The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj

Written by David Gilmour
Review by William Thornton

There was a time when the mention of India, and specifically England’s administration of the Subcontinent, was a matter of pride. Such notions strike 21st-century ears as smacking of imperialism and, at worst, racism. But the author of this study will have none of it, and makes a fairly good case that England’s stewardship of India in the 19th century was one of the Empire’s greatest achievements. To modern minds, the idea that a handful of civil servants could successful administrate a nation of several hundred million in the age of the telegraph is still an astonishing achievement. Gilmour shows virtually every aspect of the lives and works of those previously anonymous workers, and recreates the struggles within a bureaucracy adapting to the needs of the moment. In the process, he shows how their work laid the foundation for a thriving, modern, independent nation.