White Mughals: Love And Betrayal In Eighteenth-Century India is a tale with many levels, featuring Captain James Achilles Kirkpatrick as the protagonist. On one level, the book details the tragic romance between Kirkpatrick and Khair-un-Nissa, a Muslim noblewoman. On a different level, the story sheds light on the social, military, political, and trade aspects of 18th and 19th century India.
Captain Kirkpatrick is an ambitious soldier in the East India Company. When his eyes settle upon the beautiful Khair, the Nizam’s great-niece, the course of his life takes a new direction. Kirkpatrick soon learns that he must overcome many obstacles in order to marry Khair. Firstly, she is locked in purdah and engaged to be married to a nobleman. Secondly, as a Resident, Kirkpatrick is obligated to convert to Islam, which he hopes will make it easier for him to marry Khair. Kirkpatrick also ends up working as a double-agent, while working for the East India Company, he is actually supporting the Hyderabadis.
Apart from this love story, Dalrymple, also presents a side of history which is virtually unexplored by historians. Through memorable characters such as Hindoo Stuart and Sir David Ochterlony, the author draws readers’ attention to the concept of “white Mughals”. These are people of British descent who had adopted Indian customs, traditions, but who were also a source of embarrassment for colonial administrations. After conducting over five years of research, the author portrays a fascinating portrait about social etiquette, sexual and dismissive attitudes, and the growing racist treatment by the ruling British class towards the offspring of mixed race couples.
White Mughals: Love And Betrayal In Eighteenth-Century India won the 2003 Scottish Book Of the Year. In 2011, Dalrymple announced that British actor Ralph Fiennes would act and direct the movie-version of book.