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White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,687 Ratings  ·  205 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 459 pages
Published April 27th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published October 7th 2002)
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A grand, slow-moving procession through 18th-century India

Stately processions are a leit motif in William Dalrymple's epic account of a doomed love affair between James Kirkpatrick, a British East India Company resident, and Khair un-Nissa, great-niece of Hyderabad’s chief minister. Midway through the book, for example, he quotes a source describing the massive pilgrimage for the annual festival of Mawlah Ali:

“Some 3,000 elephants, as well as some 50,000 horses and load-bearing camels, with stal

White Mughals is the story of a romance but really it is the story of a moment in time when England and India explored each others' worlds and cultures with great delight and mutual admiration. And sadly, it is also the story of how everything changed in less than a generation.



This is the sort of book that demolishes all of your old notions of 'how it happened'. I read into the wee hours of the night and as I finished the book this morning I instantly went back to the beginning to work my way th
Mansoor Azam
Jul 07, 2012 Mansoor Azam rated it it was amazing
Its only because of the name of Willam Dalrymple that i picked this one. But, by God, what a book. hats off to the writer. It builds on interestingly and like one of those Sydney Sheldon novels you just don't want to put it back. Always intriguing and woven in the mysteries of the oriental East.

The book sheds a light on late eighteenth and nineteenth century life and politics of princely state of Hyderabad. From the Nizam to the power brokering imperialist British to a commoner in the street, on
Just arrived from Australia through BM.

This is the story of James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa who converted to Islam and married her despite the opposition from both cultural sides.

Even being the British representative at the court of Nizam of Hyderabad, he also became a double agent, working for the Nizam against the East India Company.

Page 4:
Clive needed to know the truth about the East India Company's Resident at the court of Hyderabad, James Achilles Kirkpatrick.

Page 11:
India has
Nov 25, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india, subcontinent
The White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India by William Dalrymple is a tour-de-force of historical writing. Packed with the results of an unbelievably enormous amount of research and detective work, it is highly detailed, yet it flows like a good novel.

It gave me great pleasure reading it.

Until the first decade of the 19th century, Europeans living in India had no difficulties with cohabiting and having sexual relations with the local Indians, whom they encountered. Many of
Simran Khurana
Feb 20, 2013 Simran Khurana rated it really liked it
Finally, I have finished reading this 500 page long, historical romance. I had tried to read it once, but I admit that I abandoned it midway because I was apprehensive that I will ever finish reading the book. But the book haunted me enough to make me pick it up again, and I gave it another shot. So here is my review of the book:

1) As always, my recommendation is that ONLY if you are a history buff, pick it up. It is a detailed documentation of Mughal, Hyderabadi, and English era, and you don't
Nov 09, 2010 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Without having any specific interest in India, I seem to have read quite a few books about India over the last couple of years, and William Dalrymple has a lot to do with it. I really liked his City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, and I’d heard many good things about White Mughals – all justified. This book is remarkable. Yes, it’s a history book, but you can read it like a novel. Think of it as a kind of Indian War and Peace – the cast of characters is even larger, and it does indeed address war an ...more
May 18, 2015 Raghu rated it it was amazing
This is a scholarly work of Indian history, extensively researched and written with a passion and a nostalgia for a not so distant past when there was wholesale interracial sexual exploration and substantial cultural assimilation between Indians and the British in India. Author Dalrymple says that till the early years of the 19th century, there was an Indian conquest of the European imagination when one in three British residents in India acquired Indian women as wives or mistresses and maintain ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Anand rated it it was amazing
This book is a historical, romance, thriller, cultural pluralism, politics and many more things all rolled into one. In describing the blossoming love between James Kirkpatric, an Englishman, with Khair U Nissa, a Hyderabadi noblewoman (a teenage girl actually), the author has brilliantly produced a work of scholarly persuasion that enlightens us to the late 18th century and early 19th century cultural pluralism of India under the Mughals and the increasingly imperial British.

As an Indian, we ha
Feb 28, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book! Written as a historical narrative (which, if it is not a genre I think it should be), William Dalrymple not only tells a wonderful story in this 300 some page book, but woven in and out of this narrative he also gives a fantastic look at life in 18th century India. Sure, the auxiliary title ("Love and Betrayal in Eithgeenth-century India") may make you hesitant to pick this one up, wondering if it might be a steamy historical romance novel - well, it's really not this at al ...more
Nov 17, 2007 John rated it really liked it
At first glance one might dismiss this book as a pulp-fiction "bodice-ripper" EXCEPT that it is a) beautifully written & b) a true story. This book really hit home as aspects of it are echoed in my family history. A major misconception held by many post-modern americans is that the Anglo-Indian relationship can be summarized (and ignored) as Ben Kingsley in "Ghandi". Dalrymple gives a much more nuanced and complex view of the early days of "The Company" and the final years of the Mughal Empi ...more
Riju Ganguly
Beginning as a pioneering effort towards unveiling one of the best kept secrets of colonial India (the fact that East & West had not only met here, but was in the process of creating a hybrid culture as well as society, before racial prejudices and bloody history ruined everything), the book eventually became too much of history, that too of one particular family. Towards the end, I was in a hurry to reach the end. It is a goldmine, if you are interested in history of the Deccan in early Nin ...more
Aban (Aby)
Nov 07, 2012 Aban (Aby) rated it really liked it
What an amazing book! After reading Dalrymple's "The Last Mughal", where he mentioned the "white mughals", I was eager to read this book. Factual, meticulously researched, this is the story of the Englishmen who, in the eighteenth century, were able to live comfortably in two cultures: that of Mughal India and of the British in India. Many of these men converted to Islam, married Indian wives, were fluent in Hundistani, Persian, and other oriental languages, and were knowledgeable about the lite ...more
Mar 23, 2013 Kishore rated it it was amazing
This is a story of the quintessential Indophile – a young British Company officer who falls in love at first sight and is slowly but steadily drawn into the warm tresses of the (later ravaged) lady that was India. Of an Englishman who came to speak fluent Hindustani long before it was fashionable for Indians to learn English. It is the story of an Indian beauty who, standing at the crossroads of culture and history, chose to tread a path that soon became scorned upon for being too bold. It is th ...more
May 23, 2007 Zahreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
I really enjoyed this book, particularly as a scholar of South Asian history and politics. The book is a handful of examples where there was perfect synergy of British and Indian culture, and it's very idealist understanding of Colonial India and the role the British chose to play in it. It makes for charming storytelling, but not exactly accurate history, which segues into my criticism of the book. It does not address the overwhelming evidence of British racial segregation policies that began t ...more
Dec 22, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-history
Oh, I loved this book. I could hardly put it down. I confess I know very little about the years before the Raj, before the British Crown took over India from the East India Company, so this book came as a delightful, entrancing revelation. During the years of the British Raj, the lines - social, political, religious, caste and class - dividing British from Indian were very clearly defined and adhered to, but this was not the case in the early years of the East India Company. Many officials had b ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, india
Don't let the idea that this is a romance put you off, really it's a look at an element of British/Indian relations in pre-Victorian times exemplified by James Achilles Kirkpatrick. Termed a "White Mughal", he was a European Indiophile who integrated into the upper class Mughal society in which he lived as a British diplomat. His relationship and marriage with Khair un Nissa was the subject of four official enquiries and threatened to jeopardise his political career.

This book discusses other si
Dec 05, 2015 Don rated it liked it
India has been quite the melting pot over the ages, a fascinating history. Nevertheless the notion that white assimilation is somehow astounding struck me as insulting. Still, worth learning about the many colorful historical characters.
Sairam Krishnan
May 06, 2015 Sairam Krishnan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vintage Dalrymple. If anyone ever doubted that he was a history writer par excellence, this was his blockbuster of an answer.

One of my all time favourite writers at the top of his game. This is how narrative non-fiction is done. Period.
Roshan John
Dec 29, 2015 Roshan John rated it liked it
William Dalrymple's White Mughals is a brilliant piece of literature. For most parts I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. One of my friend's had recommended this book to me and I was more than eager to try it out since I'd already read and enjoyed 'The City of Djins'. This book was however written in a very different style.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe the genre of this book to people though. I would probably describe it as history/biography of a romance that took place in 18th centur
Akansh Bhatt
Mar 21, 2015 Akansh Bhatt rated it it was amazing
An Epic! No less. The narration is as exquisite as the era being depicted. I did read the book in two shifts - due to a minor inconvenience, I have to admit; but irrespective of its formidable size, this book is unputdownable. A glorious depiction of a golden age (HH the Nizam, the East India Company, a cameo by Tipu Sultan) - it swathes you in gradually. If you want to know what the society was like(pretty prurient) before the stupid Victorian era(pretty prude) wrecked our civilization; and if ...more
May 04, 2012 Kristin rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating
Dec 27, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the end of the 18th century the British East India Company co existed with a number of powerful independent states in the south, centre and west of the subcontinent. It's leaders in Madras and Calcutta mixed with Indian society, often adopting local dress, customs, mistresses and wives. The arrival of a new Governor General (Lord Wellesley and his brother the future Duke of Wellington) heralded and change to a more aggressive approach resulting in a war against Mysore and the domination of th ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Murtaza rated it really liked it
A very painstaking and detailed history of late-Moghul India, specifically Asaf Jahi Hyderabad, and the peculiar Anglo-Indian culture which developed therein. The author has done an incredible job of synthesizing a huge array of historical documents (much like he did with The Last Mughul, but perhaps even more impressively) to paint a portrait of what life was like at this time.

He also paints an interesting picture of English views towards India and vice versa, and how they evolved over time fr
Shahine Ardeshir
Apr 30, 2014 Shahine Ardeshir rated it liked it
The White Mughals chronicles a part of history that very few text books speak of: A time before the Raj, when the British in India were still immigrant labor in the East India Company, coming to India to explore and make fortunes. Since this was before the characteristic superiority complex had set in, it was a time that allowed for a lot of cross cultural pollination to take place between Mughal India and British residents posted here.

At the centre of this era, Dalrymple has described and writt
Dec 22, 2012 Koel rated it liked it
Read the html version of this review at http://anaroiterbookreviews.blogspot....

Staying at Kolkata has lot of advantages as I am discovering recently. The city is quite serious about reading books and hence I do not have to venture out to Oxford Bookstore or Crossword to buy a book. Within the 6 months at office, our office has arranged 2 book fairs. However, I was a bit disappointed to see the categories of books being bought by junta. Maximum number of copies were reserved for Harry Potter, Pa
Manu Prasad
Aug 16, 2012 Manu Prasad rated it liked it
Shelves: review
In the eighteenth century, when the East India company was not yet the force it would one day be, there existed a few Englishmen (and other Europeans) who took up the ways of the fading Mughal culture. These were the White Mughals and among them was James Achilles Kirkpatrick, who arrived in India a soldier and soon rose to be the Resident of Hyderabad, mostly thanks to the influence of his older brother William.
Friend of the Nizam, and an ardent lover of the Indian culture he came in contact w
Jul 06, 2008 Karen rated it liked it
Interesting story of a little studied area in India, Deccan, prior to the colonization, imperialistic focus of Britain.A little slow going at first but then picks up as it gets more into the cutural and politics of the time. Emphasis is on the acculturation of many of the British East India Co. personnel and their preference for the lifestyle and women of India. The main character used is James Achilles Kirkpatrick, English Resident in the Nizam territory of Decca responsible for British and tre ...more
Jenny Brown
Jun 06, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that makes you realize just how little you know about historical periods you thought you knew a lot about.

The depth of scholarship is mind-boggling. I read every footnote and learned something from each one, but as I'd read it I'd think, How did Dalrymple learn so much about all these obscure people? So many of the sources are in Persian, too.

I came away with so much more understanding of the Mughal culture and how Islam expressed so differently in India during the M
Nov 27, 2007 Bookchica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone and their friends!
If I ever had to choose someone to rewrite history William Dalrymple would definitely be top of the list.

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.. books that my dad would love, but I find the writing styles extremely difficult to relate to.

It was refreshing to read about a culture crossover at that time and age. WD's curiosity as to how after being in India for 300 year
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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
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“India has always had a strange way with her conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, then slowly seduces, assimilates and transforms them.” 34 likes
“So vast is India, and so uniquely resilient and deeply rooted are her intertwined social and religious institutions, that all foreign intruders are sooner or later either shaken off or absorbed.” 0 likes
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