Thursday, May 24, 2007

THE LAST MUGHAL by William Dalrymple

Summary of The Last Mughal:

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize for History 2007


Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the last Mughal Emperor, was a mystic, a talented poet, and a skilled calligrapher, who, though deprived of real political power by the East India Company, succeeded in creating a court of great brilliance, and presided over one of the great cultural renaissances of Indian history. In 1857 it was Zafar’s blessing to a rebellion among the Company’s own Indian troops that transformed an army mutiny into the largest uprising the British Empire ever had to face.


The Last Mughal is a portrait of the dazzling Delhi Zafar personified, and the story of the last days of the great Mughal capital and its final destruction in the catastrophe of 1857. Shaped from groundbreaking material, William Dalrymple’s powerful retelling of this fateful course of events is an extraordinary revisionist work with clear contemporary echoes. It is the first account to present the Indian perspective on the siege, and has at its heart the stories of the forgotten individuals tragically caught up in one of the bloodiest upheavals in history.

2 comments:

Gabbar Singh said...

The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple makes for good reading... but only if one is into fiction reading. There is hardly any element of history in the book. Agreed Mr. Dalrymple is a travel writer, but it really wouldn't hurt if he'd stop mixing fiction with history just to make his work look like a 1000 page historical document.

The same goes for his other work, THE WHITE MUGHALS. The age of Kali is relatively better.

Wonder Mr. D will churn out next. I believe he is currently working on a book on Delhi... let's wait and watch... while he churns out another work of fiction.

Nonetheless, credit is dur to Mr. D for his work, which makes for some interesting reading... but it is not history.

Fatima Mirza said...

My Comments on The Last Mughal :

The Last Mughal is much more than the biography of one man. It is the story of a city-` Delhi,. a genuinely multicultural synthesis of Indian and Islamic traditions, from music to miniature painting. Above all, it is a terrific retelling of the event that ended Zafar’s reign - the Indian mutiny of 1857. The strength of this book lies in the breadth of its quotations from unpublished primary sources. Dalrymple argues convincingly for the contribution of colonialism to the rise of religious radicalism in India... An outstanding book: meticulously researched, it makes full use of an extraordinary number of previously unexplored sources in British and Indian archives. The book captures the tragedy of a mutilated Mughal capital and its butchered populace. Extremely well researched. An entire period comes alive - Mesmerising … gripping and beautifully written.