Volume 9

Roberts in India: The Military Papers of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, 1876-1893

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The history of the British Army in the last quarter of the nineteenth century is dominated by two soldiers, Garnet Wolseley and Frederick Roberts. Almost exact contemporaries, they pursued parallel but separate careers for forty years, Wolseley in the British and Roberts, though a British officer, in the Indian Army. Roberts sprang to instant fame in the Second Afghan War when his daring march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880 made him a public hero. Thereafter, he was the acknowledged rival and successor to Wolseley, from whom he differed on a wide range of issues, including the vexed question of short-service. As Commander-in-Chief Madras and Commander-in-Chief India for the unprecedented period of eight years, Roberts presided over the massive reform and strengthening of the Army in India. He was largely successful in engineering a major re-orientation of British strategic thinking, making India the primary theatre of operations in what he saw as the inevitable war with Russia.

Roberts was an energetic and articulate writer and his surviving papers, hitherto unpublished, cover an extraordinary range of subjects. The papers in this volume have been selected, not merely to illustrate Robertsí career in India and the complex interaction between Indian and British policy, but to provide a fresh and unexpected portrait of late- Victorian military life. They show Roberts as a pioneer in humanising the soldier's life and, at the same time, as a complex and devious personality.