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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  6,405 ratings  ·  528 reviews
The Last Mughal highlights Dalrymple's longstanding fascination with the Indian city of Delhi. It presents the Delhi that formed the seat of the Mughal empire in India - a city as brilliant as the monarch who reigned over it. Indeed Bahadur Shah Zafar II embodied the very essence of Delhi city. He was a talented and versatile individual, well-versed in poetry, calligraphy, ...more
Paperback, 578 pages
Published May 4th 2007 by Penguin India (first published 2006)
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Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“[A]t the moment of the most crucial decision [King Bahadur Shah] Zafar would ever take, with most of the Delhi elite already instinctively lined up against the looting, mutinous sepoys, Zafar made an uncharacteristically decisive choice: he gave them his blessing. The reason is not hard to guess. With the armed, threatening and excitable sepoys surrounding him on all sides, he had little choice. Moreover, thanks to Simon Fraser and Lord Canning, he had even less to lose. For all his undoubted f ...more
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
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The glory days of the Mughal empire were long gone. The dynasty had long been embroiled in a series of wars of succession,as various pretenders to the throne killed each other,and occupied the throne for short periods of time. Meanwhile,the frontiers of the empire kept shrinking,and the British East India Company,kept making steady inroads,to the extent that it actually ruled India.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last Mughal, a king in name only,one left with just a title and confined to Delhi, by th
A chronicle of the horrors of colonialism in Mughal Delhi and greater India. If Niall Ferguson's Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power may be said to speak to the upside of Empire—its legacy of representative government, etc.—then The Last Mughal shows its downside: racism, religious intolerance, commercial exploitation, wage slavery, the suppression of indigenous cultures, etc.
...There was a feeling that technologically, economically and politi
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Shivam Chaturvedi
I believe that one of the first things that need to be done after reading a book such as this to literally take a bow to the author for his efforts. You could be an expert in your field, having worked your way through every bit of ponderous tome you could ever read, but when it comes to creating a story out of it, a clear thread that runs through every bit of knowledge that you have - and to be able to share it with a reader, who comes with a background of having been told fuck-all in his school ...more
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Asha Seth
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Against this bleak dualism, there is much to value in Zafar’s peaceful and tolerant attitude to life; and there is also much to regret in the way that the British swept away and rooted out the late Mughals’ pluralistic and philosophically composite civilisation.”
It'll be a while before I get over the emotional trauma bore by my conscience to be able to write a befitting review.
Sahil Pradhan
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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 and a skilled calligrapher. But while his Mughal ancestors had controlled most of India, the aged Zafar was king in name only.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam, india
Neither William Dalrymple nor 'The Last Mughal' need another positive review after all the prior accolades they have received. This 2006 work continues the amazing metamorphosis of a travel writer into a historian. The writing seems effortless, although a tremendous amount of research has been done. Perhaps this is partly due to the author's passion for the world of which he writes, but it also must be more than that. Greatness is sometimes easy to recognize and yet difficult to describe.

The boo
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
Wow! A great book! The sort of book that makes you want to read another three or four other books on the same topic, except you know that there are probably not another three or four books that are equal in both scholarship and entertainment value.

As the author himself says, it is astonishing that there was an avalanche of fascinating primary source materials (petitions, letters of complaint, official reports, etc.) about the 1857 uprising of the people of India against their colonial masters, a
Prashant R
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 27, 2012 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
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aasem Bakhshi
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in getting a glimpse of India somewhere during the 1857 mutiny, this is the book, an excellent read.
1857 marked the beginning of an armed revolution of the bloodiest and the greatest scale that we have ever known in India. While the 1857 revolt was part of a long tradition of resistance to the East India Company’s rule throughout India, it was unique in many ways. For one thing, the revolt was explicitly against alien authority, it occurred in most of North, Central and East India, and it was marked by the widespread participation of civilian participation and was accompanied by the sort of a ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was putting off reading this book for a long time because I thought it would be very hard and heavy and I am not a big fan of non-fiction as it is, but boy, was I super, super wrong! It was a surprisingly easy, fast-paced read and the writing was flawless, combining letters, newspapers and diary entries to compile a comprehensive (and extremely interesting) account of the famous 1857 sepoy mutiny. As a bonus, it also helped get rid of my fear of non-fiction!

It also made me see the monuments li
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I do find Dalrymple a bit like hard work. This is well-written and instructive, but could have been half the length. One admires the author's in-depth research, but I can't help feeling that a good, hard edit would have been a help.
Mukesh Kumar
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: history, favourites
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
Ram Kaushik
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One word comes to mind after finishing William Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” – magisterial. This is a monumental work, and I am truly in awe of Mr. Dalrymple’s scholarship. This is the third of his books I’ve read after “City of Djinns” and “White Mughals”, and they have all been both exhaustively researched and persuasively argued. In this book, he recreates the crumbling 19th century world of the last Mughal Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar. By 1857, the 80 year old Zafar had been slowly s ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, india, delhi
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
Amitava Das
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Everything that can be said about this fabulously written , meticulously researched book has been said already by other respected reviewers. I will just add one thing - early on in the book Dalrymple gives us a 24 hour Day in the Life - if I may so phrase it - of a typical British resident in 1852-53 (pre mutiny Delhi) and life in Red Fort for the late Bahadur Shah and his band of courtiers. The description of habits , rituals , clashing and mixing and intermingling at the same time , along- wit ...more
Sorabh Sharma
Very detailed to the point of exhaustion! - Great if you are a researcher , bad if you wanted an exhilarating read on the demise of the Mughal empire.
May 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't like this book. A book that promised to be about the last Mughal Bahadur Shah Zafar and the end of the monarchy became a chronological description of the failed 1857 mutiny that saw the end of the East India Company's (mis)adventures in Indian subcontinent and the beginning of the official British monarchy.

It is abundantly detailed in its investigation of the events of those few months in Delhi and adequately meandering for the same reason. History needs to be studied through a
Souvik Jana
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 years

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