Tuesday, 8 March 2005
The Hong Kong Fooll Club, Causeway Bay
Drinks Reception with Canapes 6.30 pm
Lecture 7.30 pm We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong the great travel writer and historian William Dalrymple to lecture on White Mughals, the extraordinary story of the world of the British in 18th century India, which explores vividly the dealings between the Indian princes and the East India Company. Mr. Dalrymple's eponymous book White Mughals, regarded as his masterpiece, won the Wolfson Prize for History 2003 and the Scottish Book of the Year prize, and was shortlisted for the PEN History Award, the Kiryama Prize and other awards. A stage version by Christopher Hampton has just been cocommissioned by the Royal National Theatre and the Tamasha Theatre Company. In White Mughals, William Dalrymple discovers a world almost entirely unexplored by history, set in the early days of the British conquest of India. White Mughals is the product of five years' writing and research from previously unused Indian and British primary sources. In the fiveyear process of researching and writing it, Mr. Dalrymple changed the Victorian notion of a subcontinent strictly bisected into the rulers and the ruled. Using rare, forgotten or otherwise ignored texts from British and Indian sources, he reveals the extent to which the colonisers and their subjects prospered together. These include Mr. Dalrymple's own remarkable discoveries in the British Library's India Office Library, his chance find of a crucial 1,600page autobiography in a dusty bookshop in a Hyderabadi bazaar and the unearthing of some obscure letters in an Oxford library. The principal character of Mr. Dalrymple's book is James Kirkpatrick, who was the British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad when in 1798 he glimpsed Khair unNissa, the great niece of the Nizam's Prime Minister. Kirkpatrick had gone out to India as an ambitious soldier in the army of the East India Company, eager to make his name in the conquest and subjection of the subcontinent. Instead, he fell in love with Khair, and overcame many obstacles to marry her. Eventually, while remaining Resident, Kirkpatrick according to Indian sources even became a doubleagent working for the Hyderabadis against the East India Company. This lecture reveals other remarkable 'white Mughals' who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways and who were a source of difficulty and embarrassment to successive colonial administrations until the Victorian era. William Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as 'Hindoo Stuart', who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his templeful of idols, and who spent many years trying to persuade the memsahibs of Calcutta to adopt the sari and Sir David Ochterlony, Kirkpatrick's counterpart in Delhi, who took all thirteen of his Indian wives out for evening promenades, each on her own elephant. Mr. Dalrymple also covers the shifting alliances and the maneuvering of the great powers, the mercantile ambitions of the British and the imperial dreams of Napoleon. His story of cultural collisions brings to the fore the remarkable early days of British India, while radically changing our views about British India, with relevance to the current debate about racism, colonialism and globalisation. Mr. Dalrymple has emerged not only with a gripping tale of politics and power but also with evidence of the surprising extent of cultural exchange in preVictorian India, before the arrogance of empire set in and a story not of conquest but of appreciation. William Dalrymple was born in Scotland. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twentytwo, which won several awards. In 1989, Mr. Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six years researching his second book, City of Djinns, which won the 1994 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. His next book was From the Holy Mountain, his acclaimed study of the demise of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homeland, which was followed by a collection of his writings about India, The Age of Kali, in 1998. William Dalrymple is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Asiatic Society, and in 2002 was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for his 'outstanding contribution to travel literature'. He wrote and presented the television series Stones of the Raj and Indian Journeys, which won the Grierson Award for Best Documentary Series at BAFTA in 2002 and he has had several successful radio series. Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is $150 for Members and HK$200 for others. This includes a free drink with snacks and canapes at the Reception prior to the lecture.