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British & Indian Armies in the East Indies 1685-1935

Harfield, Alan

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ISBN 10: 0902633953 / ISBN 13: 9780902633957
Published by Picton Publishing, Chippenham, 1984
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From McBlain Books, ABAA (Hamden, CT, U.S.A.)

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frontis, photos, xv, 411p, Original green boards. dj. 21cm. Bookseller Inventory # 83272

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Bibliographic Details

Title: British & Indian Armies in the East Indies ...

Publisher: Picton Publishing, Chippenham

Publication Date: 1984

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

About this title

Review:

Harfield, a retired British officer with extensive experience in the East Indies, has written a comprehensive history of Britain's military presence in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He begins with the Honorable East India'sfirst fortified trading posts in Sumatra and ends with the emergence of Singapore as the linchpin of Britain's eastern empire in the years between the World Wars. He conveys a sense of imperialism at its cutting edge--years of mind-numbing routine in forsaken outposts, with disease an ever-present risk and combat a welcome relief. His account of the various Singapore volunteer forces offers useful insights into the increasingly-ccnnplex society of a major southeast Asian commercial center. And his narrative of the mutiny in 1915 of the 5th Light Infantry, an Indian Army unit assigned to the Singapore garrison, highlights the volatile nature of the Raj even at its zenith. The work's positive qualities are, unfortunately, obscured by Hatfield's penchant for the trivial at the expense of the analytical. Uniforms and organizations are described in minute detail. Lists of comniissions, records of military funerals, descriptions of fortification sites, combine to give the work a strong antiquarian flavor. In contrast, Harfield makes almost no effort to present the context of British expansion in this region, to discuss the nature of the British and Indian forces that garrisoned it, or to evaluate the strategic situation that culminated in the disastrous collapse of 1942. As a result what could have been a significant contribution to the military history of imperialism is reduced to a quirky, occasionally interesting compendium whose sale is likely to be restricted to specialized libraries. A firmer editorial hand could have done much to remedy the work's shortcomings. Small-press publication is not vanity publication. Lesser-known houses have the same responsibilities to their authors, and to the intellectual community, as the largest commercial conglomerate or the most prestigious university press. Allowing an author with Harfield's expertise to expend his talent on minutiae ultimately serves no one's interests. -- From Independent Publisher

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