William Dalrymple

How a humiliating defeat secured Britain its empire

Beneath a flinty church tower deep in the Kent marshes, ‘among putrid estuaries and leaden waters’, lies a monument to an Elizabethan man of business. It is not much to look at. David Howarth calls it ‘second rate… dull’ and ‘strangely provisional’, despite its expanse of glossy alabaster. Moreover, the name of the man commemorated

The forgotten masterpieces of Indian art

As late as the end of the 18th century, only a handful of Europeans had ever seen the legendary Mughal capital of Delhi, which, within living memory, had been the largest, richest and most spectacularly beautiful city on earth, twice the size of London and Paris combined. But after a century of anarchy, Delhi was

Bloodbath in the Punjab

On 10 April 1919, the peppery governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, ordered the immediate arrest of two leaders of the Indian National Congress in Amritsar. Doctors Satyapal and Kitchlew were both gentle, Cambridge-educated medics who had responded to Gandhi’s call for non-violent resistance to British rule, satyagraha. O’Dwyer took the view that their

Nancy Hatch Dupree, 1927-2017: the preserver of Afghan culture

Nancy Hatch Dupree died in Kabul on Sunday, 10 September.  Nancy Hatch Dupree is sitting in the Gandamak Lodge, the Foreign Correspondents hang-out in Kabul. Most of the other diners, and almost all those propping up the bar, are shaven-headed, gym-going young men in their twenties and thirties: a scrum of adrenalin-surfing hacks and cameramen

Ripping yarns

In the 1860s, when British visitors first began to explore the high altitude pleasures of Kashmir, it was not just the beauties of the valley and the cool, pellucid waters of the Dal Lake which took their breath away. Living there was a legendary relic of an earlier age, who quickly became an object of

Divide and quit

In 1929, when Edwin Lutyens handed over the newly completed building site of New Delhi to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, many believed he had created a capital for a British empire in India that would last if not 1,000, then at least 100 years. It was, as Lord Stamfordham wrote, ‘a symbol of the might and permanence

‘I was detained as a potential suicide bomber’

To the Lahore Literary Festival. As I cross the border from India, Pakistan is experiencing an unprecedented wave of sectarian violence: 400 Shias have been killed in bomb attacks this year, while more than 150 houses and two churches belonging to the Christians have been burned in mob attacks. Yet Pakistan always manages to stumble

Diary – 14 February 2013

The Jaipur Literature Festival, which I help to direct, has in just six years grown like some monster from an Indian epic. Each year it doubles in size and we struggle to keep up with the vast crowds who come to hear our authors speak. We’ve also inspired nearly 40 daughter-festivals across South Asia. The

Goa’s two cultures

The best view of the Goan coast can be seen from the topmost turret of the ruined Portuguese fort above Chapora. From the dark upper slopes of the Pernem hills down to the level ground of the coastline stretches mile upon mile of banana and coconut groves, the deep green of the palms offset by

Ignore the hype: Syria shouldn’t be demonised

In the autumn of 1994 I was looking at Byzantine churches on the Syrian-Israeli border for my book From the Holy Mountain. Tele­phoning home, I heard that one of the broadsheets had run a series of prominent stories claiming that Syria was mobilising its troops for an invasion of Israel. The paper described the roads