New Brooms

(notes edited by David Page)

Publication history

First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 3 August 1888. Collected in Volume III, No. 31 of Turnovers, 1889, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909.

The story

This is a tale of the sanitary conditions in India, and the difficulties encountered in trying to improve them. Typhoid, cholera, smallpox and dysentery were endemic, despite all attempts by those Englishmen who had most direct contact with the populace to improve the situation. The Government of India claimed that the Indians had been educated and that since ‘the liberty of the subject is sacred’, they must be left to their own devices.

“Softly, there!” said the Government of India. “You’re twisting his tail. You mustn’t do that. The spread of education forbids, and Ram Buksh is an intelligent voter. Let him work out his own salvation.”


This is one of several stories and reports that Kipling wrote whilst he was in India about the appalling sanitation in the country, and the evils that came from it. This Guide has an excellent summation of Kipling’s writings and opinions on the topic of sanitation in the general article “Kipling and Medicine” by Dr Gillian Sheehan, of which “New Brooms” is but one example.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved