Charles Allen (writer)

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Charles Allen
Born 1940
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Residence England
Occupation Writer and historian

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


Allen was born in Kanpur, then known as Cawnpore, in British India, where several generations of his family served under the British Raj. He was not born of an Anglo-Indian family, as stated above, but of British parents both born in India, whose ancestors had lived and worked in India for several generations. Following Independence in August 1947 the family moved back to England but when his father was asked to return to India to resume his job as a political officer 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 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 traveler and writer of history.[1]

His work focuses largely on India and the Indian Subcontinent in general. Allen's most notable recent work is Kipling Sahib: India and the making of Rudyard Kipling, a biography of Rudyard Kipling.[2][3] His most recent work, Ashoka: the Search for India's Lost Emperor, was published in February 2012. He is currently working on a biography of Brian Hodgson, the 'father of Himalayan studies', to be published in September 2015 by Haus Books under the title The Prisoner of Kathmandu:Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-1843.[4]



  • 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.
  • 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



  1. ^ Subject's own correction and comments
  2. ^ Kipling Sahib reviewed in The Guardian
  3. ^ Kipling Sahib reviewed in The Independent[dead link]
  4. ^ Subject's comments

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