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Plain Tales from the Raj

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  192 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
The memoirs of some 70 British men and women whose lives followed the course of Anglo-India through its last 50 years.
Paperback, 296 pages
Published June 11th 1992 by Futura (first published November 6th 1975)
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(showing 1-30 of 442)
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Sep 19, 2012 ·Karen· rated it liked it
A March day of a book: some sunny periods with laugh out loud moments, such as how one poor soldier imprudently found release from the pressure of pent up physical desire with a sacred cow from the temple. This could not be disregarded by Hindus, and the young man was duly prosecuted. The officer representing the Crown opened the case: "On the day of the alleged offence my client was grazing contentedly in the field." The case was apparently dismissed when it was pointed out that the cow had bee ...more
Apr 01, 2014 Sadaf rated it liked it
An interesting book to read if you are from the sub-continent. On the one hand colonialism raises its controversial head but on the other hand many things feel so uncannily familiar. Even after 66 years, most Pakistani institutions follow the same patterns laid down in the British Raj, especially in the military and civil services. Most large cities still have a Cantonment area, a Civil Lines and various clubs. Also the British attitude towards the natives has been transferred to the local rulin ...more
Jun 30, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
This book is a non-fictional account of life in the Raj (the name given when India was governed by Britain as part of the British Empire). I enjoyed this book as it takes many quotes and stories of the lives of those who actually lived there at that time. In fact I much preferred it to Rudyard Kipling's "Plain Tales From the Hills" which I had read at an earlier time. The dedication of the people (both British and Indian) to their work and way of life, the place of woman as it was then, the lone ...more
Lyn Elliott
Apr 08, 2013 Lyn Elliott rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in colonial and imperial history
Shelves: history, india
I read this book soon after it was first published and have just re-read it in an illustrated 1985 edition , which is not available as an option on goodreads that I can see.

Charles Allen has compiled a collective memoir of 'Survivors', as he calls them, of the last decades of the British Raj in India, from the late nineteenth century up to the catastrophic partition in 1947. This is a rare chance to hear the voices of English men and women speak about their lives, their relationship to the count
Jun 17, 2016 Edgar rated it really liked it
This book is contained in ‘Plain Tales From the British Empire’ a trilogy of books, all comprising reminiscences of Britons during colonial times – the other two books focusing on Africa and the Far East. And what a feast of reminiscences, which will appeal especially to former expatriates who spent time in far flung stations in the developing world. Many people have fallen in love with India. But it was the pull of the third world, whether there or Africa or other such like places. You dealt wi ...more
P.D.R. Lindsay
Nov 04, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research

This book is the written account of the BBC radio programme of the same name.

If you want to know what it was like to be a member of the military or civil service in the Indian Raj in the last years (1900 -1947) of the Indian Empire then this is a marvellous source of people's remembrances.

Well put together, lovely paintings of the time by people who were there, and an excellent read as well as a fascinating source of first hand research material.

Mar 16, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Plain Tales from the Raj' depicts life in 'British India' during the early 20th Century. It's assembled from radio interviews, recorded by the BBC in the 70's. Interesting anecdotes and funny stories draw a vivid picture of life as a colonial sahib/memsahib; (illustrating the good, the bad and the ugly...).

Most of those interviewed are dead now; this book has captured their memories and kept them alive. Fascinating.
John Mosman
Aug 11, 2015 John Mosman rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott and watched Jewel in the Crown series some years ago. I have always harbored a fantasy of living in the time in India as part of the British Raj. There is certainly a legitimate debate about the British Empire and the subjugation of the indigenous populations ruled. But my fantasy is just that, a fantasy.

What was it actually like to live in that time as part of the Raj. Plain Tales from the Raj provides a wonderful narrative particularly during the Raj of the
Arun Nair
Nov 06, 2015 Arun Nair rated it did not like it

As an Indian, I find the book repulsive because of the book's patronizing attitude towards the "Raj" and contempt of everything Indian thinly disguised under the veil of "various accounts". Proponents of the Raj will certainly enjoy the book as it evokes nostalgia of a time when Indians were nothing more than accessories and slaves.

The book ends with the following paragraph ...

"The coast of England was green and white and the most beautiful sight I've ever seen in my life; little villages nest
Aug 05, 2010 Lydia rated it liked it
Shelves: collection
Tough going. Not a book you can read right through. I found I was only able to read short bits at a time, so I read the book slowly over a few months. I did find it worth it though. I am very interested in the subject and era it described, and it is fascinating.
Oct 09, 2014 Molshri rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-faves
There is so much we don't know. It's really interesting to read the perspectives of the ordinary British soldiers, the government officers and the businessmen who came to India. A must read for all Indians to understand the other side of the British Raj.
Also gives a fair and unbiased account of racism and the attitude of the British towards the locals and the reason behind it. At the same time, also highlights the huge contribution of the British in India and the dedication with which with many
Anthony Nelson
Jul 01, 2016 Anthony Nelson rated it really liked it
The day to day lives of the servants of empire, as told by the last generation to live it. Lots of lovely details of everyday life. Largely pro-empire, as one might expect, but full of surprisingly open self criticisms and realizations, particularly on attitudes towards race. Worth a read if you are interested in how people lived.
Mar 09, 2014 Peveril rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent picture of life in the late period of the British rule in India, compiled from interviews for a BBC radios series in 1974 and presented in themed chapters - The Club, The Hot Weather, The Frontier, Order of Precedence, etc
Fascinating and very readable. Follows on from my recent reading if and about Kipling in India.
Nasim Marie
Jul 08, 2015 Nasim Marie rated it really liked it
I picked this gem up secondhand by chance. An eccentric, informative account of the British in India, I wish I could listen to the radio programme from the seventies which the book is based on.
Apr 08, 2009 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many - possibly all the participants in Charles Allen's oral history will now be dead, and yet their voices come through clearly, full of reminiscence of a bygone age. This is a very readable and compelling book and quite poignant as it recreates life during a time which has often been romanticised. The truth of course is quite different, and athough there were privileges there were also hardships, and life was not always easy. There was also a terrible snobbery, and the conventions and traditio ...more
Scott mor
Feb 08, 2015 Scott mor rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, with very good information about life in the time of the Raj in India.
Apr 30, 2014 Dan rated it did not like it
meant for a clearly British audience. Boring.
Pragya Bhatt
Jan 16, 2014 Pragya Bhatt rated it it was amazing
This was a page turner for me. It explains a lot of how people in India evolved the way they did. It gives great insight into the period of the Raj because it documents the lives of people who were actually there. I couldn't put it down.
Clare Flynn
May 30, 2015 Clare Flynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating pot pourri of different voices recalling incidents from their personal histories in colonial India - marred by the lack of context which means you need to constantly flip to the back of the book to ascertain the geography, rough period and role of the speaker. As the voices talked of experiences from the late 19thC to 1947 it was hard to see how they had evolved. Also very little representation from South India. That aside a wonderful picture of a now lost world - imagine all of them ...more
Judith Johnson
Jan 19, 2014 Judith Johnson rated it really liked it
Of personal interest - my father was born in India, and my great-great grandmother was from the Sutlej Valley, I believe.
Jul 24, 2007 Apurva rated it did not like it
terrible and boring.
Especially disappointing from a great storyteller.
Unless you are an age-old british bugger, still ruminatiing over how you kicked ass of your hindu servants, dont bother.
(And if you ARE an age-old british bugger who still ruminates over how you kicked ass of your hindu servants, I hope you find your udhamsingh pretty soon!)
May 15, 2016 Sharon rated it liked it
I liked it, but I like history and I like real true stories, there are many English characters in this book no doubt if you met them now they would be total misfits but they suited the time.
Interesting selfish colonial way of life better for us than the natives. However it does show the animosity the various native races felt for each other.
Helen V
Aug 21, 2013 Helen V rated it it was amazing
I can see why this is one of my dad's favorite books. Charles Allen reveals what it was like to live in India during the Raj. This book is full of interesting stories about what people did, what they ate and how they lived. It is a fantastic social history.
Borrowed this from Dad. Stories recorded for the BBC of a vanishing generation who experienced life in Colonial India first hand. A very British book, but interesting reading. Glimpses into another world.
Sep 22, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it
I came to this from Allen's biography of Kipling's life in India. It's extremely interesting and highly recommended for those interested in the self-perception of British participants in Empire.
Feb 11, 2013 Ipek added it
fulll of first hand experiences and very interesting everyday details
Pankaj Sharma
Good book giving an eye witness account of Raj in India.
May 02, 2012 Zara rated it really liked it
Snapshots and descriptions of childhood, so very poignant
May 23, 2011 Lyn rated it it was amazing
One of my favs that I read over and over
Mirka added it
Jul 26, 2016
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Charles Allen (born 1940) is a British writer and historian. He was born in India, where several generations of his family served under the British Raj. His work focuses on India and South Asia in general. Allen's most notable work is Kipling Sahib, a biography of Rudyard Kipling.[1][2] His most recent work, Ashoka: the Search for India's Lost Emperor, was published in February 2012.

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