Charles Allen

Spirit of Roedean

Ursula Graham Bower belonged to the last generation of those well-bred missy-sahibs who came out to India at the start of the cold-weather season in search of genteel adventure and a husband. But unbeknown both to herself and to those about her, the gawky, ‘well-covered’, Roedean-educated Miss Bower was of that stern stuff upon which

To the holiest in the height

Colin Thubron’s new book will disappoint those of his readers who admire him for his reserve. He is the last and perhaps the best of the gentleman travellers of the old school, his books distinguished by scholarship, rigour and that extraordinary ability that he has made his own: the capacity to immerse himself in someone

Holding the East in fee

Never a great fan of the British Raj, the maverick ex-ICS historian Sir Penderel Moon judged nevertheless that its establishment was ‘an achievement that ought to excite wonder’. At the heart of that achievement was a paradox: how was it that so few were able to subdue so many, of whom large numbers were warriors

Wolves in sheep’s clothing

The word ‘Wahhabi’ entered popular consciousness at the same time as ‘9/11’ and is now about as loaded as the word ‘Nazi’. But whereas ‘Nazi’ is understood by all, ‘Wahhabi’ has crept into the vocabulary of modern global terrorism with little explanation other than that it and ‘Wahhabism’ are considered part of the mindset of

The banditry plays on

Forty years ago V. S. Naipaul enraged Indians by describing India as ‘an area of darkness’. He also upset a great many Western liberals who were then discovering in India a land of all-pervading spirituality. Later, he returned to India to write more kindly about ‘a wounded civilisation’ undergoing a liberation of spirit through ‘rage

A second passage to India

In September 1946 a 23-year-old Englishwoman sailed for India in one of the first passenger liners to be reconverted from a trooper. She spent the following Cold Weather as the dogsbody with a documentary unit making films about tea gardens in Assam. Fifty-four years on she would describe this excursion into Asia as ‘a huge