Viceroys: The Creation of the British

Written by Christopher Lee
Review by Ann Northfield

Author of the bestselling This Sceptred Isle, Christopher Lee has now turned his attention to the British in India looking at the country and different decades through the prism of the various Viceroys who ruled India as Queen Victoria’s deputies. It was certainly a difficult position to hold in a land of contradictions filled with problems. There are many interesting moments, and the book is filled with facts and detailed analysis of the situations faced by these upper-class politicians and the personal cost of that service.

At times, however, the book is quite hard to read. There doesn’t seem to be a clear chronological structure, which does not help the reader to follow the complex history and large number of people, both Indian and British, who figure in the book. On occasion, it feels as if a final edit to ensure the flow of the syntax has not been carried out rigorously enough. Just one example is on page 39, when discussing the British ‘who did financially well by supporting Mir Kasim. Mir Kasim modernised his Bengal army. Mir Kasim’s capture of the British etc’. The name is repeated six times in as many lines, which makes the sentences seem staccato. Very often I had to re-read sections to get the gist, as explanations lacked clarity, at least for the non-specialist reader, which had the undesired effect of making an exciting subject somewhat dull.