Raj The Making and Unmaking of British India

Lawrence James

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

768 Pages


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In less that one hundred years, the British made themselves the masters of India. They ruled for another hundred, leaving behind the independent nations of India and Pakistan when they finally withdrew in 1947. Both nations would owe much to the British Raj: the introduction of railways, roads, canals, schools, universities, hospitals, universal language, and common law, and the creation of a national identity.

None of this, however, was planned. After a series of emergencies in the eighteenth century transformed a business partnership—the East India Company—into the most formidable war machine in Asia, conquest gathered its own momentum. Fortunes grew, but, alongside them, Britons grew troubled by the despotism that had been created in their name. The result was the formation of a government that balanced firmness with benevolence, and had as its goal the advancement of India.

But the Raj, outwardly so monolithic and magnificent, always rested precariously on the goodwill of Indians. In this exploration of British rule in India, Lawrence James chronicles the astonishing heroism that created it, the mixture of compromise and repression that characterized it, and the twists and turns of the independence struggle that ended it.


Praise for Raj

"[James] has acquitted himself handsomely. His narrative is readable, his research wide-ranging and his judgements informed and tough-minded . . . James is excellent at detailing how India touched and enlivened the British imagination."—Karl E. Meyer, The New York Times Book Review

"A comprehensive, well-written account that handles masses of material ably . . . intriguing and refreshing."—Fareed Zakaria, The Wall Street Journal

"This is a wonderful book about the British presence in India . . . My guess is that it will remain unsurpassed in our generation as a scholarly survey for the educated general reader."—Jan Morris author of Fifty Years of Europe

"Lawrence James' impressive new history makes it clear the truth [of the British occupation in India] was . . . complex . . . [H]e is far from being an unreconstructed imperialist. His is a fair—and very readable—account of the British in India."—Dallas Morning News

"An intelligent general history of the former jewel in Britain's crown, with assiduous attention to the complications it created for ruler and ruled alike."—Kirkus Reviews

"A stirring account . . . a beautifully written examination of a glittering 'jewel' of imperialism and an age that seemed to produce a fascinating variety of 'heroes.'"—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Lawrence James

  • Lawrence James was born in Bath and educated at the University of York and Merton College, Oxford. After a distinguished teaching career, he emerged as one of the outstanding narrative historians of this generation. He lives in St. Andrews, Scotland.