Synopses & Reviews
On a hazy November afternoon in Rangoon, 1862, a shrouded corpse was escorted by a small group of British soldiers to an anonymous grave in a prison enclosure. As the British Commissioner in charge insisted, “No vestige will remain to distinguish where the last of the Great Moghuls rests.”
Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the last Mughal Emperor, was a mystic, an accomplished poet and a skilled calligrapher. But while his Mughal ancestors had controlled most of India, the aged Zafar was king in name only. Deprived of real political power by the East India Company, he nevertheless succeeded in creating a court of great brilliance, and presided over one of the great cultural renaissances of Indian history.
Then, in 1857, Zafar gave his blessing to a rebellion among the Companys own Indian troops, thereby transforming an army mutiny into the largest uprising any empire had to face in the entire course of the nineteenth century. The Siege of Delhi was the Rajs Stalingrad: one of the most horrific events in the history of Empire, in which thousands on both sides died. And when the British took the city—securing their hold on the subcontinent for the next ninety years—tens of thousands more Indians were executed, including all but two of Zafars sixteen sons. By the end of the four-month siege, Delhi was reduced to a battered, empty ruin, and Zafar was sentenced to exile in Burma. There he died, the last Mughal ruler in a line that stretched back to the sixteenth century.
Award-winning historian and travel writer William Dalrymple shapes his powerful retelling of this fateful course of events from groundbreaking material: previously unexamined Urdu and Persian manuscripts that include Indian eyewitness accounts and records of the Delhi courts, police and administration during the siege. The Last Mughal is a revelatory work—the first to present the Indian perspective on the fall of Delhi—and has as its heart both the dazzling capital personified by Zafar and the stories of the individuals tragically caught up in one of the bloodiest upheavals in history.
"Brilliant....A magnificent, multi-dimensional work which shames the simplistic efforts of previous writers....With both empathy and sympathy the author portrays the last years of a decadent empire." David Gilmour, The Spectator
"Dalrymple argues convincingly for the contribution of colonialism to the rise of religious radicalism in India. A skilfully written, impeccably researched history." The Observer
A portrait of Mughal emperor, poet, and mystic Bahadur Shah Zafar II is set against the backdrop of mid-nineteenth-century India, the 1857 armed uprising against British rule, the final days of the Mughal capital of Delhi and its destruction in the wake of its fall, and Zafar's final days as an exile in Burma. 35,000 first printing.
About the Author
William Dalrymple is the author of five acclaimed works of history and travel, including City of Djinns, which won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; the best-selling From the Holy Mountain; and White Mughals, which won Britains most prestigious history prize, the Wolfson. He divides his time between New Delhi and London, and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and The Guardian.