Patrick French

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For the Irish Roman Catholic bishop, see Patrick French (bishop).
Patrick French

Patrick French (born 1966) is a British writer and historian, based in London and Delhi. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh where he studied English and American literature.[1]

French is the author of several books including : Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994), a biography of Francis Younghusband, The World Is What It Is (2008), an authorised biography of Nobel Laureate V.S Naipaul which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the United States of America.,[2] and India: A Portrait. An intimate biography of 1.2 billion people.(2010)

During the 1992 general election, French was a Green Party candidate for Parliament. He has sat on the executive committee of the Tibet Support Group UK, and was a founding member of the inter-governmental India-UK Round Table.[3]

Books and awards[edit]

At the age of 25, French set off on a trail across Central Asia to retrace the steps of British explorer Francis Younghusband. This resulted in the publication of his first book, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer in 1994.[4] The book went on to win both the Somerset Maugham Award[5] and the Royal Society of Literature's W.H. Heinemann Prize.

French's next book, Liberty or Death – India's Journey to Independence and Division was published in 1997 and earned the author accolades and brickbats in equal parts. Described in the Indian media as presenting a "revisionist view" of Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah's role in the Indian Independence movement,[6] there were a few calls to ban the book in India. On the other hand, Philip Ziegler hailed it as "a remarkable achievement,"[7] and Khushwant Singh described the author as "a first rate historian and storyteller." The book sold heavily due to the controversy and French was awarded the London Sunday Times Young Author of the Year award for the book.[8]

Published in 2003, Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History Of A Lost Land was French’s third book. According to the author’s own accounts, his interest in Tibet was triggered by a meeting he had with the Dalai Lama when he was 16. The book though emerged from "a gradual nervousness that the western idea of Tibet, particularly the views of Tibet campaigners, was becoming too detached from the reality of what Tibet was like. So I did a long journey through Tibet in 1999."[9] The Independent described the book as "intelligent as well as passionate in its approach."[10] Pico Iyer in The Los Angeles Times book review described French as a "scrupulous and disciplined writer" who "has a decided gift for inspired and heartfelt research and a knack for coming upon overlooked details that are worth several volumes of analysis."[11]

The World Is What It Is, an authorised biography of Nobel Prize–winning author V.S Naipaul was published in 2008. In the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma conferred French as the inventor of a new genre, "the confessional biography."[12] The book was selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the "10 Best books of 2008."[13] In 2008, The World Is What It Is was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award[14] in America, and was also short listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize.[15] French was also awarded the Hawthornden Prize in 2009 for the book.[16]

In 2010, Patrick released his book 'India: A Portrait'. He calls it 'an intimate biography of 1.2 billion people'. The book is a narrative of the social and economic revolutions that are transforming India. As part of the book release, he has also started an India focused website called The India Site.[17]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Meru Gokhale, currently the Editorial Director at Random House India, and the daughter of author and publisher Namita Gokhale. This is his second marriage.


In 2003, French was offered the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[18]


  • Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994)
  • Liberty Or Death: India’s Journey To Independence and Division (1997)
  • Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History Of A Lost Land (2003)
  • The World Is What It Is (2008)
  • India: A Portrait (2010)


External links[edit]