The Prisoner of Kathmandu

Brian Hodgson in Nepal 1820-43

by Charles Allen

Posted to Kathmandu in 1820 as a junior political officer, Brian Hodgson found himself isolated and trapped in a fiercely xenophobic mountain kingdom that seemed bent on making war on the all-powerful British East India Company. For twenty-three years Hodgson struggled to keep the two sides apart. His legacy survives in the lasting peace and friendship between Britain and Nepal.

At the heart of this biography is the Orientalist movement driven by the European Enlightenment, which inspired Hodgson and others to devote themselves to the exploration of Asian culture, leading Hodgson to study Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhism, and much else besides. Hodgson became a forgotten man in his own lifetime but this biography re-establishes his importance as a pioneering natural historian and ethnologist, revealing a tortured individual who turned adversity to his advantage as the prisoner who learned to love his jail.

CHARLES ALLEN was born in Cawnpore in the last years of the British Raj. His family’s association with India dates back to the battle of Seringapatam in 1799. His great-grandfather brought the young Rudyard Kipling out to work on his newspaper, the Civil Military Gazette. Mr Allen is a traveller, writer and broadcaster, specialising in India and the Far East. 

Also by this author, The Buddha and Dr Führer

Read excerpt