The Fishing Fleet

The Fishing Fleet

Husband-hunting in the Raj

Book - 2012
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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Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.

Publisher: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012
Edition: Paperback edition
ISBN: 9780753828960
Branch Call Number: 954.030922 DEC NVD
Characteristics: ix, 335 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Husband-hunting in the Raj


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Jul 20, 2015

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it's a fascinating look at the English rule of India in the mid 1860's through the early 1900's. It describes life in India via diaries and journals of English women looking to get married by looking at military prospects in India.
On the other hand, it gets repetitive. This would have been a really, really good magazine article, but it gets old as a book. Too many of the stories are similar, making the overall book kind of boring in totality, but interesting in snippets.

BCD2013 May 06, 2014

An anecdote-rich account of the Victorian women who traveled nearly 5000 miles to find husbands—namely Englishmen serving as officers in the British Army or in the Indian Civil Service, whose positions and salaries made them prime catches. However, even if the women were successful in securing a husband (and many weren’t) , the oppressive heat, illness, bouts of loneliness and the constant uprooting of households made their lives not quite the success story they were hoping for.

Diell Jan 28, 2014

re: Well researched possibly but she sure left a lot out, and I'm not sure about well written, if so you wouldn't have been so disappointed, I sure was, BBC was so effusive, always. I gave this book a low rating, but it's an interesting place in time, she drove me crazy though, she was all over the place, she'd be writing about someone then switch centuries, then they'd pop up in the book later, in 3 or 4 different chapters Time warp? a tear in the space continuum? just got bits and bites, that's for donuts not books, really annoying. The world of the Fishing Fleet shaped a country(or warped it ) the effects are still being felt, some good stuff here, probably the best thing to do is to keep track of names thru the book and go on a treasure hunt for diaries, probably quite a few, see back of book, she's always good at listing her sources... A good place to find something to read?... ............................................ Dear ser_library & happycanuck If you were interested in this book you might enjoy Bombay Anna, I'd love to tell the very interesting twists in Anna's story but I should leave that for you, such pretty little tidbits to find.

ser_library Sep 23, 2013

disappointed that there was no discussion about women in the 18th century... eg Philadelphia Austen who married Saul Hancock and may have had Warren Hastings child.

i read the first few chapters and stopped when the stories seemed repetitious

May 04, 2013

Well researched and written but boring with its endless listings of female after female going to India to find a husband. By its nature, there are no central characters, just a few paragraphs on each person cobbled together from bits of diaries etc.

MsMicawber Dec 16, 2012

A really entertaining and fascinating book.. It's filled with excerpts from the letters & diaries of Fishing Fleet ladies as well as first-person accounts from those that the De Courcy was able to interview. There's lots of romance, some tragedy, adventure, laughs...and the nitty-gritty details of what it was like to live in pre-industrial India. Great book!

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