BACSA’s lecture series resumed on 23 May with a full house to hear author and broadcaster Dr Zareer Masani speak on ‘Robert Clive: The Man Who Would Be King’ in the Club’s Clive Room.
Clive was and remains a controversial figure, identified by his critics with the worst excesses of Company rule, but Dr Masani pointed out that Clive could have demanded and taken much more out of Bengal than he did. He should be seen as a man of his period, less rapacious than many who went out to India to make their fortunes, and ultimately a reformer who did much to stamp out Company corruption in Bengal. Attractive characteristics were Clive’s personal bravery and lack of racism, which made him a popular leader of native troops whose hardships he shared unlike other leaders. As founder of Britain’s rule in Bengal, governor during a transitional period of rampant Company monopolisation and instability, and a spectacularly successful nabob, Clive is a focus of attack for critics of Empire. Members commented on Dr Masani’s balanced account of the life and times of this complex and dynamic man.
The talk was preceded by drinks and a chance to catch up with others in the East India Room and view its collection of portraits of great men and monarchs of India. Later 40 members enjoyed a three-course dinner. Madras Beef was an appropriate curry option for a lecture on Clive and the enticing selection of cocktail pastries concluding the meal was enjoyed by all. It was a very good night with an excellent lecture and a thoroughly enjoyable dinner in splendid surrounds—a rare opportunity and an occasion to remember.