It is easy to forget, in the linear narrative of the British Raj leading to an independent India, that there were other, albeit much smaller, bits that hung on as colonies of other European countries (let’s not call them “powers”) for some time longer. One of these, the most venerable, dating back almost five centuries to 1510, was Goa. The succinctly titled Goa, 1961 tells the story of India’s forceful expulsion of the Portuguese, focusing in considerable detail on the year it happened.

The impact of missionaries around the world has been widely condemned by anthropologists, historians and medical professionals. They have been accused of suppressing indigenous languages, religious and social practice, disrupting countries’ social fabrics and prohibiting contraception. Moreover, missionaries were, on the whole, stalwart defenders of European colonialism. However, that does not mean they are unworthy of  nuanced academic study, indeed given the immense socio-political and religious change they have fostered, academic engagement is crucial to understanding the outcomes of their activity. 

While most of the now common histories of the East India Company (EIC) and British India discuss the politics, conflict or culture of empire, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s Empire Building: The Construction of British India, 1690-1860 focuses on the physical construction of British India through the buildings that were constructed, the background to their design, the political and economic constraints that shaped their design and how these colonial constructions influenced India’s society, economy and polity.

In everyday usage, the “Middle East” is generally taken to mean the region that runs more or less from Egypt to Syria to Iraq and the Gulf. It has, especially in recent decades, come to overlay the issues of oil, the Arab-Israeli conflict and terrorism (Islamic or political). Conventional wisdom has it that the word came into use with the fall of the Ottoman Empire as, among other things, a replacement for the less precise and less useful “Near East”. In other words, the general perception is that the expression is either self-evident or that it emerged thanks to a sort of natural evolution in terminology.

It can be easy to think of colonies as having two populations: colonial subjects, and colonial overlords from Europe. It’s an easy narrative: one has power, status and privilege, the other does not. But in practice, European colonies created many populations in-between: groups who benefited from imperial power, yet not one of the elite.

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.