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94 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
This is an astounding read; William Dalrymple at his finest and strongest. Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished material from the Indian National Archive, Dalrymple presents the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath with unprecedented breadth. The subject has been deeply researched and there are extensive, informative,...
Published on 12 Nov 2006 by Liz L

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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of a terrible tragedy
Dalrymple has written an excellent account of the last days of the Moghul dynasty and the failed Indian Revolutionary War of 1857. The once great Moghul Empire of India had been slowly dying over a period of 150 years or so, plagued first of all by rebellious subjects such as the Marathas in the west and the Sikhs in the North who had never truly accepted the rule of the...
Published 21 months ago by Prabal Ray


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94 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple, 12 Nov 2006
By 
Liz L (Dumfries & Galloway UK) - See all my reviews
This is an astounding read; William Dalrymple at his finest and strongest. Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished material from the Indian National Archive, Dalrymple presents the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath with unprecedented breadth. The subject has been deeply researched and there are extensive, informative, footnotes throughout. For students of the period this book should be mandatory reading. But part of its brilliance is that this book is, for the general reader, a highly accessible read - the narrative flows and moves at a gripping pace. The story is a tribute to the civilians of Delhi, caught like proverbial grains of wheat between the giant millstones of the opposing factions. Whilst it relates to events of 150 years ago powerful contemporary messages are reinforced. That racial and religious intolerance and bigotry serve to spawn extremism and "self righteous hysteria".
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Mughal - A Review, 27 Oct 2006
By 
S. Chudha (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Written with erudition and a flowing style, William Dalrymple conjures up the spectacle of Mughal Delhi in its twilight superbly.

William Dalrymple's painstaking research brings to a wider view, documents and first-hand accounts from Indian and Pakistani sources (including the last Emperor's) which have not been acknowledged by Western historians before. The resulting story captures the grand sweep of events spiced with vignettes about each of the key personalities and testaments to their characters - quite apart from being an enthralling read it could convert into a great film.

The Last Mughal cannot be recommended too highly - it's a superb piece of a scholarship from a writer who has a strong feeling for for India's past and present. It tells of the events which created modern India and neatly dovetails these with the pressures it faces today.

A superb book from a superb writer.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone remotely interested in the Raj period should read this book, 25 Feb 2011
This is a wonderfully researched and elegantly written history of the 1857 Indian mutiny using many historical Indian sources not previously analysed before, at least outside India. What emerges is a very graphic account of the dilemmas facing the last Mughal, Bahadur Zafar Shah II; whether or not to support the Seepoy rebellion and the ill informed decisions he made. Basically, he was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, the Byzantine intrigues inside the Mughal's court and the demise of a once rich and vibrant civilisation, where Muslim and Hindu co-existed in relative harmony, are vividly brought to life by the author. However, the theme of the book that stands out most is the unbridled cruelty of the British Army in the way they put down the rebellion and practically wrecked Delhi's old city. It's a sobering examination of what human beings can sink to when they believe moral right is on their side. This gives the book some contemporary relevance.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of a terrible tragedy, 16 Oct 2012
By 
Dalrymple has written an excellent account of the last days of the Moghul dynasty and the failed Indian Revolutionary War of 1857. The once great Moghul Empire of India had been slowly dying over a period of 150 years or so, plagued first of all by rebellious subjects such as the Marathas in the west and the Sikhs in the North who had never truly accepted the rule of the Moghuls from Delhi, and then in later years by the colonial trading empires of the French and British. By the mid-nineteenth century, almost the whole of India was either ruled directly by the British East India company or by local rulers who were subject to British authority. The last Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah (referred to as "Zafar" by Dalrymple) was no more than a ceremonial ruler whose remit barely extended beyond the immediate neighbourhood of his magnificent palace, the Red Fort in Delhi. Dalrymple gives a wonderful description of this dying, exotic society - full of artists, poets (Zafar himself was an accomplished Urdu poet and teacher), a society which had bewitched the first generations of British settlers, many of whom had "gone native" in a spectacular fashion - adopting Moghul dress and customs, taking multiple Indian women as wives, and fathering numerous Anglo-Indian children. Suddenly into this exotic idyll was tossed the rebellion of 1857. The author describes in vivid detail the sudden arrival in Delhi of thousands of mutinous Indian soldiers or sepoys, their brutal massacre of of any Europeans in the city (including men, women and children) and their proclamation of the restoration of the old Moghul Empire. He then describes the inevitable British counterattack, the siege of Delhi and the terrible British vengeance - the virtual annihilation of the city, the destruction of much of its architecture, the almost complete elimination of that old courtly Moghul society. The author has done a great deal of research in the old Delhi archives, unearthing many first hand accounts , particularly of the British destruction of the city - possibly the darkest episode in the history of the British army. It certainly makes one appreciate such developments as the Geneva convention. I have one criticism and that is the author's determination to place the blame for what happened firmly on the shoulders of British evangelical Christianity. The revolt was unquestionably the result of the bullet issue and the subsequent heavy handed response to the initial complaints and unrest. The high-handed and arrogant attitudes of the British in gradually taking over the running of this great and proud nation through the cuckoos nest antics of the East India company would also have contributed. The lack of the virtues of forgiveness and compassion in many of the nominally Christian British military leaders is also startling. But to blame a few enthusiastic missionaries for the whole affair seems to smack more of Dalrymple's modern liberal prejudices than of what was most people's perception at the time. I think he has also over-played his nostalgia for the wonders of the Moghul court and society. There was toleration of different religions and customs, but this tolerance also extended to practices such as the suttee, and for the less well off, no doubt, as in most societies of the time, life was nasty, brutish and short.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The relevance of the Last Mughal, 13 May 2007
By 
D. Thomas "David Thomas" (Ormskirk) - See all my reviews
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Dealing with the final destruction of the Mughal dynasty, William Dalrymple's second work to focus on the Mughals continues the themes of the first through a history of the Indian Uprising in Delhi.

In 'White Mughals', we saw the hardening attitude of the British towards Indian and Mughal culture at the turn of the C18th. Fifty years later, again using much by way of new material, we witness wholesale violence and massacre. Delhi is all but destroyed by a British retribution unleashed as part of the response to the Indian Uprising.

The narrative of the Uprising focuses on the fates of the British characters populating the Delhi cantonments and Civil Lines; the hesitant response of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the last Mughal Emperor; the protracted fighting that prefigured the final fall of Delhi to the British; the different groups within the Mughal camp, including the Jihadis; and the settling of scores between the victors and the vanquished, both in blood and in the trial and final banishment of Zafar.

Thrust centre stage by those leading the Uprising, the weakness of Zafar's position was revealed by ensuing events and ended in the final demise of his dynsasty.

As before, Dalrymple's strong narrative style allows space for a wealth of digression into the cultural life of the time, focussing on both the life of the late Mughal court and the deeply unsettling religious justifications of the christian soldiers who led the British response to the Uprising.

Overall, a strong, balanced and original book - perhaps sparser in tone than White Mughals, in keeping with the harder world with which it deals -of great interest in itself, and very relevant today.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read, 22 Mar 2007
By 
Mr. A. J. Watson "adrianw259" (Huddersfield UK) - See all my reviews
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I have just finished this book, I enjoyed every page thoroughly. Do not be put off by the size of this book, I finished it too soon. William Dalrymple has a tremendous knowledge of his subject and a real sympathy for the people of Delhi. This history is highly scolarly yet a real page turner, there is humour as well as horror. If you liked this apart from Dalrymple's other books 'The Moghul Throne' by Abraham Eraly is a great book too (another reviewer has made this recommendation, I second it).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the last mughal, 12 May 2009
By 
L. Browne "sufi reader" (Glastonbury) - See all my reviews
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Excellent book, recounting the last years of the Last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah.
As the British were responsible for actually putting down the rebellion & sending this elderly emperor into exile; it is sad to be British & learn of the colonial practices.
However, the book is clear in outlining the clash of the two cultures: Colonial British & Indian Mughal/Hindu that led to the uprising & how the Mughal dynasty was sucked into supporting the rebels, as thier way of life was seen to be under threat.
A good read & I recommend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Mughal, 8 Feb 2007
By 
Dr. M. Inayat (England) - See all my reviews
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What a book! I couldn't put it down. An excellent story, true as well, about the time of the last emperor of one of the greatest empire in Indian history. It also exposes the injustice carried out by both the mutineers of Indian army at that time and the East India Company, or army of the British Empire at that time. The author even compares how unresolved feelings then lead to hatred and extremism against the occupiers which is now seen to have given birth to movements like the "Taliban". There are two completely different yet parallel running aspects of this book: One, an excellent true story of what was happening around the fall of the great empire in 1850s (which itself is very sad)and how it's long term repurcussions can be seen in the neighbouring countries these days. Wish such an excellent book could be translated in to a few of the common Indian/Pakistani languages for the locals to open their eyes to the fact how great and peaceloving their ancestors were and how comfortably Muslims and Hindus lived together not that long ago.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A towering work of scholarship, 26 Feb 2010
By 
Mike Williams (South Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This work is breathtaking. It is a large book and there is serious scholarship within its pages - the inclusion of new material from the Delhi archives, seemingly overlooked since it was first placed there, is especially notable - but Dalrymple manages to do what he does best, which is also to make it a thoroughly good read. The story begins - and it really does read like a fast-paced novel - with the atmosphere in Delhi before the uprising. Key characters are introduced in a series of revealing vignettes; a technique Dalrymple uses throughout. The beginning is perhaps the most difficult part of the book since there is a lot of information to digest and many unfamiliar-sounding names. However, when the mutiny finally breaks, the pace quickens to be all nigh unstoppable. The individual vignettes continue, some of famous individuals but many of the ordinary people of both sides. You feel your sympathies turn with each new event and you can almost feel the fear that stalked Delhi. The aftermath of the uprising forms the final part of the book and the terrible vengeance reaped by the British. The words of Ghandi have never been more apt: an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. The figure of Zafar, the Last Mughal of the title, remains a constant throughout the book and Dalrymple paints a sympathetic but never romantic portrait. Dalrymple carries no particular bias into the book, apart from his clear love and regard for Delhi herself. His final reflections on the unchecked attitude of colonial power and the backlash it can unleash, resonate down to the present day. This is a book that deserves to be read - it is absolutely superb.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Brilliant - Every Indian should read it., 16 Feb 2009
By 
This is superb history. I can't quite understand why no-one else in India bothers to use the sources he uncovered. Indian historians have forgotten that they have so many wonderful primary sources - in Urdu as well as English. Just read the preface to the book; William Dalrymple has gone straight to the sources and they are all sitting in Delhi. Good for him and good for the rest of us who read him. Every Indian should read it.
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The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857 by William Dalrymple (Audio CD - 16 April 2007)
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