On over-gifting, under-gifting, and finding the right present – my column for the Financial Times this week:

“Perhaps you should give only what establishes trust, or creates welcome surprise, though this is utopian — much of gift-giving is driven by the impulse to flatter, to bribe or to appease a guilty conscience. Old manuscripts — Indian, Chinese and medieval Italian — are a reminder that gift-giving has always been a complicated business, pocked with cultural pitfalls, often trapping givers into an endless cycle of reciprocity. A classic dilemma: what to give the man or woman who already had an empire at their disposal?”


A dodo, gifted to the Emperor Jahangir, painted by Mansur