Page 1 of 2

Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2009 14:45
by admin ... aj/5558625

I am currently working my way through this publication.

This is a re-edit of 'Sword Fighters of British India'. I do not know what changes were made for this edition, nor why the title was changed. This publication has a sequel, titled 'Sword Fighters of the British Empire' (accessable though going to the author's 'store front' in Lulu), which I purchased at the same time, but have not looked at yet. I ordered paperbacks of both and found shopping through very easy, postage was reasonably priced, and the items reached me in 2 days - quicker than items I ordered from Amazon at the same time. The books themselves, although ordered in dollars, were actually printed and shipped within the UK, so no problems with shipping duties, VAT etc.

The purpose of 'Swordsmen of the Raj' is to look at first hand contemporary accounts from primary sources of events involving hand to hand combat in India and primary sources talking about hand weapons, their merits and their use. Most of these accounts are from the Napoleonic era, Sikh Wars of the 1840's and Indian Mutiny of the 1850's. These were of course the eras witnessing some of the most ferocious fighting in India during the 19thC, and due to the nature of these wars, there was a much more frequent occurrence of hand to hand fighting than was seen in most other wars of the period - especially more than seen in European wars.

The books themselves are quite nicely produced, with only one complaint - the resolutions of the images are poor, which is particularly disappointing because of the great number of pages in the book devoted to images. Many of these images are fantastic sources if viewed in good resultion. The images on the front covers are of frankly laughable resolution, like something from a website of circa 1990.

The author's choice of images is for the most part good, but sometimes eroneous. The author has made extensive use of images from out-of-copyright 19thC books, but sadly some of these are a little irrelevant or show things which would require explanation for most readers. For example, the author has included an image from Colonel Marey's treatise on swords, but with none of the explanation which makes sense of the image in Colonel Marey's book. On another page taken from Marey's book three French swords are shown, which of course are fairly irrelevant to a book about the British Raj.

I would say that the author should have cited where the many images come from - some are famous works of art now residing in famous art galleries, whilst others are taken from books which readers may want to learn more about. As it is, unless they know where the images are from, then the reader is incapacitated in this regard and further research is made difficult.

The text is good. The author has for the most part stuck to cutting and pasting from a vast array of original sources. I can not fault this approach - for most of us the original text will be of most use and interest. The author has arranged the source material quite well, showing that contrasting and contradictory views were held then just as now - and in some cases that two witnesses to an event reported very different happenings. Here and there the author has added some of their own knowledge and opinions, which is for the most part adequate, but occasionally slightly wrong. This does not detract greatly from the work if you have a solid background knowledge, but could lead to some readers becoming wrongly informed. It is fairly clear that the author does not have a great knowledge of weapons or fencing, but if this work is viewed primarily as a collation of original sources, then I am happy to overlook that. Caution must be used by readers though, in distinguishing between what the author writes and what the original sources actually say.

Citation of the sources seems to be adequate, though quite minimal. After each quote the author gives the source for the information in brackets, though as of yet I have not investigated any of these citations to see if the quotes are accurate, taken in context and that the citation given is enough to identify the original source - page numbers and publish dates are not given, for example).

All in all, and bearing in mind that I am currently still reading the book, I would say that this is a great resource, full of fascinating and inspiring original source material, and definitely worth the money for anyone interested in hand to hand combat in this period. I would also say that people with a strong background knowledge will gain much more from the book and be able to use the information in the book more judiciously. This book is clearly not up to regular publishing standards (being an amateur Lulu publication), as it needs better images, better editing and fuller citations, but is still a good and valuable piece of work, which is especially worthy of commendation for the fact that nobody else has thought to write this book before! Already I have learned many new things from the source material contained, and have several ideas for new lines of research.

I highly recommend it therefore, with the cautions noted above.

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2009 16:23
by swordflasher
Thanks Matt, most interesting. I look forward to your further thoughts.

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2009 16:41
by admin
Mike, I would definitely recommend you to get it.

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2009 17:48
by admin

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 19 Nov 2009 15:37
by admin
Being now nearing the end of this book my review is even more favourable.

Thanks to the quality and quantity of original account, this is a MUST BUY for anybody interested in swordsmanship of the 18th and 19th centuries, and a lot of other people besides. When I start my new class focusing on 19thC martial arts, this will be a core reference work. It should also be essential reading for students of Gatka, and many of the accounts describe what are clearly Gatka-like movements being used by 19thC Indian warriors. The source material also gives a huge degree of illumination of the 19th century European debate on cut vs thrust - the original sources contained help explain why the debate existed and why some people decided the thrust was more effective, in the face of a mass of evidence from across the Empire to the contrary.

I suspect that the book could have benefitted from further editorial advice, as it seems clearer and better structured in the later parts, and the views of the author seem to become better informed. I suppose this might be a trend in online publishing, which naturally leads to a slightly less polished end product than a publisher would normally allow.

I am looking forward to reading the next work from this author.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 19 Nov 2009 15:46
by swordflasher
OK, that's my Christmas present!

Thanks for the reviews Matt. I wonder if it's possible to tell the author about your reviews here and maybe invite him to join the forum? Hmm.. I'll see what I can do.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 21 Dec 2009 22:26
by Gary Piano
Thanks for bringing those books to peoples attention.

I ordered both from Lulu (with no problems) and have just finished reading the first book.

As I am really just a begginer studying swordmanship, these first hand accounts really brought to mind a lot of aspects of sword combat I had not really considered.

eg the effects of scabbards, how combat adrenaline can play a major factor and above all just how horrific a blow from a sword truly is.

I was most intrigued by the accounts of single sword vs sword and shield.

All in all a very good book.


Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 16 Jan 2010 15:37
by bigdummy
Sounds like a good read I may have to pick that up myself. Very interested in the Sikhs particularly. is there any mention of the use of Chakram during the Sikh wars?


Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 20 Jan 2010 12:27
by admin
No. Guns, swords, lances, spears and bayonets.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 19 Oct 2010 20:40
by Colin F.
Just reading Sword Fighters of British India, and in it there is a two handed sword with a blade 4 feet in length called a syfe. Anybody have any info on these?

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 20 Oct 2010 10:55
by admin
Yes, it was probably one of these Naga swords:


The word syfe is probably what we would today write as saif, which is simply Arabic for sword (Arabic and Persian words were used for certain things in India at that time).

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 20 Oct 2010 18:45
by Colin F.
And this guy rode at some one wielding this with a horse and a sabre...

He was armed with a long double-edged sword pointed at the handle, and so formed that both hands could be used in wielding it. The blade was at least four feet long. This weapon is called by the natives a ‘syfe,’ and it is a most formidable weapon. I made a sad mistake in attempting to ride by him and cut him down, whereas a horseman attacking a bold and resolute man on foot should always attempt to ride over him. The consequence was that he escaped the blow; and I had made such a swoop, leaning over to my right side, that the point of my sword was partly buried in the ground; and ere I had time to regain my saddle, he had given me a fearful wound over my head and neck.

Page 90
Sword Fighters of British India
A Collection of Combat Narratives and Commentaries
D. A. Kinsley

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 20 Oct 2010 22:39
by admin
Ah yes, I remember that account - in this case I think it could have been a khanda (the word syfe doesn't really tell us much I'm don't think):

Image ... Khanda.jpg

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 03 Nov 2010 02:02
by Noel
Mildly off-topic: you mentioned Gatka above; I was going to say tonight that there is a group practicing Shastar Vidya (the non-dance-like form of Gatka) in Cranford or there used to be... I just checked their website and it seems to no longer be listed. The closest one is Slough. They have some rather interesting movement.

There is a bit of history on the site, too, including some (I think) from the period we were discussing - but presumably from the Indian perspective.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 03 Nov 2010 13:06
by Lyceum
Incidentally I a) saw some interesting examples of Khandae at the Wallace collection and b) noticed that the same author has another book out.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 04 Nov 2010 17:12
by admin
Well spotted - D A Kinsley has now released a third volume, compiled into one work called 'Swordsmen of the Empire'. Love the title, I'm ordering it now and suggest you do to.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 04 Nov 2010 17:15
by admin
Here are all three works compiled into one paperback book: ... f/center/5

You can also download it for a lot less money, but I much prefer hard copies.

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 04 Nov 2010 18:40
by admin
Who is D A Kinsley? He/she seems to have been writing books since about 1962, but in nearly 50 years only seems to have published about 8 in total. Can anybody find any details on who D A Kinsley is?

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2010 12:41
by Colin F.
Another new volume containing 4 editions, British India, British Empire, Blades in Action and Blade Fighters has been released as: British Sword Fighting. ... g/13569108

Re: Swordsmen of the Raj, by D A Kinsley

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2010 13:08
by admin
Doh!, and just as Swordsmen of the Empire dropped through my door *headslap*. :lol: