Dispersed across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, Midnight's Descendants-the generations born since the 1947 "midnight hour partition" of British India-are the world's fastest growing population. This vast region and its peoples wield an enormous influence over global economics and geopolitics, yet their impact is too often simplified by accounts that focus solely on one nation and ignore the intricate web of affiliations that shape relations among British India's successor states. Now, in Midnight Descendants, celebrated historian John Keay presents the first comprehensive history of this complex and interconnected region, delving deep into the events that have shaped its past and continue to guide its future.

The 1947 partition was devastating to the larger of the newly created states, and it continues to haunt them to this day. Joined by their common origin and the fear of further partition, the five key nations of South Asia have progressed in tandem to a large degree. These countries have been forced to grapple with common challenges, from undeveloped economies and fractured societies to foreign interventions and the fraught legacy of imperialism, leaving them irrevocably intertwined. Combining authoritative historical analysis with vivid reportage, Keay masterfully charts South Asia's winding path toward modernization and democratization over the past sixty years. Along the way, he unravels the volatile India-Pakistan relationship; the rise of religious fundamentalism; the wars that raged in Kashmir and Sri Lanka; and the fortunes of millions of South Asia migrants dispersed throughout the world, creating a full and nuanced understanding of this dynamic region.

Expansive and dramatic, Midnight's Descendants is a sweeping narrative of South Asia's recent history, from the aftermath of the 1947 partition to the region's present-day efforts to transcend its turbulent past and assume its rightful role in global politics.
'Among the many gripping tales of travel and exploration the tale of Alexander Gardner is surely one of the most extraordinary. Master storyteller John Keay deftly sifts truth from myth-making to uncover fascinating new evidence, revealing an amazing tale worthy of Kipling or Flashman of a life lived further out on the edge than most could even imagine' MICHAEL WOOD

Like the travels of Marco Polo, those of Alexander Gardner clip the white line between credible adventure and creative invention. Either this Scots-American is the nineteenth century's most intrepid traveller or its most egregious fantasist, or a bit of both. Contemporaries generally believed him; posterity became more sceptical. And as with Polo, the investigation of Gardner's story enlarged man's understanding of the world and upped the pace of scientific and political exploration.
Before more reputable explorers notched up their own discoveries in innermost Asia, this lone traveller had roamed the deserts of Turkestan, ridden round the world's most fearsome knot of mountains and fought, as the first American in Afghanistan, 'for the good cause of right against wrong'. From the Caspian to Tibet and from Kandahar to Kashgar, Gardner had seen it all. At the time, the 1820s, no other outsider had managed anything remotely comparable. When word of his feats filtered out, geographers were agog.
Historians were more intrigued by what followed. After thirteen years as a white-man-gone-native in Central Asia, Gardner re-emerged as a colonel of artillery in the employ of India's last great native empire. He witnessed the death throes of that Sikh Empire at close quarters and, sparing no gruesome detail, recorded his own part in the bloodshed (the very same featuring as the exploits of 'Alick' Gardner in the 'Flashman' series).
Fame finally caught up with him during his long retirement in Kashmir. Dressed in tartan yet still living as a native, he mystified visiting dignitaries and found a ready audience for the tales of his adventurous past. But one mystery he certainly took to the grave: the whereabouts of his accumulated fortune has still to be discovered.
Using much original material, including newly discovered papers by Gardner himself, this investigative biography by John Keay, bestselling author of India: A History, takes the reader on a quest from the American West to the Asian East to unravel the greatest enigma in the history of travel.

Alarms amongst the Uzbeks - Alexander Burnes
Of all the "forbidden" cities (Timbuktu, Mecca, Lhasa, Riyadh and so on) none enjoyed a more fearsome reputation that Bukhara in Uzbekistan. The first British Indian expedition, that of William Moorcroft in 1819-26, had never returned. Moorcroft's disappearance, like that of Livingstone or Franklin, posed a challenge in itself and preyed on the minds of his immediate successors. Heavily disguised and in an atmosphere of intense intrigue, Burnes and Dr James Gerard crossed the Afghan Hindu Kush in 1832 and approached the scenes of Moorcroft's discomfiture. They would both return; and "Bukhara Burnes" would become the most renowned explorer of his day.

On the Roof of the World - John Wood
In 1937 Alexander Burnes returned to Afghanistan on an official mission. Amongst his subordinates was a ship's lieutenant who, having surveyed the navigational potential of the river Indus, took off on a mid-winter excursion into the unknown Pamirs between China and Turkestan. Improbably, therefore, it was John Wood, a naval officer and the most unassuming of explorers, who became the first to climb into the hospitable mountain heartland of Central Asia and the first to follow to its source the great river Oxus (or Amu Darya.)

Exploring Angkhor - Henri Mouhot
Born in France, Mouhot spent most of his career in Russia as a teacher and then in the Channel Islands. A philologist by training, he also took up natual history and it was with the support of the Royal Zoological Society that in 1858 he set out for South East Asia. From Siam (Thailand) he penetrated Cambodia and Laos, where he died; but not before reaching unknown Angkhor and becoming the first to record and depict the most extensive and magnificent temple complex in the world. His discovery provided the inspiration for a succession of subsequent French expeditions up the Mekong.

Over the Karakorams - Francis Edward Younghusband
As leader of the 1904-5 British military expedition to Lhasa and as promoter of the early assaults on Mount Everest, Younghusband came to epitomize Himalayan endeavour. To the mountain he also owed his spiritual conversion from gung-ho solider to founder of the World Congress of Faiths. His initiation came in 1887 when, as the climax to journey from Peking across the Gobi desert, he determines to reach India over the unexplored Mustagh Pass in the Karakorams - "the most difficult and dangerous achievement in these mountains so far" (S.Hedin).

Trials in Tibet - Ekai Kawaguchi
By the 1890's the capital of "forbidden" Tibet, unseen by a foreigner since Huc's visit, represented the greatest challenge to exploration. Outright adventurers like the dreadful Henry Savage Landor competed with dedicated explorers like Sven Hedin, all succumbed to to a combination of official vigilance and physical hardship. The exception, and the winner in "the race for Lhasa", was a Buddhist monk from Japan whose expedition consisted of himself and two sheep. Ekai Kawaguchi was supposedly a pilgrim seeking religious texts. His faith was genuine and often tested, as during this 1900 excursion into western Tibet; but he is also thought to have been an agent of the British government in India.

Farthest South - Ernest Henry Shackleton
Born in Ireland, Shackleton joined the merchant navy before being recruited for Captain Scott's 1901 expedition to Antarctica. He was with Scott on his first attempt to reach the South Pole and, though badly shaken by the experience, realized that success was now feasible. In 1907, with a devoted team but little official support, he launched his own expedition. A scientific programme gave it respectability but Shackleton was essentially an adventurer, beguiled alike by the challenge of the unknown and the reward of celebrity. His goal was the Pole, 90 degrees south, and by Christmas 1908 his four-man team were already at 85 degrees.

The Pole at Last - Roald Amundsen
Amundsen's 1903-6 voyage through North West Passage had heralded a new era in exploration. The route by then was tolerably well known and its environs explored. His vessel was a diminutive fishing smack, his crew a group of Norwegian friends, and his object simply to be the first to have sailed through. He did it because it had not been done and "because it was there". The same applied to his 1911 conquest of the South Pole. Shackleton had shown the way and Amundsen drew the right conclusions. The Pole was not a scientist's playground nor a mystic's dreamland; it was simply a physical challenge. Instead of officers, gentlemen and scientists, he took men who could ski and dogs that could pull; if need be, the former could eat the latter. The only real anxiety was whether they would forestall Scott.

In Extremis - Robert Falcon Scott
Scott was chosen to lead the 1900-4 British National Antarctic Expedition. Its considerable achievements seemed to vindicate the choice of a naval officer more noted for integrity and courage than any polar experience, and, following Shackleton's near success, in 1910 Scott again sailed south intending to combine a busy scientific programme with a successful bid for the South Pole. On 17 January 1912 he and four others duly reached the Pole, indeed they sighted a real pole and it bore a Norwegian flag; Amundsen had got there 34 days ahead of them. Bitterly disappointed, soon overtaken by scurvy and bad weather, and still dragging sledges laden with geological specimens, they trudged back. The tragedy which then unfolded eclipsed even Amundsen's achievement and won them an immortality beyond the dreams of any explorer.

Four Years in the Ice - John Ross
Disgraced and dishonored for his report of an imaginary mountain range blocking the most likely access to the North West Passage, in 1829 Ross returned to Canada's frozen archipelago to vindicate his reputation. He rounded the north of Baffin Island and entered what he named the Gulf of Boothia. Here the Victory, his eccentric paddle-steamer, became frozen to the ice. Through three tantalizingly brief summers the expedition tried to find a way out and through four long winters then endured the worst of Arctic conditions in a makeshift camp. In July 1832, with the ship long since abandoned, Ross made what must be their last bid to reach open water.

Living off Lichen and Leather - John Franklin
In 1845, looking again for the North West Passage, two well-crewed ships under Franklin's command sailed into the Canadian Arctic and were never seen again. There began the most prolonged search ever mounted for an explorer. For Franklin had been lost before and yet had survived. In 1821, returning from an overland reconnaissance of the Arctic coast north of Great Slave Lake, he and Dr. John Richardson, with two Lieutenants and about a dozen voyageurs (mostly French), had run out of food and then been overtaken by the Arctic weather. Franklin's narrative of what is probably the grisliest journey on record omits unpalatable details, like the cannibalism of one of his men, the murder of Lieut. Hood, and Richardson's summary shooting of the murderer; but it well conveys the debility of men forced to survive on leather and lichen (triple de roche) plus that sense of demoralization and disintegration that heralds the demise of an expedition.

Adrift on an Arctic Ice Floe - Fridtjof Nansen
Norwegian patriot, natural scientist, and Nobel laureate, Nansen caught the world's imagination when he almost reached the North Pole in 1895. The attempt was made on skis from specially reinforced vessel which, driven into the ice, was carried from Siberia towards Greenland. The idea stemmed from his first expedition, an 1888 crossing of Greenland. Then too he had used skis and then too, unwittingly and nearly disastrously, he had taken to the ice. Arrived off Greenland's inhospitable east coast, he had ordered his five-man party to spare their vessel by crossing the off-shore ice floe in rowing boats. A task which he expected to take a few hours turned into an involuntary voyage down the coast of twelve days.

The Pole is Mine - Robert Edwin Peary
Born in Pennsylvania and latterly a commander in the US navy, Peary had set his sights on claiming the North Pole from childhood. It was not just an obsession but a religion, his manifest destiny. Regardless of cost, hardship, and other men's sensibilities, he would be Peary of the Pole, and the Pole would be American. Critics might carp over the hundreds of dogs that were sacrificed to his ambition, over the chain of supply depots that would have done credit to a military advance, and over the extravagance of Peary's ambition, but success, in 1909, came only after a catalogue of failures; and even then it would be disputed. Under the circumstances his triumphalism is understandable and, however distasteful, not unknown amongst other Polar travelers.

Among the Sudanese - James Bruce
Bruce reached the source of the Blue Nile in 1771, a century before the search for the source of the White Nile became headline news. His descriptions of the cruelties and orgies at Gondar, the Ethiopian capital, were greeted with disbelief; so was his account of the Sudanese rulers, and their queens, at Sennar. He was later shown to be an accurate observer as well as the eighteenth century's most intrepid traveller.

Not the Source of the Nile - Richard Francis Burton
In Burton a brilliant mind and dauntless physique were matched with a restless spirit and a deeply troubled soul to produce the most complex of characters. Contemptuous of other mortals, including Speke, his companion and rival, he found solace only in the extremities of erudition and adventure.

A Glimpse of Lake Victoria - John Hanning Speke
In July 1858, while returning from Lake Tanganyika with Burton, Speke made a solo excursion to the north in search of an even larger lake reported by an Arab informant. Although partially blind and unable to ascertain its extent, he named this lake "Victoria" and boldly declared it the long sought source of the White Nile.

The Reservoir of the Nile - Samuel White Baker
Amongst professional explorers and big game hunters, none was as successful as Baker. A bluff and plausible figure, wealthy and resourceful, he conducted his explorations on the grand scale, invariably reached his goal and invariably reaped the rewards.

Last Days - David Livingstone
Livingstone was nurtured in poverty and religious fervour. He reached southern Africa as a missionary doctor but, more suited to solitary exploration, edged north in a series of pioneering journeys into the interior.

Encounters on the Upper Congo - Henry Morton Stanley
Stanley made his name as an explorer by tracking down Livingstone in 1871. But obscure Welsh origins, plus the adoption of US citizenship and professional journalism, did not endear him to London's geographical establishment. His response was to out-travel all contemporaries, beginning with the first ever coast-to-coast crossing of equatorial Africa.

A Novice at Large - Joseph Thomson
Barely twenty and just out of Edinburgh University, Thompson was unexpectedly employed on the Royal Geographical Society's 1878 expedition to the Central African lakes. Unlike Burton he admired Africans; unlike Stanley he would not fight them. His motto - "he who goes slowly, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far" - was never more seriously tested that when, just six weeks inland from Dar es Salaam, his first expedition lost Keith Johnston, its leader and Thompson's only European companion.

Landfall at Botany Bay - James Cook
The son of a Yorkshire farm labourer, Cook won distinction as a naval hydrographer but was still a controversial choice to command a voyage of scientific observation to the Pacific in 1768. Its results, including the first coastal surveys of New Zealand and eastern Australia, led to a second voyage to the south Pacific and a third to the north Pacific, during which he was killed in a fracas with the Hawaiians. It was a tragic end for one whose humble origins disposed him to respect indigenous peoples. "They are far happier than we Europeans", he noted of Australia's aborigines following a brief encounter at Botany Bay (Sydney), the first European landing on the Pacific coast, in 1770.

Escape from the Outback - Charles Sturt
After pioneering journeys to the Darling and Murray rivers, in 1844-5 Sturt headed north for the heart of Australia. Since the continent appeared to have few seaward draining rivers it was assumed that, alike Africa, it must boat an inland lake region; a boat was therefore included amongst the expeditions equipment. But Sturt failed to reach the geographical centre of the continent, and the largest stretch of water found was at Coopers Creek, later to figure so prominently in the endeavours of Burke and Wills. Sturt's painful retreat during the hottest summer on record formed a fitting prelude to the Wills saga.

Death at Coopers Creek - William John Wills
In early 1861 Robert O'Hara Burke, William Wills and John King reached Australia's northern coast on the Gulf of Carpentaria, thus completing the first transcontinental crossing. Returning the way they had come, after four months of appalling hardship they staggered into Sturt's Coopers Creek where men and supplies had been left to await their return. They were just eight hours too late; the relief party, despairing of their return, had left that very morning. One of exploration's most poignant moments was followed by one of its most protracted tragedies as the expedition tried to extricate itself, failed, faded, and died. Only King survived; three months later he was discovered living with the aborigines; Will's heartbreaking journal was found lying beside his skeleton.

To See the Sea - John McDouall Stuart
Modest, dedicated, immensely tough and thoroughly congenial, Stuart was very much an explorer's explorer. With little support or fuss he began probing north from Adelaide in the late 1850's. In 1860 he was the first to reach the centre of the continent, thus completing the work of Sturt. Although Burke and Wills just beat him in the race to cross the continent, Stuart's 1862 route was much longer and more difficult; and he did actually reach the sea. He was also to return alive.

Alone in Africa - Mungo Park
Park's 1795-7 odyssey in search of the Niger first awakened the world to the feasibility of a white man penetrating sub-Saharan Africa. But unlike his illustrious successors, this quiet tenant farmer's son from the Scottish Borders travelled alone; relieved of his meager possessions, he was soon wholly dependant on local hospitality. In what he called "a plain unvarnished tale" he related horrific ordeals with admirable detachment - never more tested than on his return journey through Bamako, now the capital of Mali.

The Road to Kano - Hugh Clapperton
In one of exploration's unhappier sagas two Scots, Captain Hugh Clapperton and Dr. Walter Oudney, were saddled with the unspeakable Major Dixon Denham on a three year journey to Lake Chad and beyond. Clapperton mapped much of northern Nigeria and emerged with credit. Major Denham also excelled himself, twice absconding, then accusing Oudney of incompetence and Clapperton of buggery. Happily the Major was absent in 1824, after nursing his dying friend, Clapperton became the first European to reach Kano.

Down the Niger - Richard Lander
As Clapperton's manservant, Lander attended his dying master on his 1825 expedition to the Niger and was then commissioned, with his brother John, to continue the exploration of the river. The mystery of its lower course was finally solved when in 1831 they sailed down through Nigeria to the delta and the sea. Unassuming Cornishmen, the Landers approached their task with a refreshing confidence in goodwill of Africans. It paid of in a knife-edge encounter at the confluence of the Benoue, although Richard subsequently paid the price with his life.

Arrival in Timbuktu - Heinrich Barth
Born in Hamburg, Barth was already an experienced traveler and a methodical scholar when in 1850 he joined a British expedition to investigate Africa's internal slave trade. From Tripoli the expedition crossed the Sahara to Lake Chad. Its leader died but Barth continued on alone, exploring vast tract of the Sahel from northern Cameroon to Mali. Timbuktu, previously visited only by A.G. Laing and René Caillié, provided the climax as Barth, in disguise, approached the forbidden city by boat from the Niger.

My Ogowé Fans - Mary Kingsley
Self-educated while she nursed her elderly parents, Mary Kingsley had known only middle-class English domesticity until venturing to West Africa in 1892. Her parents had died and, unmarried, she determined to study "fish and fetish" for the British Museum. Her 1894 ascent of Gabon's Ogowé River (from Travels in West Africa, 1897) established her a genuine pioneer and an inimitable narrator. She died six years later while nursing prisoners during the Boer War.

Eating Dirt in Venezuela - Alexander von Humboldt
Geographer, geologist, naturalist, anthropologist, physician and philosopher, Baron von Humboldt brought to exploration a greater range of enquiry than any contemporary. Also an indomitable traveller, particularly in the Orinoco/Amazon basin (1799-1804), he often invited danger but always in the cause of scientific observation. The interest of his narratives therefore lies primarily in the author's insatiable curiosity and in the erudition that allowed him to generalize from his observations. A classic example is his ever deadpan disquisition on earth-eating. It occurs in the middle of a hair-raising account of descending the Orinoco in Venezuela.

Iron Rations in Amazonia - Henry Savage Landor
Bar Antarctica, Everest and the Empty Quarter, twentieth-century explorers have largely had to contrive their challenges. Landor went one better and contrived the hazards. From Japan, Korea, Central Asia, Tibet, and Africa he returned, always alone, with ever more improbable claims and ever more extravagant tales. The climax came in 1911 with Across Unknown South America, the sort of book that gave exploration a bad name. His route, irrelevant and seldom "unknown", nevertheless demanded superhuman powers of endurance as when the expedition marched without food for fifteen days.

The Discovery of Machu Picchu - Hiram Bingham
Just when it seemed as if all the "forbidden cities" had been entered and the "lost civilisations" found, there occurred one of the most sensational discoveries in the history of travel. Hiram Bingham, the son of missionary parents in Hawaii, was a lecturer in Latin American history at Yale and Berkeley who devoted his vocations to retracing the routes of Spanish conquest and trade in Columbia and Peru. He was drawn to the high Andes near Cuzco and to the awesome gorges of the Urubamba River by rumours about the existence there of the lost capital and last retreat of the Incas. Machu Picchu was neither; but it richly rewarded his heroic endeavour in reaching it. After excavation by Bingham in 1912 and 1915, it was revealed as the best preserved of the Inca cities and South America's most impressive site.

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