Oxford launches book on the history of the Kohinoor

KARACHI: Oxford University Press (OUP) launched its latest publication Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond written by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand. Using previously untranslated Sanskrit, Persian, and Urdu sources, and the discoveries of modern gemmologists to reconstruct its original form, the book traces the history and unravels the mystery surrounding the world’s most famous diamond. Kohinoor is a tale of greed, conquest, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation. Revealing previously unknown moments in the diamond’s history, the story sweeps from the century the Koh-i-Noor spent embedded in the Mughals’ fabulous Peacock Throne to the years it languished unrecognized on a mullah’s desk, used as a paperweight, through to the torture chamber in an attempt to extract the truth about the gem’s hiding place.

William Dalrymple is an acclaimed historian and bestselling author whose books include City of Djinns, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives, and Return of a King. His many awards include the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Wolfson Prize for History, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Hemingway Prize, and the Vodafone/Crossword Award for non-fiction.

Anita Anand has been a radio and television journalist in Britain for over twenty years, presenting major programmes on BBC. Her first book, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, is a highly acclaimed biography of the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh.

The book launch held at a local hotel featured a stimulating presentation in which William Dalrymple tells the sweep of the early history of the Kohinoor as referenced in ancient Indian texts, through its sightings during Mughal times, to its seizure by Nader Shah, and its possession by Ranjit Singh. Continuing with the journey of the prized gem, Anita Anand gave an account of how the diamond was taked from the Sikh court and passed to the British Crown.

Earlier in her welcome address, Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, OUP Pakistan, introduced the authors and said that the book is the story of a fascinating gem, accused of bringing misfortune to its owners, yet coveted and exalted by them. “The Kohinoor it seems was a magnet for history, drawing it around itself endlessly, so that when you approach the gem, as in this book, you find yourself engulfed in a mesmerizing past,” she added.

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