Social Scientist. v 6, no. 71 (June 1978) p. 84.


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S Venugopala Rao, POWER AND CRIMINALITY, Allied Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi 1977, pp 192, Rs 40.

AN intellectual-turned policeman, Venugopala Rao has discussed in this volume the genesis and aftermath of crimes in which notable historical personages were involved and the intense controversies that surround them. In fact, he has tried to illustrate Lord Acton's thesis: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". Seventeen cases of crime have been narrated in this book, all committed in the pursuit of power.

Rao has discovered a key rate of criminality among ancient and medieval rulers, which fell with the growth of institutional constraints. However, the degree of criminality differed from person to person, and from time to time. Of the 43 English monarchs beginning with William I to George VI, forty percent were guilty of murder. In Turkey, 34 Sultans came to power in the period covering 1290-1922 AD. Of these 41 percent were guilty of murder. In the early history of France too, the percentage of criminality of the rulers was equally high, as an analysis of the record of the Merovingian dynasty and its branches notorious for fratricidal killings shows. The record of the Russian rulers was no different. Things in India were also no better. The 275 years of the Mughal empire covered the reigns of seventeen emperors of whom at least eleven were guilty of murder. The degree of criminality (nearly 70 percent) here surpassed any group or section of society. Regarding Hindu Kings Rao has quoted Kalhan's Rajatarangani to illustrate the atrocities perpetrated by the rulers of Kashmir: ^Instigated by wretched companions, he (Unmattavanti) exercised himself in the use of arms by killing naked women in the hollow between their breasts with daggers. He had the wombs of pregnant women cut open in order to see the child and also cut off the limbs of labourers to test their power of



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