Miles Taylor is professor of modern history at the University of York. Between 2008 and 2014 he was director of the Institute of Historical Research.
Queen Victoria was at the head of the Raj, Britain's Indian empire, for much of her long reign. Passionately involved, she intervened in Indian politics, commissioned artists and photographers to record a landscape and people that she never saw herself, sent her sons as ambassadors to the subcontinent, and surrounded herself with the trappings of the Indian conquest, from the Koh-i-Noor diamond to her own Indian troop escort and servants.
Indian politics and society were in turn fundamentally reshaped by her influence: maharajas vied for her favour, missionaries used her as a tool for conversion and Indian reformers turned to her as a symbol of justice and equality. She also became an object of fascination and veneration: hundreds of popular biographies and tributes emerged from the vernacular printing presses, and her two jubilees of 1887 and 1897 were celebrated with unprecedented gusto.
In this new and original account, Miles Taylor charts the remarkable effects India had on the queen as well as the pivotal role she played in India. Drawing on official papers and an abundance of poems, songs, diaries and photographs, Taylor challenges the notion that Victoria enjoyed only ceremonial power and that India's loyalty to her was without popular support. On the contrary, the rule of the queen-empress penetrated deep into Indian life and contributed significantly to the country's modernisation, both political and economic.
In this subtle portrayal of Victoria's India, Taylor suggests that the Raj was one of her greatest successes.