Anglo-India and the End of Empire
A startling new history of a community’s struggle to be heard as Empire waned in India, with echoes for all those of mixed heritage.
The standard image of the Raj is of an aloof, pampered and prejudiced British elite lording it over an oppressed and hostile Indian subject population. Like most caricatures, this obscures as much truth as it reveals. The British had not always been so aloof. The earlier, more cosmopolitan period of East India Company rule saw abundant ‘interracial’ sex and occasional marriage, alongside greater cultural openness and exchange. The result was a large and growing ‘mixed-race’ community, known by the early twentieth century as Anglo-Indians.
Notwithstanding its faults, Empire could never have been maintained without the active, sometimes enthusiastic, support of many colonial subjects. These included Indian elites, professionals, civil servants, businesspeople and minority groups of all kinds, who flourished under the patronage of the imperial state, and could be used in a ‘divide and rule’ strategy to prolong colonial rule. Independence was profoundly unsettling to those destined to become minorities in the new nation, and the Anglo-Indians were no exception.
This refreshing account looks at the dramatic end of British rule in India through Anglo-Indian eyes, a perspective that is neither colonial apologia nor nationalist polemic. Its history resonates strikingly with the complex identity debates of the twenty-first century.
Uther Charlton-Stevens is Professor at Volgograd State University, a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and the author of Anglo-Indians and Minority Politics in South Asia: Race, Boundary Making and Communal Nationalism. His father is an Anglo-Indian, born in British India, who came to England as a child.