Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914

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9780007137534: Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914

From the bestselling author of Tommy and Redcoat, a magnificent and rich history of the British soldier in India from Clive to the end of empire, making full use of personal accounts of soldiers who served in the vast and varied nation that made up the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown.

Sahib is a broad and sweeping military history of the British soldier in India, but its focus, like that of Tommy and Redcoat before it, is on 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.

The book begins with the remarkable story of 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 to us why soldiers of the Raj had 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 does for the British soldier in India – whether serving a local ruler, forming part of the Indian army, or soldiering with a British regiment – what Tommy did for the ordinary soldier in the First World War.

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Review:

‘For anyone interested in the Raj this book is a must.’ Observer

‘Richard Holmes’s mastery of the British Army is unequalled … A worthy memorial of one of the extraordinary experiences in British history.’ Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph

‘Holmes is a passionate and richly entertaining champion of the rank and file.’ Daily Telegrah

‘Insightful, colourful, relevant and pithy’ The Times

‘Redcoat is not just a work of history but of enthusiasm and unparalleled knowledge. This is a wonderful book, doing justice to men who have long deserved a chronicler of Richard Holmes’ skill.’ Bernard Cornwell

‘It would be hard to exaggerate the excellence of this book. Vivid, comprehensive, well-written, pacy, colourful.’ Simon Heffer

‘A wonderful book, full of anecdote and good sense. Anyone who has enjoyed a Sharpe story will love it.’ Bernard Cornwell, Daily Mail

‘Beautifully written, Redcoat is a vivid account of squalor and suffering almost beyond belief, for the men, their wives and followers, and their horses. One of the best chapters is a description of barrack-room life that will turn a few stomachs in this more fastidious age.’ John Canon, TLS

‘Redcoat is the story of the British soldier from the Seven Year War through to the Mutiny and Crimea. It is consistently entertaining, full of brilliantly chosen anecdotes and rattles along at a good light infantry pace.’ David Crane, Spectator

‘All the best-known soldier writers are discussed here, and their anecdotes are told with enthusiasm and aplomb… This is an army from another world, and Redcoat is a splendidly entertaining, moving and informative description of its strengths and foibles.’ Hew Strachan, Daily Telegraph

Praise for Tommy:

'Subtle and endlessly fascinating… Holmes has a sharp eye for anecdote and detail.' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

'Holmes has produced yet another fascinating, balanced and original book of a highly emotive subject.' Sunday Telegraph

'Packed with amazing facts and arresting anecdotes…the depth of his research and the breadth of his interests commands respect.' Sunday Express

Sunday Times:

'Marshalling his material like an experienced quartermaster...Holmes is adept at describing what it felt like to serve in India'

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