White Mughals by William Dalrymple
Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

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White Mughals is the romantic and ultimately tragic tale of a passionate love affair that crossed and transcended all the cultural, religious and political boundaries of its time.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad when in 1798 he glimpsed Kahir un-Nissa—'Most excellent among Women'—the great-niece of the Nizam's Prime Minister and a descendant of the Prophet. Kirkpatrick had gone out to India as an ambitious soldier in the army of the East India Company, eager to make his name in the conquest and subjection of the subcontinent. Instead, he fell in love with Khair and overcame many obstacles to marry her—not least of which was the fact that she was locked away in purdah and engaged to a local nobleman. Eventually, while remaining Resident, Kirkpatrick converted to Islam, and according to Indian sources even became a double-agent working for the Hyderabadis against the East India Company.

It is a remarkable story, involving secret assignations, court intrigue, harem politics, religious and family disputes. But such things were not unknown; from the early sixteenth century, when the Inquisition banned the Portuguese in Goa from wearing the dhoti, to the eve of the Indian mutiny, the 'white Mughals' who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways were a source of embarrassments to successive colonial administrations. William Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as 'Hindoo Stuart', who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his temple of idols, and who spent many years trying to persuade the memsahibs of Calcutta to adopt the sari; and Sir David Ochterlony, Kirkpatrick's counterpart in Delhi, who took all thirteen of his wives out for evening promenades, each on the back of their own elephant.

In White Mughals, William Dalrymple discovers a world almost entirely unexplored by history, and places at its centre a compelling tale of love, seduction and betrayal. It possesses all the sweep and resonance of a great nineteenth-century novel, set against a background of shifting alliances and the manoeuvring of the great powers, the mercantile ambitions of the British and the imperial dreams of Napoleon. White Mughals, the product of five years' writing and research, triumphantly confirms Dalrymple's reputation as one of the finest writers at work today.


About William Dalrymple

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William Dalrymple is the author of seven acclaimed works of history and travel, including City of Djinns, which won the Young British Writer of the Year Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book award; the bestselling From the Holy Mountain; White Mughals, which won Britain's most prestigious history prize, the Wolfson; and The Last Mughal, which won the Duff Cooper Prize for History and Biography. 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.
Published April 27, 2004 by Penguin Books. 536 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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But Kirkpatrick was such an asset to the British cause in the region—he negotiated tricky treaties, spoke the local languages, finessed and eventually expelled the French—that he kept his position despite the scandal and the determined efforts to dislodge him made by India’s Governor General, the...

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The Guardian

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White Mughals: Love & Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India by William Dalrymple 580pp, HarperCollins, £20 In 1616, when Sir Thomas Roe arrived in Agra, India, as the first accredited English ambassador to the Mughal empire, he probably did not expect the small humiliations he would face over the ...

Oct 05 2002 | Read Full Review of White Mughals: Love and Betra...

Publishers Weekly

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Dalrymple, author of the bestselling In Xanadu, now anchors himself in India around the turn of the 19th century to focus on James Kirkpatrick, an officer for the East India Company and the British Resident, representing the British government, in the Indian city-state of Hyderabad.

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Gather Books

Wonderful book to read if you are interested in Indian history but can't read through some of the textual, verbose and factual books you usually find on Indian history..

Sep 25 2007 | Read Full Review of White Mughals: Love and Betra...

India Today

Over and over again in the records, we hear of Sharaf un-Nissa visiting Farzand Begum, and Sharaf un-Nissa later insisted that Farzand Begum had encouraged her to marry Khair un-Nissa to the British Resident.

Nov 11 2002 | Read Full Review of White Mughals: Love and Betra...

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