Book talk by William Dalrymple
Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the last Mughal Emperor, was a mystic, a 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. Then in 1857 Zafar’s flourishing capital became the centre of an uprising—the largest that the British Empire ever had to face—that reduced his beloved Delhi to a battered, empty ruin.
The Last Mughal is a portrait of the dazzling Delhi Zafar personified, and the story of its final destruction in the catastrophe of 1857. Shaped from groundbreaking material, William Dalrymple’s powerful retelling is an extraordinary revisionist work with clear contemporary echoes. It is the first account to present the Indian perspective on the siege of Delhi in 1857, and has at its heart the stories of the forgotten individuals tragically caught up in one of the bloodiest upheavals in history.
William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth, but has lived in Delhi on and off for the last 25 years. He is the author of seven books about India and the Islamic world, all of which has won major literary awards, including City of Djinns (Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Prize), White Mughals (Wolfson Prize for History and SAC Scottish Book of the Year Prize), The Last Mughal (Duff Cooper Prize and Crossword Vodafone Award for Non-Fiction) and Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Asia House Literary Award). He is currently working on a history of the First Anglo-Afghan War and a major show of Mughal art for the Asia Society in New York. He has also written and presented a number of prize-winning radio and TV documentaries, among them The Long Search (Stanford St Martin Prize) and Indian Journeys which won the Grierson Award at BAFTA. He writes regularly for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and the Guardian, and is one of the founders and a co-director of Asia-Pacific’s biggest book festival, the annual Jaipur Literary Festival. He has honorary doctorates of letters from the universities of St Andrews, Aberdeen and Lucknow, and in September he will be taking up a visiting fellowship at Princeton.
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