The 2018 Fairway Galle Literary Festival welcomes writer and historian Charles Allen.
Charles Allen (born 1940) is a British freelance writer and historian whose prolific works focus on the British Raj.
Allen was born in in Kanpur in British India, where several generations of his family served under the British Raj.
Allen has published over 25 books since Plain Tales from the Raj: Images of British India in the Twentieth Century in 1975. His most notable works include, Kipling Sahib: India and the making of Rudyard Kipling (2007), a biography of Rudyard Kipling and Ashoka: the Search for India’s Lost Emperor (2012), a biography of Emperor Askoka Maurya.
In his quest to govern India by moral force alone, India’s ‘lost emperor’, Ashoka Maurya, turned Buddhism from a minor sect into a world religion and set up a new yardstick for government which had huge implications for Asia. His brave experiment ended in tragedy and his name was cleansed from the record so effectively that he was forgotten for almost two thousand years. All but a few mysterious stone monuments and inscriptions survived, and bit by bit, fragments of the Ashokan story were found and in the process India’s ancient history was itself recovered. In a wide-ranging, multi-layered journey of discovery that is as much about Britain’s entanglement with India as it as about India’s distant past, Charles Allen tells the story of the man who was arguably the greatest ruler India has ever known.
His most recent work, The Prisoner of Kathmandu: Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-43, was published by Haus Books in October 2014.
The Prisoner of Kathmandu is the story of Brian Hodgson, Britain’s “father of Himalayan studies.” More than a biography of Hodgson and a study of political relations between countries, this book is also an in-depth look at the western Orientalist movement driven by the European Enlightenment. Hodgson, who studied Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhism, soon took interest in Nepal’s biodiversity and the region’s peoples and geography. He was also a key player in the struggle between those hoping to reshape India along British lines and those working to preserve local culture. Though overlooked in his own lifetime, Hodgson was later recognized as a major figure in Asian studies, a leader whose achievements have contributed to anthropology, ethnology, and natural history.
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