The Fishing Fleet

The Fishing Fleet : Husband-hunting in the Raj

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The untold stories of the young women who went out 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 twentieth century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, 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 Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries and photographs - which bring this forgotten era vividly to more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 160 x 236 x 42mm | 662.24g
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 30
  • 0297863827
  • 9780297863823
  • 34,175

Review quote

This book is highly evocative... De Courcy takes the reader through an enchanted world THE GUARDIAN The Fishing Fleet is an entertaining, richly detailed account of a world that vanished overnight in 1947 with independence -- Daisy Goodwin THE SUNDAY TIMES The Fishing Fleet is a fascinating and evocatively told history, which summons both the exoticism of India under British rule and the lives and characters of the women who risked all for a husband FINANCIAL TIMES lively and well-researched THE SPECTATOR Anne de Courcy combines the perseverance of a social historian with the panache of a novelist in her tales from the Raj... she vividly and cleverly evokes the ironclad social culture of rank and race, the oppression of expatriate life once a husband was bagged and boredom set in -- Iain Finlayson THE TIMES A seasoned social historian, Anne de Courcy brilliantly evokes the era, often by allowing her heroines to do the talking. We hear vivid contemporary descriptions of everything from tiger hunts and tea dances to the agonies of prickly heat... the women who married into the Raj were true adventurers. de Courcy's book restores their proper reputation: as brave, sometimes batty, irredeemably British heroines DAILY MAIL De Courcy tells their story with perspicacity and aplomb THE FIELD Through heat, dust, lust and wedlock, de Courcy's memsahibs step a lively dance SAGA MAGAZINE Anne de Courcy's sparkling book is an unalloyed delight THE LADY This is a fascinating account of the rules, roles and relations of the British Raj THE DAILY TELEGRAPH This entertaining book...paints a broad picture of life in the Raj...memorable events are retold with zest and humour...Their stories are a perfect read for a cruise ship sailing eastwards or a deckchair in the sun COUNTRY LIFE brilliantly researched, skilfully constructed and full of delights THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH An entertaining and insightful romp...De Courcy has a remarkable talent for analysing subtle questions about Victorian and Edwardian femininity, politics, the empire, love and the nature of marriage. She is convincing, entrancing even. Quite simply she is a wonderful storyteller BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE de Courcy's delightful tale...draws on unpublished memoirs, leters and diaries to bring to life a hitherto under-explored aspect of life in the Raj GEOGRAPHICAL a fascinating corner of British social history...a jolly good read SPEAR'S illuminating volume CATHOLIC HERALD Anne de Courcy has used many unique sources, such as letters, diaries and memoirs to explore the 'Fishing Fleet' phenomenon, telling individual stories with insight and eloquence. Crammed with colourful detail of life in British India, it is a revelation - and a rollicking good read FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE 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, and businessmen - and many young women followed in their wake. Anne de Courcy tells of the lively social life and the contrasting, remote worlds where the resulting marriagese often ended up YOUR FAMILY TREE A vivid, well-written book, and a delightful read WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? magazine fascinating and very readable TLS a rich and exhilarating study of an ancient sport known as 'getting your man to the altar' -- Antonia Fraser MAIL ON SUNDAY the richly evocative story of the women who sailed out to the Indian Raj in search of husbands. A fascinating era and a picture of a closed world and society long gone but which the author recaptures vividly -- Susan Hill THE SPECTATOR Anne de Courcy's entertaining book... may prove perhaps to be the last of a kind, a nostalgic, non-judgmental look bacK HISTORY TODAY If you enjoy social history then The Fishing Fleet is right up your street. Drawing on many individual stories, Anne de Courcy gives a detailed vivid account of life in India when eligible young ladies sailed out in pursuit of eligible young men who outnumbered the females by four to one! Marriage did not always turn out as expected, however! EVERGREEN The sub-title is 'Husband-hunting in the Raj' which sums up the book beautifully...A colourful romp, interwoven with real-life letters and diaries from the time. -- Sophie King OTTERY HERALD Anne de Courcy's girl's eye view of the Raj makes clear the damage imperialism did not just to India but to the imperialists themselves. As an account of how to screw up two societies at once, it's unparalleled. -- Bella Bathurst THE OBSERVER By the 19th century, it was common practice for middle- and upper-middle-class girls to go husband-hunting in the Raj, but the perils were huge: a six-month seas voyage and then an uncertain future in an unknown, disease-ridden country. Although the girls were often as young as sixteen, they knew (mostly) what was expected of them, and their story makes a hugely enjoyable book. GOOD BOOK GUIDE The is a fine picture of a lost world - mercifully lost. -- Jad Adams THE GUARDIAN This sparkling collage explores the lives of the English girls who came to colonial India to hook themselves a spouse, and draws intriguing parallels between Indian and British Social attitudes. THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH De Courcey examines the thrills and glamour and the post-honeymoon reality of life on the remote outposts. ABSOLUTELY CHELSEA (Book Picks)show more

About Anne De Courcy

Anne de Courcy is a well-known writer and journalist. In the 1970s she was Woman's Editor on the London Evening News and in the 1980s she was a regular feature-writer for the Evening Standard. She is also a former feature writer and reviewer for the Daily Mail. Her recent books include THE VICEROY'S DAUGHTERS and DEBS AT WAR. Go to for more more

Rating details

699 ratings
3.34 out of 5 stars
5 14% (95)
4 30% (209)
3 39% (271)
2 12% (87)
1 5% (37)
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