In The Skull of Alum Bheg, Kim Wagner tells a compelling story of the 1857 Indian uprising embedded in a macabre account of the fate of the skull of one of the rebels. Wagner sets his narrative not in the usual sites of Delhi or Lucknow, but in the remote station of Sialkot in the Punjab, where large contingents of both British and Indian sepoy troops were posted. The work does not venture outside the military side of the revolt, which Wagner regards as the “impetus” for the larger rebellion (p. 74); as a consequence, the activities of the sepoy participants take center stage. Throughout, Wagner endeavors sympathetically to understand the motives of the rebellious sepoys, as well as the fears of the beleaguered British residents of Sialkot as they confronted the unfolding tragedy of the summer of 1857. The skull itself, which came to light in an English...

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