Sahib: The British Soldier in India

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 632 pages
Author: R. Holmes
Year: 2006
ISBN: 9780007137541
Other: b&w & colour photos, maps, bibliog, index
Publisher: Harper Collins

'Sahib' is a broad a sweeping military history of the men who served in India and the women who followed them across that vast and dusty continent, bore their children and, all too often, mopped their brows as they died. Although wealth and status meant a great deal in British India, it was a place that slew the colonel or his daughter as easily as it did the sergeant or his. The bloody battles that gave  Britain control over the subcontinent left just as much grief in the lines as in officers' bungalows. It is a book about British soldiers in the broadest sense -from 'sahib-log' of the most refined sort of 'gona-log', red of face and coat, intent on mischief in the bazaar.

Richard Holmes, one of Britain's leading military historians, begins with India's rise from commercial enclave to great Empire, from Clive's victory of Plassey, through the imperial wars of the eighteenth century and the Afghan and Sikh Wars of the 1840s, through the bloody turmoil of the Mutiny, and the frontier campaigns at the century's end. With its focus on the experience of ordinary soldiers, 'Sahib' explains why soldiers of the Raj joined the army, how they got to India and what they made of it when they arrived.

The book examines Indian soldiering in peace and war, from Kipling's 'snoring barrack room' to storming parties assaulting mighty fortresses, cavalry swirling across open plains, and khaki columns inching their way between louring hills. Making full use of extensive and often neglected archive material in the India Office Library and National Army Museum, 'Sahib' will do for the British soldier in India - what 'Tommy' (the author's earlier book), did for the British solider in World War One.

List of Illustrations
Prologue: Drums on the Sutlej
1. In India's Sunny Clime
 - The Land of the Pagoda Tree
 - Empires Rise and Wane
 - The Honourable Company
 - 'The Devils' Wind
 - The British Raj
2. The Troopships Bring Us
 - A Passage to India
 - Something Strange to Us All
 - Sudder and Mofussil
 - Barracks and Bungalows
 - Calling Cards and Drawing Rooms
 - Boredom and Bat
3. Bread and Salt
 - Lords of War
 - Soldiers Without Regiments
 - Horse, Foot and Guns
 - Salt and Gold
4. The Smoke of the Fusillade
 - Fields of Battle
 - Brothers in Arms?
 - Gold Epaulettes, Silver Medals
 - Dash at the First Party
 - Shot and Shell
 - Black Powder and Cold Steel
 - Boot and Saddle
 - The Pettah Wall
 - Dust and Blood
5. India's Exiles
 - Arrack and the Lush
 - Bibis and Memsahibs
 - Christian Soldiers
 - A Familiar Friend
 - Hot Blood, Bad Blood
 - A Noble Wife

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Sahib: The British Soldier in India


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