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White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  2,493 ratings  ·  192 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 P
ebook, 780 pages
Published April 1st 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
Sairam Krishnan
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.
Akansh Bhatt
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
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
White Mughals is a poetic saga that made me revisit my concept of the British Raj, it personalizes history and sketches a profound panorama of the lives of initial European settlers-white men who ‘went native’ adopted Indian dress , customs , religion and its way of life married Indian women and lived lives of prosperous Mughals. These European adventurers who like all migrants before them were seduced and became part of the great Hindustani cultural melting pot before they were overcome by raci ...more
Shahine Ardeshir
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
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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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
This is a well researched book, it took Dalrymple just over 4 years and addresses a history of British India you won't find elsewhere, the integration of British and other European settlers into India and how they inter-married, converted to Islam, etc

All these things are now conveniently forgotton in the events that followed where the Victorian imperial prejudices are now thought of as having existed from the beginning. Dalrymple shows that this is not so and far more integration and mingling
Michal Thoma
Very interesting and informative book about the less known stage of the British colonial enterprise in India. The book's thread is life of colonel James Kirkpatrick, British India's resident on the court of Hyderabad and his love story with the Mughal women of noble family. The story is strong as is Dalrymple's studied knowledge of the topic. Impressive bibliography and footnotes makes you feel like reading the university thesis. And that's also the weak point. First two thirds of the book are v ...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
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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.” 27 likes
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