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The Last Englishmen

Love, War, and the End of Empire
Deborah Baker
John Auden was a pioneering geologist of the Himalaya. Michael Spender was the first to draw a detailed map of the North Face of Mount Everest. While their younger brothers—W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender—achieved literary fame, they vied to be included on an expedition that would deliver Everest’s summit to an Englishman, a quest that had become a metaphor for Britain’s struggle to maintain power over India. To this rivalry was added another: in the summer of 1938 both men fell in love with a painter named Nancy Sharp. Her choice would determine where each man’s wartime loyalties would lie.

Set in Calcutta, London, the glacier-locked wilds of the Karakoram, and on Everest itself, The Last Englishmen is also the story of a generation. The cast of this exhilarating drama includes Indian and English writers and artists, explorers and communist spies, Die Hards and Indian nationalists, political rogues and police informers. Key among them is a highborn Bengali poet named Sudhin Datta, a melancholy soul torn, like many of his generation, between hatred of the British Empire and a deep love of European literature, whose life would be upended by the arrival of war on his Calcutta doorstep.

Dense with romance and intrigue, and of startling relevance for the great power games of our own day, The Last Englishmen is an engrossing story that traces the end of empire and the stirring of a new world order.

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A sumptuous biographical saga, both intimate and epic, about the waning of the British Empire in India

About the Author

Deborah  Baker
Credit: Julienne Schaer
Deborah Baker is the author of The Last Englishmen, forthcoming in 2019; Making a Farm; In Extremis, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography; A Blue Hand; and The Convert, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in India and New York.
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Deborah Baker reading at Greenlight Bookstore

Greenlight Books Fort Green in Brooklyn, NYview map
In conversation with Kanishk Tharoor.

Deborah Baker appearing as part of AJC Decatur Book Festival

AJC Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GAview map
"The Last Englishman: Love, War, and the End of Empire," a lecture. Location: Marriott Conference Center A.

Deborah Baker reading at Solid State Books

Solid State Books in Washington, DCview map
In conversation with Elizabeth Flock.

Deborah Baker reading at The Book Stall

Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, ILview map


  • “A book rich in fascinating details drawn from personal archives.”—BBC Culture
  • “Baker skillfully navigates numerous interlaced tales, illuminating in a lively and stylistic fashion both the inner lives of intriguing individuals and weightier geopolitical developments.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “Baker’s talent for crafting an intriguing narrative provides thorough views of the characters and settings involved. . . . [Her] angle is distinct in its use of Auden and Spender’s stories to mirror Britain’s struggle to maintain its position of power.”Library Journal
  • “[The Last Englishmen is] her most creatively conceived, deeply delving, and wizardly blend of biography and history to date.”—Booklist, starred review
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