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

William Dalrymple, Author
William Dalrymple, Author . Knopf $30 (534p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4310-1
Reviewed on: 02/19/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Paperback - 534 pages - 978-1-4000-7833-2
Hardcover - 578 pages - 978-0-7475-8639-5
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In time for the 150th anniversary of the Great Mutiny, the uprising that came close to toppling British rule in India, Dalrymple presents a brilliant, evocative exploration of a doomed world and its final emperor, Bahadur Shah II, descendant of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Bahadur, more familiarly known as Zafar, was a reluctant revolutionary: the mutinous sepoys who had murdered every Christian in Delhi proclaimed him their commander, an honor he hadn't sought. British besiegers took the capital in September 1857, followed by massacre, purges and destruction. Zafar died five years later in penury and exile. Dalrymple (White Mughals ), however, is primarily concerned with compiling "a portrait of the Delhi he [Zafar] personified, a narrative of the last days of the Mughal capital and its final destruction." In this task, he has been immeasurably aided by his discovery of a colossal trove of documents in Indian national archives in Delhi and elsewhere. Thanks to them Dalrymple can vividly recreate, virtually at street level, the life and death of one of the most glorious and progressive empires ever seen. That the rebels fatefully raised the flag of jihad and dubbed themselves "mujahedin" only adds to the mutiny's contemporary relevance. 24 pages of illus., 16 in color; 2 maps. History Book Club featured selection. (Apr. 1)

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