Book Launch – Digging Up the Raj

Introduction

Shabnam Vasisht’s remarkable book Digging Up the Raj, and the associated exhibition Unearthing the Links with Deansgrange, were formally launcded in dlr Lexicon, Dun Laoghare, on 26 February, 2020.

An Cathaoirleach Councillor Shay Brennan, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, officiated at the event. Dr. Marian Keyes, Senior Executive Librarian was Master of Ceremonies. The Guest Speaker was Brig Gen Paul Pakenham (Retd). Brig Gen Paul Fry (Retd) represented the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust CLG.

No exhibition, or indeed publication on Digging Up The Raj, is possible without the resolve, strength of mind, and determination of its curator and author Shabnam Vasisht augmented with support from family, like-minded individuals, the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, and dlr Lexicon.

Context

Digging Up the Raj is a ground breaking production providing a meticulous record of Irish personnel and their immediate families, who served in military units and public services during the Raj.
Digging Up the Raj will provide historians, researchers, students, and families, with ample scope to examine the operational environment during the period of the Raj. A period which involved brave and committed military and civilian personnel, especially those of have a direct link to Deansgrange, and to Ireland.

Both the exhibition and publication, will receive universal recognition and commendation.

No single tradition, narrative or perspective, is diminished by honouring and remembering the extraordinary self-sacrifice and courage of so many Irish Soldiers, who as Shabnam has recorded in Digging Up the Raj, fought in regions such as Flanders, Gallipoli and the Punjab.

Irish military heritage is reflected not only in Ireland, but in the military history of a significant number of countries worldwide, and as recorded in Digging Up the Raj, include India, Iraq, Mesopotamia, and Turkey.

Military Heritage of Ireland Trust

One of the main objectives of the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust is to encourage and facilitate research into Irish Military Heritage, and disseminating the results of such research. In this context, the Trust welcomes the support for the Digging Up The Raj project, provided by the Heritage Office of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council.

The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust salutes Shabnam’s substantial achievement as a researcher, as an author, and, in particular, as a historian. Accordingly, the Trust is honoured to be associated with the launch of Digging Up The Raj, a prestigious and memorable event.

On the invitation of the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust, Shabnam continues to provide a series of biographies under the heading Digging Up the Raj for circulation by means of the Trust’s News Bulletins, and subsequent posting on the Trust’s website. To date, 20 biographies have been posted on our website.

The Trust is grateful to Shabnam for addressing its 2017 Annual General Meeting and for participating in the Trust’s promotional video which can be viewed on its website.

Research

Over a period of 4 years, Shabnam conducted extensive research, culminating with the publication of Digging Up The Raj. The elaborate tombstone honouring Captain John William Vaughan in Deansgrange Cemetery, triggered Shabnam’s quest for ‘Raj’ graves.  This research process included long hours in Deansgrave Graveyard assisted by cemetery’s supervisor – John McCann.
During the research phase, Shabnam addressed numerous challenges, as many families constantly used the same Christian name. Sometimes a mother’s maiden name was cleverly slipped in, to cause further confusion. As expected, Shabnam’s research unearthed some interesting scenarios such as judges who gave credence to the term ‘Drunk as a Lord’, clergymen who tried to convert sun-worshipping heathens to ‘muscular Christianity’, and servicemen who fought for The Empire.

Book

The inclusion in Digging Up The Raj, as appropriate, of information on the historical and cultural context, and the units, regiments, battles campaigns, medals and decorations, associated with each biography, is commendable.

Frequently, Shabnam includes family members who warrant attention. As nothing of real substance has been published in a single volume recording the CV of so many Irishmen associated with the Raj, hence Shabnam’s crusade is of relevance, culminating in this remarkable book. In essence, with a passion and zeal for military history, Shabnam felt duty bound to tell the story of Irish soldiers and their families, who served in India.

Shabnam’s story, spanning 200 years, is a gem of knowledge and clarification, which is easily read, supported with inspiring illustrations and photographs throughout its 216 pages.
Digging Up The Raj provides a valuable insight into the human experiences associated with the art and science of the profession of arms.
It is a scholarly achievement.

Digging Up the Raj broadens and deepens our understanding of the important role played by Irish soldiers and civil servants, and their respective families, in the 19th and 20th centuries in British Colonial India.

With the ability of combining the overarching perspective with revealing detail, Shabnam has comprehensively covered her subject matter.
Shabnam’s impressive competencies such as: professionalism, commitment, dedication, endurance, curiosity, elegance and sense of humour, have paid dividends with the production of Digging Up The Raj – an exceptional piece of work.

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View the Digging up The Raj Series