21 January, Saturday
10-11 a.m. | Durbar Hall | The Tartan Turban: A Scots-American at Ranjit Singh’s Court | John Keay introduced by William Dalrymple
Famously portrayed in 1864 dressed in a tartan suit with a splendid matching turban, Alexander Gardner was a 19th century Scots-American traveller, adventurer and mercenary who lived a life many found too outrageous to believe. ‘Gordana Sahib’ became the first American to visit Afghanistan in the 1820s after fighting his way across the deserts and mountain passes of Central Asia. He eventually emerged to take up service under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in his Sikh-ruled Punjab, becoming an actor in a pivotal bloodbath in South Asian history that resonates to this day. Using original material, including newly discovered papers by Gardner himself, John Keay’s investigative biography The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner takes readers on a quest from the American West to the Asian East to unravel ‘the greatest enigma in the history of travel’.
John Keay has written numerous books on South Asia, mostly histories. His latest work, The Tartan Turban, is a long awaited inquest into the adventures of Alexander Gardner, colonel of artillery in the army of the Sikh Khalsa and unquestionably ‘travel’s greatest enigma’.
10-11 a.m. | Front Lawn | The Biographers’ Ball | A.N. Wilson, Andrew Roberts, David Cannadine, Lucinda Hawksley, Roy Foster and Suzannah Lipscomb in conversation with Anita Anand
How do you research and write someone else’s life and pin that life to the page? Biographers of figures as diverse as Tolstoy, Napoleon, Dante, Henry VIII, Lord Nelson, Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, Dickens, Yeats and Jesus discuss techniques and obsessions with Anita Anand.
Andrew Roberts FRSL is a visiting professor at King’s College, London. Dr. Roberts’ Napoleon the Great won the Los Angeles Times Biography Prize and the Grand Prix of the Fondation Napoleon, was a New York Times bestseller and has been optioned by Harvey Weinstein for a major TV series.
11.15-12.15 p.m. | Front Lawn | Standing on an Apple Box: Memoirs and Memories | Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth Dhanush in conversation with Sudha Sadhanand
Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth Dhanush’s memoir chronicles her childhood memories, the experiences of being the daughter of superstar Rajnikanth and being married to a person who is equally well-known in the industry. In conversation with Sudha Sadhanand, she explores the highs and lows of her life.
Aishwaryaa Rajinikanth Dhanush is a film director and a start-up entrepreneur. She is the daughter of the legendary actor Rajinikanth and is married to Dhanush, also one of India’s best-known actors. She is the mother of two boys. She lives in Chennai, India. Aishwaryaa is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer (recognized by the state government for the same in 2009), a voracious reader and a passionate writer. In August 2016, she was appointed as UN Women’s Advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment in India. Standing on an Apple Box is her first book.
12.30-1.30 p.m. | Front Lawn | Brexit | A.N. Wilson, Andrew Roberts, Linda Colley, Surjit Bhalla and Timothy Garton Ash in conversation with Jonathan Shainin
‘Britain cannot leave Europe any more than Piccadilly Circus can leave London,’ wrote Timothy Garton Ash the morning after the British voted for Brexit. ‘Europe is where we are, and where we will remain. Britain has always been a European country, its fate inextricably intertwined with that of the continent, and it always will be. But it is leaving the European Union. Why?’ In this session, leading writers on either side of the debate — Garton Ash himself, A.N. Wilson, Andrew Roberts, Linda Colley and Surjit Bhalla compare Brexit notes with Jonathan Shainin.
3.45-4.45 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Winner or Loser: Does the 21st Century Belong to China? | Dambisa Moyo, Madeleine O’Dea, Mei Fong and Rob Schmitz in conversation with C. Raja Mohan
China’s growth over the last two decades has astonished the world. The scale of its campaign for hard and soft commodities is among the largest in history. But what are the implications of China’s rush for resources across the world? What does it mean for the rest of the region when the Chinese military has achieved such strategic domination? Is China an unstable powder keg waiting to explode amid the force of its own suppressed contradictions? Or does the 21st century now belong to China?
C. Raja Mohan, a leading commentator on international affairs, has long offered deep insights into India’s engagement with the world. The Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the world’s top hundred global thinkers in 2009. He is a contributing editor for The Indian Express and a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi. Raja Mohan is also associated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore, and the Lowy Institute, Sydney. He has served on India’s National Security Advisory Board. His earlier books include Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India’s New Foreign Policy; Impossible Allies: India, the United States and the Global Nuclear Order; and Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific.
3.45-4.45 p.m. | Durbar Hall | Alex Ross introduced by Ruth Padel | The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century
In this sweeping and dramatic session, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together the histories of the 20th century and its music, from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties through to Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and downtown New York in the sixties and seventies up to the present. Taking readers into the labyrinth of modern style, Ross draws revelatory connections between the century’s most influential composers and the wider culture. The Rest Is Noise is an astonishing history of the 20th century as told through its music.
Alex Ross is the music critic of The New Yorker and the author of the books The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century and Listen to This. He has received a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guardian First Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.
3.45-4.45 p.m. | Cox & Kings Charbagh | The Dishonourable Company: How the East India Company took over India | Giles Milton, John Keay, Jon Wilson, Linda Colley and Shashi Tharoor in conversation with William Dalrymple
We still talk about the British conquering India but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century but a dangerously unregulated private company run in India by an unstable sociopath and headquartered in London out of a small office occupying less than 200 yards of City street frontage. In the 18th century, the East India Company moved from being a relatively conventional corporation, trading in silks and spices, to something much odder. By the end of the 18th century, 250 East India Company clerks, backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers, had become the effective rulers of Bengal. Soon the Company morphed from an international trading corporation into an aggressive colonial power. Using its rapidly growing security force, it swiftly succeeded in subduing and seizing an entire subcontinent. How did this happen? Giles Milton, John Keay, Jon Wilson, Linda Colley and Shashi Tharoor discuss the rise of the Dishonourable Company and its legacy with William Dalrymple.
5.15-6.15 p.m. | Mughal Tent | Bee Rowlatt, Brigid Keenan, Emma Sky and Hyeonseo Lee in conversation with Samanth Subramanian
How do you capture your own life and that of your close family in writing? How different is memoir from the autobiographical novel? Masters of the genre, Bee Rowlatt, Brigid Keenan, Emma Sky and Hyeonseo Lee, discuss the difficulty of pinning the self to paper with Samanth Subramanian.
Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. Her recent memoir, The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story, has been published in 18 languages in 25 countries. Over 8 million people have viewed her TED Talk (including the cross-posting on Youtube) about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom. Oprah described it as ‘the most riveting Ted Talk ever’. Lee has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council in 2014 and at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. She’s also discussed North Korean human rights issues with various officials, including UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.