The Fishing Fleet : Husband-hunting in the Raj Paperback
The adventurous young women who sailed to India during the Raj in search of husbands. From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain's best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen.
With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake.
This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband.
They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold. For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time.
By the early 20th century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas and gymkhanas, with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja's palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent.
But after the honeymoon, life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company, and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival. Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 352 pages
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 24/10/2013
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780753828960
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Review by Opinionated
Excellent. From the first days of the Raj to World War II, every year boatloads of women descended on India, looking for husbands. Generally, women being in short supply, they found them. In the meantime, apart from harsh weather, they had a fabulous time going to endless balls and parties and err, shooting tiger. Luckily some kept diaries and corresponded widely. Anne de Courcy has mined this information expertly to illuminate a corner of colonial history probably not that well known - the history of the fishing fleet. And very entertaining it is; you can't help feeling that despite the perils of the voyage, the deprivations of heat and cold, the rigid formality and need for constant chaperoning, the girls enjoyed themselves immensely - certainly more than they would have done in England. Who wouldn't enjoy the attention of being one of only a few single women in the midst of fit young men in the prime of their lives? Even if from a romantic perspective a few stolen kisses were all you could hope for until engagement struck. Fascinating and often very funny. Recommended