Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

William Dalrymple

Writer and Historian
OP Jindal Distinguished Lecturer (spring 2015)


The Jindal Distinguished Lecture Series was endowed in perpetuity by Sajjan and Sangita Jindal to promote a serious discussion of politics, economics, social and cultural change in modern India. 

William Dalrymple is a British historian and writer based in Delhi. Born in Scotland in 1965, Dalrymple was educated at Ampleforth and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was first History Exhibitioner then Senior History Scholar. In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for five 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. From the Holy Mountain was awarded the Scottish Arts Council Autumn Book Award for 1997; it was also shortlisted for the 1998 Thomas Cook Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. The Age of Kali won the French Prix D’Astrolabe in 2005. For his ensuing books, Dalrymple has won the Wolfson Prize for History, the Scottish Book of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Asia House Award for Asian Literature, the Vodafone Crossword Award and has three times been longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In 2012 he was appointed Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellow in Humanities at Princeton University.

Dalrymple is the bestselling author of In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo, 1989), City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi (Flamingo, 1993), From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (Flamingo, 1997), The Age of Kali (Flamingo, 1998), White Mughals (Penguin Books, 2002), The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006), Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009), and, most recently, The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013).

In 2002, Dalrymple was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for his "outstanding contribution to travel literature". He received the Sykes Medal in 2005 from the Royal Society for Asian Affairs for his contribution "to understanding contemporary Islam." In March 2008, he won the James Todd Memorial Prize and in 2011, was awarded the Media Citizen Puraskar by the Indian Confederation of NGOs for emphasizing as an author issues of global importance and concern. In December 2005 his article on the madrasas of Pakistan was awarded the prize for Best Print Article of the Year at the 2005 Foreign Press Association Media Awards.

Dalrymple is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Asiatic Society, and is a founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian, the TLS, and the New York Review of Books, and is the India correspondent of the New Statesman. He has three honorary doctorates of letters, from the University of St Andrews "for his services to literature and international relations, to broadcasting and understanding," from the University of Lucknow University "for his outstanding contribution in literature and history", and from the University of Aberdeen "for his contribution to the writing of the history of India."

The lectures are available in the video archive.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | The East India Company: The original corporate Raiders
Friday, May 1, 2015 | Afganistan: Return of a King, Redux The lessons of a 19th century catastrophe