Watch | Historian William Dalrymple on the unprecedented success of his Empire podcast with author and TV presenter Anita Anand

Watch | Historian William Dalrymple on the unprecedented success of his Empire podcast with author and TV presenter Anita Anand

The second season of ‘Empire’, on the Ottoman empire, begins on December 6

December 03, 2022 10:23 pm | Updated December 05, 2022 08:53 am IST

William Dalrymple (left) and Anindita Ghose.

William Dalrymple (left) and Anindita Ghose. | Photo Credit: Getty Images, Special Arrangement

“About a third of a million!” says historian William Dalrymple about the number of listeners for each episode of his  Empire podcast, which recently concluded season one. The 18-episode series was voted No. 1 on the Apple 2023 Shows That Made us Think list, and has close to a million downloads per month.

Co-hosted with author and TV and radio presenter Anita Anand, the podcast, which launched in August, covers a staggering span from the arrival of the East India Company to the fate of the Kohinoor to Jinnah and Rishi Sunak. “I’ve never done anything in my life that’s had quite this kind of following,” says Dalrymple.

Anita Anand and William Dalrymple at the launch of their book ‘Kohinoor’ in Chandigarh, 2016.

Anita Anand and William Dalrymple at the launch of their book ‘Kohinoor’ in Chandigarh, 2016. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

It all started when he went as a guest on Tom Holland’s  The Rest is History podcast, which ended up being a popular episode. When the producers — the U.K.-based Goalhanger Podcasts — invited him to host one of his own, Anand was an easy choice as co-host, says Dalrymple. The two have collaborated on a book on the Kohinoor before.

Empire is characterised by Dalrymple and Anand’s easy camaraderie and contrasting personas. The tone is conversational, and frequently studded with gems like Dalrymple reading out a letter by Ghalib to a grieving friend in which he encourages him to be “dissolute”.

The episode on Partition is powerful and sombre with Anand recounting stories from her family. The hosts also manage to bring in subject experts such as Ramachandra Guha, David Olusoga, Kavita Puri and others.

Ahead of the second season covering the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, Dalrymple speaks to journalist and author Anindita Ghose about the making of the  Empire podcast.

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