Useful Notes / The Raj
aka: The British Raj
Indian servants attending a British officer

"Detriments you call us? Detriments? Well I want to remind you that it was detriments like us that built this bloody Empire and the Izzat of the bloody Raj. Hats on!"
Peachy Carnehan, The Man Who Would Be King

“It is not the pitiless operations of economic laws, but it is thoughtless and pitiless action of the British policy; it is pitiless eating of India’s substance in India and further pitiless drain to England, in short it is pitiless perversion of Economic Laws by the sad bleeding to which India is subjected, that is destroying India.”
Dadabhai Naoroji, author of the book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India.

The British Indian Empire (1858-1947), known colloquially as the British Raj ('Raj' is Hindi/Urdu for "reign"), was what resulted from the most important nationalisation of any corporation ever. After a rather messy rebellion among the British East India Company's Indian mercenaries (Sepoys) in 1857 that saw at least a few thousand mercenaries and ex-mercenaries dead, as well as a couple of hundred British citizens, Parliament passed an act which nationalised the company on the grounds that there is no way in hell a corporation could be trusted to govern a hundred million people responsibly and ethically and why didn't we do this sooner? Rather conveniently, the last Emperor of the Mughal Empire had been touted as a figurehead-leader by the rebellious mercenaries and so he'd been exiled to Rangoon by The Company. This left the official position of 'Emperor Of India' vacant, though the Mughal 'Empire' hadn't actually been a major power for a hundred years by that point.

Even though the Kings of Great Britain would also be The Emperor Of India from that point on, the name of the new territories was somewhat misleading because the British East India company had only controlled about half of India's land and population. While the proportions of both under their direct control increased over time, it never exceeded two-thirds of either. The remainder of the continent continued to be ruled by several hundred largely autonomous Princely States that were under the suzerainity of the British Crown - the whole thing was a patchwork-Empire reminiscent of, say, 16th-century 'Austria' or 'Spain' or 'France'. Even so, India was indisputably "The Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire" as it was the only part of it (settler societies like Canada aside) that didn't run at a (massive) loss.

Unfortunately for them, they had not counted on the great efforts of a bald lawyer named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In 1947, exhausted from World War II and under great pressure from the Indians and facing bankruptcy in trying to keep a lid on the increasing tension, England left India on August 15th, 1947.

However, there was a problem. The British East India Company and The Raj after them had done their best to leave Indian society totally unchanged, merely substituting their bureaucrats into the positions of Viscount or Duke or King or whoever was supposed to rule a certain area. Worse still, there were still a whopping five hundred and sixty five Princely States when the British left a year early (because they were too broke to stick to the schedule after spenidng every penny they got during WWII) in 1947. The ensuing process of state-building was very, very difficult because they were trying to reform what were effectively pre-modern, largely 18th- and 19th-century bureaucracies into a working modern state. The territory was eventually integrated by a mix of diplomatic and military means, taking nearly two decades to come under central rule. And that's not even going into the biggest problem—religion. A majority of Indians were Hindu, but there was a large Muslim minority that formed majorities in certain regions—particularly in the northwest, with a bit in East Bengal, as well as Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, and Christian minorities (of which the Sikhs and Christians formed majorities in parts of Punjab and in parts of the north-east, respectively).

Gandhi and Nehru were ambivalent at best about cooperation with the British war effort in World War II—with Gandhi, Actual Pacifist that he was, advocating resistance. On the other hand, Muhammad Ali Jinnah persuaded the Muslim community to fully back the war effort. This last gave some traction to the idea of a separate Indian Muslim state upon independence—before the war, most Muslims were indifferent or hostile to the idea of a separate state. But with the burden of the war appearing to fall disproportionately on Muslim shoulders (or so Muslims were persuaded to believe; whether it did or not is a matter of contention), Muslims increasingly felt separate and accused the rest of the country of not pulling its weight and generally mistreating them. After the war, Gandhi, Nehru, and the Indian National Congress attempted to create a united nation, but now a majority of the Muslims, led by Jinnah and his Muslim League, demanded a new nation exclusively for themselves. The British thought this a splendid idea,note  resulting in the partition to India (although it is referred to as Bharat in most Indian languages), and an almost exclusively Muslim Pakistan (which then split in 1971 into its current form and Bangladesh).

For the army of The Raj see Kipling's Finest .

The Raj in popular culture:

  • Wee Willie Winkie is a Shirley Temple vehicle in which Shirley winds up living with her grandfather, who happens to be the commander of a British regiment on the frontier of the Raj, fighting the Afghans. C. Aubrey Smith gives a Shut Up, Kirk! speech about the importance of duty on the frontier.
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is a Gary Cooper vehicle in which Gary is an officer in a British regiment on the frontier of the Raj, fighting the (future) Pakistanis. C. Aubrey Smith gives a Shut Up, Kirk! speech about the importance of duty on the frontier.
  • Three of G.M. Fraser's Flashman novels are set in India and Afghanistan, and while not directly set there, the McAuslan series and Quartered Safe Out Here clearly demonstrate the strong influence the Raj had on the culture of the British Army.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • A Passage to India
  • Gandhi
  • The Deceivers
  • Gunga Din
  • Not quite literally everything Kipling ever wrote, but most of what he wrote that most people have ever heard of, is set in or near the Raj and the rest of it is at least influenced by Kipling's having been born in it and spending his early childhood and early adult life there.
  • Beginning of The Secret Garden
  • Carry On... Up the Khyber
  • The Great Game
  • The Steam House
  • The Far Pavilions: A sprawling, 1,000 epic tale of Ashton Pelham-Martyn, a British man who was raised as an Indian and struggles with his identity and loyalty after he returns to India as a British soldier in service to the Raj. Not to mention, his love of the beautiful Anjuli - an Indian woman and his childhood friend.
  • The wildly successful early-80s British TV drama series The Jewel in the Crown, based on a series of four novels by Paul Scott, is set in India during the final years of the Raj and the transition to independence and partition.
  • Ripping Yarns: The episode "Roger of the Raj"
  • Indian Summers: A (2015 - ongoing) richly historical, period series about the twilight of the British Raj in 1930's Simla, India - the summer headquarters of the British government, headed by a diverse cast of Brits and Indians and featuring plenty of politics, romances, scandals, intrigue and the like.
  • Downton Abbey: Lord Grantham's cousin by marriage and Lady Rose's father, Hugh "Shrimpie" MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire, is a Foreign/Colonial Service officer assigned to be Viceroy in Bombay; in Series 4, O'Brien is Put on a Bus to Bombay when Lady Flintshire takes her on as her new lady's maid.
  • Mrs Hawking play series: Mary Stone, Mrs. Hawking's housemaid and faithful assistant, spent most of her life in India during this period. The stories begin when, shortly after the death of her parents, she comes to England to begin a new life.
  • Some of the Sandokan novels are set in the Raj:
    • Quest for a Throne is about Yanez and Sandokan helping the former's wife Surama in taking over Assam, ruled by her cousin Sindhia who sold her to the Thuggee cult after killing his mad predecessor Purandar Singha (that went unnamed in the series), who had just murdered the rest of the family;
    • The Brahman and An Empire Crumbles (originally written as a single novel and divided by Executive Meddling) detail an insurrection in Assam against Yanez's rule, while Yanez's Revenge sees him and Sandokan defeating the insurrection;
    • While also set in India, The Mystery of the Black Jungle and The Two Tigers are not set in the Raj, as the former is set before the Mutiny of 1857 and the latter has the Mutiny as its background (the fight being a major obstacle in chasing Suyodhana and freeing Tremal Naik's daughter, with the final chapters being Sandokan's group infiltrating the besieged Delhi and then successfully killing Suyodhana and freeing Tremal Naik's daughter right before the British assault).
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004): India appears as one of the countries visited by the three protagonists where they found themselves accused as fugitives by British soldiers stationed there.
  • Westworld: Season 2 introduces park 6 which is called The Raj.

Alternative Title(s): The British Raj