Nominated | Book Awards 2019 | English Non-fiction
When it came to hunting, she was a master shot. As a dress designer, few could match. An ingenious architect, she innovated the use of marble in her parents' mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna, which inspired her stepson's Taj Mahal. And she was both celebrated and reviled for her political acumen and diplomatic skill, which rivaled those of her female counterparts in Europe and beyond.
In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir. While other wives were secluded behind walls, Nur ruled the vast Mughal Empire alongside her husband, and governed in his stead when his health failed and his attention wandered from matters of state. An astute politician and a devoted partner, Nur led troops into battle to free Jahangir when he was imprisioned by one of his officers. She signed and issued imperial orders, and coins of the realm bore her name.
Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal and orientalist cliches of romance and intrigue, while giving a new insight into the lives of the women and the girls during the Mughal Empire, even where scholars claim there are no sources. Nur's confident assertion of authority and talent is revelatory. In Empress, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.
Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of Mughal India. Her previous books are Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World and Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. She teaches at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.