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Love and Betrayal in India: The White Mughal

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In the late 18th century, when the power of the East India Company was at its height, a talented young diplomat-soldier, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, became Resident of the mainly Muslim city of Hyderabad. Born in India, Kirkpatrick loved the country, adopting its clothing and habits, but shocked his bosses by marrying a local noblewoman, Khair un-Nissa, and converting to Islam to do so.

Travel writer and historian William Dalrymple, who’s written an award-winning book about Kirkpatrick, takes us to Hyderabad to revisit this heady, but ultimately tragic love affair. Much of the evidence comes from fabulously atmospheric miniature paintings and now crumbling architecture, from a time before frankly racist Victorian morals pulled British and Indian interests apart. And Dalrymple’s own ancestor has a bit part in the tale.


Historian and author William Dalrymple travels to the Indian city of Hyderabad to explore the 18th-century love affair between British diplomat James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa, the young Muslim princess he married. Dalrymple tells the story of the Kirkpatricks, and their children, through the art and architecture of the time, from the classic Georgian portraiture of George Chinnery and Thomas Hickey to the Deccani miniatures of Venkatchellam and Tajully Ali Shah.

Cast & Crew

Presenter William Dalrymple
Contributor Maya Jasanoff
Contributor Navina Haider
Contributor Durba Ghosh
Contributor Jagdish Mittal
Contributor David Vaughan
Director Spike Geilinger
Producer Lydia Conway
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