Tales of Empire


(listed in order of publication.)

The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes 1885 An Englishman, out on a ride, tumbles down a sandcliff into a village of the dead, Indian people who have been certified dead and revived. They are imprisoned here, living on crows, a nightmare vision of what it is to be powerless. He is lucky to escape.



Consequences 1886 A young administrator uses confidential information, a valuable currency in a bureaucracy, to talk his way into a post

Naboth 1886 A beggar establishes himself just outside the narrator’s house, starts a business, prospers, and builds a compound. When he moves on the narrator, resenting the incursion, ploughs it over, leaving nothing behind. An allegory of Empire ?

The Story of Muhammad Din 1886 Muhammad Din is a small boy, the son of the butler, who asks if he can play with the narrator’s polo ball, and from then on is his friend, greeting him solemnly, and playing make-believe games, as Kipling had done in his childhood. But he dies of fever, and is carried to the burying ground by his father, wrapped in a white cloth.

In the House of Suddhoo 1886 An old man in Lahore is anxious about his ill son. Fraudsters extort large sums from him with eerie displays of invented magic, supported by accounts of the son’s health via the telegraph.

In such a case, the Indian Penal Code is helpless.

The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin 1887 A brilliantly clever young official works obsessively and argues with his elders and betters. In the hot season he collapses from strain and overwork.

His Chance in life 1887 There is a riot in a small town. A lowly railway clerk, of mixed ancestry, seven eighth Indian and one eighth English, takes command of the situation. Conscious of his European blood, he successfully keeps order. He is congratulated and promoted.

The Taking of Lungtungpen 1887 A platoon of twenty-five young soldiers, hunting bandits in the Burmese jungle, strip naked to cross a river, fight their way into a town full of dacoits, and capture it with great slaughter, despite being heavily out-numbered.

Tods’ Amendment 1887 Six year old Tods speaks Urdu, and spends a lot of time talking to grooms and shop-keepers and other Indian people. He sits on his father’s knee during a dinner party, where there is talk of a new Bill on land-tenure. He tells the company, including the Legal Member of the Legislative Council of India, how people in the bazaar are criticising the Bill. It is amended accordingly.

Kidnapped 1887 The British caste system at work. A promising ICS officer Peythroppe decides against the advice of his friends, to marry the Eurasian Miss Castries. Inspired by Mrs Hauksbee, they kidnap him, and make him miss his wedding. He changes his mind and marries an English girl.

New Brooms 1888 Typhoid, cholera, smallpox and dysentery are endemic, despite all attempts by Englishmen on the ground to make things better.

Official policy is that that since the liberty of the subject is sacred, the Indians must be left to their own devices. This did not impress Kipling.

Beyond the Pale 1888 An Englishman, Trejago, has a passionate love affair with a beautiful young Indian woman. She is found out by her people, her hands are cut off, and he is stabbed in the groin. He has paid heavily for stepping Beyond the Pale.

On th e City Wall 1889 There is a night of religious riot between Moslems and Hindus in Lahore city, skilfully handled by the British, who give respect to both sides and manage to avoid bloodshed.

But there are subtle cross-currents here that they will never understand. ‘Doubleness (duplicity, ambivalence, racial and sexual dichotomy) rules the story which is the greatest parable of empire in English writing.’ (Daniel Karlin)


At the End of the Passage 1890 Overwork, in appalling conditions of heat and dust and loneliness, bring a young engineer in a remote station to the end of his tether.

A Conference of the Powers 1890 Three young subalterns, on leave in London, tell an elderly novelist about putting down murderous bandits in the Burmese jungles, and other bloodcurdling adventures, their everyday work.

A Death in the Camp 1890 The narrator, on leave in London, hears of the death of an elderly and successful man. He contrasts it with the fate of friends in India, dying in their youth, in conditions of great hardship.

The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P. 1890

Pagett, a Liberal MP, visits India at the invitation of Orde, a Deputy Commissioner and former schoolfellow.

They discuss the Indian National Congress. Most illiterate Indians, explains Orde, had not heard of it and were more concerned with where their next meal was coming from than with voting.

The Head of the District 1890 On the death of Yardley-Orde, a District Commissioner on the North-West frontier, the Government appoints a Bengali in his place. He is manifestly incapable of dealing with a rising among the wild tribes of the District, which is crushed by Orde’s Deputy, an Englishman.

One View of the Question 1890 An Indian agent reports to his Prince on the condition of London. The piece reflects the young Kipling’s hatred for London, in which, as Angus Wilson notes, everything is seen as corrupt, decadent, and potentially anarchic

Without Benefit of Clergy 1890

A young civil servant leads a double life. He has secretly set up a young Muslim girl, Ameera, in a little house on the edge of the old city.

She is the love of his life, and he of hers. When she gives birth to a baby boy their happiness is complete. Then the child dies of fever, followed by Ameera, and he is left desolate. The idyll is over.



The Last Relief 1891 Haydon, a young administrator, heavily overworked, at last gets leave, but his successor dies, and he is sent back to his post, angry and afraid. On the way, he falls under a train to his death. We will never know if it was suicide or an accident.

The Lost Legion 1892 During the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, a mutineer regiment had been driven into the hills, and massacred by local tribesmen.

Years later, a squadron of British cavalry ride that way in a night raid, and wake the wailing ghosts of the dead sepoys.

The Bridge-Builders 1893 A great new bridge over the Ganges, the embodiment of western technology, is threatened by a flood. It survives, offending the Old Gods of India, but in the great sweep of history, will it matter very much ?


Philip Mason, in his introduction to the Surtees Society Reprint of “In Black and White”, argues: ‘Kipling believes passionately that India will always be India; he thinks the old gods of India will always win in the end. It is with the old gods that Kipling’s heart really lies, though his head accepts the benefits of British rule.’

An English School 1893 An affectionate account of United Services College, where boys were disciplined and educated to go out and serve the Empire. Written before Stalky & Co.

In the Rukh 1893 Gisborne, a Forest Officer, encounters Mowgli, now grown up, but still accompanied by his brother wolves.

He is amazed at Mowgli’s knowledge of the jungle, and persuades him to become a forest ranger, to help the government protect this precious resource.


Judson and the Empire 1893 There is trouble in a Portuguese colony, involving some British workers. Judson, a young naval officer, is sent with his gunboat to ‘protect British interests’.

He does so with humour and without bloodshed, and honour on both sides is satisfied.


Her Majesty’s Servants 1894 At the Viceroy’s big parade in Rawalpindi, the Afghans and their Emir are impressed by the discipline on display.

All the animals and men alike obey their orders, which ultimately come down from the Queen Empress.



The Miracle of Purun Bhagat  1894 Sir Purun Dass, a senior administrator at the height of his authority, gives up the life of action to become a wandering holy man. He settles in a shrine high above a Himalayan village.

But when he finds a landslip is coming one dark wet night, he turns to action and saves the villagers.

The Undertakers 1894 A mugger, a giant crocodile, recalls his well fed days of the Sepoy Rebellion, when bodies of slaughtered families were carried down the Ganges. An Englishman who as a child had narrowly escaped death on the river, shoots him dead.

William the Conqueror 1895 There is famine in southern India, and European administrators from all departments of the Government of India are being called in to help deliver relief supplies.

They win their battle, and two of them, a young man and a young woman, fall in love.


Slaves of the Lamp (Part II) 1897 Stalky’s old schoolfellows recall how as a subaltern he had dealt with hostile tribesmen by setting his enemies against each other.

This was a skill he had learned at United Services College.


The Tomb of his Ancestors 1897 Young John Chinn comes of a family which had served in India for generations, and made a close relationship with the Bhils, a wild aboriginal people. They see him as the incarnation of his grand-father, and this enables him to help them out of present-day troubles.

The Flag of their Country 1899 Some senior USC boys start a cadet corps to learn their drill before joining the army. But a visiting MP offends them deeply by speechifying about honour and glory. They abandon the corps.

Surgical and Medical 1900 Kipling visits a military hospital during the South African War. He is exhilarated by the involvement in the war of soldiers from all over the Empire, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, out-door men with know-how and the pioneer spirit. He is keen for more of them to settle in South Africa after the war.

Kim 1901 Kipling’s great novel of British India.

See Sharad Keskar’s notes in this Guide, Edward Said’s Introduction to the 1987 Penguin Classics Edition, and Harish Trivedi’s Introduction to the 2011 Edition.

Also Chapter 5 of Jan Montefiore’s Rudyard Kipling (Northcote House 2007),  in the series ‘Writers and Their Work’.




A Centurion of the Thirtieth






Parnesius, a young Roman centurion, stationed in Britain where he grew up, loses the favour of his general by refusing to kill a mutinous soldier. There are limits to the acceptance of imperial authoirty.

On the Great Wall 1906 Parnesius and Pertinax, now officers on Hadrian’s Wall, know that the best way to deal with the Picts to the north is to make friends with them.

With good forune this may deter them from helping the Saxon invaders, who will eventually sweep the Romans away.




The Winged Hats 1906 Parnesius and Pertinax are now Captains of the Wall. The Saxon sea-raiders are mounting increasing attacks. They try to persuade the young Captains to make an alliance with them, but the Romans refuse, despite the death of the Emperor who had appointed them. Their loyalty is to Rome.

Young Men at the Manor 1906 After the battle of Hastings, the Norman Barons and their followers are given English lands, taken from the Saxons.

But wise leaders know that England can only be strong if Normans and Saxons come together in a single identity.




A Deal in Cotton 1908 A young administrator in an African colony is battling slave-dealers and seeking to grow cotton. He is helped by a gray-haired old Moslem, whose life he has saved.

Gloriana 1909 Elizabeth I, Queen of England, did not shrink from sending young men to their deaths in her service. It was her duty, what else could she do ?

Little Foxes 1909 In the Sudan, the Governor introduces fox-hunting, and uses it as a way of settling land disputes. The people relish the system, though it involves punishment as well as justice. When a visiting Liberal MP protests, having had lurid and exaggerated accounts of the punishments, he is held up to ridicule, and becomes a laughing stock.


In the Presence 1912 Sikh and Gurkha soldiers stand guard as Edward VII lies in state. For many hours they endure intense strain with ruthless discipline, for the honour of their people.

The Vortex 1914 A hilarious account of the escape of swarms of bees in an English village.

The culprit, a tiresome theorist of Empire, who – out on a drive –  has been boring his companions with elaborate schemes for imperial collaboration, has been soaked in a pond, beset by stinging swarms, and blamed.

He now thinks that under pressure from overwhelming force one should drop theory and act.

Regulus 1917 As recounted in the young Kipling’s classics class, as told by Horace, the Roman general Regulus advises his countrymen against treating with Carthage, though he knows this will mean death at the hands of his enemies.

The Church that was at Antioch 1929 A young Roman administrator in Jerusalem is fatally stabbed by a religious fanatic. He insists that the man must be forgiven. He did not know what he was doing.




The Debt 1930 Imperial authority, loyalty, retribution, and recompense, through the eyes of a Muslim convict, an ex-soldier who had fought for the British in France.  A former Indian soldier tells how King George V , on a visit to war graves in France, told a sick general to put on his overcoat against the cold. Because of this kindly act, the King will later survive a dangerous illness.

The Manner of Men  1930 St Paul, a prisoner on his way to Rome to meet a fearful death, is shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

His courage and resolution shine out as the crew and their prisoners survive the ordeal. He is never forgotten.