Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Women of the Raj” as Want to Read:
Women of the Raj
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Women of the Raj

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  373 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
1st edition 1st printing hardcover fine book & fine dw condition. In stock shipped from our UK warehouse
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 18th 1988 by Thames & Hudson Ltd (first published March 1st 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
It's hard to sympathize with someone who has upwards of 5 servants.

Even harder to empathize with a woman who dismissed her Indian servant because he (shudder) held her arm as he saved her from a poisonous snake.

MacMillan doesn't try to hide the facts of racism and dubious "moral superiority" that accompanied life in the British empire. She gives quite an even-handed portrait of the British women who lived in India during the Raj, showing the difficulties of trying to understand a very different
Elizabeth Moffat
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: byt
Three and a half stars from me... I read this book as part of a British Empire challenge that I’m participating in with my GoodReads group Bright Young Things, and I was fascinated to read about how British women lived and coped in India during the turbulent years of the nineteenth century. From the synopsis of this book however, I was expecting something a little different. As stated in the synopsis, the author does draw her research from a series of interviews and letters, and there are some s ...more
Sara W
I was looking for a book to give me a general idea of what it was like to be a woman in British India, and this book gave me exactly what I wanted. It was interesting and well organized. It's not an amazing or "wow" read, but I'm giving it 5 stars because I can't really think of anything it was lacking. Maybe some people aren't a fan of the memsahibs, but this books tries to portray them as objectively as possible.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating history of women in colonial India. I loved learning about the challenges they faced, how their roles evolved over time, and who they were back Home before they arrived (and how miserable they often were after returning). I found the author to be very sympathetic; she understood all of the biases against "memsahibs", but also showed how impossible it often was to be a good wife and mother during the Raj.

I met women similar to these in post-colonial Jamaica. Also, a woman'
Carolyn Johnson
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the lives of women in different cultures of the world
The British have had a long-standing relationship with India, from earliest days of exploration. The East India Company was established in 1599, and it had a monopoly on trade between England and the lands east of the Cape of Good Hope, granted by Queen Elizabeth I.

Over the years, Britain also began to be involved in the politics of India, as the many small principalities and kingdoms were not connected into one nation, as they are today. During the nineteenth century, this involvement was very
Susan Lorenz
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this as a companion piece to the PBS series "Indian Summers". A social history of the lives of women over the several hundred years of the Raj. Not a history of British rule by any means but does contain a harrowing chapter on the Mutiny of 1857. Hit the spot for this Anglophile by giving insight into the lives of ordinary wives and mothers coping with a foreign home and lifestyle while upholding British values.
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fans of the Godden sisters will enjoy this. They are referenced a few times. Kipling too. The author paints a portrait of women doing their best under difficult circumstances and, probably because her own family were part of the raj, does not condemn them harshly for being products of their own time.
Heather Nixon
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thames and Hudson kindly sent me a few stunningly beautiful books last month that I adored and I was sent a few more (thank you!) which the first being Women of the Raj. It's a non-fiction book with a gorgeous cover and a topic that I know nothing about!

It starts with the horrendous journey to India for both men and women in the 1800s and early 1900s which is something I would not want to experience! It also looks at the travellers first impressions of India and it's people as well as how they p
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pankaj by: Margaret MacMillan at Massey College Cub Book
Fascinating account of life in India and the perseverance of women trying to settle, and make the most of life, in a strange land! Margaret is brilliant as an author and the great historian that she is.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-19th
A fascinating introduction to the history of the British Raj. Highly recommended.
Lorenzio Phillibuster Fireworks
It is now long enough after the Raj to see the women with some objectivity. They went out to a difficult, alien, country, usually when they were young and unformed. They found a cosy, reassuring British world on one side and India on the other. Is it any wonder that thet fled to the security of the former? What is impresive is how some women, once they got past their initial terror, did put out feelers, by learning Indian languages and trying to meet Indians

It should be remembered too, that the
Jyoti Minocha
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was a perspective I've never read about in history books.I grew up in India after it was independent---the legacy of the Raj was the English language, roads called Haley a. Curzon, afternoon tea and toast at the Gymkhana, and a pervasive anglophilia, somewhat tempered by a growing sense of national identity. So breaking down the historical roots of the British memsahibs' condescension towards Indians, and the corollary Indian weakness for all things British, (inclu ...more
Pramod Pant
Dr. Margaret MacMillan is a PhD from Oxford, a professor at Toronto and had ancestors who were part of the Raj. She chose her subject well. And the reader (yours sincerely, as the overused phrase goes) found not much to commend the effort or the book. What went wrong? I think, the period she was talking about did not belong to women of British India. They were part of the domestic chores (or management if you please, considering the number of servants they had) and social interactions. But only ...more
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
India fascinates me. Reading M. M. Kaye's novel "Shadow of the Moon" many years ago pulled me in and since then I have read quite a variety of fiction and non-fiction with India as a setting. Such is my obsession that I read the bibliographies of non-fiction books to find other books to read.....which may be how I came to find this one.

This book was a very readable account of women's experiences in India from the beginning of the British presence there up to the end in 1947. Chapters cover a par
An interesting, valuable book on a topic that I suspect has often been overlooked. Since I'm not overly familiar with the history of the British Raj, this book spurred my interest in the topic and I certainly will be picking up other books covering the same history.

I enjoy and appreciate writing from unconventional points of view, as they serve to balance and enrich understanding. That is not to say that a 'woman's history' is unconventional, but given that most historical books are still writte
Apr 06, 2012 rated it liked it
While there was a great deal of good information in this book about what life was like for English women under the Raj, the book didn’t live up to its title--which I thought meant a more individualized treatment of the women who experienced Indian life during this historical period. And, although names were given of many of those whose memoirs and diaries provided the book’s basic material, the several entries by any single woman were so short and so widely spaced that one had little chance to g ...more
Kieran Walsh
......a follow up from some books I read recently (Diplomatic Baggage and East of the Sun). An interesting history of life in the British Raj. I think it might suit a reader with a basic fascination for all things Indian, but I believe the school of historiography has evolved somewhat since 1988. Contemporary readers might be more interested in reading diaries, journals, letters, etc (directly) rather than views of the writer, which do seem somewhat 'dumbed down'. There's also been some more rec ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed Women of the Raj. Each chapter examines a particular aspect of British women's lives in India, from how they arrived to how they organized their homes, raised their children and conducted their social lives. This approach means that a single chapter will include discussion of women living in the 1850s as well as the 1920s, and my only quibble is that MacMillan does not always identify the time period in which a particular experience occurred. MacMillan accompanies her well-w ...more
Oct 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book rather tedious. I feel as if I've been reading it for several months, rather than for just two weeks. I would have preferred a more chronological approach instead of so much jumping around between centuries. I am very interested in the subject matter. especially now while "Indian Summers" is showing on Masterpiece Theatre, but this seemed like lots of anecdotes strung together haphazardly without ever being transformed into a captivating narrative. I appreciate the extensive bi ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A light read that includes a lot of history and insight into the British domination of India The Raj period. It also simply explains the factors of the fall of the Raj. But that is just backup to the stories and diaries of the British women living there. The day to day lists of packing to go on a camel trek to the mountains were fascinating, as well as advice about managing households and servants. The impact of the British caste society compared to the Indian castes in day to day living fascina ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this book knowing very little about the British experience in India and was thus completely fascinated by MacMillan's findings. It seems to me that the British women in any imperial area are often overlooked in favor of studying the work of their husbands, brothers and other male relatives. This fact made MacMillan's book all the more interesting and unusual. I quite enjoyed it and found it extremely readable for a history book and extremely informative for a non-academic work.
Jobiska (Cindy)
This was interesting...I was a little nonplussed to learn it was a repackaging of a book from the 1980s with a new introduction, but hey, that's what I get for not checking more deeply before I bought it. The research was obviously exhaustive, but the structure of different topics related to the womens' experience meant a skimming over several women's experience rather than delving deeply into any one woman's time in India. There are some women I want to learn more about now.
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Amy by: BYT
Excellent introduction to British India and the life women carved for themselves within it. I thought it was very well written and organized. The quick pace kept it interesting and little anecdotes made me chuckle. I enjoyed the pictures included and would recommend as a jumping off point to more information on this topic.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, this book really brought together the tidbits of information that I have picked up in other books I have read concerning the Raj! Nothing truly surprised me, but the British women were fleshed out a bit more broadly. I have a much greater appreciation of what they endured and came to love as they fulfilled their duty to the Empire.
Lauren Albert
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-british
The People Magazine of the Raj? I thought the book wonderfully anecdotal. It gave me a great sense of the time and place and of the women who lived through it. Historian MacMillan's was partly a family of the Raj--her maternal grandparents lived there, her grandfather serving in the Indian Medical Service.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: group, non-fiction
The book attempts to give a picture of the lives of the various women who lived in British controlled India, in the years of the East India Company and the British Raj. There are a lot of interesting snippets of information, but it jumps around between times, places and individuals a lot, so I found it didn't draw a coherent picture for me, although I did enjoy reading it.
I am really enjoying this book. Looked up the author, and it turns out I read...and loved...and bought...another of her books, "Paris, 1919, Six Months That Changed the World" about the treaty of Versailles. I even took notes from this book for homeschooling purposes. "Women of the Raj", which I picked up at a used book store, is also really interesting!!!
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret MacMillan is an amazing historian who has written widely on topics related to Britain. But she is no Malcolm Gladwell - each of her books are different, well-researched and interesting. Reading this book I laughed (Wife of British official picks flowers with shotgun!), I cried (Women sending their children back to England at 6 for school), and I learned a ton.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This is a very informative but easy and fascinating read about how women dealt with life during the Raj period in India. She gets very detailed at times which is great for me but could be boring to the casual reader. This book will make you want to read more about some of the women she has written about.
Dec 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
A very vivid and detailed account of the Women of British Empire in India. Not many books have surfaced that actually speak about people who really didn't care about colonisation as long as they were feeling at home in the colonies. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to get a sneak peak of the lives of the wives of British colonial administrators in India.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India
  • In Paul Klee's Enchanted Garden
  • The Complete Costume History / Vollständige Kostümgeschichte / Le Costume Historique
  • The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power
  • The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj
  • 'Isms & 'Ologies: All the Movements, Ideologies and Doctrines That Have Shaped Our World
  • Begums, Thugs, and White Mughals
  • The Mammoth Book of Pirates: Over 25 True Tales of Devilry and Daring by the Most Infamous Pirates of All Time
  • The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind
  • Plain Tales from the Raj
  • Encyclopedia of Bad Taste
  • The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj
  • Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives
  • Pope Joan: Translated & Adapted from the Greek
  • Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914
  • A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin
  • The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans
  • The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women's Rights and How to Fight Back
Margaret Olwen MacMillan OC D.Phil. (born 1943) is a historian and professor at Oxford University where she is Warden of St. Antony's College. She is former provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto. A well-respected expert on history and current affairs, MacMillan is a frequent commentator in the media.


More about Margaret MacMillan...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Funny In Farsi: A Memoir Of Growing Up Iranian In America
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family
    $20.99 $1.99
  • Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
    $8.49 $1.99
  • Bad Boy
    $7.74 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
    $4.99 $1.99
  • All Over But the Shoutin'
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.24 $1.99