What would you gamble for a better life?

Many people of the British Empire were ready to risk anything for a better future. People emigrating to India endured a three-month voyage on ships that were tossed about like corks. Then, they had to cope with conditions so foreign that many died within a few months. But the strong ones could become almost anything–kings even, rich beyond imagining. At home, in the British Isles the choices might be limited to the drudgery of becoming a house servant, a live-in teacher (governess), or maybe a miner or industrial worker working an eighty hour week for a pittance.

These were often the alternatives for second sons and workers without connections or education. For women, there were almost no choices. Become a servant, scullery maid, maid of all work, cleaner or risk everything, gambling on a life in India. There, if you were good looking, you might win big in the marriage lottery and marry a noveau riche immigrant who wouldn’t worry about who your family was or which school you went to as much as the people “at home.”

It often was an all or nothing proposition, especially for women like Jane Booth, heroine of Lucknow Shadows of Empire. She is my own fictional invention but she is based on thousands of women who played to win or lose all by “going out to India.”

In Jane Booth’s case, she seemed to win the marriage lottery: she married a hero of the Indian army who was adventurous and seemed to adore her–at first. She had a child who was intelligent, and loved her. But all this changed around the time of the 1857 war of independence, which the British called, “The Indian Mutiny.” Caught up in this  nightmare war, which was so bitter and venomous that women were abused by enemies on both sides.

Jane gave up her son and sent him back to England to live with relatives. Many families who had the resources often sent children back to England before the age of seven so they would not fall too far behind in schooling. Of course, once Jane realizes the present danger of the war, she is glad she sent her son, “home,” the only word ever used by British people in India to describe England.

Learn more here:


About hudsonhousemysteries

I am a graphic artist. My work is based on photography and I am also a writer of historical novels, specializing in the Victorian era with a strong emphasis on the historical connections between that time and this.I began writing by working with my late father, Alvin Schwartz, who wrote Superman and Batman comics for more than twenty years. Starting very early, about age six, I plotted comic book stories then moved on to writing film, advertising and fiction ranging from young person’s novels to my current historical novels http://hudsonhousemysteries.com/south.php. In addition to telling a good yarn, I like to use an historical perspective to comment on modern issues. I learned about art from my mother who was one of Hans Hofmann's students and had one of the last show at Peggy Guggenheim's in NYC. I have had one man shows in Montreal and Toronto. My art website is Alan McKee.com.
This entry was posted in British Raj, Charles Dickens, Downton Abbey, the bibighar, the Indian Mutiny, The Lucknow Courtesans: Indian Queens of a Golden Age, The Memorial Well, The Music of Lucknow After the 1857 Rebellion, The Music of Lucknow after the 1857 Rebellion, The princely states of India and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s