The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

Paperback Vintage

By (author) William Dalrymple

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  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 534 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 202mm x 32mm | 540g
  • Publication date: 11 March 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1400078334
  • ISBN 13: 9781400078332
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, maps, colour plates
  • Sales rank: 120,401

Product description

In this evocative study of the fall of the Mughal Empire and the beginning of the Raj, award-winning historian William Dalrymple uses previously undiscovered sources to investigate a pivotal moment in history. The last Mughal emperor, Zafar, came to the throne when the political power of the Mughals was already in steep decline. Nonetheless, Zafar--a mystic, poet, and calligrapher of great accomplishment--created a court of unparalleled brilliance, and gave rise to perhaps the greatest literary renaissance in modern Indian history. All the while, the British were progressively taking over the Emperor's power. When, in May 1857, Zafar was declared the leader of an uprising against the British, he was powerless to resist though he strongly suspected that the action was doomed. Four months later, the British took Delhi, the capital, with catastrophic results. With an unsurpassed understanding of British and Indian history, Dalrymple crafts a provocative, revelatory account of one the bloodiest upheavals in history.

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Author information

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. When he was twenty-two he wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller "In Xanadu," which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six years researching his second book, "City of Djinns," which won the 1994 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the "Sunday Times" Young British Writer of the Year Award.He is married to the artist Olivia Fraser, and they have three children. They now divide their time between London and Delhi.

Review quote

"The book makes clear the dangers of colonial powers' inattentiveness to the dissatisfactions of those they rule, and the human costs of answering one atrocity with another." -"The New Yorker" "A compulsively readable masterpiece . . . In his wonderful new book, "The Last Mughal," William Dalrymple has not just revised forever the old British story; he has matched it with an equally full account from the Indian side. His book, without any sign of strain or artificial connections, deals with a historical tragedy on several very different levels . . . It is a detailed and intensely human history of a desperate and brutal campaign. And it is, in the best sense of the word, a thriller in which all the characters inexorably interact to produce a dreadful denouement. Dalrymple's passion for his subject and his skill and elegance as a writer create an intimate picture of the lives of the people who participated in the events of 1857 . . . Every chapter of "The Last Mughal" has historical echoes that are still desperately relevant today." -Brian Urquhart, "New York Review of Books" "Dalrymple has written a riveting and poignant account of the events of 1857 in Delhi . . . Historians have largely ignored Delhi's experience of the cataclysm [but] Dalrymple sets out to correct this neglect. Writing with obvious affection for Delhi and appreciation for Mughal culture, he shows that the experience of the rebellion in the city was quite distinct . . . Deeply researched and beautifully written." -Gyan Prakash, "The Nation" "[A] rich narrative . . . From fruit sellers to courtesans, the story of the last days of the Mughal empire comes alive . . . Thanks to Dalrymple, we can nowget a peek into the last moments of a beguiling era." -Vikram Johri, "St. Petersburg Times" "While Zafar is the title character of "The Last Mughal, "his life is just the thread along which Dalrymple continues to explore a theme that has fascinated him for two decades: the utter collapse of relations between the British and the inhabitants of their Indian dominions . . . Dalrymple excels at bringing grand historical events within contemporary understanding by documenting the way people went about their lives amidst the maelstrom. His coup in researching was his uncovering some 20,000 personal Persian and Urdu papers written by Delhi residents who survived the uprising." -Tobin Harshaw, "New York Times Book Review" "It seems almost unfair for a book with such a fine sense of plot, physicality, and even humor to contain primary research as well . . . [This is] serious scholarship, still blessed by Dalrymple's gift for finding eye-catching transitions, strong characters, and a knack for turning tracts of historical documentation into a roaring good story . . . He brings to light invaluable material . . . Anyone reading "The Last Mughal" today, especially readers with no prior interest in the Mughals or the Mutiny, will find much to ponder in relation to America's ongoing adventures in the same neighborhood . . . [An] excellent history." -Alex Travelli, "New York Sun" "Dalrymple's account is an original, important contribution to the controversies of 1857, for it draws on an archive that Darlymple reports has been 'virtually unused' by historians . . . His riveting narrative will engross readers." -Gilbert Taylor, "Booklist" "In time for the 150th anniversary ofthe Great Mutiny, the uprising that came close to toppling British rule in India, Dalrymple presents a brilliant, evocative exploration of a doomed world and its final emperor, Bahadur Shah II . . . [Dalrymple] has been immeasurably aided by his discovery of a colossal trove of documents in Indian national archives in Delhi and elsewhere. Thanks to them Dalrymple can vividly recreate, virtually at street level, the life and death of one of the most glorious and progressive empires ever seen. That the rebels fatefully raised the flag of jihad and dubbed themselves 'mujahedin' only adds to the mutiny's contemporary relevance." -"Publishers Weekly "(starred) Reviews from abroad: "[Dalrymple] builds an urban narrative [of Delhi] as evocative as Richard Cobb's depiction of Revolutionary Paris . . . There is so much to admire in this book-the depth of historical research, the finely evocative writing, the extraordinary rapport with the cultural world of late Mughal India. It is also in many ways a remarkably humane and egalitarian history . . . This is a splendid work of empathetic scholarship. As the 150th anniversary of the uprising dawns there will be many attempts to revisit these bloody, chaotic, cataclysmic events; but few reinterpretations of 1857 will be as bold, as insightful, or as challenging as this." -David Arnold, "Times Literary Supplement" "Brilliantly nuanced . . . Dalrymple has here written an account of the Indian mutiny such as we have never had before, of the events leading up to it and of its aftermath, seen through the prism of the last emperor's life. He has vividly described the street life of the Mughal capital in the days before the catastrophehappened, he has put his finger deftly on every crucial point in the story, which earlier historians have sometimes missed, and he has supplied some of the most informative footnotes I have ever read. On top of that, he has splendidly conveyed the sheer joy of researching a piece of history, something every true historian knows . . . I had thought that Dalrymple would never surpass his performance in writing "From the Holy Mountain," but "The Last Mughal" has caused me to think again. -Geoffrey Moorhouse, "The Guardian" "A riveting account . . . It is neither wholly a biography of Zafar, nor solely the story of the siege and capture of Delhi. Instead Mr. Dalrymple charts the course of the uprising and the siege, weaving into his story the unfolding tragedy of Zafar's last months. The animating spirit of the book is Delhi itself . . . It is here that the originality of [Dalrymple's] new book lies." -"The Economist" "["The Last Mughal"] shows the way history should be written: not as a catalogue of dry-as-dust kings, battles and treaties but to bring the past to the present, put life back in characters long dead and gone and make the reader feel he is living among them, sharing their joys, sorrows and apprehensions . . . Dalrymple's book rouses deep emotions. It will bring tears to the eyes of every Dilliwala, among whom I count myself. -Khushwant Singh, "Outlook India" "Dalrymple brings out the poignancy and pathology of a Mughal Lear with the ease and elan of a master storyteller . . . In "The Last Mughal," history is human drama at its elemental best . . . History ceases to be a dead abstraction on his pages. And the lost Delhi becomes an enduring enchantment." -S. Prasannarajan, "India Today" "Dalrymple narrates the story of Delhi's capture and fall with a rare humanity, a zest that is infectious, and in a prose that is handsome, sure-footed and flowing with breezy purpose. Few writers understand as well as Dalrymple that the function of history is not merely to inform but also to engage and entertain . . . The book provides a fascinating account of the last days of Mughal Delhi . . . These personal stories add up in some incalculable way to provide a picture of Mughal Delhi that is intimate and meaningful . . . When the British defeat [Zafar] and strip him of his kingship, they do more than just end the Mughal dynasty; they destroy a form of Indo-Islamic civilisation. In many ways, this splendid book is a stirring lament for this loss." -Mukund Padmanabhan, "The Hindu" "Dalrymple recaptures the dying moments of Mughal glory with the sensitivity and scholarly flair of a master storyteller . . . It is difficult to read some sections with dry eyes . . .What sets "The Last Mughal" apart from other accounts of Mughal history, particularly Mughal Delhi, is a sketch of a colourful, vibrant city seen from the eyes of the trader, the "hakim," the dancing girl, Ghalib, and of course the British administrators . . . Zafar's character is sketched with honesty, without making him out to be demon or the saint some accounts attempt to do . . . But ultimately it is the creation of another authentic source on Mughal history for which Dalrymple deserves the utmost praise. Whether it is description of palace life with all the intrigues and counter-intrigues between Zafar's wives, the clash of Muslim ideology with the new Christian values, or the massacre of the British men, women and children, the looting and violence that took place in Delhi during the mutiny, all these events come alive in Dalrymple's narrative . . . But the lasting image "The Last Mughal" leaves is that of the sunset of a great empire." -Rasheeda Bhagat, "The Hindu Business Line" "What Edward Gibbon was to ancient Rome, William Dalrymple will be to the magnificent Mughals." -David Robinson, "The Scotsman" "The story of the Indian Mutiny has been told many times in many ways. Few have managed to evoke as well as William Dalrymple what life was like on both sides of the divide. Dalrymple's narrative is artfully divided between descriptions of the besieged court ensconced at the Red Fort and the harried forces of the British gathered on the ridge. Thanks to an understanding of India gained during a 20-year familiarity with Delhi, and an indefatigable pursuit of primary sources, Dalrymple has produced a finely balanced account of the greatest armed challenge faced by any European power during the 19th century, and of the bloodthirsty revenge the British exacted on those who dared to rise up against them." -Jo Johnson," Financial Times" "Dalrymple argues convincingly for the contribution of colonialism to the rise of religious radicalism in India. A skilfully written, impeccably researched history." -Rachel Aspden, "The Observer" "What marks outWilliam