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british raj

The Female World of the British Raj


Biljana Romić, born in 1960, is a Croatian indologist and cultural editor. She gained her Master of Arts title in 1997 in Zagreb, with a study of Bharati Mukherjee and postcolonial migrant faiths. She has ever since actively been researching and writing about postcolonialism and the notion of the Other. Her extensive study The women’s world of British India was written after she spent several years studying diaries and letters written by “memsahibs”. Her work is not simply a historical overview of their lives and roles during colonialism, it puts colonial history, literature and the notion of the “Other” in a contemporary critical context; Romić analyses over one hundred and fifty sources, including Indrani Sen, Amandeep Kaur, Kumari Jayawardena and Shashi Tharoor. When reading about the British colonial venture in India, we mostly encounter works that have been written from the male perspective of conquests and regimen – but colonial women have, almost from the very beginning, been a part of this venture. Biljana Romić’s book brings us the voices of these women and their lives. They journeyed into the unknown, often not prepared for the adversities of a different climate and the social roles they were going to find themselves in. They went into the unknown as wives, governesses, teachers, as young women in search of a husband; sometimes as entrepreneurs, missionaries, adventurers. Many stayed within the expected roles given by the British colonial community, but some of them showed that it is possible to overcome the limitations of their era, class and gender when it comes to their relation to India and Indians. Biljana Romić talks about the so-called “little history”, the one that appears on the margins of big historical events – and without which it is impossible to gain a complete picture of a time that has passed.