This book by Anne de Courcy is a study of the British in India through the particular prism of the women who travelled out to the Raj to marry. In some cases, the journey was made with the sole purpose of finding a husband.
The history of the Empire is well documented and what makes this book stand out is its focus on amazing women, many from the ruling classes, who supported husbands in their governing roles, often in trying circumstances; not all women lived in Government House!
The pressures on family life were seen most of all by the women. An example of the difficulties they faced is seen through the difficult decision needed when their children go back ‘home’ for school. Should they stay in England or leave them to return to husbands in India? In such ways did the British show their stiff upper lips!
For some women, the bachelors of India (mostly running the Indian Civil Service) were ideal since their working lives precluded marriage until they turned 30. The fleet also proved handy for families who decided their daughters were too plain or too clever or both.
The story of the British in India is an interesting one but has been well covered by other historians. This book works so well by exploring the history from a different angle but also because voices that might otherwise be forgotten are aired.
‘The Fishing Fleet’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?