Letter: Raj riposte

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In his review of Lawrence James's Raj: A History of British India (Review, 30 November) David Gilmour extends to British rule in India the current crusade against "political correctness", a crusade which is rather more stifling and dogmatic than its foe. It is merely silly for a serious review to reduce the complexity of colonial rule to these terms.

Mr Gilmour's picture of the Raj as a civilising mission marred only by a few bad eggs like Dyer, whose exploits are all but brushed aside on the grounds that the unsporting Punjabis were "on the edge of insurrection", smacks of latter-day colonial self-justification. The reader of the review might be forgiven for thinking that the Raj was nothing more than the altruistic export of British "justice". But apart from anything else, in his vision of a nation of "Indians" submitting to a nation of "Britons", Mr Gilmour fails to appreciate that the idea of such organised political blocs was largely a result of colonial rule itself. The Indian nationalists had few options but to make the same idea their own, with some unfortunate consequences in post-colonial India.

Chris Smaje

University of Surrey

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