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Macalester College

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


The Gurkhas are renown throughout the world for their fighting skills, their bravery, and their loyalty to the British Crown. Much has been written on their distinguished history, but traditional literature on the Gurkhas leaves several questions unanswered. How did the Gurkhas come to be as a fighting force for the British Empire when the British never occupied Nepal? How have they survived the independence of India and the subsequent dismantling of the British Empire? And what will the future of the Gurkhas be? Will they continue their two centuries of service to the British Crown? Or will they become another footnote to the history of the British Empire? This paper is an attempt to answer these questions, and follows the history of the Gurkhas from their inception in 1815 to their current service in Afghanistan and the ongoing struggle by veteran Gurkhas for equal rights. Much of the research for this project consisted of interviews with people throughout Nepal affected in some way by the Gurkhas. This included veterans – both former Gurkhas and the British officers who served with them – the head of a training academy that caters to young Nepalese who want to join the Gurkhas, and several of the young hopefuls themselves. This paper also draws heavily on academic texts for a background and history of the Gurkhas. The Future of the Brigade of Gurkhas is uncertain, but their two hundred year past is undoubtedly one of the more fascinating and inspiring stories in contemporary military history.


Asian Studies | Military, War, and Peace | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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