"William Dalrymple's captivating book is not only great reading, it contributes very substantially too our understanding of the remarkable history of The Mughal empire in its dying days … It is rare indeed that a work of such consummate scholarship and insight could also be so accessible and such fun to read."
Amartya Sen -
"Some years ago William Dalrymple recognised the historical value of 'the Mutiny Papers' stacked and ignored on the shelves of the Indian National Archives and worked his way through thousands of documents in Persian and Urdu. These have enabled him to construct his brilliant new book, The Last Mughal, a magnificent, multi-dimensional book which shames the simplistic efforts of previous writers… Dalrymple used to be a fine travel writer with a sense of history and has now become a fine historian with a sense of place."
David Gilmour, The Spectator -
"Dalrymple is an outstandingly gifted travel writer and historian who excels himself in his latest work. One of its many merits is that it calls upon hitherto unpublished Urdu and Persian material in Indian archives to tell the story from an Indian as well as a British perspective. This is an angry book as well as a very good one."
Max Hastings, The Sunday Times -
"There is so much to admire in this book- the depth of historical research, the finely evocative writing, the extraordinary rapport with the world of late Mughal India. It is also in many ways a remarkably humane and egalitarian history… [and a] splendid work of empathetic scholarship. As the 150th anniversary of the uprising dawns, there will be many attempts to revisit these bloody, chaotic, cataclysmic events; but few reinterpretations of 1857 will be as bold, as insightful, or as challenging as this."
David Arnold, Times Literary Supplement -
"The Last Mughal is much more than the biography of one man. It is the story of a city, Delhi, teeming with conmen and holy men, hawkers and prostitutes. It is also a lament for the lost world of the Mughals, a genuinely multicultural synthesis of Indian and Islamic traditions, from music to miniature painting. Above all, it is a terrific retelling of the event that ended Zafar's reign - the Indian mutiny of 1857, "The Raj's Stalingrad." He has found a wonderful treasure trove of documents at the Indian National Archives and thanks to these rich sources The Last Mughal brims with life, colour and complexity, and it will make the most jingoistic reader think again about the effects of British rule on India…. This is an outstanding book, distinguished by its painstaking research, narrative flair and imaginative sympathy. Dalrymple writes with a burning anger, but never loses sight of his obligation to the reader. The result is one of the best history books of the year."
Dominic Sandbrook, The Evening Standard -
"Scotland's finest travel writer is emerging as India's most dazzlingly original historian… what Edward Gibbon was to ancient Rome, William Dalrymple will be to the magnificent Mughals."
David Robinson, The Scotsman -
"This fine book…[was] made possible by some dazzling detective work in Indian archives. It has become a commonplace for historians of the Mutiny to bemoan the lack of sources on the rebel side with the result that the most scrupulous accounts of 1857 betray a British bias. Dalrymple, though, has tracked down swathes of unseen masnuscripts that makes possible the first proper retelling of the Indian side of the great rebellion. As a vivid portrayal of Delhi under siege, the book is unmatched; as an account of life in the invested city it is revolutionary. And as an elegy for the last of the Great Mughals - banished to far-off Rangoon and buried in an unmarked grave - it is deeply humane."
Mike Dash, The Sunday Telegraph -
"Diligently researched and densely informative… Dalrymple's recreation of the city of Delhi under siege forms the monumental backdrop to the tragic figure of the Last Mughal… [and] gives us a fuller picture of the devastation of Delhi than has ever before been presented in English. Dalrymple's work laments the loss of an elegant tradition, a celebration of what was lost, the tone changing from epic to elegy and back."
Aamer Hussein, The Independent -
"William Dalrymple brilliantly evokes the tense equilibrium on the eve of the Indian Mutiny, and with pace and panache, leads us to the explosion… Dalrymple's towering achievement in providing almost hourly detail lies in his sources. Drawing widely on Persian and Urdu manuscripts, he narrates the chaos through memoirs, letters, official reports and a sweeping understanding of Indian and Muslim cultures. Dalrymple tells the story of the British retribution with anger and horror."
Michael Binyon, The Times -
"Dalrymple, using for the first time a dazzling array of primary sources in Urdu as well as in English, places Delhi squarely in the centre of the uprising… He is at his best in pre-Mutiny Delhi and brilliantly recreates a typical pre-Mutiny day. Dalrymple began working on the Last Mughal in 2001, and it is informed throughout with poignant awareness of contemporary events. His final words are a bleak warning, and one can only hope that the Last Mughal finds its way onto the bedtime tables of current world leaders."
Lucy Moore, The Daily Mail -
"An exhaustive, deeply informed and compelling new book, bulging with scholarship. The strength of this book lies in the breadth of its quotations from unpublished primary sources. In deploying his material, Dalrymple shows he has the two essential gifts of the historian: a grasp of detail, and an ability to see the big picture. Dalrymple writes with unfaltering elegance and clarity [in this]… challenging, impressive book."
Sara Wheeler, The Daily Telegraph -
"The story of the Indian Mutiny has been told many times in many ways. Few have managed to evoke as well as William Dalrymple what life was like on both sides of the divide. Dalrymple's narrative is artfully divided between descriptions of the besieged court ensconced at the Red Fort and the harried forces of the British gathered on the ridge. Thanks to an understanding of India gained during a 20-year familiarity with Delhi, and an indefatigable persuit of primary sources, Dalrymple has produced a finely balanced account of the greatest armed challenge faced by any European power during the 19th century, and of the bloodthirsty revenge the British exacted on those who dared to rise up against them."
Jo Johnson, Financial Times -
"Dalrymple argues convincingly for the contribution of colonialism to the rise of religious radicalism in India... A skilfully written, impeccably researched history."
Rachel Aspden, The Observer -
"What marks out William Dalrymple out among other contemporary historians of India is his relish for the subject. His love of the country permeates every page of this new book… Drawing on 20,000 unused papers languishing in the Indian National Archives, Dalrymple has unparalleled access to eyewitness accounts, notes scribbled by spies, and petitions to the King. His research has been prodigious, his enthusiasm is infectious and he is an incomparable guide. Dalrymple writes with great verve, clarity and style."
Sebastian Shakespeare, The Literary Review -
"William Dalrymple's captivating book is not only great reading, it contributes very substantially too our understanding of the remarkable history of The Mughal empire in its dying days, and also to the history of Delhi, of India, of Hindu-Muslim collaboration, and of Indo-British relations in a critically important phase of imperialism and rebellion. It is rare indeed that a work of such consummate scholarship and insight could also be so accessible and such fun to read."
Amartya Sen -
"An outstanding book: meticulously researched, it makes full use of an extraordinary number of previously unexplored sources in British and Indian archives. Its author displays exemplary fairness and empathy in his judgments on events and people and in his selection of episodes. And finally, Dalrymple is as attentive to literary style as he is to historical research. The book's brisk narrative quickly grips our attention and holds it to the end. This is well-reasoned history at its enjoyable best."
C. M. Naim, Professor Emeritus,South Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago -
"The Indian rebellion of 1857-8 and the deposition of the last Mughal Emperor were events of epochal importance. William Dalrymple tells this dramatic and tragic story with literary elegance, erudition and a wealth of new material."
C A Bayly, Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, University of Cambridge -
"William Dalrymple's new book is an invaluable addition to the literature on the revolt 1857. It looks at the uprising in Delhi largely on the basis of sources which have not previously been read by any historian. He brings alive those fateful months of 1857, and in the process recreates also the outstanding literary achievements of the dying Mughal court. It is a poignant story, extremely well narrated with much new facts and analysis."
Rudrangshu Mukherjee, author of Avadh in Revolt and Mangal Pandey -
"William Dalrymple's latest work, The Last Mughal, is the most definitive account of events centred on Bahadur Shah Zafar and the great Indian mutiny in and around Delhi in 1857-58. Based upon an immense amount of empirical research, often unearthing archival material hitherto untouched by historians, Dalrymple achieves an admirable balance between fairness and a moving empathy with the subjects of his book. Dalrymple brings home the overwhelming grandeur of the tragedy enacted in those fateful months and its aftermath."
Harbans Mukhia, Emeritus Professor of History, JNU -
"Dalrymple's extensive and innovative archival research has enabled him to present a striking new perspective on the tragic events of 1857 as centred on Delhi. Drawing upon hitherto largely untapped records and sources, Dalrymple has insightfully and engagingly recovered the history of the rising religious passions and racial hostility that swept away the highly cultured Shahjahanabad of Bahadur Shah Zafar."
Michael H. Fisher, Danforth Professor of History, Oberlin College, USA.