Servants of the empire

The Irish in Punjab 1881–1921
O’Leary, Patrick
Date published: 
October 2011

Punjab, ‘the pride of British India’, attracted the cream of the Indian Civil Service, many of the most influential of whom were Irish. Some of these men, along with Irish viceroys, were inspired by their Irish backgrounds to ensure security of tenure for the Punjabi peasant, besides developing vast irrigation schemes which resulted in the province becoming India’s most affluent. But similar inspiration contributed to the severity of measures taken against Indian nationalist dissent, culminating in the Amritsar massacre which so catastrophically transformed politics on the sub-continent. Setting the experiences of Irish public servants in Punjab in the context of the Irish diaspora and of linked agrarian problems in Ireland and India, this book descrides the beneficial effects the Irish had on the prosperity of India’s most volatile province. Alongside the baleful contribution of some towards a growing Indian antipathy towards British rule. Links are established between policies pursued by Irishmen of the Victorian era and current happenings on the Pakistan-Afghan border and in Punjab.