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Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,489 ratings  ·  284 reviews
The first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i Noor, arguably the most celebrated and mythologised jewel in the world.

On 29 March 1849, the ten-year-old Maharajah of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the centre of the great Fort in Lahore. There, in a public ceremony, the frightened but dignified child handed over to the British
335 pages
Published June 15th 2017 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published December 8th 2016)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,489 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A mix of myth, history, religion, and culture, this book provides a wealth of information, not only the stone itself, but on the people, places, and events intertwined with its meandering and unexpected existence. The scarcity of sources and the potential crossover of stories referring to other large and precious gems, means that some of its early history is still uncertain, but Dalrymple nevertheless presents a well researched, lively picture of the diamond. It is followed by an equally well ...more
Ashok Krishna
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few months ago, when a famous Indian industrialist – famous more for his debauched lifestyle than for any worthwhile achievements – took asylum in Britain, absconding after his financial crimes were brought to light, a friend of mine made a sarcastic tweet. Paraphrased, it went like ‘Even Mr. ______ seems to know that Britain is the best place to take refuge after looting India.’ For all the hilarity of that tweet, it conceals a sense of bitterness that many generations of Indians feel against ...more
Pamela ✨I Blame Wizards✨
Koh-i-Noor was a fantastic book about a fascinating diamond. Well researched, but chock full of some beautiful storytelling, I was most impressed by how they managed to tackle this subject in a post-colonial world while remaining utterly neutral on the morality of the events that they're chronicling. It was a great way to write as Dalrymple and Anand let none of their prejudices cloud the history of the diamond.

I was entirely absorbed by this and wish I'd read it sooner. Non-fiction can so
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is divided into two parts. The first part is written by William Dalrymple, who is an authority on 18th and 19th century India. He tells the story of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from the time Persian Nadu Shah humiliated the Mughal Emperor, sacked Delhi and sized the diamond, the Peacock throne and other jewels. The Mughal Dynasty was of Turkic-Mongol origin and ruled most of Northern India from 16th to mid-18th century. The Shah was murdered and the Afghan King took the diamond. It was then ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a shortish and easy to read book, which is generally quite entertaining though a little uneven.

The authors concede there is no hard information about the Koh-i-Noor prior to 1739, when it was first taken from India by Nader Shah of Persia, whose armies captured Delhi and who ransacked the Mughal Treasury. They do however spend two chapters discussing the role of diamonds in ancient and medieval Indian culture. Apparently India was the sole source of diamonds in the world until 1725.

Tariq Mahmood
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Dalrymple has weaved a riveting story of probably the most coveted diamond in the world ever, the might Kohinoor. As a Punjabi, I was thrilled that it graced the great lands of Punjab once, securely tied to the right arm of the great Ranjit Singh. The diamond had many jealous lovers of the centuries, from the mighty Moghuls to the mighty Persian Nadir Shah, the founder of Afghanistan Abdali before ending on the arm of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. East Indian Company eventually secured it with a dodgy ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written by two brilliant story tellers, tells stories of many who had any nexus with the famous diamond. Not only it covers the story and final destiny of rulers who possessed it, but also stories like it remained with a Molana who used the diamond as paper weight. The book is well researched and have references to books as popular as 'Tuzk e Babri' and as unknown as written by some Afghanistan court officials.

I was surpsied to know that the pracatice of 'sati' was followed among Sikhs as well
Vivek Tejuja
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading the “Kohinoor” – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand’s joint effort to make sense of the world’s infamous diamond, I was tempted to list – a list of deaths that took place in the wake of the diamond – to either capture it, or while owning it or ones who were ultimately possessed by the jewel.

There is a lot written about the Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light in Persia) – on and off Wikipedia. More so in this age of technology, you can perhaps know everything and more related to it on the
Asha Seth
I couldn't breathe for several minutes after reading this:

On 16 May, after fifty-seven catastrophic days in Delhi, Nader Shah finally left the city, carrying with him the accumulated wealth of eight generations of imperial Mughal conquest. The greatest of all his winnings was the Peacock Throne, in which was still embedded both the Koh-i-Noor and the Timur Ruby. The loot was loaded on to ‘700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a complex historical story that stretches across South Asia, and ultimately to England, tracking the famous Koh-I-Noor diamond. From its discovery a few hundred years ago to its present home in the Tower of London it has been possessed by the rulers of many nations. It is a bloody story of war, theft, murder and appropriation. While it is suggested that the diamond is cursed I believe this curse is best described as human greed.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A Colorful legend full of drama,plotting,greed,envy,murder,mayhem and power struggle surrounds the Unparalleled beauty Kohinoor: Mountain of Light.

The book is divided into two parts.The first part deals with the history of the famed diamond and the second part deals with the account,how the jewel taken from a young heir reached the Towers of London.The books starts with the mention of precious gemstones in Indian mythology and their significance in day to day life and their magical abilities.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the greatest books I have read on history, with Dalrymple's remarkable storytelling style of writing history in fiction-like way! Tracing history of the diamond Dalrymple has established that the most precious and once largest diamond in the world is 'cursed.' Yes you heard me right! And he has established it through facts you cannot deny! Whoever possessed the diamond ruled India, but also suffered terrible consequences. One after another, maddened kings, slaughtered commoners, ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story of a jewel that encapsulates the history of an entire subcontinent and its colonial rulers. Researched meticulously and told like a thriller, the authors tell an engaging tale that's full of swashbuckling heroes and anti-heroes, drama and deceit. Perhaps the most heart-rending segment of the book is the tale of Rani Jindan and her son Duleep Singh, the rightful heirs of the "cursed" jewel who were duped by the British into parting with the "Mountain of Light". The Kohinoor is ...more
This is a very good history of the diamond. Dalrymple presents all the claimants to the gem but only after providing a good overall history of the gem and those who owned it (who weren't British royals).
Chitra Iyer
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Why did it have to end?", was precisely my thought as I finished the last page in the book. I am being unconventional here by giving away my impression of this book right at the start but it just goes to show how much I appreciated it. Kohinoor - The Story of the World's Most Infamous Diamond is authored by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand and, before I even get to the summary I have to say, it is a must read.

The book is not a mere recitation of what conspired with the diamond, but is
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, history, 2017
Dalrymple, in his typical riveting style of narration sweeps through myth and history to present the journey of the Kohinoor from the mines where it was rumored to be discovered it its present resting place in the Tower of London. Through this romp, we have fascinating accounts of the Mughals, the Turks, Afghans and of course the Punjab under Ranjit Singh. I somehow felt that this book was more of a teaser to tempt one to pick up his other work - "The Return of the King". I anyways intend to ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Interesting account of the history behind the Kohinoor diamond. In fact, rather more history than I expected. Not that much is actually known about the Kohinoor and many of the incidents the author related may not actually refer to that particular diamond. It changed hands often and went from India to Afghanistan and back and to Persia and India and back, finally winding up in the hands of the Maharaja of Punjab. These were all results of conquest. When the last Maharaja of Punjab during the ...more
Mansoor Azam
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
can't say vintage Dalrymple. He's not that captivating as he normally is. neither this is a historiographical gem one picks to know A-Z about Koh i Noor, as much of the information is folklore and so Dalrymple admits.

overall a good read if one is a history nut and loves Dalrymple's flowing & captivating style. One may find bits of both in it. good if u r travelling and in absolute need of a book. otherwise trust me one can live without it and not have a feel about it.
Sairam Krishnan
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super-interesting, this is a really good, fast history book. The Kohinoor's history is a subject of great speculation, and in the hands of historians and storytellers of Dalrymple and Anand's caliber, you were bound to end up with a blockbuster. Recommended.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The koh-i-noor diamond may have an interesting history, but unfortunately this book doesn't reflect that and gets bogged down in dry historical facts and battle reports.
Sahil Pradhan
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"The story of the Koh-i-Noor, a symbol of the sovereignty of India, taken from South Asia by force under the watch of a Scottish Governor General, raises not only important historical issues, but contemporary ones too, being in many ways a touchstone and lightning rod for attitudes towards colonialism and posing the question: what is the proper response to imperial looting? Do we simply shrug it off as part of the rough-and-tumble of history or should we attempt to right the wrongs of the past? ...more
Kishore Krishnamoorthy
To start with I can say that 'Kohinoor' is an excellent story that everyone should know about. There are lot of unknown facts and feelings behind the small egg sized stone that I would say every Indian should be aware of. The story is actually damn good but sad to say the writing doesn't convey much energy. It lacks pace and readers would find it hard to read as it seems like sentences are never-ending. The book drags in the initial part where the writing is really pathetic to be frank. The ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall, an interesting book tracing the journey of the Kohinoor from Indian mythology to its current residence in the Tower of London- I especially liked the chapters on Ranjit Singh and Duleep Singh of Punjab. The pace of the book is also good - not overtly detailed and heavy as some historical books tend to be
Aparna Ram
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting read, tracing the kohinoor diamond from one King to the next through 400 odd years. As someone who didn't know any history of how the diamond came to the British, I found this book a great read with lots of gruesome details of murders, invasions and kohinoor-related myths!
Jan 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it picked up but it was a bit dense and dry for recreational reading. It's a shame because the history of jewels like this is so fascinating but I ended up abandoning this book without finishing it.
Anand Ganapathy
Nice read but not as gripping as other books written by Dalrymple.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars for this incredible biography of one of history's most enigmatic and talked-about artefacts. Dalrymple does what he does best; weave a beautiful historical account which is as far removed from the boring history classes in school as is humanly possible. It's story-telling at its finest and something that the rich and diverse history of the subcontinent deserves.

Spanning countries, decades and dynasties, the book provides an incredibly vivid and informative timeline of the diamond's
Zain Hashmy
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know a book is going to be good when 30% of it is just references. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I love a well researched book, and that is exactly what William Dalrymple delivers, with stunning descriptions, unrivalled passion, an incredible attention to detail and an objective approach that sets the benchmark for every history book.
A book that deals with so many facts and tells such a complicated story should ideally be a dry read, but be it the actual story or the writing style,
The book traces the history of the one of the largest and most famous diamonds in the world - the Koh-i-noor - which is today on public display at the Tower of London. It’s exact origin is unknown and shrouded in mythology having been associated with various rulers in Asia - moving back and forth a few times between modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. It is from India, that the Koh-i-noor moved across the sea to the U.K. - when the 10-year old Maharaja of Punjab Duleep Singh was ...more
Archita Mitra
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading this book I would have never imagined it would be this intriguing a read! I honestly expected it to be a dry, factual account of the history of the world's most famous diamond. But the pages of this book are soaked with murders, poisonings, mysterious epidemics, family rivalry, despotic rulers and battles to the death. And amidst all this blood and destruction there shines the Koh-i-noor. Indeed, it's a real life 'ring of power' from the Lord of the Rings.
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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