India has a strange way with its conquerors: it welcomes them in, then slowly seduces them. The Mughals, it was said, arrived as "ruddy men in boots", and left as "pale persons in petticoats". For a time, it looked as if India's Western colonisers would follow their example.
'White Mughals' tells a story stranger than any fiction, revealing a very different and largely forgotten side of colonial history: the process of transculturisation, or "going native", as it used to be called. William Dalrymple examines for the first time the lives of the surprisingly large number of Westerners who responded to India in notably sympathetic and dramatically unconventional ways, wearing local dress, studying Indian history and philosophy, and adopting Indian ways.
From the early sixteenth century, when the Inquisition passed laws banning Portuguese in Goa from wearing the dhoti, to the eve of the Indian Mutiny, the "white mughals" were a source of considerable embarrassment to the imperial colonial servants who administered the subcontinent.
In this book, William Dalrymple uncovers an exotic and previously unexplored world.