Sahib: the British Soldier in India 1750-1914

Will Cohu reviews the book by Richard Holmes in The Telegraph:

Britain embarked on its great Indian adventure of the 18th and 19th centuries reluctantly. The government was forced to step in after its licensed entrepreneurs of the East India Company were found to be lacking in both efficiency and scruples. Some had come to look upon India as “the land of the pagoda tree” that only had to be shaken to rain money. In just two years, from 1778-80, Sir Thomas Rumbold, governor of Madras, amassed a fortune of £750,000, much of it bribes from the Nawab of Arcot, whose interests were, in turn, defended by the company.

While the company struggled with wars and debt, a new class of self-made gentlemen, the nabobs, returned with their trunks stuffed with riches. After the Mutiny of 1857, the Crown replaced the company as the ruling authority in India, and under Queen Victoria 41,000 Europeans held sway over a population of 15 million.

Some of the British soldiers were mercenaries, some had enlisted into the company’s forces, and others served in regular regiments posted to India. Some came from the gutter and some from the gentry. Some were desperate to serve in India and others had no choice.

More here.