Thugs, all

A recent OUP title, Stranglers & Bandits: A Historical Anthology of Thuggee, brought back memories of my schooldays when reading the likes of John Masters (and Oliver Strange, and Mickey Spillane, I must admit) was an absolute necessity...

Kim Wagner of the South Asian history department at the University of Edinburgh gives a historical account of Thuggee "the controversial cult of ritual highway murderers ‘discovered’ by the British in early nineteenth-century India forms one of the most sensational and contentious practices in South Asian history. As one of the most potent images of colonial lore and fiction, interpretations of the reality, meaning, and representation of thuggee vary. Were the thugs religious fanatics who practiced human sacrifice? Or were they a mere figment of colonial imagination, invented as a convenient pretext for the expansion of British rule?

From pre-colonial accounts to post-colonial critiques, Stranglers and Bandits provides a fascinating and accessible chronological account of thuggee. It presents a unique range of material, including key primary sources, popular accounts, and scholarly perspectives. Hitherto unpublished documents from the first anti-thuggee campaign of 1810–12 and rare archival records provide new insights. Literary accounts and scholarly readings, from 1839 to 2006, shed light on shifting interpretations over the past two centuries.

A comprehensive introduction by Kim Wagner explores thuggee within a comprehensive historical context and questions whether authentic voices of thugs can be discerned from available British records. It also discusses theoretical and methodical issues in detail. The richness and diversity of the anthology will stimulate and enthrall readers, while opening way for different approaches and new lines of inquiry."

In our History Section, Hardcover, 336 pages. Rs 695. ISBN: 9780195698152