In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swathe of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.
The year was 1577, and the Mughal emperors…
Begins Alex Von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer – The Secret History of the End of an Empire, a book that I am finding extremely hard to put down though having read just fifteen pages. I don’t know if I am jumping the gun but this book seems to be worth every rupee I paid for it (and there were 1,080 of those rupees).
Says the inside front cover:
The stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947 liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, a nation admitted it was no longer a superpower, and a king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator.
Indian Summer depicts the epic sweep of events that ripped apart the greatest empire the world has ever seen, and saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed. It reveals the secrets of the most powerful players on the world stage: the Cold War conspiracies, the private deals, and the intense and clandestine love affair between the wife of the last viceroy (Edwina Mountbatten) and the first prime minister of free India (Jawaharlal Nehru).
I can’t wait to read the remaining 350-odd pages.