In 1849, through a formal Act of Submission, the terrified 10-year-old leader of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab ceded vast tracts of valuable land to the British East India Company. He also ceded the most treasured jewel on the subcontinent, the magnificent Koh-i-Noor diamond, thus spawning the stuff of legend.

William Dalrymple, who wrote the celebrated “In Xanadu” in his early twenties (still going strong and warmly recommended), lives in India himself. In this revealing book, rife with intrigue and separating fact from fiction, he and his co-author, the BBC journalist, Anita Anand, have traced the trajectory of this astonishing jewel, from the bazaars of New Delhi through the Great Exhibition of 1851 to the elegant crowns of Britain.

Greed, colonialism and appropriation at its inglorious best. A ripping yarn from start to finish.

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