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The relevance of the Last Mughal,
This review is from: The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857 (Paperback)
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.