While the foreigner in colonial India has become, at least since EM Forster, something of a genre unto itself, the foreigners are almost invariably British and the novels mostly in English. Museum of the World by Christopher Kloeble is something of a novelty not just because it is based on the true story of the three Bavarian Schlagintweit brothers who explored India for the East India Company in the mid-19th century, but also because it was written in German; this new member of the canon appears via translation.

Since the coup on 1 February 2021, Burma (the author’s term) has seen a humanitarian crisis in all regions of the country, with mass displacement and a myriad of human rights abuses. What happened in Burma and how the situation deteriorated to this point is the topic of Amitav Acharya’s new book Tragic Nation Burma: Why and How Democracy Failed.  The book is a mixture of analysis and opinion, liberally layered with numerous quotations and interviews with members of Burma’s Civil Disobedience Movement, which Acharya dubs “thought warriors”. 

In his new book, Uther Charlton-Stevens provides a rich history of the Anglo-Indian community, people of both Indian and British heritage, and explains why this small but important community deserves a greater focus. In this book he outlines the curious identity and relationship of Anglo-Indians with both the UK and India, and explains how they were “never simply the colonisers nor the colonised, but something in between”. Through this prism, he argues, we can re-analyse Indian history through a new vantage point and see how Anglo-Indians played a part in major events in Indian history. In his own words the book is “neither colonial apologia nor nationalist polemic”, rather an exploration of an often overlooked, but vitally important, community. 

In her new book High, Erika Fatland traverses the Himalaya. Her journey starts in Kashgar in Western China. From her starting point in Xinjiang, she crosses the border into Pakistan and travels down the Karakorum highway onto Gilgit, Chitral and the Swat Valley. Dropping down to Lahore her journey takes her across the Punjab and into Indian Kashmir, then Leh, Manali, Dharmsala, Darjeeling and Sikkim before venturing onto Bhutan and Arunachal and Assam. Then in a second later trip to Nepal, Fatland goes trekking to Everest base camp, down to Lumbini and onto Upper Mustang then to before crossing into Tibet and onto Lake Manasarovar. After a short visit to a tightly-controlled Lhasa, her journey finishes in Zhongdian, the so-called Shangri La in Yunnan province. 

The exploration of the Himalaya contributed vastly to scientific knowledge. From botanical discoveries, to understanding of how human bodies work at altitude, to pioneering the use of new scientific equipment, the mountain range had an immense importance. Yet its hostile environment meant that this knowledge was not easily gained. Moreover these scientific endeavors were by no means apolitical. Empire and imperialism was a central aspect of these activities. Despite the notional purity of science and scholarship, these western surveyors, naturalists and scientists were taking part in the imperial project.