Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officer Corps, 1817-1949

By Pradeep P. Barua | Go to book overview

Introduction

In the first half of the twentieth century the colonial Indian army underwent a dramatic transition during which a glorified colonial police force was transformed into a relatively modern army, complete with its own institutionalized officer corps. This impressive achievement was the culmination of a complex, if cautious, program of social, political, and military reforms. Although these changes dramatically altered the character of this army, and perhaps even the nation to which it belonged, they practically have been ignored by the historiography on the colonial Indian army. Even the scant work done so far tends to underplay this crucial development. This book analyzes some of these institutional and organizational reforms. In this case, institutional reform refers to the development of a professional officer corps along with the training establishments that sustain such a cadre; organizational reform refers to the structural and doctrinal evolution of the colonial Indian army.

Scholars including Stephen P. Cohen, William Gutteridge, Andrew Sharpe, Jeffrey Greenhut, and David Omissi see the slow progress made by the British to establish an institutionalized Indian officer corps as evidence of British racism. They argue that “Indianization” (the replacement of British officers by Indian officers) was a low priority for the British because the British perceived no benefit in it for British rule in India. These scholars overemphasize the influence of Indian nationalist politicians, whom they credit for pressuring the British into any reform. 1 A similar view is held by Mark Houston Jacobsen, who also analyzes the organizational modernization of the colonial Indian army. 2 A. Martin Wainwright has distanced himself somewhat from the dependency writers by acknowledging that considerable advances were made in modernizing the colonial Indian army and

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