". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj

     . . . . A while back an amiga mentioned she was reading Anne De Coucey's 2012 The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj. 

I'd wanted to read this book when hearing about its publication, but it wasn't possible at that time.  However, this last week I've been seriously sidelined from almost all real life due to a very bad pinched nerve condition that has made sitting at desk and many other things impossible.  So this was a good time for books I don't always have room for during real life.

It's a good enough book.  The research is extensive and broad.  De Coucey is a good writer, and with this name, presumably is part of the class out of which the Fishers who could presume alliances with the Heaven Born came.

Also, I love these sorts of histories, and I particularly enjoy books from the era of John Company -- the East India Trading Company from before the Mutiny and the imposition of the Raj by the British imperial govenment, and after, once it was imposed.  Much changes between those two eras of the British dominance of India, from when the Company imposed its will unimpeded and when the English began governing as opposed to 'only' extracting India's resources.

The first Fishers of men, English women looking for decent marriages, were coming out before the Raj.  The Company paid young women who qualified a fee as well as their carriage costs, and provided various goods and services.  All through these decades there were more women of marriageable age in England due to Napoleon first, and after WWI and the Influenza.  There were all these white British  men in India with no white English women to marry. Early in the history of the Company it didn't matter, and British men from the army and the Company married into Indian families.

But after Cornwallis came out as governor general -- post surrendering to the French and Washington at Yorktown -- that changed.  Laws of all sorts were passed that kept the children of anglo-Indian marriages from any significant post in the companies or in government.  With the Raj this was already hard social and economic reality -- no posts were open to anyone Indian or of Indian background.  This was equally true of the government as of the military and of business -- which continued even though the Company no longer ran things.

Along with these conditions things changed a great deal for the Fishing Fleet ladies as well.  Now they had to pay the equivalent of $30,000 to go out to India as a license to travel there as an unmarried woman without family waiting for them, they needed to supply all their own needs and they need to pay their own way.

Now these are the times that would have been really interesting to read about -- who were these women, how did it work out for them, all sorts of things.  However, the author isn't interested in these women, and authors get to write about what they want.

The author is interested in the young women of her own class, who don't have to pay to come out, and who are related or connected in some way with those running India.  So we're in the early 1900's and mostly in the 1920's and 1930's.  These are the people she knows . . . .

So the book, interesting enough in its own way, is also quite disappointing in my way.

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