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Response to Review no. 384

I feel honoured that Dr Keith Wilson has reviewed my book. He has produced outstanding work on the international relations of the period that I have covered. I am grateful to him for reading my book so closely and for describing it as ‘an impressive achievement’. The legend I had in mind for my book was a line I read somewhere: ‘Until the lion is their historian, tales of hunting will glorify the hunter’. To project what the prey had to go through during the hunt, the latter would have to narrate the story.

As in all states and all ages, the aim of Britain’s policy makers was to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Britain. It was also of vital importance for them to maintain Britain’s great power status. The conquest of India by Britain had altered the hierarchy of the world during the nineteenth century. British statesmen, irrespective of their political affiliations, showed a determination to maintain their hold over the Indian empire by ensuring the security of its frontiers and the routes thereto. I stick to the view that in studies of British foreign policy, the Indian side is often left opaque. Through the opportunity provided by your e-journal, I wish to say that the historians to whom special reference has been made in the review – all fifteen of them – are past masters in their respective fields and most have produced magisterial studies. Generations of students, including myself, have grown up admiring the excellence of their work. In commenting on their views, the idea was not at all ‘to score hits’ but just to put forth the Indian aspect, which is often assumed or not stated explicitly.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the debt I owe to Prof. Edward Ingram of Simon Fraser University. In his ‘trilogy’ on British policies in West and Central Asia during the early nineteenth century, he argued in impressive detail that the possession of the Indian Empire represented, for British statesmen, the claim to the status of a world power and that they worked to defend India against the effects of fluctuations in the European balance of power. When I was toying with the idea of writing on the Indian factor in British foreign policy during 1870-1914, his work encouraged me to carry on my research. I did not acknowledge this in the book because the focus, in my book, was on a much later period.