John Masters



As an artist, John Masters does not rank with Kipling or Forster though he comes close to them in evoking the sights, smells, and sounds of India. He is seen more or less as a popular soldier-turned-writer of romantic adventure tales in the old tradition. However, I think that there is much more to Masters than a mere narrator of exciting stories. His heroes, for instance, are more complex than they appear to be; they go through doubts and fears, they change and develop, and their essential quest is often as much for identity or relationships as the dushman (enemy). And what makes him more important, at least from a historical point of view, is that as a literary chronicler of British India he brings the narrative to the end of the Raj.


Painful Acceptance Imperial Idea British Soldier Professional Soldier Exciting Story 
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  1. 1.
    John Masters, Bugles and a Tiger (New York, 1968), p. 133.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    John Masters, The Road Past Mandalay (New York, 1961), p. viii.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    John Masters, Nightrunners of Bengal (New York, 1951), p. vii.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Lakshami Bai, the young widowed Rani of Jhansi, was a heroine of the Mutiny. Jhansi had been annexed by the Company in 1854 in total disregard to earlier treaties. This was deeply resented by both the Rani and her people. At the outbreak of the Mutiny, the Rani was forced into taking control of her state by the sepoys. The British refused to understand her case, holding her responsible for the takeover as well as the killing of the British resident. Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi in March 1857 and the Rani had the choice of either surrendering or fighting it out. She chose the latter course in view of the barbarous record of British occupation. She held out against the superior enemy fighting with skill and courage; she actively guided her troops and regularly attended their drill and training. Her particular interest was in the formation of a force of women. Jhansi was overrun by British troops in April after very heavy fighting. The Rani managed to escape, and she soon joined Tantia Topi and Rao Sahib, two prominent freedom fighters of the time. She participated in a number of compaigns against the British and was finally killed in action at Gwaliar. Sir Hugh Rose called the Rani ‘the bravest and best of the military leaders of the rebels’. See Michael Edwardes, Red Year: The Indian Rebellion of 1857 (London, 1973), pp. 113–26.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Charles Allen (ed.), Plain Tales From The Raj (London, 1975). P. 192.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    See for example Frank Anthony, Britain’s Betrayal in India: The Story of the Anglo-Indian Community (Delhi, 1969), p. i.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    John Masters, Bhowani Junction (New York, 1954), p. 19.Google Scholar

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© Shamsul Islam 1979

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