The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 by William Dalrymple - review by Sebastian Shakespeare

Sebastian Shakespeare

The Rebel Emperor

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


Bloomsbury 608pp £25 order from our bookshop

What marks William Dalrymple out among other contemporary historians of India is his relish for his subject. His love of the country permeates every page of this new book: his third volume of history centred on Delhi (where he has lived on and off since 1984), it follows on from The City of Djins and White Mughals. The Last Mughal is not so much a biography of the poet-king Zafar as a portrait of the city and its destruction following the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It kicks off with the lavish wedding procession of the royal heir, Prince Jawan Bakht, and ends with Zafar's burial in an unmarked grave in Rangoon.

As the author comments: ‘It was an odd sort of religious war where a Muslim Emperor was pushed into a rebellion against his Christian oppressors by a mutinous army of overwhelmingly Hindu sepoys.’ Of the 139,000 sepoys all but 7,796 rose up against the East India Company. The initial spark

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