White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in 18th-Century India

White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in 18th-Century India

Paperback

By (author) William Dalrymple

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  • Publisher: HarperPerennial
  • Format: Paperback | 640 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 46mm | 458g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0006550967
  • ISBN 13: 9780006550969
  • Illustrations note: 24 b/w, 24 col illus
  • Sales rank: 37,127

Product description

From the author of the Samuel Johnson prize-shortlisted 'Return of a King', the romantic and ultimately tragic tale of a passionate love affair that transcended all the cultural, religious and political boundaries of its time. James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of Hyderabad when he met Khair un-Nissa - 'Most Excellent among Women' - the great-niece of the Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He fell in love with her and overcame many obstacles to marry her, converting to Islam and, according to Indian sources, becoming a double-agent working against the East India Company. It is a remarkable story, but such things were not unknown: from the early sixteenth century to the eve of the Indian Mutiny, the 'white Mughals' who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways were a source of embarrassment to successive colonial administrations. Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as 'Hindoo Stuart', who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his temple of idols, and Sir David Auchterlony, who took all 13 of his Indian wives out for evening promenades, each on the back of her own elephant. In 'White Mughals', William Dalrymple discovers a world almost entirely unexplored by history, and places at its centre a compelling tale of seduction and betrayal.

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Author information

William Dalrymple's first book, In Xanadu, won the Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award. His second, City of Djinns, won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. His third, From the Holy Mountain, was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize and the Thomas Cook Award. A collection of his pieces about India, The Age of Kali, was published in 1998.

Review quote

'William Dalrymple is that rarity, a scholar of history who can really write. This is a brilliant and compulsively readable book' Salman Rushdie 'Destined to become an instant classic' Amanda Foreman 'A bravura display of scholarship, writing and insight. Dalrymple manages the incredible feat of outpointing most historians and most novelists in one go. This is quite simply a stunning achievement' Independent on Sunday 'Gorgeous, spellbinding and important, [a] tapestry of magnificent set-pieces' Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times 'Enthralling ... brilliant, as exhaustively researched as it is brilliantly written' Mail on Sunday

Editorial reviews

William Dalrymple is one of Britain's greatest travel writers; his descriptions of his journeys in Central Asia, India and the Middle East are unsurpassed for their grasp of telling details and sensitivity to place and history. Now, in his first work of straight history, he has brought back to life the remarkable story of the English Resident in Hyderabad in the late 18th century who fell in love with, and married, a high-born Muslim girl, and held fast to her despite the condemnation of the ruling East India Company. But, interesting though the story of James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa is, the core of the book is the wider subject of Anglo-Indian relationships at the time. Dalrymple demonstrates how early contact between East and West was informal and open-minded - there are numerous portraits of 18th-century Englishmen dressed in Mughal garb, and Western scholars were enthralled by the subcontinent's rich literary and religious traditions. But as the East India Company tightened its hold and turned its energies to subduing and ruling rather than trading, the divisions between English and Indian deepened, and senior Company officials began to dismiss native beliefs as foolish superstition and disapprove of inter-racial mixing. Dalrymple poignantly quotes contemporary letters by Englishmen with children by Indian women in which they agonize over whether their sons' and daughters' skin is light enough for them to achieve a reasonable position in Anglo-Indian society, or whether they should be sent back to England - which, ironically, was less prejudiced. This book suffers from the usual faults of a first work of history. Dalrymple is determined to include as much of his prodigious research as possible, and the result is a profusion of fascinating but irrelevant snippets of information that at times seriously distract from the main narrative. The range of characters is enormous, and it's easy for the reader not as comfortable in the period as Dalrymple to forget that Abdul Lateef and Shushtari are the same person, or why exactly Khair un-Nissa's female relations were so much keener on her liaison with Kirkpatrick than her male relations. But these are only minor points. This is a fascinating book that sheds a fresh light on a period that tends to get forgotten in comparison with the stereotypical picture of the Raj, and demonstrates how easy it is for what may seem to be polar opposites (East/West, Muslim/Christian, ruler/subject) to merge into new and flexible identities. More than anything, this is a plea for the racial, religious and cultural tolerance that is needed as much now as it ever has been. (Kirkus UK)