|Born||20 March 1965|
Scotland, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Historian, Art Historian, Broadcaster, Photographer|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|Subject||The East India Company in 18th Century South Asia & Afghanistan. Eastern Christianity & the Muslim World; Hindu & Buddhist art; Late Mughal and Company School painting.|
William Benedict Hamilton-Dalrymple(born 20 March 1965) is a Delhi-based Scottish historian and art historian, as well as a curator, photographer, broadcaster and critic. He is also one of the co-founders and co-directors of the world's largest writers festival, the annual Jaipur Literature Festival.
His books have won numerous awards and prizes, including the Wolfson Prize for History, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Hemingway, the Kapuściński, the Arthur Ross Medal of the US Council on Foreign Relations, the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. He has been five times longlisted and once shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction and was a Finalist for the Cundill Prize for History. The BBC television documentary on his pilgrimage to the source of the river Ganges, 'Shiva's Matted Locks', one of three episodes of his Indian Journeys series, which Dalrymple wrote and presented, won him the Grierson Award for Best Documentary Series at BAFTA in 2002.
In 2018, he was awarded the President's Medal of the British Academy, the Academy’s highest honour in its suite of prizes and medals awarded for "outstanding service to the cause of the humanities and social sciences."
Dalrymple was the curator of Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi 1707–1857, a major show of the late Mughal painting for the Asia Society in New York, which ran from February to May 2012. A catalogue of this exhibit co-edited by Dalrymple with Yuthika Sharma was published by Penguin in 2012 under the same name. More recently he curated the exhibition of Company style painting, Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company, at the Wallace Collection in London.
In 2012, Dalrymple was appointed a Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellow in the Humanities by Princeton University. In 2015, he was appointed the OP Jindal Distinguished Lecturer at Brown University. He is also since 2021 an Honorary Fellow of the Bodleian Library and a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University He was named in the 2020 Prospect list of the top 50 thinkers for the COVID-19 era.
Dalrymple was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2023 Birthday Honours for services to literature and the arts.
Dalrymple is the son of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, 10th Baronet of North Berwick and Lady Anne-Louise Keppel, a daughter of the Walter Keppel, 9th Earl of Albemarle; through this line of descent, he is the third cousin of Queen Camilla, both being great-great-grandchildren of William Keppel, 7th Earl of Albemarle. He is a great nephew of Virginia Woolf. His brother, Jock, was a first-class cricketer. 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 went to Delhi on 26 January 1984, and has lived in India on and off since 1989 and spends most of the year at his Mehrauli farmhouse in the outskirts of Delhi, but summers in London and Edinburgh. His wife, Olivia, is an artist and comes from a family with long-standing connections to India. The couple have three children. Through his wife's side of the family, he is related to Scottish actress Rose Leslie.
Dalrymple's interests include the history and art of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Jains and early Eastern Christianity. Every one of his ten books have won literary prizes. His first three were travel books based on his journeys in the Middle East, India and Central Asia. His early influences included travel writers such as Robert Byron, Eric Newby, and Bruce Chatwin.
Dalrymple published a book of essays about current affairs in the Indian subcontinent, and four award-winning histories of the interaction between the East India Company and the peoples of India and Afghanistan between the eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century, his "Company Quartet". His books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, the New Statesman and The New Yorker. He has also written many articles for Time magazine. He was the Indian Subcontinent correspondent of the New Statesman from 2004-2014.
He attended the inaugural Palestine Festival of Literature in 2008, giving readings and taking workshops in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem.
His 2009 book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, a study of some of the more esoteric forms of modern Indian, and especially Hindu, spirituality, was published by Bloomsbury, and like all his others, went to the number one slot on the Indian non-fiction best-seller list. After its publication he toured 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, Tevaram hymn singers as well as a prison warder and part-time Theyyam dancer widely believed to incarnate the god Vishnu.
Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, a history of the First Afghan War 1839–42, was published in India in December 2012, in the UK in February 2013, and in the US in April 2013. Dalrymple's great-great-granduncle Colin Mackenzie fought in the war and was briefly detained by the Afghans. Following the publication of the book Dalrymple was called to brief both the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the White House on the lessons to be learned from Afghan history.
His most recent book, published in 2019, is The Anarchy, a history of the Indian Subcontinent during the period from 1739 to 1803, which saw the collapse of the Mughal imperial system, rise of the Maratha imperial confederacy, and the militarisation and rise to power of the East India Company. It was long listed for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2019, and short listed for the Duke of Wellington medal for Military History, the Tata Book of the Year (Non-fiction) and the Historical Writers Association Book Award 2020. It was a Finalist for the Cundill Prize for History and won the 2020 Arthur Ross Bronze Medal from the US Council on Foreign Relations.
He is currently writing a book that is "a sweeping look at India’s ideological colonisation of Asia, China and Europe during the short period between 250 BC to about 800 AD."
Dalrymple has written and presented the six-part television series Stones of the Raj (Channel 4, August 1997), the three-part Indian Journeys (BBC, August 2002) and Sufi Soul (Channel 4, Nov 2005).
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 Ganga, takes Dalrymple on a journey to the Himalayas; the second part, City of Djinns, is based on his travel book of the same name, and takes a look at Delhi's history; lastly, Doubting Thomas takes Dalrymple to the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with which St Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus is closely associated.
He has done a six-part history series The Long Search for Radio 4. In this series Dalrymple searches to discover the spiritual roots of the British Isles. 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."
The BBC broadcast a documentary on 3 September 2015 entitled Love and Betrayal in India: The White Mughal, based on Dalrymple's book White Mughals.
Dalrymple was the historical consultant to ITV's 2019 series Beecham House.
In 2022, Dalrymple teamed up with journalist Anita Anand to create the podcast Empire, the first series of which examines the British East India Company and British involvement and influence on India. The pair had previously collaborated on the book Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond. The Podcast went straight to No.1 in the UK Apple Podcast charts, had over five million downloads in its first six months and was nominated for UK Podcast of the Year in the Broadcasting Press Guild Audio Awards.