Paperback review: The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj, By Anne de Courcy


Who were the women who set out on 16-week-long journeys, courting sickness and even death, all the way from England to India in search of a husband? As de Courcy points out, from 1851 to 1911, approximately one in three of all women aged between 25 and 35 was unmarried.

At a time when spinsterhood carried a great stigma, the statistics alone were enough to send women over the high seas for a suitable mate. It’s interesting though that the Indian Raj never suffered the reputation of other ex-pat colonies like the “Happy Valley” set in Kenya. And interesting, too, that pre-Victoria, British soldiers were positively encouraged to marry local Indian women and father their children.