Empire Made
Lost in time for generations, the story of a 19th-century English gentleman in British India—a family mystery of love found and loyalties abandoned, finally brought to light In 1841, twenty-year-old Nigel Halleck set out for Calcutta as a clerk in the East India Company. He went on to serve in the colonial administration for eight years before abruptly leaving the company under a cloud and disappearing in the mountain kingdom of Nepal, never to be heard from again. While most traces of his life were destroyed in the bombing of his hometown during World War II, Nigel was never quite forgotten—the myth of the man who headed East would reverberate through generations of his family. Kief Hillsbery, Nigel’s nephew many times removed, embarked on his own expedition, spending decades researching and traveling through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal in the footsteps of his long-lost relation. In uncovering the remarkable story of Nigel’s life, Hillsbery beautifully renders a moment in time when the arms of the British Empire extended around the world. Both a powerful history and a personal journey, Empire Made weaves together a clash of civilizations, the quest to discover one’s own identity, and the moving tale of one man against an empire.

Empire Made Details

TitleEmpire Made
Author
ReleaseJul 25th, 2017
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-139780547443317
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Cultural, India, Biography, Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Empire Made Review

  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    Writer Kief Hillsbery new book, "Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India", is an excellent read...for the right reader. That reader should be interested in Raj India, as well as a search for an ancestral figure who may have thrown off his British garb and "gone native". Kief Hillsbery - who is British on his mother's side - was interested in the tale of her many-times "great uncle", Nigel Halleck. Halleck went to India in 1841 in the employ of the British East In Writer Kief Hillsbery new book, "Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India", is an excellent read...for the right reader. That reader should be interested in Raj India, as well as a search for an ancestral figure who may have thrown off his British garb and "gone native". Kief Hillsbery - who is British on his mother's side - was interested in the tale of her many-times "great uncle", Nigel Halleck. Halleck went to India in 1841 in the employ of the British East India Company, then in power in most of India. He wrote copious letters home, from which Hillsbery was able discern Halleck's jobs and journeys. Added within the tale of Halleck, Hillsbery intersperses his own fascination with India and his travels, begun when he was a student in the mid-1970's. On that first trip, where Hillsbery traveled through present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, he looked for the spots referred to in Halleck's letters. Some he found; others didn't exist anymore. He was trying, too, to find Halleck's grave site, and cause of death. There had been some speculation that Halleck ended up being eaten by a tiger, after having abandoned his British identity in Nepal. Hillsbery book's is a superb look at the Raj, with the politics, economics, and societal factors written from primary sources, like "great-uncle" Nigel's letters. Hillsbery's book is eclectic, with topics ranging from personal identity to the sexual habits of male Pashtuns. Make sure you have access to Wiki as you read the book, as you may have questions about people, places, and events.
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  • Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
    January 1, 1970
    ~ review copy providedAdventure, Mystery, and History... what's not to like. I really enjoyed Hillsbery's book. His writing is so good and so clear, it was a pleasure to tag along as he tried to decipher what happened to that errant British great-great-many-times-removed uncle of his. The one that was born in 1822. The one who went off to India to work for the great East India Company. And the one who gave up a very promi$ing career when he vanished. Was he murdered by Thugees or eaten by a tige ~ review copy providedAdventure, Mystery, and History... what's not to like. I really enjoyed Hillsbery's book. His writing is so good and so clear, it was a pleasure to tag along as he tried to decipher what happened to that errant British great-great-many-times-removed uncle of his. The one that was born in 1822. The one who went off to India to work for the great East India Company. And the one who gave up a very promi$ing career when he vanished. Was he murdered by Thugees or eaten by a tiger? As we start we really haven't a clue.No small part of what made EMPIRE MADE a pleasure was that Hillsbery juxtaposed his Uncle Nigel's history as he moved about the region, with his own person travels as he visited the same locales. Kief visited museums and libraries, monuments and graveyards looking for clues, or at least looking for the dead man's remains. And our author could do this because many of Nigel's letters home survived the years and remained in his family's keeping. And what can I say, these letters are wonderful preservers of the past. And through them we can see the East as Victoria's countrymen did. The enlightened, and the less enlightened. And fantastically, Nigel knew important people. Rajah's and dignitaries. Men such the clever and exceptional Lawrence. And because Nigel knew people I got a wonderful history lesson about the struggles of the region. Really, a good deal of Indian, Afghani, Sikh, Nepalese, history is crammed into this book and you'll hardly notice as the whole arm chair adventure is made relevant by the historical background.A really good read.
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  • Nancy Regan
    January 1, 1970
    Hillsbery undertakes the solving of a family puzzle as a sideline while he pursues a research project in Nepal as part of his undergraduate studies. The mystery is "what happened to (great) Uncle Nigel when he went back to India after home leave?". "Was he really eaten by a tiger?" We don't, in the end, know the answer to the latter question, although a seer weighs in with her conclusion. Hillsbery teases the answer to the former question out of lots of Raj history, which he narrates succinctly Hillsbery undertakes the solving of a family puzzle as a sideline while he pursues a research project in Nepal as part of his undergraduate studies. The mystery is "what happened to (great) Uncle Nigel when he went back to India after home leave?". "Was he really eaten by a tiger?" We don't, in the end, know the answer to the latter question, although a seer weighs in with her conclusion. Hillsbery teases the answer to the former question out of lots of Raj history, which he narrates succinctly and wittily. Along the way we learn that there was a real town on which E. M. Forster based the fictional Chandrapore in A Passage to India. It seems only fitting that it lay on Hilsbery's route to Nepal.This was not quite 4 stars in my book, because the back and forth between the 1840's story and the late 20th century one was fitful and distracting. But the background story turns out to be a love story (surprise!) and that tips the ratings balance for me. Empire Made has elements of literary impressionism, family history and the cosy mystery and is therefore quite unconventional; perhaps it is the genre abnormality that contributes to the challenge of settling in comfortably with it. If not an easy read, though, it is an intriguing one. I was especially taken with the material on the area that is now Afghanistan.
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  • Barb in Maryland
    January 1, 1970
    5 stars for this engrossing combination history/travel/biography.The framing device is rather familiar--the subtitle says it all. However, it masks one of the more accessible histories of India under British rule that I've read. While keeping the focus firmly on Uncle Nigel's activities, the author integrates enough historical background to give those activities a firm anchor in time and place. The modern day search mission is equally engaging; full of family lore and great descriptions of the v 5 stars for this engrossing combination history/travel/biography.The framing device is rather familiar--the subtitle says it all. However, it masks one of the more accessible histories of India under British rule that I've read. While keeping the focus firmly on Uncle Nigel's activities, the author integrates enough historical background to give those activities a firm anchor in time and place. The modern day search mission is equally engaging; full of family lore and great descriptions of the various sites the author visited in his quest. The prose flows smoothly, the people (past and present) come alive. I found the book very hard to put down.
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  • John Walker
    January 1, 1970
    Kief Hillsbery's long searcher his ancestor Nigel Halleck, a Victorian man who went to India and never came back. From 1841-1878Nigel lived though the First Afghan War, The Anglo-Sikh Wars and the Indian Mutiny. He was friends with John Nicolson, Henry Lawrence and with various others.He visited Nepal and Peshawar cataloging many of the customs, and then disappeared somewhere in Nepal. Had he gone native from his British work as a tax collector? Had he found peace in a war infested part of the g Kief Hillsbery's long searcher his ancestor Nigel Halleck, a Victorian man who went to India and never came back. From 1841-1878Nigel lived though the First Afghan War, The Anglo-Sikh Wars and the Indian Mutiny. He was friends with John Nicolson, Henry Lawrence and with various others.He visited Nepal and Peshawar cataloging many of the customs, and then disappeared somewhere in Nepal. Had he gone native from his British work as a tax collector? Had he found peace in a war infested part of the globe and live out his life with Maharaja Jang Bahadur Rana? was it true that he was attacked and eaten by a tiger?Half history book of the Victorian India, half travel book of the author's thirty year search to find the answer filled with interesting stories of Nigel and Kief to keep you reading late into the night. A well done book.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    This book follows a somewhat familiar paradigm: a 20th century would-be explorer following in the long-lost footsteps of a Victorian ancestor, in this case through the jungles of India and the mountainous reaches of the Himalayas. The long-departed ancestor was a functionary of the East India Company and a possible witting or unwitting agent of British imperial designs on South Asia; his distant descendant is an American mountaineer and part-time academic roaming Nepal in the latter stages of th This book follows a somewhat familiar paradigm: a 20th century would-be explorer following in the long-lost footsteps of a Victorian ancestor, in this case through the jungles of India and the mountainous reaches of the Himalayas. The long-departed ancestor was a functionary of the East India Company and a possible witting or unwitting agent of British imperial designs on South Asia; his distant descendant is an American mountaineer and part-time academic roaming Nepal in the latter stages of the Hippie Trail in the 1970s and onward. Much of the ultimate history of Nigel Halleck is still only speculative, despite the assiduous book research and trekking of the other. While the speculation is intriguing it can hardly be conclusive — and Halleck himself is a tangential although enthralling minor figure in Imperial history. What emerges is far stronger on the strangely symbiotic relations between Imperial functionaries and the local Asian princes and potentates with whom they colluded to rule South Asia for two hundred years, in which Halleck seems to played both a professional and a highly personal role.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I read a fair amount of this eArc from NetGalley. I probably could have gotten through more if the author stuck to one storyline. I was mildly interested in his relative's experiences in India, but I found the interludes where he shares his own experiences in India in the 1970s to be distracting. (At least in the parts I read) None of the more modern stuff includes any information that adds any great depth to the historical story. Instead of adding modern insight onto what happened, it only brea I read a fair amount of this eArc from NetGalley. I probably could have gotten through more if the author stuck to one storyline. I was mildly interested in his relative's experiences in India, but I found the interludes where he shares his own experiences in India in the 1970s to be distracting. (At least in the parts I read) None of the more modern stuff includes any information that adds any great depth to the historical story. Instead of adding modern insight onto what happened, it only breaks up the narrative flow. Did not finish on purpose.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    this is a story that pretty much exactly follows the subtitle - trackign the multi-year search for the long lost relative. The clues are sought and followed but there is definitely some extrapolation - as there is in most family history. Without a journal, when time and history (wars destruction and family loss) make things more distant - it's hard to to really know what happened. Nonetheless, an interesting story of one mans search for family.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Much slower going than I thought it would be. Description sounded quite interesting as the author searches for what happened to an ancestor who never returned from colonial India/Nepal. Maybe just too much detail of convoluted history of the area but my eyes frequently glazed over. ( library)
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    The author makes up quotes/details from his ancestor without any attempt to document them.
  • Reneé Dillard
    January 1, 1970
    A surprise hit. I picked up the book just for a quick glance and ended up learning more than I'd ever expected to about the British occupation of India.
  • Rj
    January 1, 1970
    Hillsberry's book traces the story of a great uncle handed down over the years in his family. With alternating chapters detailing the story of his great uncle, Nigel and his life during the Raj in India, the Punjab and Nepal and his own search for his great uncle's trail Hillsberry tried to piece together who he was. While the bob-chronological approach and the plethora of characters can sometimes be frustrating it really is a fascinating story about those who lived and loved at the margins of e Hillsberry's book traces the story of a great uncle handed down over the years in his family. With alternating chapters detailing the story of his great uncle, Nigel and his life during the Raj in India, the Punjab and Nepal and his own search for his great uncle's trail Hillsberry tried to piece together who he was. While the bob-chronological approach and the plethora of characters can sometimes be frustrating it really is a fascinating story about those who lived and loved at the margins of empire.
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