Raghu's Reviews > The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
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Jun 26, 2007

it was amazing
Read in June, 2007

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 they viewed the uprising of 1857. The picture that emerges is quite different to what one has read in the high school curriculums in India or in the 'accounts' of many Britishers or even that written by Karl Marx right then in 1857, calling it the first Indian war of independence.
Some of the salient points from the research are:
The uprising was triggered off by the insensitivity of the British rulers towards the religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims. Initially, it was a composite assault by both Hindus and muslims on the British rule but gradually, the jihadi elements among the muslims took control and when they entered Delhi, they totally massacred the Christians(read British) there brutally, regardless of women and children. When the British eventually gained ascendency, they retaliated with equal and even more brutality with no regard to any of the human rights they professed. They developed most distrust and hatred for the Indian muslim and slaughtered them with no mercy and sowed the seeds of the eventual 'divide and rule' policy in India. The Sikhs and Gurkhas and later the Marwaris aided the British in defeating the mutiny. This is something not highlighted in our history books for obvious reasons.
Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was 82 years old when the mutiny started. He was a product of the composite syncretic culture of India and believed strongly in protecting the Hindus against extremist elements among the jihadis. He did not want the mutiny but was too weak and 'poor' to resist it. He was caught in the storm in his final years and sadly he had to preside over the demise of the great Mughal dynasty.
His treason trial by the British was totally illegal because the East India company was at the the emperor's behest and not the other way around. There are so many parallels to what is happening today in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
The story Bahadur Shah Zafar is so sad to red. It is also sad that in Indian history books today, the composite heritage of the Indo-islamic culture is not emphasised. Instead, we repeat the oft-repeated British negative view of the Indian muslim.
The book is brilliant and scholarly. All Indians are indebted to Dalrymple for his seminal work.
A must read for all Indians.
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message 1: by Chirag (new)

Chirag Patel can anyone send me essay on at princeofnj@gmail.com this topic dalrymple, william. the last mughal: the of dynasty: delhi 1857. and thanks in advance

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