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Title The Devil’s Trap
Author James W. Bancroft
Publisher Frontline Books (February 19, 2020)
Format Hardcover
Pages 248
Language English
ISBN 10/13 1526718014 / 978-1526718013)
WARNING – This book is not suitable for children.


James W Bancroft has almost 23 years of writing experience with more than a hundred publications and articles in a variety of subjects. Most of his works are based in Victorian Military History and non-fiction. He edits and publishes as well as writes. Other books by this author include Rorke’s Drift, Published by Spellmount Ltd., (1988) and is still in print today. As well as The Rorke’s Drift Men, Published by The History Press Ltd., (1 May 2010). James W Bancroft is known primarily for History of Southern Africa, African Historical Biographies, Civil War Biographies.


If you are an avid reader of Adult historic non-fiction and/or you enjoy thrillers, then this book is most certainly for you. Those who want to understand the context of The British Empire, are educators, students of history, or academics will find this book enlightening and disturbing in equal measure.


The events described in The Devil’s Trap surround the preamble to the First Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, specifically the Cawnpore Massacre, and the subsequent remedial actions taken by the British to re-establish control over the canton. Whilst this may not be common knowledge to many people, the Indian *(see 1 below) massacre that took place against a British encampment created a tidal wave of brutal and violent retribution. The subsequent retribution in response to the attack stains the present-day relationship between Great Britain and India. Some of the changes wrought following the rebellion were set in stone until 1947. Arguably the single greatest change was the promise made to the Indian people in a Royal Declaration (see below for a link) issued by Queen Victoria immediately following the mutiny. The author contends that some Indian citizens still believe that this event was the beginning of the end of the British Empires Rule of India.

The central theme and focus of The Devil’s Trap take’s place at Cawnpore, off the beaten track near an area called The Grand Trunk Road near Sati Chaura Ghat situated on the banks of the River Ganges. It was a British Garrison with three Native Infantry Regiments all led by British Officers accompanied by their families and servants. In July 1857 an insurrection was started by the Indian soldiers, elements of the general Indian population, and the servants who were either stationed at, or near the British encampment. British men, women, and children were subject to violence so gruesome I feel unable to detail it here.

Once the enormity of massacre was discovered, the British violently reestablished the status quo however, the Empress of India chose a more diplomatic method to quell the natives. Whilst politics and time have forgotten the victims of the Cawnpore Massacre, James W Bancroft has attempted to bring them back to life through his skillful use of original source material, and by cross referencing the facts still available in the archives.


Some experts speculate that the Raj was shaken by the mutiny but their corrective actions saved the rule by addressing the mutineer’s issues and the Empress’s Declaration. Native Regiments that took part in the insurrection were disbanded. Loyal Native troops were formed into new regiments which remained in effect from 1858 until 1947. Those local Warlords who remained loyal to the British during the rebellion were rewarded. The disloyal peasantry was prevented from obtaining access to land for 90 years. Finally, the British authorities recognized the error of imposing British cultural norms and beliefs upon the native population. This promise came through Royal channels when Queen Victoria gave a proclamation that stated “We disclaim alike our Right and Desire to impose Our Convictions on any of Our Subjects..” * (See 2 below)


The Devil’s Trap is exceedingly well written, researched, and is easy to follow for those previously unfamiliar with these ground breaking historic events. The Massacre was as shaking to the British Empire as 9/11 was to the USA. It was devastating in terms of the loss of human life, and changed forever the relationship previously enjoyed by the protagonists. Despite the loss of life, the British Raj continued beyond 1858 until 1947 pretty much without radical change.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


I would like to thank James W. Bancroft, NetGalley, and Frontline Books for affording me the opportunity to review The Devil’s Trap

*1. The term Indian is used a general reference to the Pashtu, Sikh, and Hindu people as a whole.
*2. You can find a copy of the proclamation here:

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