William Dalrymple (historian)

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William Dalrymple
Dalrymple in 2014
Born (1965-03-20) 20 March 1965 (age 49)
Occupation Writer, historian
Nationality Scottish
Period 1989–present
Genre History, travel
Subject India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, Eastern Christianity, Muslim World, Christian-Muslim relations, religious syncretism
Spouse Olivia Fraser
Children 3

William Dalrymple FRSL, FRGS, FRAS[1] (born William Hamilton-Dalrymple on 20 March 1965) is a British historian, and writer, art historian and curator, as well as a prominent broadcaster and critic.

His books have won numerous awards including the Duff Cooper and the Wolfson Prize, and he has been 4 times longlisted and once shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. He is also one of the co-founders and co-directors of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival.[2][3][4]

In 2012 he was appointed a Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellow in the Humanities by Princeton University.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Dalrymple is the son of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, 10th Baronet, who was a cousin of Virginia Woolf. He was educated at Ampleforth College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was first a history exhibitioner and then a senior history scholar.

Dalrymple first came to Delhi in 26 January 1984.[6] Dalrymple has lived in India on and off since 1989 and spends most of the year at his Mehrauli farmhouse in the outskirts of Delhi,[7] but summers in London and Edinburgh. His wife Olivia is an artist and comes from a family with long-standing connections to India. They have three children, Ibby, Sam, and Adam.

Interests and influence[edit]

William Dalrymple (left) with Esther Freud (centre) and Hanan Ashrawi at PalFest 2008.

Dalrymple's interests include the history and art of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Muslim world, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Jains and early Eastern Christianity. All of his seven books have won literary prizes, as have his radio and television documentaries. His first three were travel books based on his journeys in the Middle East, India and Central Asia. His early influences included the travel writers such as Robert Byron, Eric Newby, and Bruce Chatwin. More recently, Dalrymple published a book of essays about current affairs in South Asia, and two award-winning histories of the interaction between the British and the Mughals between the eighteenth and mid nineteenth century. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books,[8] The Guardian,[9] the New Statesman[10] and The New Yorker.[11] He has also written many articles for Time magazine. He has been the South Asia correspondent of the New Statesman since 2004.

He attended the inaugural Palestine Festival of Literature in 2008 – giving readings and taking workshops in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem.[12] He is a Patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.[12]

His 2009 book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, was published by Bloomsbury, and went to the number one slot on the Indian non-fiction section best-seller list.[13] Since its publication he has been touring the UK, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, Holland and the US with a band consisting of some of the people featured in his book including Sufis, Fakirs, Bauls, Theveram hymn singers as well as a prison warder and part-time Theyyam dancer widely believed to be an incarnation of the God Vishnu.[14]

His most recent book, a history of the First Afghan War 1839–42, Return of a King- The Battle for Afghanistan, was published in India in December 2012,[15][16] and in February 2013 appeared in the UK. The US edition will be published by Knopf in April. (Dalrymple's great-great-granduncle Captain Colin Mackenzie fought in the war and was briefly detained by the Afghans.). He was also the curator of Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi 1707–1857, a major show of the late Mughal and Company School painting for the Asia Society in New York, which ran from February to May 2012.[17] A catalogue of this exhibit co-edited by Dalrymple with Yuthika Sharma was published by Penguin in 2012 under the same name.[15] He is currently working on The Anarchy, a history of South Asia during the period between 1739–1803 which saw the collapse of the Mughal imperial system and the militarisation and rise of power of the East India Company.

He was one of ten authors to have contributed to Ox Travels published by Profile Books Ltd in May 2011. In August 2014, Dalrymple was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[18]



Popular culture[edit]

TV and radio[edit]

Dalrymple has written and presented the six part television series Stones of the Raj (Channel 4, August 1997),[19] the three part Indian Journeys (BBC, August 2002)[20] and Sufi Soul (Channel 4, Nov 2005).[21]

The six part Stones of the Raj documents the stories behind some of British India's colonial architecture starting with Lahore (16 August 1997), Calcutta (23 August 1997), The French Connection (30 August 1997), The Fatal Friendship (6 September 1997), Surrey in Tibet (13 September 1997), and concluded with The Magnificent Ruin (20 September 1997).

The trilogy of Indian Journeys consists of three one hour episodes starting with Shiva’s Matted Locks which while tracing the source of the river Ganges, takes Dalrymple on a journey to the Himalayas. The second part City of Djinns, is based on his travel book of the same name, takes a look at Delhi’s history, and last Doubting Thomas, which takes Dalrymple to the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where St Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus is closely associated.[22]

He has done a six-part history series The Long Search for Radio 4.[23] In this series Dalrymple searches to discover the spiritual roots of the British Isles. As Dalrymple says "In the course of my travels I often came across the assumption that intense spirituality was somehow the preserve of what many call 'the mystic East'... it's a misconception that has always irritated me as I've always regarded our own indigenous British traditions of spirituality as especially rich."

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ Dalrymple, William (2014-03-08). "BBC News - Is Afghanistan really impossible to conquer?". Bbc.com. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  2. ^ "The Greatest Literary Show on Earth". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 3 February 2009. 
  3. ^ "Looking for something special? Try treasure hunting in India". KiwiCollection.com. Retrieved 22 April 2008. 
  4. ^ "Writes of passage". Hindustan Times. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  5. ^ Short-Term Visiting Fellows, Princeton University retrieved 1 October 2012.
  6. ^ William Dalrymple. "Introduction". The Last Mughal. Penguin. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-143-10243-4. 
  7. ^ Karan Mahajan (February–March 2011). "The Don of Dehli". Bookforum.com. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Book review by William Dalrymple". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  9. ^ "Articles by William Dalrymple". London: GuardianUnlimited. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  10. ^ "Articles by William Dalrymple". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  11. ^ "Articles by William Dalrymple". The New Yorker. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  12. ^ a b "Caabu Reception: An evening with William Dalrymple". The Council for Arab-British Understanding. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "William's new book tops bestseller list". Hindustan Times. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "On Tour with the Madmen". Financial Times. 18 September 2009. 
  15. ^ a b William Dalrymple`s book on first Anglo-Afghan war out in December Zee News
  16. ^ Author William Dalrymple takes a swipe at the Empire Daily Mail 7 December 2012
  17. ^ Princes and Painters, Asia Society retrieved 4 October 2012.
  18. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  19. ^ "Stones of the Raj". British Film Institute. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  20. ^ "BBC World to premiere Indian Journeys 20 August". Channel 4. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  21. ^ "Sufi Soul". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  22. ^ "The voyager – William Dalrymple". Mid Day. 9 August 2002. Retrieved 17 August 2007. 
  23. ^ "The Long Search". BBC. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  24. ^ "The Last Mughal". Oxford Bookstore. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  25. ^ "thomas cook travel book award 1980–2003". THE BOOKLIST CENTER. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  26. ^ "From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium". Stanfords. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  27. ^ "Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters". Stanfords. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  28. ^ a b "White Mughals". The City Circle. Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  29. ^ a b "William Dalrymple". Contemporary Writers: British Council. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  30. ^ "William Dalrymple". Penguin Books India. Archived from the original on 9 January 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  31. ^ "Author in Focus: Interview with William Dalrymple". Penguin Books India. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  32. ^ "William Dalrymple". Cerebration.Org. Archived from the original on 9 January 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  33. ^ "Honorary Degrees June 2006". University of St. Andrews. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  34. ^ "Girls steal the show at LU convocation". Express India. 18 November 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2007. 
  35. ^ "Vodafone Crossword Popular Book Awards honours best writers". India Infoline.com. 5 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  36. ^ "Graduates told to make their mark in life". The Press and Journal. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  37. ^ "The winners take it all". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008. 
  38. ^ "Anupam Kher, William Dalrymple Honoured". OutlookIndia.com. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  39. ^ "University of Bradford degree honours for familiar faces". The Telegraph and Argusl. 8 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 

External links[edit]