“History has not been kind to Himalaya,” writes historian and travel writer John Keay in his latest book Himalaya: Exploring the Roof of the World. The region, nestled between India, China and Central Asia, has long been subject to political and imperial intrigue–and at times violent invasion. But the region also provided a wealth of scientific information, like geographers puzzling over how these tall peaks were thrust upwards by plate tectonics. And, of course, it’s the home to a Tibetan culture and people that has been present for centuries. That’s all from Keay’s latest book, which collects years of detail on history, geography, and culture, in one volume.
John Keay has been writing about Himalaya and traveling there since the 1960s. He wrote the two-volume Explorers of the Western Himalayas (John Murray, 1977, 1979) and wrote and presented a major BBC R3 documentary series on the Himalayan kingdom; other works include India: A History (Grove Press, 2000) and China: A History (HarperCollins, 2008).
In this interview, John and I talk about just a few details from his book: the Younghusband Expedition, plate tectonics, and local legends like the “Ogress of the Rocks”.