Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

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9780312428112: Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

An extraordinary story of romance, history, and divided loyalties -- set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century

The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator.

This defining moment of world history had been brought about by a handful of people. Among them were Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery Indian prime minister; Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Mohandas Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India. Within hours of the midnight chimes, their dreams of freedom and democracy would turn to chaos, bloodshed, and war.

Behind the scenes, a secret personal drama was also unfolding, as Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru began a passionate love affair. Their romance developed alongside Cold War conspiracies, the beginning of a terrible conflict in Kashmir, and an epic sweep of events that saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed.

Steeped in the private papers and reflections of the participants, Alex von Tunzelmann's Indian Summer reveals, in vivid, exhilarating detail, how the actions of a few extraordinary people changed the lives of millions and determined the fate of nations.

Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.

About the Author:

Alex von Tunzelmann was educated at Oxford and lives in London. Indian Summer is her first book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INDIAN SUMMER
Part One Empire 1 In Their Gratitude Our Best Reward IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WERE TWO NATIONS. ONE WAS A vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semifeudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England. The year was 1577, and the Mogul emperors were in the process of uniting India. The domain spread twelve hundred miles along the Tropic of Cancer, from the eerie white salt flats of the Rann of Kutch on the shores of the Arabian Sea, to the verdant delta of the holy river Ganges in Bengal; and from the snowy crags of Kabul to the lush teak forests of the Vindhyan foothills. The 100 million people who lived under its aegis were cosmopolitan and affluent. In 1577, the average Indian peasant enjoyed a relatively higher income and lower taxation than his descendants ever would again. In the bazaars were sold gold from Jaipur, rubies from Burma, fine shawls from Kashmir, spices from the islands, opium from Bengal and dancing girls from Africa. Though governed by Muslims under a legal system based loosely on sharia law, its millions of non-Muslim subjects--Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists--were allowed freedom of conscience and custom.1 This empire was ruled by the world's most powerful man, Akbar the Great. Akbar was one of the most successful military commandersof all time, a liberal philosopher of distinction and a generous patron of the arts. He lived in unmatched opulence at Fatehpur Sikri, in rooms done out in marble, sandalwood and mother-of-pearl, cooled by the gentle fanning of peacock feathers. His hobbies were discussing metaphysics, collecting emeralds, hunting with cheetahs and inventing religions; he had as his plaything the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a gigantic, glittering rock weighing over 186 carats, then almost twice its present size.2 His family came from Mongolia, and his court showed a strongly Persian influence. But Indians were accustomed to foreign rule. Since the death of the indigenous emperor Asoka in 232 B.C., large parts of the subcontinent had been conquered by Turks, Afghans, Persians and Tocharians, as well as by Mongols. During a long and dramatic life, Akbar himself conquered and ruled over an area the size of Europe. In England, meanwhile, most of the population of around two and a half million lived in a state of misery and impoverishment. Politically and religiously, the country had spent much of the sixteenth century at war with itself. Around 90 percent of the population lived in rural areas and worked on the land, going hungry during the frequent food shortages. They were prevented from moving into industry by the protectionist racket of guild entry fees. Begging was common, and the nation's ten thousand vagabonds were the terror of the land. The low standard of living endured by much of the population--two-fifths of which lived at subsistence levels--and squalid conditions in towns ensured that epidemics of disease were common. The Black Death still broke out periodically, as did pneumonia, smallpox, influenza and something unpleasant called "the sweat." Life expectancy stood at just thirty-eight years--less than modern Sudan, Afghanistan or the Congo, and about the same as Sierra Leone.3 The vast majority of the English people were illiterate and superstitious; the discontent of communities often boiled over into rioting and witch hunts. But by the 1570s, from the filthy soil of England, the first green shoots of a pleasant land were sprouting forth. The economy began to recover from years of inflation and political instability. Efforts were made by the queen, Elizabeth I, toward religious tolerance, and by her government toward forcing communities to take some responsibilityfor the poor. After years of cultural backwardness, London society began to aspire to refinement. "They be desirous of new-fangles," complained the Elizabethan writer Philip Stubbs; "praising things past, condemning things present, and coveting things to come; ambitious, proud, light-hearted, unstable, ready to be carried away by every blast of wind."4 In 1577, a blast of wind drove the English to a world beyond the borders of Europe. At the request of the queen, the pirate and explorer Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth to bother the Spanish fleet in the Pacific and thence to circumnavigate the globe. Drake was not the only man at the court of Elizabeth whose mind was improbably turning to world domination. In 1577, the philosopher, kabbalist and magus John Dee conjured up the first image of a "Brytish Impire." At the time, Dee's suggestion would have seemed fanciful, though very few Englishmen could have known enough about geopolitics to say so. Next to Akbar, Elizabeth was indeed a weak and feeble woman, with her dubious breeding, her squabbling and faction-ridden court, her cluttered and rickety palaces, and her grubby, unsophisticated, cold, dismal little kingdom. Nonetheless, the greater monarch generously agreed to humor her shabby emissaries at his fabulous court. They were overwhelmed: both Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were far larger than London and many times more wondrous. Ralph Fitch, a merchant, described gilded and silk-draped carriages pulled by miniature oxen, and roads lined with markets selling victuals and gemstones. "The King hath in Agra and Fatepore, as they do credibly report, a thousand Elephants, thirty thousand Horses, fourteen hundred tame Deer, eight hundred Concubines; such a store of Ounces, Tigers, Buffles, Cocks and Hawks that it is very strange to see," he wrote home.5 Fitch's eventual return with stories of riches undreamed of by the wondering English came at an apt moment in history. The mighty Spanish Armada had been defeated, and England was starting to feel confident and expansive. Fitch was swiftly made a governor of Elizabeth's Levant Company. It was the beginning of four centuries of intimacy and exchange, a love-hate relationship between India and Britain which would change the histories of both countries--and that of the whole world--beyond what even the magus Dee could have predicted. Twenty-three years later, in 1600, Elizabeth granted a charter to "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies" for fifteen years. That expiry date was canceled by her heir, James I, giving the East India Company exclusive trading rights in perpetuity. The only caveat: if it failed to turn a profit for three consecutive years, it voided all its rights. Thus a beast was created whose only object was money. It would pursue this object with unprecedented success. Over the following sixty years, the East India Company men's adventures in diplomacy brought them close to the Mogul emperors and allowed them to gain precedence over their Dutch and Portuguese rivals. Despite their obvious superficial differences, the Indians and the British were to find that they shared many of the same values and tastes. Both societies functioned through rigid class structures, glorified in their strongly disciplined military cultures and nurtured a bluff, unemotional secularism among their upper classes. Both prized swaggering but ultimately gallant men and spirited but ultimately demure women. Both enjoyed a sturdy sense of their own long histories and continual ascendancy. Complicated codes of etiquette were vital to their interaction; hunting on horseback and team sports dominated their social lives. As time went on, they would even discover a shared taste for punctilious and obstructive bureaucracy. The British relationship with India would be of a different quality from those it had with its other colonies. India was always the "Jewel in the Crown"; the British found that they often respected, understood and liked the Indian people in a way that they did not on the whole respect, understand or like the Chinese, the Aborigines or the various tribes of Africa. The sympathy was so convincing that intermarriage between Britons and Indians became quite commonplace in the early years of the company. Many Britons emigrated permanently to India, where they set up home, started families and raised dynasties.6 But the history of empire did not remain so cozy for long. After the English republic fell and the monarchy was restored, King Charles II would turn the East India Company into a monster. With five acts, he gave it an amazing array of rights without responsibilities. By the1670s, the company could mint its own coin, maintain its own army, wage war, make peace, acquire new territories and impose its own civil and criminal law--and all without any accountability, save to its shareholders. This was pure capitalism, unleashed for the first time in history. Combined with the gradual fragmentation of Mogul control, which had begun after Akbar's death in 1605, it would prove to be almost unstoppable. This private empire of money, unburdened by conscience, rampaged across Asia unfettered until the 1850s. Guided only by market forces, it was both incredibly successful and incredibly brutal. Adam Smith, the high priest of free trade and originator of the "invisible hand" theory of markets, was appalled by the result of a completely unregulated corporation. "The difference between the genius of the British constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries," he wrote in his 1776 classic, The Wealth of Nations.7 The British government was beginning to agree, and over the following decades regulation began to creep in, act by act. Eventually, in 1834, the parliament in London decided that an empire based on trade was in poor taste, and drew up a new charter. The East India Company was still to govern, but no more to trade. Presenting the scheme to parliament, Thomas Babington Macaulay freely admitted that licensing out British sovereignty to a private company was inappropriate. "It is the strangest of all governments," he said, "but it is designed for the strangest of all empires."8 But the British Crown could not bring its beast to heel. That would take a revolt by the Indians themselves. In the century after Robert Clive's famous victory over the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the company had embarked upon a run of military enterprises. Its armies fought the Burmese twice, annexing Burma in 1852; the Afghans once; and the Sikhs twice, taking the entirety of the Punjab by 1849. They took Gwalior in 1844 and conquered Sind in 1843, Nagpur in 1853, and Oudh in 1856. By then, almost 70 percent of the subcontinent could be called British territory.9 There had been some efforts at improvingthe lot of the people of India, too, though not all of them were welcomed. Efforts were made to set up British schools in which Indians might be educated. Suttee, the burning of live Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, was banned in 1829. The company also attempted to stamp out thuggee, a brutal lifestyle adopted by bands of professional thieves. The thugs were given to strangulation of their victims and devoted to Kali, the goddess of death. They were held responsible for many thousands of murders in the early nineteenth century.10 But this policymaking and interference, these wars and laws, finally drew the attention of the Indian people to the fact that they had been subjugated. Companies, it was thought, did not conquer, and therefore no threat had been detected. The Moguls had been lulled by the promise of ever greater riches and had invited the East India Company across their own threshold. Once inside, it had been able to suck the wealth and riches out of India and impose its own regime--all by the grace of the Indian rulers.11 "The English have not taken India," wrote Mohandas Gandhi succinctly in 1908; "we have given it to them."12 There would be one great attempt to take it back by force, and that was the Indian Mutiny of 1857.13 Famously, the spark for the mutiny was the company's adoption of the Enfield rifle on behalf of its sepoys, the Indian soldiers serving in its army. The cartridges for this particular model were supplied in greased paper, which had to be bitten through before they were used. Rumors spread among the sepoys that the grease contained tallow derived from cow or pig fat, thereby offending both Hindus, who revered the cow, and Muslims, who were forbidden to eat the pig. It has never been proven whether the grease was actually objectionable, or whether the protests were opportunistically started by Indian agitators to damage the company.14 Whatever the truth, the company made a public point of replacing its grease with a version made from ghee and beeswax; but this action came too late. The rumors had served their purpose. The scandal was the final insult in a catalog of British wrongs against the Indians. The conquest of states, the commandeering of private lands, the propping up of corrupt local landlords who used torture to extract revenues,the arbitrary imprisonments without trial, the evangelism of Christianity and the attacks on Indian cultural traditions--for not everyone had welcomed the outlawing of suttee--had pushed company dominance too far.15 After several small-scale rebellions, the mutiny exploded with full force at the town of Meerut, just northeast of Delhi. On 24 April 1857, eighty-five troopers of the Third Light Cavalry had refused to use their cartridges. A court-martial composed of fifteen Indian officers found against the troopers on 8 May and sentenced them each to five to ten years' hard labor. The following day, two regiments at Meerut turned on their officers, sprung the eighty-five imprisoned sepoys from jail and pillaged the town. The English were shot, beaten to death, hacked at with swords, burned alive. Among the victims was a seven-year-old girl, her skull sliced in two by a single stroke from a blade; and pregnant twenty-three-year-old Charlotte Chambers, the fetus ripped out of her womb and dumped contemptuously on her breast.16 By the morning of 11 May, the mutinous troops had marched south to Delhi and joined with a garrison there. The rebels took the Red Fort, home of the heir to the Mogul Empire, Bahadur Shah II. Bahadur Shah was a gentle and unimposing Muslim of eighty-one years of age. He occupied his hours with poetry and courtly etiquette, was said to believe rather eccentrically that he could transform himself into a gnat, and had no jurisdiction beyond the walls of the fort. He had been propped up and pensioned by the company, which found him useful in sustaining the illusion of Indian self-government. 17 The rebels seized on this reluctant and bewildered old man and convinced him that he ought to demand his long-lost power back. The restoration of the emperor, precarious though it was, suggested that there was a credible alternative to British private rule. As the news spread, uprisings surged across north and central India, agitating one-third of the subcontinent by mid-June. But India was a country of deep divisions, in which disparate factions had only been united by their opposition to foreign rule. Where the British were ejected, these factions were left to face the enormity of their differences.Meanwhile, the British retained the support of the Sikhs of the Punjab, the Pathans of the North-West Frontier, the Gurkhas of Nepal, and the armies of Bombay and Madras. Neither Calcutta nor Simla, the two seats of the company's administration, was attacked.1...

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Descrizione libro St Martin s Press, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. An extraordinary story of romance, history, and divided loyalties -- set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator. This defining moment of world history had been brought about by a handful of people. Among them were Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery Indian prime minister; Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Mohandas Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India. Within hours of the midnight chimes, their dreams of freedom and democracy would turn to chaos, bloodshed, and war. Behind the scenes, a secret personal drama was also unfolding, as Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru began a passionate love affair. Their romance developed alongside Cold War conspiracies, the beginning of a terrible conflict in Kashmir, and an epic sweep of events that saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed. Steeped in the private papers and reflections of the participants, Alex von Tunzelmann s Indian Summer reveals, in vivid, exhilarating detail, how the actions of a few extraordinary people changed the lives of millions and determined the fate of nations. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780312428112

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Descrizione libro St Martin s Press, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. An extraordinary story of romance, history, and divided loyalties -- set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator. This defining moment of world history had been brought about by a handful of people. Among them were Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery Indian prime minister; Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Mohandas Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India. Within hours of the midnight chimes, their dreams of freedom and democracy would turn to chaos, bloodshed, and war. Behind the scenes, a secret personal drama was also unfolding, as Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru began a passionate love affair. Their romance developed alongside Cold War conspiracies, the beginning of a terrible conflict in Kashmir, and an epic sweep of events that saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed. Steeped in the private papers and reflections of the participants, Alex von Tunzelmann s Indian Summer reveals, in vivid, exhilarating detail, how the actions of a few extraordinary people changed the lives of millions and determined the fate of nations. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780312428112

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