Himalaya is one of the world's most extraordinary geophysical, historical, environmental and social regions.
More rugged and elevated than any other zone on earth, it embraces all of Tibet, six of the world's eight major mountain ranges and nearly all its highest peaks. It contains around 50,000 glaciers and the most extensive permafrost outside the polar regions. Over an area nearly as big as Europe, the population is scattered, often nomadic and always sparse. Many languages are spoken, some are written and few are related.
Religious and political affiliations are equally diverse. Borders are disputed, while jealous neighbours shy away from a common strategy for protecting an environment in which desert meets rainforest and temperatures can fluctuate between 30 and -30°C in the course of a single day.
For centuries, Himalaya has captivated an illustrious succession of admirers, from explorers, surveyors and sportsmen, to botanists and zoologists, ethnologists and geologists, missionaries and mountaineers. Now historian John Keay introduces us to the myriad mysteries of this vast, confounding and utterly fascinating corner of the planet, and makes the case that it is one of our most essential – and endangered – wonders.
John Keay's involvement with Himalaya dates back to the 1960s when he was a foreign correspondent in Kashmir. In the 1970s he published two standard works on the exploration of the Western Himalayas and in the 1980s he wrote and presented a seven-part BBC Radio 3 documentary series on the Himalayan kingdoms. He has continued to specialise in Asian affairs, his books including 5000-year histories of both India and China. Himalaya is the summation of a lifetime's study. John Keay is married, has four children, lives in the West Highlands of Scotland and travels whenever when he can.