Seventy-five sound recordings of oral history interviews covering the experiences of the British men and women who lived and worked in India during British rule in the Indian subcontinent. The interviews were conducted between 1972 and 1974 for the BBC Radio 4 documentary series 'Plain tales from the Raj' (1974). Interviews were primarily undertaken by the historian Charles Allen, with additional recordings by Prakash Mirchandani and Mark Tully. Full typescript transcripts (including inaccuracies in some cases) exist for the majority, but not all, of the sound recordings.
Interviewees primarily include British civilian and military personnel who resided in India from the late nineteenth century up until the end of British rule in 1947. These include military figures such as Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, other senior officers, and a number of low ranking British soldiers. There are also interviews with civil servants and administrators who worked at various levels within the Indian Civil Service (ICS) and Indian Political Service, ranging from private secretaries to the British Viceroy to ICS District Officers. The business and commercial sectors are also represented, including interviews with British tea planters, industrial executives and journalists. The women interviewed include the wives and daughters of British military and civilian personnel, but also include those employed in India as nurses and missionaries. The radio series focused on the experiences of the British in India and, while interviews touch upon the effect of British rule in the Indian subcontinent on its indigenous inhabitants, the collection includes only a small number of interviews with Indians and 'Eurasians' [dual-heritage individuals].
Interviews cover a broad range of subjects including: accommodation and living conditions; daily routine; social life and recreation; health and sanitation; the effects of India postings on family life; relations between the British, other Europeans, Indians and 'Eurasians' in social and work environments; events such as riots and earthquakes; the fauna and landscape of India; and political events, including the Raj and nature of British rule in India, Independence, and the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.