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Ribbons Among the Rajahs (Hardback)

A History of Women in India Before the Raj

British History Social History Women of History

By Patrick Wheeler
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 246
ISBN: 9781473893276
Published: 12th June 2017



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From the mid-eighteenth century onwards, British women started travelling in any numbers to the East Indies, mostly to accompany husbands, brothers or fathers. Very little about them is recorded from the earlier years, about the remarkable journeys that they made and what drove them to travel those huge distances. Some kept journals, others wrote letters, and for the first time Patrick Wheeler tells their story in this fascinating and colourful history, exploring the little-known lives of these women and their experiences of life in India before the Raj. With a perceptive approach, Ribbons Among the Rajahs considers all aspects of womens lives in India, from the original discomfort of traversing the globe and the complexities of arrival through to creating a home in a tight-knit settlement community. It considers, too, the effects of the subservience of women to the needs of men and argues for the fusion of European and Indian cultures that existed before imperial times.

Even before the Raj, many Europeans settled in India. Patrick Wheeler evokes life for upper-class women there, from struggles with heat and social protocol to a surprising sympathy for Indian culture. Extensive quotes from letters tell the women's story in their own words.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, November 2017 - reviewed by Rosemary Collins

The writing is in-depth enough to interest those with some background knowledge but not so difficult as to put off casual readers. Themes, such as the changing attitudes to Indians, and the fears of life and death, run through each of the chapters and tie the book together. The bibliography is extensive and useful. There are some reproductions of images from the time, especially those painted by the women who’s journals and letters were used, included, which give us some idea of the clothes worn and environment they lived in.

Read the complete review here.

Rosie Writes...

Wheeler tells of the voyage, household, matchmaking, domestic duties, and entertaining by British women in India between 1857 (the first Indian war of independence) and 1947 (the time of India's full independence) through the letters and diaries of the women themselves.

Read the complete review here.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

About Patrick Wheeler

Patrick Wheeler graduated in Medicine from Oxford before embarking on a career as a specialist Physician in hospitals in the southeast of England. Some time before he left medicine he had developed a great interest in India, and especially its colonial history. Working with people has particularly inclined him towards social history, Ribbons Among the Rajahs is his first book.

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