White Mughals : Love and Betrayal in 18th-Century India, Paperback

White Mughals : Love and Betrayal in 18th-Century India Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


From the author of the Samuel Johnson prize-shortlisted 'Return of a King', the romantic and ultimately tragic tale of a passionate love affair that transcended all the cultural, religious and political boundaries of its time.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of Hyderabad when he met Khair un-Nissa - 'Most Excellent among Women' - the great-niece of the Prime Minister of Hyderabad.

He fell in love with her and overcame many obstacles to marry her, converting to Islam and, according to Indian sources, becoming a double-agent working against the East India Company.

It is a remarkable story, but such things were not unknown: from the early sixteenth century to the eve of the Indian Mutiny, the 'white Mughals' who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways were a source of embarrassment to successive colonial administrations.

Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as 'Hindoo Stuart', who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his temple of idols, and Sir David Auchterlony, who took all 13 of his Indian wives out for evening promenades, each on the back of her own elephant. In 'White Mughals', William Dalrymple discovers a world almost entirely unexplored by history, and places at its centre a compelling tale of seduction and betrayal.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640 pages, 24 b/w, 24 col illus
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780006550969



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Looking back on reading I can say a few words of criticism. The background made the book slow to start, the detail dragged you away from the main focus and the foot notes did repeat information on occasion. But while I was reading it was so compelling, so beautifully detailed, researched and written that I didn’t care.This book is a sound grounding in the lives of the Europeans, the Indians and the inbetweens in eighteenth century India. It tells of the lives of men who not only went to India but loved India and adopted it as there home. A fresh antidote to the Victorian ideas of separateness, of coloniser and colonised.

Review by

Uneven pace and endless detail in the second half spoilt what I'd anticipated as a great read. Got to see the portrait of the 2 children in HSBC's HK HQ.

Review by

The June choice for our reading group was The White Mughals by William Dalrymple. The comments from the group were split into essentially three camps, those that loved it, those who read it and persevered and those who hated it.I fell into the loved it camp and I did love it. The book took the author 5 years to write. It is thoroughly researched and painstakingly written, threading the storyline together with the use of historical documents and probable hypothesis when the documentation can not support the theory.The book is based upon the surviving papers and diaries from 18th Century British aristocrats who spent many years in India. What is shown is India in context with history; the defeat of Napoleon in Egypt for example. The book explores the culture exchange, where many of the men in the region "go native" with local women and then send the children back to England to be educated. The book explores the Christian/Muslim/Hindu exchange which was perfectly acceptable in the 18th Century, alas when the 19th Century appears that exchange and the "go native" approach is scorned and unaccepted.The book does cover the romance of James Achilles Kirkpatrick who was a promising British resident in Hyderabad, and a young noblewoman and descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, called Khair-un-Nissa and whilst this romance is essentially the backbone of the book, it in some ways fades into the background amongst the historical aspects of India and the region at this time.Even so, I loved the book, I loved the provision of sources and notes and the depth of research and for me this has to be the read of the year.

Also by William Dalrymple   |  View all