Charles Allen (writer)

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Charles Allen
Born 1940
Cawnpore, India
Residence England
Occupation Writer and historian

Charles Allen (born 1940) is a British freelance writer and popular historian who lives in London. His British parents were both born in India and his prolific works focus on the British Raj.


Allen was born in Cawnpore, now known as Kanpur, in British India, where several generations of his family served under the British Raj. Following the independence of India in August 1947, the family moved back to England. His father was subsequently asked to return to India to resume his job as a political officer but Allen and his brother remained in England for their schooling, which in his case ended when he was 17 without academic qualifications. Allen spent three years as a tea taster in the City of London before setting about educating himself in order to become a teacher. A year in Nepal as a teacher with Voluntary Service Overseas (1966–67) convinced him that his future lay in history and travel writing, although it was not until 1974 that he met with any public success through his involvement with the BBC Radio 4 oral history series and book Plain Tales from the Raj. Since then, Allen has spent long periods of his adult life in India as a traveller and writer of history.[citation needed]

His work focuses largely on India and the Indian Subcontinent in general. Allen's most notable recent works include Kipling Sahib: India and the making of Rudyard Kipling, a biography of Rudyard Kipling.[1][2] and Ashoka: the Search for India's Lost Emperor, a work on the discovery of Ashoka by historians. His most recent work, The Prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-43, was published by Haus Books in October 2014.



  • 1975. Plain Tales from the Raj: Images of British India in the Twentieth Century.
  • 1977. RAJ: A Scrapbook of British India 1877-1947. ISBN 0-31266-307-2
  • 1979. Tales from the Dark Continent: Images of British Colonial Africa in the Twentieth Century.
  • 1982. A Mountain in Tibet: The Search for Mount Kailas and the Sources of the Great Rivers of India.
  • 1983. Tales from the South China Seas: Images of the British in South-East Asia in the Twentieth Century.
  • 1984. Lives of the Indian Princes, with co-author Sharada Dwivedi.
  • 1987. Kipling's Kingdom: His Best Indian Stories.
  • 1986. A Glimpse of the Burning Plain: Leaves from the Journals of Charlotte Canning.
  • 1988. A Soldier of the Company: Life of an Indian Ensign 1833-43. ISBN 0-71813-121-5
  • 1989. Architecture of the British Empire, Ed. R. Fermor-Hesketh.
  • 1990. The Savage Wars of Peace: Soldiers' Voices 1945-1989. ISBN 0-71812-882-6
  • 1991. Thunder and Lightning: the RAF in the Gulf War.
  • 1999. The Search for Shangri-La: a Journey into Tibetan History.
  • 2000. India Through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911, Ed. Vidya Dehejia.
  • 2000. Soldier Sahibs: the Men who Made the North-West Frontier. ISBN 0-78670-861-1.
  • 2002. The Buddha and the Sahibs: the Men who Discovered India's Lost Religion.
  • 2004. Duel in the Snows: the True Story of the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa.
  • 2005. Maharajas: Resonance from the Past.
  • 2006. God's Terrorists: the Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad.
  • 2007. Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling.ISBN 978-0-349-11685-3.
  • 2008. The Buddha and Dr Fuhrer: an Archaeological Scandal. ISBN 978-014341-574-9.
  • 2011. The Taj at Apollo Bunder: the History of the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, with co-author Sharada Dwivedi.
  • 2012. Ashoka: the Search for India's Lost Emperor. ISBN 1-46830-071-7.
  • 2015. The Prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-43. ISBN 978-1-910376-11-9.
  • 2017. Coromandel: a personal history of South India. ISBN 978-1-4087-0539-1.
  • 2017. Introduction to Rudyard Kipling, The Eyes of Asia.



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