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The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  4,326 Ratings  ·  328 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 a
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Knopf (first published 2006)
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I have lived with this book for months. Even now I hesitate to write this review because it feels too much like saying goodbye. I don’t want to leave this world and these people—I don’t want to remember that they are all dead and that a once glorious civilization is gone forever.

I had ordered a whole bunch of books on Near East and Islamic history and this one arrived at the library first. My intention was to work forward from ancient times to the present day. But then I saw from the cover that
Mar 04, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
Why study history, especially the 1857 Indian Mutiny (aka, Sepoy Rebellion or 1st War of Indian Independence)? Because sometimes the threads are just so damn interesting…and even pertinent! Here’s one:

The Mughal Empire was known for its tolerance and usually treated Muslims and Hindus equally. At the end of the Delhi battle, the Muslims get the lion's share of the blame while mainly high-caste Hindu sepoys comprised the majority of the rebel forces and were the primary instigators. The Hindus re
Jul 29, 2007 Sandhya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with a penchant for history and great writing
Author: William Dalrymple
Publishers: Penguin Viking
Published In: 2006
Price: Rs 695
Pages: 586
Genre: Historical
BY Sandhya Iyer

Last glow of light

Being fairly intrigued by Mughal history, Dalrymple has always been one author whose books I’ve wanted to read. I missed out on his White Mughals but got an opportunity to read The Last Mughal and must say, it turned out to be every bit the rich, luxuriant and fascinating experience I imagined it to be.

I must confess here that I have no problems w
Prashant R
Feb 26, 2009 Prashant R rated it it was amazing
The further backward you look....the further forward you can see." This is what Sir Winston Churchill said when talking about the relevance of history to one's current circumstance.

I cannot help but recall these words, after reading William Dalrymple's brilliant
"The Last Mughal".

William Dalrymple's latest book uses Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor of the Mughal dynasty, to recreate the vibrant city of Delhi, in the 1850's. A culturally diverse, almost cosmopolitan city, of which Bahadur Shah
Shahine Ardeshir
Feb 01, 2014 Shahine Ardeshir rated it it was amazing
Simply put: This is how history should be written.

William Dalrymple, in my opinion, took on a lot when he chose to write a book about the Revolution of 1857. It's a subject visited in Indian history books many, many times, and most people (myself included) think they already know everything there is to be said about that event.

The beautiful thing, though, is that he proved me completely wrong, by retelling the tale in a whole new way. Fundamentally, he did two things. First, he used multiple so
Aug 09, 2007 D. rated it really liked it
I'm giving this book four stars because although it's very interesting material, I didn't get "hooked" very easily and it took me longer to read than a book this size usually takes me.

The book is about Delhi during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and about the fall of the Mughals. I came out of reading this book disgusted and angry with both sides, and very sad for all the horrible things that happened in Delhi at that time. To think that Chandni Chowk, my favorite spot in Delhi, was the place of su
Apr 12, 2012 Priyanka rated it really liked it
If you are interested in getting a glimpse of India somewhere during the 1857 mutiny, this is the book, an excellent read.
Fast paced, flashing like an epic movie, round about page 100 I was convinced of Dalrymple's brilliant talent, incorporating Urdu texts and British writings from the era to show how a tolerant creative, if excessive Mughal court was torn asunder by violence and racism; how something so small and inconsiderate as to how bullets were manufactured could erupt into such violence, followed by even greater revenge. I wanted insight into complicated Muslim, Sufi, Hindu, Christian relations and got exac ...more
Mar 30, 2015 Malika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last Mughal is a masterpiece. William Dalrymple has done a brilliant job. He has recreated the events vividly and described the personalities in much detail. What were merely names earlier now seem like people I have known. The fact that I felt that I was there in the Delhi of 1857 shows what a great author he is.
What makes it even better is that he has been very rigorous, citing sources and taking minimum liberties and narrates like an unbiased spectator however not refraining from deriving
Manu Prasad
Mar 18, 2012 Manu Prasad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Once, during a trip to Delhi, seeing the way history seemed to come 'alive' in the old city at various corners, I asked my friend whether anyone had tracked what had happened to the descendants of the Mughals, and how they saw their legacy . In this book, William Dalrymple does shed some light on it, though a sad one. More than the last Mughal emperor, the book belongs to the First War of Indian Independence to which he was unwittingly bound. Bahadur Shah 2 or Bahadur Shah Zafar as we were taugh ...more
Mukesh Kumar
Jun 17, 2015 Mukesh Kumar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Exhilarating and exhausting account! So much goes behind in any generic sounding 'uprising' or 'mutiny'. So many machinations, disparate voices and interests. Such beautiful idealism behind the rebellion and such violent grossness of the actual act. History defies simplification. Just to highlight the complexities of the 1857 rebellion, here is a small excerpt :

"...It was all in all, a very odd sort of religious war. where a Muslim emperor was pushed into rebellion against his Christian oppresso
Zarish Fatima
Excellent history book. It took me some time to finsih it not because it is a boring read but becaus i am lazy person.
Very intense book, the writer ahs put alot of effort in this book and every detail is becoming and accurate that one has to apprecaite the dedication put in this work.
The sketch of history is painfully true and harsh. The unfortunate and most heartbreaking end of a great dynasty. The fall of Mughal empire was like that of every other Muslim Empire. First their was loss of ambiti
Souvik Jana

Reading history probably could not be more interesting. An intriguing narration of the 1957 Sepoy Mutiny. Documenting the events in the way a modern journalist reports about war or a terror strike, William Dalrymple has narrated the events and the circumstances leading to the mutiny, the mutiny itself, the causes of its failure and the aftermath, even assuming its effect in the shaping of India.

What makes the reading a pleasure is the simple and sometime humorous tone Dalrymple has taken to desc

Aug 05, 2008 Jesse rated it really liked it
Maybe my favorite book I read this summer. Dalrymple started out as a travel writer (In Xanadu, which intrepidly follows the Silk Road) when he was only 22. Since then, he's turned into a resident of India and a historian who seems bound and determined to undo the bad effects of the Raj. This and its prequel, White Mughals, which I'm now reading, sketch a world of connections and links and love between the two sides--Englishmen who convert to Islam to marry high-caste women, some who learn Urdu ...more
Arvind Balasundaram
A magnificent work of Indian history! Dalrymple convincingly argues that the various centers of the Sepoy Mutiny (in particular, Delhi) may have had a very local underpinning for the resentment against the British, and in this work makes a compelling case. The narrative is stellar, compassionate, and unbiased. Exploring hitherto undiscovered Urdu sources, Dalrymple portrays Bahadur Shah Zafar as a poet disconnected with the environment outside of the immediacy of Delhi. The author describes how ...more
Oct 28, 2014 Bushra rated it liked it
The appalling and shocking account Indian uprising of 1857 and the British Army’s retribution. The accounts of killings and humiliation of Indian Muslims got to a point that I was literally disgusted, especially going down the last few chapters last night that I vowed never to pick up any of Dalrymple’s works again. British retribution to Cawnpur Massacre was absolutely shocking; I cannot imagine that a so-called most civilized nation of that time could resort to such barbarity and insensitivity ...more
Hanan Kat
Jul 02, 2016 Hanan Kat rated it it was amazing
5/5 stars. Thoroughly enjoyed it. William Dalrymple never disappoints when it comes to Mughal history. Brilliant book.
Julie Cohen
Absolutely fascinating and wonderfully written. One of my books of the year.
May 20, 2015 Yasmin rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read of the last Mughal, the history surrounding his demise. Well researched and excellently written without the ponderous feel of a scholarly work. William Dalrymple lays out history as it was, not constantly refraining how a colonial power brought "good things" to the subdued continent. He explains well how the rebellion began, the causes and how Britain almost lost before really gaining India.
Aasem Bakhshi
Apr 04, 2011 Aasem Bakhshi rated it it was amazing
Reading it was indeed experiencing history. I like how Dalrymple deconstructs secondary events that only a caring historian's eye can catch. Towards the end, I tended to disagree with Dalrymple's daughter; there should be more of it - I am still hungry.
May 20, 2014 Risha rated it really liked it
Utterly, cruelly heartbreaking. Especially the final two chapters.
Shayda Dastgir
Oct 26, 2015 Shayda Dastgir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant - reads like a historical thriller. Dalrymple's skillful hands transform the city of Delhi into a magical, mysterious character in its own right. Bahadur Shah Zafar's story is sad, pathetic and heartbreaking, taking on the overtones of a Shakespearean tragedy.

However, what I found particularly compelling was the brilliant way in which Dalrymple sets the stage - not only for the Partition of 1947 of ninety years later, but also for the humble beginnings of the Taliban and Al
Apr 14, 2015 Adrian rated it it was amazing
Beginning with a romanticized, detailed, description of Delhi as a great city and seat of an Empire, a place so intoxicating many of the British Imperial Masters, and Civil Servants were drinking up its culture to the extent of becoming "White Mughals" (essentially Orientalists who have adopted Indian culture, or even converted to Islam), we then learn of the looming fundamentalism which threatens to break this religious harmony.
Indeed, we are told, it is quite a romantic, exotic, and intriguing
Dhruv Goel
Mar 19, 2015 Dhruv Goel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
THE LAST MUGHAL-the fall of a dynasty 1857

What actually happened during and before 1857 which led to the biggest uprising against imperialist Britain? Was it Mangal Pandey who first took up his arms against his masters? Or, there was some deeper conspiracy? How beautiful was Delhi and what of it remained? This is the book that answers these questions, clears some wrong ideas and most importantly elaborates the splendour and grandeur of the Mughal Delhi. It tells a tale which is not heroic or epi
Debasish Das
Sep 08, 2013 Debasish Das rated it really liked it
The story of slow but sure dissipation of the last mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II, is an eye opening narrative brought forth by long and painful work of translation of native Urdu manuscripts, newspapers, national archive records that are not yet digitalised and never before brought to life ..Forming the bedrock of this fact filled book where Dalrymple moves ahead emphathetically in a centre-of- road approach, with bias neither to A nor to B... Which is a strange liberating experience for ...more
Puneet Gurnani
Aug 02, 2013 Puneet Gurnani rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Darlymple writes beautifully!!
He visits 19th century delhi and takes you along for the ride. You live amidst the delhi elite, taste their luxury, hear their rumors, and feel their fear. Even though a brit himself Darlymple never seems biased. He dwells elaborately on the prejudice of the company personell and the dying breed of those whom he calls "the white mughals". Whites who have adapted the lifstyle of the delhi elite... people like ochterloney, the frasers & the skinners who live in t
Tariq Mahmood
Mar 25, 2013 Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing
What a book, it is a historical masterpiece, completely factual and yet read like a novel end to end. This book should on the educational curriculum of every Indian and Pakistani. This is the second time I have read this book and have been impressed twice as much with the depth of material on offer. Darlymple has presented a very vivid picture of a lost history from the loser's perspective. He has brought to life the very culturally rich era of the Muslims who ruled India once, which are no more ...more
Christopher Saunders
Jul 21, 2013 Christopher Saunders rated it really liked it
Sterling account of the Indian Mutiny from the perspective of Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal Emperor who became a reluctant leader in the anti-British uprising. Not a comprehensive account of the Mutiny: Dalrymple focuses almost exclusively on the happenings in and around Delhi, which are certainly fascinating enough. Avoiding the blood-and-thunder hysterics of most Western books, Dalrymple proves remarkably sensitive to all sides. Like Shah Shujah in Dalrymple's Return of a King, Bahadur comes off ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Raghu rated it it was amazing
This book is a timely one on this 150th anniversary of the Great Indian mutiny of 1857. This is also the first ever book that looks at the mutiny from the Indian point of view, though it is written by an Englishman. William Dalrymple has spent much of the past twenty years in India and so is eminently qualified to write this book. Using the extensive and valuable material in the National Archives in Delhi, he pieces together the kind of life that ordinary people lived in Delhi in 1857 and how th ...more
Sandeepan Mondal
Dec 06, 2013 Sandeepan Mondal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This humongous illustration of an event spanning only a few years (i.e. the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857) is extremely well-researched and exquisitely written in a lucid manner which makes for a fast reading. This is the story of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar II, and the events leading up to it and its aftermaths; The author exemplifies the dire situation in which the emperor was caught unawares after the sepoys broke into Delhi (coming mainly from Meerut) and sought his blessings (actually h ...more
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William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. The book won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award; it was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six year ...more
More about William Dalrymple...

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“The histories of Islamic fundamentalism and European imperialism have very often been closely, and dangerously, intertwined. In a curious but very concrete way, the fundamentalists of both faiths have needed each other to reinforce each other’s prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the other.” 5 likes
“The outbreak revealed the surprising degree to which the Mughal court was still regarded across northern India not as some sort of foreign Muslim imposition – as some, especially on the Hindu right wing, look upon the Mughals today – but instead as the principal source of political legitimacy, and therefore the natural centre of resistance against British colonial rule.” 2 likes
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