

James, 'insurgents infiltrate police' is the story all right, but not quite all the story of Basra and the British-occupied Shia south. The police there are largely loyal to and recruited by the two Shia parties that did well in the elections. Whenever the chips are down they become party militias in police uniform. A different process to the Sunni situation, where 'infiltration' is a lot more accurate a description.

(All hasty and over-simplified - the complicated story is at Juan Cole's Informed Comment, passim)

#44 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 02:56 PM:

I know this is a serious subject, but all I could see for a minute was a bunch of insurgents sitting around, rolling 20 sided dice, and arguing about armor class. (Now that I think about it, RPGs were primarily how a lot of my friends explored their lust for firearms and explosions.)

The branching on false assumptions that phrase induced, hurt my brain!

I hope you're satisfied.


#45 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 04:01 PM:

OMG a new Flashman!!! Thank you, Mike! (rushes off to Amazon in spite of very thin wallet...)

#46 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 07:30 PM:

Serge & Bez: I'm not much of a Flashman fan, but I enjoyed Fraser's The General Danced at Dawn, essays telling of his life in a Scots regiment(?).

#47 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2005, 10:24 PM:


My great great great grandfather's mare could jump over that hedge while carrying a few sacks of jaggery. When the district collector found that out, he first refused to believe it and then, after a demonstration, insisted on treating the mare to jaggery from the British stores. :)

And if the Harappan civilisation interests you, you'll find a lot of material online under that name and the 'Saraswati Valley Civilisation'. Over the last few decades, enough evidence has been uncovered to debunk Wheeler's theory of the Aryan invasion. Oh, and excavations of some of the sites, Hothal and Mahendragarh, apparently revealed skeletons from different races. Multiuculturalism still remains - I just wish our drainage system was as good as of the Harappans [covered drains ~ 2500 BC].

#48 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:28 AM:

The Great Hedge and the Salt Tax are facts. The comprehensive indifference and incompetence of the British handling of the famines is fact. I wish that they were not facts, but they are, and all the railways and canals and drains and aqueducts and suppression of sati in the world are at best no more than a partial and inadequate compensation for that.

Perhaps India itself - its existence as a nation - is worth considering as a useful legacy of the British. To the extent that they made such a thing possible, there is some compensation there, perhaps.

And there is always cricket.

#49 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 06:28 AM:


Cricket is a very good point, almost enough to make me start thinking of the Raj as an excellent thing to have happened. ;)

But since it also a source of anxiety today, I'll refrain from adding it to the equation and just stick to my original view, which is that the Raj had its good points and its bad points. And I tend to find that the sides balance out.

For every Dyer, there were dozens of dedicated officers who tried to maintain order and help the people. For every famine, there were engineers who worked hard at irrigation projects. Although I rarely came across genuine altruism on the part of the Company or the Crown, I also rarely came across deliberate malice. It was a different age, with different compulsions, and the Brits didn't acquit themselves too badly when they were here.

And then there is English. Perhaps my favourite legacy of the Raj. :)
The existence of India as a nation, however, is not a legacy of the British. For thousands of years, even before Clive set foot on Indian soil, the landmass from the Himalyas to Kanyakumari has been considered one nation. And at least two other empires, preceding the Raj, successfully brought most of that area under their control.

#50 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 08:44 AM:

Ritu, enough of your ancestors' countrymen felt otherwise to get themselves horribly killed fighting the Raj.

You sound, with all due respect, like some Irish-American praising the British govt during the Famine, because it resulted in Irish diaspora and present state of wealth and prosperity and increased numbers for Irish people since 1840, without any thought as to what *better* might have been, without such interference, the foolish assumption that your own people couldn't have, building on what they had already accomplished in their own Renaissance, without the downpresser men of the Raj grifting and ruining native arts and industry, attained the same as Europe on their own. Which is a kind of sad self-hating acceptance of the Anglosphere assessment of "wog" inferority.

--You won't *ever* find an Irish-American praising the actions of the British empire during the Famine - nor even exonerating them with historicism, by-the-by. They'd be run out of town on a rail.

#51 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 08:50 AM:

...although you do find the same uncritical acceptance of white, "Western Culture" superiority among a very few African-Americans, who know what side they expect to have their bread buttered on. But most black citizens don't think their ancestors were dupes and dopes for resisting the "blessings" of "civilization" by any means available to them - nor do they think highly of those who do buy into the white superiority mythos.

#52 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Bellantrys, I know what my ancestors did and I probably know it in greater detail than you. For example, I know that we didn't indulge in vilification of the British even during the struggle for our independence. It was a non-violent movement, based on satyagraha, our insistence on our right to govern ourselves, and the criticism was limited to specific policies and people. There were a few exceptions, of course, but the mainstream, from Gandhi down, merely pointed out the specific problems and insisted that the British leave. And I don't think that indicates any kind of a subservience but, rather, illustrates confidence and assurance. Gandhi was probably the politest rebel ever, and I'd sure be interested in someone making a case that he was subservient and considered himself to inferior to any white man.

You sound, with all due respect, like some Irish-American praising the British govt during the Famine, because it resulted in Irish diaspora and present state of wealth and prosperity and increased numbers for Irish people since 1840,

And you sound, with all due respect, amazingly anxious to foist your favourite misconceptions on me. Can you point out a single sentence in which I *praised* the atrocities committed by the Raj or even a supposed effect of these atrocities, like maybe a statement of mine in which I spout idiocies like 'Oh goody! The deaths caused by famines brought down the population', or 'Wow! Dyer sure showed those stupid protestors!'? Surely an enumeration of what was good along with an enumeration of what was bad cannot be counted as praise.

without any thought as to what *better* might have been, without such interference, the foolish assumption that your own people couldn't have, building on what they had already accomplished in their own Renaissance, without the downpresser men of the Raj grifting and ruining native arts and industry, attained the same as Europe on their own. Which is a kind of sad self-hating acceptance of the Anglosphere assessment of "wog" inferority.

Eh? We were talking about what *did* happen, not about what might have happened. And I am not sure why you assume you know my views on the latter. As far as I know, I have never thought or said anything even half as remotely ridiculous as the views you ascribe to me. I'd like you to either back these statements by quoting my lines, or, failing that, I'd like you to admit that you don't have faintest idea of what you are talking about. Namely, my views on what India would have been like if the Brits never arrived. And please don't point to the stuff I said about engineers and decent civil servants: if you can't see the difference between an acknowledgement of what was done and the wail that we couldn't possibly have done it ourselves, then that is your problem, not mine.

--You won't *ever* find an Irish-American praising the actions of the British empire during the Famine - nor even exonerating them with historicism, by-the-by. They'd be run out of town on a rail.

How the Irish conduct their affairs is their business, I am not the keeper of their conscience. I am, however, the keeper of my conscience and I refuse to lie or exagerrate to prove my credentials. Least of all to impress a random stranger who seems a bit too willing to accuse me of weird notions. I respond well to questions, I don't respond too well to being told what I think and then being berated on the basis of somebody else's fantasies.

...although you do find the same uncritical acceptance of white, "Western Culture" superiority among a very few African-Americans, who know what side they expect to have their bread buttered on.


Again, that is their problem. What *I* am interested in is your compulsion to believe that I suffer from an inferiority complex. The very notion that we needed the Brits to 'civilise' us is laughable - not only are we one of the oldest civilisations in the world, taking over somebody else's lands and wealth for personal gain is hardly my notion of being civilised. However that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the good folk who came over here and fell in love with the country, or its people, or built dams and canals which *did* help my people. But then again, I have never subcribed to the notion that giving credit where it's due reduces a person.

But most black citizens don't think their ancestors were dupes and dopes for resisting the "blessings" of "civilization" by any means available to them

And pray where did I call my ancestors 'dupes and dopes'? Do you ever think before you type, or do you just get caught up in your fantasies and impose them on anyone unlucky enough to be in your vicinity?

#53 ::: dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:12 PM:

"You won't *ever* find an Irish-American praising the actions of the British empire during the Famine - nor even exonerating them with historicism, by-the-by. "

I work in an office composed mostly of Indians. Obviously they're upper-middle-class, highly intelligent etc, and they're all ambivalent about the British occupation - and not to humour me, they don't do that.

"They'd be run out of town on a rail."
Howling mobs are what these guys got educated to overcome.

On a lighter note, there's a new Indian fillum coming out, dealing with the uprising. It's going to be spectacular, high-budget, they've been working on it exclusively for 18 months - the norm is to work on 5 films at a time & wrap one per month. "Lagaan" was its precursor, and pretty good it was, although the baddies still had to twirl their moustaches in concert.

#54 ::: dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:18 PM:

" .. most black citizens don't think their ancestors were dupes and dopes for resisting the "blessings" of "civilization" by any means available to them - nor do they think highly of those who do buy into the white superiority mythos.." by learning to read and write?

Look, this is just silly. A principled culture-based rejection of American white society is one thing, but American and English black youth claim to be doing this when in fact they're...
(censors initial thought) putting themselves *voluntarily* at high risk of imprisonment. For nothing.

#55 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 01:31 PM:

As a complete non-sequitur, has anyone else here had a vague expectation of reading something about the Enfield Fly Rule?

("Enfield Fly": a horse-drawn coach route in the town of Enfield around the 19th century, or a classic motorcycle. I have no idea whether either of them rule(s).)

#56 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 02:01 PM:

I've never heard of an Enfield fly rule, but baseball does have an infield fly rule, which has to do with fly-ball hits that could be caught by a player in the infield with normal effort. Wikipedia has an article about it:

and there are other places on the internet, including the rules section of the major league baseball site, at, that go over this.

It has nothing to do with rifles, or places, persons, or other things names Enfield.

#57 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2005, 11:24 PM:

I quite agree that there were Empires that comprised most of India before the British Raj, and I was not crediting the Raj with creating modern India, only with to some extent making such a thing possible. Essentially, the British moved into a series of power vacuums, one of which was created by the crumbling of the old Mughal Empire. If the British had not been there, the logical and normal historical outcome would have been a number - probably a large number - of successor states, followed possibly by another wholesale conquest, possibly from outside and quite conceivably by Russia. The idea - debateable, I think - that "the landmass from the Himalyas to Kanyakumari has been (always) considered one nation" has usually not hindered the division of India into many political entities. The current polity is the only one that has approached being a nation-state, as opposed to a series of conquests by one ruler or another, amounting to an Empire with subject peoples and suzerainity rather than unified government.

Gandhi was certainly the world's politest rebel. On the other hand, the British were not far from being the world's politest dictators, despots and tyrants. At the risk of invoking whatever the law is that says when someone mentions Hitler, all rational debate has ceased, the story is told that when Chamberlain was at Munich in 1938, Hitler is said to have asked him about India. It was said to have been over tea. Chamberlain said he was certain that local autonomy and the admittance of Indians into the highest administrative and service posts would pave the way for eventual independence, and that this was already under way. Hitler looked at him without comprehension. "What? Nonsense!" he said. "Shoot Gandhi. Shoot the fifty leading members of Congress. Shoot a dozen newspaper editors, and it will all be settled. You'll have to do it eventually, anyway. You'll see that I'm right."

There's no way of knowing whether he would have been. The British didn't take his advice.

#58 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 09:28 AM:

CHip: "The General Danced at Dawn" is one of three collections of short stories; the other two are "McAuslan in the Rough" and "The Sheik and the Dustbin". They've been collected and reissued as a single volume ("The Complete McAuslan") in about 2000; you might want to keep an eye out for them if you weren't otherwise aware. The first one is the best, though, glancing at the contents page.

You might also want to track down "Quartered Safe Out Here", his (less fictionalised) memoirs of serving in Burma in 1944-5; at the end of the war he became an officer, was posted to a Highland regiment, and thence came the McAuslan short stories.

(Fittingly for this thread, the latter book takes its name from a Kipling poem...)

#59 ::: Ellen Seebacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 11:43 AM:

My children are descended from Mark Bensley Thornhill, at one point Deputy Collector in Cawnpore, but in 1857 a magistrate in Muttra. (My MIL's family was associated with the British East India Company for several generations.) Mark, unlike his two brothers who were also serving in India that year (and some of their families), survived the slaughter -- by posing as a Muslim woman during his escape.

In 1884 he published his memoir The personal adventures and experiences of a magistrate during the rise, progress and suppression of the Indian mutiny, a copy of which we own; it's fascinating stuff. I know the Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Rebellion / War of Independence of 1857 / [insert your name here]) wasn't covered in any of my history books, and I'd be surprised if more than a tiny percentage of Americans had heard of it at all. So one of these days we should figure out a way to scan the book without damaging it, and make the entire thing available online.

#60 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 11:57 AM:

The Indian Mutiny is, indeed, not well-covered in history classes in the USA.

So one of these days we should figure out a way to scan the book without damaging it, and make the entire thing available online.

You can always use the Ten-Finger Scanner. That's where you retype the whole darned thing.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 12:01 PM:

So one of these days we should figure out a way to scan the book without damaging it, and make the entire thing available online.

I have a cookbook from about the same time that needs to be scanned (Kansas Home Cook Book from Leavenworth, FWIW). Same sort of thing.

#62 ::: Ritu ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 12:34 PM:

I am not so sure that an invasion by Russia would have been on the cards. Around the time Aurangzeb died, the Marathas were rather active as were the Afghans and the Pathans, and the Jats and the Sikhs. Most of the north-western territory could as easily have been divided between these three groups.

The idea - debateable, I think - that "the landmass from the Himalyas to Kanyakumari has been (always) considered one nation" has usually not hindered the division of India into many political entities.

Of course not. It has been quite troublesome to forge a united entity, and I am not too sure how far we have succeeded. The results of a poll were published this week and even today some 41% of the Indians identify themselves first with their region/state, 29% with India the country, and 19% indentify themselves on the basis of their religion. And it is not too hard to understand if one considers the regional differences in culture, language and lifestyle. As Jinnah pointed out to Mountbatten, 'A Bengali is a Bengali first and a Muslim second'. When Mountbatten pointed out that surely an Indian must be an Indian first and a Bengali second, he was met with a blank stare. :)

The current polity is the only one that has approached being a nation-state, as opposed to a series of conquests by one ruler or another, amounting to an Empire with subject peoples and suzerainity rather than unified government.

Yep. And for this I give credit first to Patel, then to Menon. The British were quite willing to leave us fragmented. If the Cabinet mission plan envisioned a very weak federation, even Mountbatten's plan was to allow any of the 565 princely states to declare independence if they so wanted. It was Patel's insistence on at least 560 accessions that created today's India.

Re Hitler's advice: 1938 was too late in the game to kill Gandhi - there would have been a mass rebellion and only the British armymen would have helped suppress it. :)

But as far as ridiculous comments go, I thought Gandhi's advice on how Britain should face the Nazi invasion was even sillier than Hitler's advice. Gandhi thought that the British should lay down their arms and not offer any resistance or violence. This was apparently going to appeal to the humanity of the Nazi soldiers...

To get back to the initial point though, I don't know how much credit one is supposed to give to the British for refusing to kill these 60 odd people. Far more had been killed before 1938 [like the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre], many more would be killed in the nine years left till Independence [especially in 1942]. Just because the British were circumspect and relatively polite in the 20th century, especially after WWII started and they donned the mantle of supporters of freedom, doesn't mean that brutality hadn't been a feature of the Raj.

#63 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 04:47 PM:

fidelio, Julie L was engaging in pun-ditry. Perhaps an invoking of that Grand Pooh-Bah of the Enfield Fly Rule, the British Umpire, might have made that more clear..

#64 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 05:09 PM:

No doubt.

#65 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 11:59 PM:

So one of these days we should figure out a way to scan the book without damaging it, and make the entire thing available online.

I have heard of handheld scanners that can be moved over one page at a time instead requiring that a book be flattened; are they usable? They'd be non-trivial, but much faster than retyping.

#66 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 12:32 AM:

I have never used any kind of scanner, though it might have made some parts of my job easier. I'm given to understand that if you scan you need to be prepared to proofread the output. Just my 2 cents worth. (I'm in the trade show pulishing industry-- I get data and get it ready for layout in all stages of how ne can do that -- we often get yelled at if people's free listings are in any way wrong, even with a disclaimer AND the fact they've gone online and input their farking listing themselves.)

#67 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:29 AM:

Nuts. Does this mean that the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary after all? (I don't know where it could've gone. Maybe that's what Gullible's Travels is about. Or was that the show about an island...?)

Meanwhile, re the ten-fingered scanner, evidently it takes about a month to copy out the entire text of Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Prince by hand.

#68 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 04:41 AM:

Actually, you can find out all about Gullible's Travails on the "Yahoo news photos" thread.

#69 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 05:10 AM:

For the book to be scanned, could you perhaps set it up in a nice spine-protecting cradle, get clear daylit photos of each page, put the pages up on a blog (perhaps 2-3 a day), and your commentors would type out what each page says? Then comments on the book would be right next to the relevant pages. It would be OCR with built-in annotatation. The best formatted page-typed comments could be slapped together into a virtual book.

#70 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 09:57 AM:

I worked for a while with OCR'ed scanned text. The stuff I got was occasionally hilarious - it appears to be partly a function of the typeface the original document uses. (Note for those who want to print and scan their docs: don't use faces with large serifs or much contrast between thick and thin. It will make a lot more work for your proffredders.)

When the scanner+OCR combo turns 'legal' into 'lethal' and 'District' into 'Omelet', you have a problem. Although DC bonds might really be a lethal obligation....

#71 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2005, 12:43 PM:

So one of these days we should figure out a way to scan the book without damaging it, and make the entire thing available online

Stephen Abram at Stephens Lighthouse talks about a New Scientist Article Camera phones will be high-precision scanners

Minolta also has a very expensive scanner that allows you to put the book in a cradle and scan from above - and there is a mirror that helps adjust for scanning into the valley between the pages. We had one in our archives section in the library at Ft. Leavenworth. My recollection was that it was in the $30,000 - $40,000 range.

You might ask your state historical society if they had access to one, or knew who had one. They "might" be willing to scan it in return for a digital copy. Couldn't hurt to ask.

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Insurgents dressed as police kill 6 teachers

Insurgents dressed as Iraq police shot and killed six teachers Monday, while violence claimed at least 10 other lives, including three U.S. soldiers, authorities in Iraq said.

The teachers were slain at an elementary school in the southern town of Muwalha on Monday, sources from the emergency police of Babil province said.

Insurgents drove to the school in two vehicles, took the teachers into a classroom and killed them, the sources said.

The first question has to be, how do we know they weren't really police? Wouldn't be the first police death squads the world has ever seen.

The second question is: Now do we admit that there's a civil war going on?

#73 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:33 PM:

"Now do we admit that there's a civil war going on?"

Who is we? Not the administration. Not their spear carriers. For them Iraq is a land of women dancing in the street after casting a vote for the first time, soldiers handing out candy bars in front of freshly painted schools, and handsome bearded men in suits going about the business of making a constitution.

This rosy view may be revealed as delusional once the press turns its attentions from human interest stories about storm victims to the war. The media is beginning to realize that revealing the administration's incompetence is a good story.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Add that the civilian spear-carriers seem to think it's a war for our freedom; they are really not seeing what's going on.

#75 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2005, 06:37 PM:

Heh. Twenty years from now, they'll be blaming the collapse of Iraq on the war protestors:

"They didn't support the troops, and look what happened!"

#76 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 09:51 AM:

First off, my salutations and gratitude go to Ritu and to Dave Lucketts, for their informative and interesting comments on the Indian Mutiny.

And a word of warning: I picked up a copy of Flashman and the Great Game, thinking that it would be a pretty painless way to learn more about the historical events. I'm finding it - disconcerting, shall we say? - how heavily larded it is with a famously pejorative descriptive term (for example, the places where my parents go to worship are referred to as 'nggr temples'). Particularly since I am not at all accustomed to that term's use in reference to people who look like me (not that I think that would necessarily help, mind). Other than that, I'm quite enjoying it.

Caveat lector.

#77 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2005, 10:43 AM:

You need to remember that one of George Macdonald Fraser's most notable characteristics as a writer is a wonderful ear for language, and the ability to slip into the mind of the viewpoint character. I would recommend his "Black Ajax", a beautifully sympathetic fictionalised biography of Thomas Molyneux, the first black prizefighter to challenge for the championship of Britain - and hence, the world. The language evokes Regency London so perfectly, so strongly, that it seems impossible that the writer didn't live there.

When Flashman calls Indians by that name, he speaks as any Englishman of his day would speak. It's no use blinking at it. He also calls various other peoples by other equally offensive names, and was utterly unconscious of any wrong. But that's Flashman speaking, not Macdonald Fraser.

Macdonald Fraser does the same thing in "The Candlemass Road" when he creates a character who's a southern Englishman speaking of the people of the Borders in the sixteenth century. To that character, the English Borderers are only just barely human, and the Scots definitely not. That character, who becomes eventually an Oxford don, is by any standards a coarse drunkard. And still he is sympathetic, despite everything, which I think is nothing less than a tour de force.

#78 ::: Ralph Hitchens ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Great to see an appreciation of Fraser's marvelous Flashman series. For my money, the one that works best as a novel is Flashman at the Charge, with Flashman and the Redskins a close second. Nearly all of them offer a lively introduction to British imperialism in the 19th century. The exceptions include Flash for Freedom, Flashman and the Redskins, and Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, which do the same for mid-19th century America. Royal Flash is in a separate category, basically a humorous remake of The Prisoner of Zenda. All well worth reading.

#79 ::: Ellen Seebacher ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2011, 01:31 AM:

For the benefit of folks whose searches on the Indian Mutiny / Sepoy Rebellion / [yournamehere] bring them to this page....

We never did get around to scanning Mark Thornhill's book, but that's okay, because Google did it for us:

The book is free, and if you're interested in the events it discusses, worth a read!

#80 ::: Pipibluestockin sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2011, 02:27 AM:

*delurks long enough to post a spam alert*

#81 ::: Pipibluestockin ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2011, 02:31 AM:

And I make a goose of myself...

Sorry Ellen.

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