The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 By Ferdinand Mount

Brilliant and neutral account of the period, kings, east India company, British etc in the period since the mutiny at Vellore to the 1857 revolt. The author shows how British brought down loyal and sympathetic native kings by series of manipulations, treason, opportunity and grand plan. All of it instrumented by few of the British who the native kings considered as friends. Simply brilliant. The book opens up new perspectives of the period and how it shaped the subcontinent since then. English Overly factual book with the risk of getting lost into details. The story jumps from one fact to another without a proper link between them. That does not make the overall reading easy.
It might be a great historical book but I had different expectations and hoping to find a “soul” in the storytelling. I found it very dry and I was not able to finish it. English Historical transgenerational narrative of four families – incestuous to a degree – whose fortunes were inextricably linked to the Indian sub-continent from Mughal times to pre-Independent India. The four families were the Lows, Metcalfes, Shakepears (sic) and the Thackerays (including the famous novelist). They lived, ruled, made and lost their fortunes, fought (massacring innocents as vengeance against the imagined perpetrators of the first war of Independence – labelled by them as the Mutiny of 1857), exploited the natives, raped, looted the country, married, raised families, fell sick and died. The tone adopted is racist to the marrow initially but later is less biased

What they governed was still an empire of white men over black men, and one that relied on harsh and swift, though seldom arbitrary, punishment to keep the peace.
English Honest. Mesmerizing. English A British Family Story of India

Ferdinand Mount is an excellent researcher and writer. I became aware of his talents when reading the story of his Aunt Munca. “Tears...” is the story of his ancestors, The Lows of Clatto, Scotland and their experiences in India. Concentrating primarily on the Mutiny of 1857-58, it is still gossipy and fun to read. English

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British ascendancy over India is always a fascinating study. The author covers the nineteenth century where the mutiny of 1857 is covered with vivd detailing. Prodigious research ensures that the author is able to cover little known details during this century. For e.g the white mutiny where over 1000 British soldiers revolted against their superiors with the three senior most of the traitors court martialled, one of whom was subsequently knighted! Also the strategy of the British under Dalhousie to expand the British Empire even without the approval of the powers that be in England has been enchantingly narrated. John Low the protagonist, through whose life, the entire century is covered is a structurally novel approach. Likely to become a classic. English This thick brick, grass, snake, gray thread, has a thousand miles of veins: taking the intricate complex between the four great families of Lowe, Shakespeare, Thackeray and Metcalf and India as a clue, it leads to the centuries of the British-Indian colony. History, the layout must be exquisite.

The entire hegemony of the British Empire in India is actually weak. This is true. The difficulty lies not in conquering. After all, the British Empire’s army is very capable of fighting, and even Napoleon is not an opponent. What are the small native states of India? (Although the Indian people have achieved brilliant victories in the process of rebelling against the colonists, they are not as good as humans after all.) The real difficulty lies in rule. In other words, it is the ability to govern. In fact, the trouble is caused by oneself. The officials and generals of the colony were among the dragons and phoenixes. The famous Arthur Wellesley and Clavou Needless to say, Gillespie and Gibbs are rare warriors in the world. But most of them are short-sighted, mediocre and incompetent people who have forced the indigenous soldiers to rebel because of their small military caps. The crusade can also tear up the lawsuit for the quality of mutton, and the long egg will last more than two years. The big troubles caused by trivial things like this are everywhere, and they are not uncommon. As unpopular foreign invaders, the colonizers were fascinated by self-confidence, blindly dying, and placed themselves as a minority on the opposite side of the vast Indian people. Well, if it were not for the fact that India did not have a unified national consciousness at that time, there were many contradictions among the princes and sects of the Tubang, the British would have been submerged in the ocean of the People's War.

The Indian mutiny of 1857 was not isolated, but continuous. It happened repeatedly in the history of British rule in India, but it was of varying scale. In fact, not only the indigenous Indian soldiers rebelled, but even the white officers also staged a mutiny. These middle and lower-level British officers were not only in a dangerous and unpredictable place, but also under the pressure of unfair treatment and hopeless promotion. What's more, the senior officials of the East India Company And the senior generals of the army also made things difficult for them in every possible way. The last straw that overwhelmed the camel was the power struggle between the governor and the commander-in-chief, which finally caused these white people to take risks. Instead of being punished, the leaders of the rebellion were appeased and promoted to high positions. One is that a jury made up of colleagues shielded him in every possible way, even if it angered the senior officials, it didn't care. Secondly, we can see how short the human resources of the British Empire's army in India are. However, the Indian soldiers who obeyed the orders of these white officers became scapegoats, and some of them were even massacred. It can be seen that fierce contradictions have always existed within the British-Indian colonies.

In the face of severe survival crisis and profitability requirements, what should the East India Company or the colonial government do? It is nothing more than reforming the old and new internally, and transferring contradictions to the outside. Internally, the improvement of land taxation in India and the modernization of the social system have not been effective. Instead, it has aroused greater resentment of the Indian people towards the colonists. Direct taxation of land farmers will always be the natural supporter of the landlord. Also pushed to the opposite. The British colonists never understood India’s social structure and land system, and never penetrated into the people. The British have never been able to convincingly prove that they are occupying India to help poor peasants, because it is clear that the British are in their pockets. In addition, the reform of fair distribution within the colonists, that is, improving the treatment of middle and lower-level officers and even ordinary soldiers in the army, is bound to further increase the cost of operations, and naturally requires more money. So where can I get the money? External conquest can undoubtedly win everyone's support. From top to bottom, who doesn't want to use the opportunity of war to get promoted and make money? Since then, the colonial government disregarded the mother country’s principled requirement of no need to expand its territory, and from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the colonial government has been militant in the South Asian subcontinent, looting money and food for territory, three Anglo-Mysore wars, and three Anglo-Malaysian wars. The Rata War, the expedition to Indonesia, the three Anglo-Burmese wars, the invasion of Afghanistan, etc., are too numerous to mention. Even when there is no war, the permanent representatives of the British Empire in the palaces of the princes from time to time grab the benefits of the colonies (and of course themselves), and even engage in peaceful subversion in two ways. Compared with the permanent representatives, one of the protagonists of this book, John Low, seems to have a conscience, but even he, who firmly believes that the rule of the indigenous princes should be maintained, has participated in at least three subversion operations, which is also the theme of this book. The origin of the tears of the princes. The result of this unpopular policy both internally and externally is only one-Anyway, none of them like us very much.

It is a pity that blindly relying on force is not enough. The Anglo-Indian government won first and then lost in the war in Afghanistan (this is still due to the incompetent governors and generals), which not only undermined the reputation of the British Empire as invincible, but also caused a serious economic crisis to the British and Indian colonies. To devour the savings of the most loyal servants of the empire, it can be said that he lost his wife and broke down. As for the economic loss, where can I find compensation? The colonial government then turned its attention to the princes and the Indian people, and extorted them, no matter how friendly (loyal) these states were to the British Empire, such as launching a war to annex Gwalior, and then using the opium grown here to poison them. The Qing Dynasty; another example is to force Hyderabad to secede money and drive away the orphans and widows of Nagpur and Jansi. As for the excuse, European principles, science and literature are gradually expanding in India, and the inevitable consequence is that they will sooner or later It will overwhelm the purely Asian system, and annexation is a link in the inevitable chain of progress. This is what the aggressor calls progressiveism. In fact, this method of killing chickens and getting eggs can only make ordinary Indians more impoverished, and make Indian princes and upper-class people more fearful. From the point of view of the conqueror, it is far more effective to retain a grateful puppet ruler than to directly rule over resentful subjects. John Low’s disposal of the small state Kalauli is an example (Karauli’s mutiny in 1857). On the side of the British colonists). Of course, there are also people of insight who raise objections that we should proceed with caution, and John Low is one of them. But it is a pity that money and power have blinded most people. Years of new hatred and old hatred will inevitably find a vent, and the Great Mutiny of 1857 broke out in this way.

After a long period of preparation, the penultimate chapter of this book, Chapter 17, is dedicated to the Mutiny. Its beginning is actually a man-made disaster: in the center of several potential dissatisfaction and turmoil, there are not enough troops. European forces; six or seven indigenous ruling dynasties were deposed or castrated, and their resentment may be integrated with the dissatisfaction of their subjects; all kinds of indigenous customs and beliefs were not respected, and even threatened to be eliminated; the chain of command was bloated and slow. Conducive to rapid deployment. Most importantly, all alarms were ignored. The battle scenes of the siege of Delhi were described very well, but the process of the relief operation of Lucknow was not very clear. I read it twice before I realized that the relief forces of General Havelock had successfully reached Changzhou after launching three offensives. The residence of the resident representative, but was also besieged due to excessive losses of troops, until Sir Campbell launched a second rescue operation to rescue everyone. Cruel images of war abound in Chapter 17, which may cause discomfort. In the street fighting between Delhi and Lucknow, the British army adopted the through house tactics-using artillery to cut holes in the walls of houses to avoid snipers in the streets and windows. This is impressive. Sir Campbell, known as the crawling camel, is in stark contrast with his descendants in World War I in trying to preserve the lives of his soldiers.

The Mutiny was finally suppressed, and Sir John Kay, the author of History of Mutiny in India, asserted: India was won with a sword and must be maintained with a sword. Then, we can imagine that when the imperial force declines, India will naturally be unable to sustain it. The author of this book asserts: After the Great Mutiny, the British can no longer think of themselves as completely innocent. They can no longer think that their empire hegemony is more or less natural, and can no longer believe in the empire. It will certainly continue in the foreseeable future, and it is also qualified to continue. English I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Being an Indian, this is a painful part of my history. However, I found the writing unbiased and full of empathy. It indeed touched me.

This is a family history, but what a family it was. Their lives intertwined with all the major events of geopolitical nature between 1815-1915. The scope of the book is across the Indian subcontinent & has also touched Java and Afghanistan.

I think it is a must read for anyone who wants an understanding of Indian history during that period. The human element, the lives of the Lows through the years, makes it even more special. English An intensely objective historical narrative full of the romance and vibrancy of subjective fiction.

The British came to India as merchants on the heels of the Portuguese and the Dutch. At first, they were dazzled by the splendours of Indian royal courts. But gradually this changed in response to Europe’s growing affluence caused by the flow of newly discovered South American gold and the surplus derived from keeping Arab middlemen out of its Asiatic trade. They became bolder and began to deal on equal terms with native rulers. No time was lost before the foreign traders took it on their heads that combining possession of land on the subcontinent was very conducive to trade. This led to battles with royal houses that was easily won by the East India Company’s superior firepower. But even then, Britain lacked the economic as well as human resources to subdue a country which was many times her size in every parameter of national reckoning. The solution to this problem led the British to grab the country like a ripe cherry. The Company recruited Indians in their army and solved the manpower problem. Large sums of money were borrowed from Indian moneylenders at first, and then from local rajas for the Company’s campaigns, thereby resolving the financial question as well. This worked perfectly for the foreigners and in no time, large tracts of the country were annexed to the Company’s possessions. The book tells the story of 19th century India when the British completed their quest for landgrabbing and how a shocking counter-offensive was offered from the Indian side in the form of the Great Mutiny. The story is told keeping the family of John Low, a Scottish military officer who served in India in the Company’s Army and also in administrative capacity as Resident of Lucknow, Hyderabad, Gwalior and Oudh, completing his tenure with a position in the Supreme Council of the Governor General. It narrates the lives of British officials in India at that time, full of the agony of making a living in a foreign land that was riddled with heat, sickness and social isolation. The families kept close to each other in the provinces and the newly established hill stations. The mortality rate was astounding in all age groups. Mount describes the historical events of the century interspersed with family stories of the prominent among them – the Lows, who were incidentally the distant relatives of the author as well as David Cameron, the serving British prime minister. Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount, usually known as Ferdinand Mount, is a British writer and novelist, columnist and commentator on politics.

The book starts with an interesting and balanced narrative of the mutinies at Vellore in 1806 and at Masulipatam in 1809. The first was undertaken by native Indian sepoys and the latter by white officers themselves. In a country where almost everybody is still living by obeying the commandments of religion – mostly of the ceremonial and definitely very little of the moral type – it is understandable that the native soldiers would be disaffected at the slightest pretext of an affront to their caste and religion from British authority. The spark that lighted the conflagration was the decision to introduce a new uniform and turban among the sepoys. In a classic case of outright insensitivity to the religious feelings of Indians, the cockade of the turbans was made of pig-skin or cow leather, the objects abhorred by Muslims and Hindus in equal measure! The political and military leadership decided to ride roughshod over dissent in the name of discipline. The sons and daughters of Tipu Sultan, who was killed earlier, were lodged in Vellore Fort at that time. The sepoys erupted in mutiny under the princes’ moral authority. The mutiny lasted hardly a few hours, but it spilt European blood. A greater crime was unthinkable to the White administration. Hundreds of sepoys were mowed down in cold blood summarily, without any trial or court martial, and even without asserting whether all of them were indeed mutineers. Compared to this, the white mutiny was a damp affair, caused by the disparity between the Company’s white soldiers and the Crown’s white soldiers stationed side by side in Madras Presidency. Miffed by the paltry pay and perceived lack of opportunity for promotions as compared to the Crown’s soldiers, the company’s white officers rebelled. It was soon brought under control, but what is evident from the whole episode is the dissimilar punishment meted out to the rebels. While the sepoys who only obeyed the orders of the mutinous officers were summarily dismissed, the quantum of punishment was extremely light for the whites. Even after being sacked for the time being, some of them rose later to the level of even Generals.

The title of the book is justified by the absorbing description of how the British managed to oust the local kings from power and annex that state to the Raj. The petty rulers provided ample excuse for them to intervene as a result of internecine warfare. When one side asks the foreign power for support, they convince the ruler of the need to garrison a considerable number of the company’s troops in that state. The troops were called ‘Subsidiary’ in the sense that they are maintained on subsidy paid by the raja who had no other choice. They could pay this hefty sum either in cash, or more probably, lending a large tract of land to the Company whose revenue may be used for maintaining the sepoys. An officer called ‘Resident’ will be posted to the kingdom who oversaw all the administrative decisions of the king. Even though the king paid for the soldiers, the Resident had absolute control over them. Falling in arrears was a dreaded thing. They were also asked to lend huge sums as loans to the Company to meet its balance of payment crises or to send an expeditionary force to subjugate another state in the vicinity. It was a Win–Win situation for the British. A lion’s share of the Company’s army was native sepoys – ten to one against Europeans – recruited from North India. The pay and perks of a very large portion of them was met by the rajas themselves for the ‘privilege’ of stationing the troops in their country. For war expenses, the rajas could again be approached for loans, which was to be repaid at the Company’s sweet will. The colonizing British subdued Indian states one by one using Indian military manpower and Indian money. A more ingenious scheme is hard to find anywhere in the world. But another important thing should also be kept in mind. The local rulers were mostly cowardly, profligate and licentious. The sins of the British were considerable, but that in no way absolved the equally loathsome depredations of the native kings. The king of Lucknow, Nasir-ud-din Haidar, was so deranged by liquor and piety that he donned the attire of a pregnant woman when the celebration of the birth of the Imam was held in the Shia-dominated Lucknow court. He came out with a doll to symbolize the child birth he had undergone. Gangadhar Rao, the king of Jhansi and the husband of Rani Laxmi Bai was said to be in the habit of dressing up as a woman and abstaining from religious practices for four days in a month, as if menstruating! All royal houses constantly lived in the fear of usurpation. They lavished state funds on wine, women and magnificent buildings. The fabled art and culture of Lucknow court is a direct byproduct of this extravagant expenditure, but expressing the idea in such a brutally straightforward way makes one sound philistine, isn’t it?

As is usually seen in British books on the Mutiny of 1857 produced after India’s independence, this one too brings to light the injustices of the colonial administration’s expansionist policies. This achieved momentum during the reign of Lord Dalhousie, who forcibly annexed the principalities of Nagpur, Jhansi and Oudh and a large part of the fertile districts of Hyderabad renowned for its cotton production. English textile mills ended their shameful reliance on cotton produced by slave labour in the southern U.S. after its supply was thus ensured from India. The British failed to conceive popular antipathy generated on account of forcefully ousting hereditary sovereigns who had ruled the country for several generations and who possessed the adoration and awe of the people in spite of their moral and financial depredations. Many officials thought that the people would wholeheartedly support their rule, once the king was deposed along with his corrupt and extortionate courtiers. The Mutiny came as a rude shock to them, seeing the troops they recruited, trained and armed, turn against them. The atrocities on the white population were gruesome, but equally horrible was the retribution by the well educated gentlemen who composed the Queen’s and Company’s officer corps. At Lucknow, they set on fire the bodies of hundreds of rebel sepoys making a large heap of the corpses as well was seriously injured Indian troops. Eye witnesses state that the cries of the living ones from among the fire, imploring them to shoot instead was heartbreaking. The book presents in revealing detail the sieges of Delhi and Lucknow which the British soldiers retook from the mutineers.

Mount presents the events in crisp logical order and analyses the events with current practices in a witty and down to earth way. He brings out the inconsistencies of British foreign policy towards the native states by comparison with the stated objectives and actual practices. Some of the royal customs seem strange to modern society, but couched in a different language and setting, we see them repeating again and again to this day. Wajid Ali Shah, the deposed ruler of Oudh used to contract muta (temporary marriage sanctioned by religious law) with the women to whom he was attracted to. This royal prerogative may seem barbaric and immoral to us, but the author compares these women to the White House interns under the tenures of John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton, suggesting that eventually, the end result was the same! The book includes good photographic plates displaying the major characters in the narrative. It also provides a comprehensive set of notes for further reference and an excellent index for the inquisitive reader.

The book is highly recommended.
English Interesting

This subject was really interesting, but the book is quite difficult to read as it jumps around quite alot and lacks structure. I did enjoy it and the characters are well fleshed out for historical figures, but I found it slightly frustrating to read. English

The Tears of the Rajas is a sweeping history of the British in India, seen through the experiences of a single Scottish family. For a century the Lows of Clatto survived mutiny, siege, debt and disease, everywhere from the heat of Madras to the Afghan snows. They lived through the most appalling atrocities and retaliated with some of their own. Each of their lives, remarkable in itself, contributes to the story of the whole fragile and imperilled, often shockingly oppressive and devious but now and then heroic and poignant enterprise.
On the surface, John and Augusta Low and their relations may seem imperturbable, but in their letters and diaries they often reveal their loneliness and desperation and their doubts about what they are doing in India. The Lows are the family of the author's grandmother, and a recurring theme of the book is his own discovery of them and of those parts of the history of the British in India which posterity has preferred to forget.
The book brings to life not only the most dramatic incidents of their careers - the massacre at Vellore, the conquest of Java, the deposition of the boy-king of Oudh, the disasters in Afghanistan, the Reliefs of Lucknow and Chitral - but also their personal ordeals: the bankruptcies in Scotland and Calcutta, the plagues and fevers, the deaths of children and deaths in childbirth. And it brings to life too the unrepeatable strangeness of their lives: the camps and the palaces they lived in, the balls and the flirtations in the hill stations, and the hot slow rides through the dust. An epic saga of love, war, intrigue and treachery, The Tears of the Rajas is surely destined to become a classic of its kind. The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905