Hanging on to the Jewel in the Crown

A century ago, the British authorities in India passed a series of reforms that they hoped would appease the subcontinent’s increasingly confident political movements. But, writes Denis Judd, it was too little, too late.

India was Britain’s greatest and most prestigious imperial possession. The achievement of ruling roughly 80 per cent of the empire’s population with a few hundred British administrators and an army drawn primarily from the population of the Indian subcontinent was a dizzying feat of nerve and an impressive demonstration of both power and guile. So much so that Adolf Hitler was among the many admirers of the British Raj; his favourite and most frequently watched film was The Lives of a Bengal Lancer.

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