I should have done a post on historical context earlier…and yet here we are. This will be a bit of a link-dump, with some guidance on what you can find in each link.
Here is a really good introduction to The Jungle Books. It gives you a broad overview of the stories, themes, parallels, Kipling’s sources of inspiration, and more. I would have linked to this earlier if I could. It’s kinda long, but at the top of the page is an index of the topics it covers, so if one stands out to you, you can check out just one. Or two. Or four….
The BBC website has a pretty good summary of the British Raj (or rule) 1858-1947 which is pertinent to what we’re reading here. One of its observations is that: “While the British criticised the divisions of the Hindu caste system, they themselves lived a life ruled by precedence and class, deeply divided within itself. Rudyard Kipling reflected this position in his novels. His books also exposed the gulf between the ‘white’ community and the ‘Anglo-Indians’, whose mixed race caused them to be considered racially ‘impure’.” Interesting read!
I really like The Victorian Web for any topic that relates to Victorian England and literature. It has a brief write-up on the Indian caste system here and a list of significant British individuals of the time here including Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India during the time that The Jungle Books probably takes place. The Viceroy is also mentioned in Her Majesty’s Servants (and possibly other stories). Here is another article on Curzon’s first day as viceroy.