Bihishtābād

The History, Art and Architecture of the Mughal Empire

Archive for Books

From the Ruins of Empire

Students surround Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, 1929

Mark Mazower’s FT review of Pankaj Mishra’s new book, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. Ben Shephard’s in the Observer, here.

Atlas historique de l’Inde

3000 years of Indian history by Arundhati Virmani with a preface from Sanjay Subrahmanyam.

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire

Dynastic group portrait of Emperors Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir with the poet Sa’di on the left and an attendant on the right. Hashim, c. 1620. Johnson Album 64,38 © The British Library Board

An exhibit of the British Library’s Mughal collection is on view until 2 April 2013. For an introduction see Malini Roy’s article in the Telegraph. See also the accompanying book by J.P. Losty and Malini Roy including various previously unpublished works:

From the colophon:

This book showcases the British Library’s extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life. The exquisitely decorated works span four centuries, from the foundation of the Mughal dynasty by Babur in the sixteenth century, through the heights of the empire and the ‘Great’ Mughal emperors of the seventeenth century, into the decline and eventual collapse in the nineteenth century.

The lavish artworks cover a variety of subject matter, from scenes of courtly life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperors to illustrations of works of literature which manage to convey complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscapes. The development of a Mughal style of art can be traced through the illustrations and paintings, as can the influence of European styles, originally as imported exotica.

Many of these works have never before been published, and combined here with the engaging narrative of two subject experts who place each image within its historical and art historical context they serve to provide us with a beautiful and illuminating view of the art and culture of Mughal India.

Universal Empire — A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History

 

Cambridge, 2012

Apologies for a repetition in illustrations, but there is another new publication that has the honour of bearing Jahangir’s Dream  on its cover. This is the recently published (August 2012) Universal Empire — A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, edited by Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kolodziejczyk, with contributions from the editors themselves as well as Gojko Barjamovic, Rolf Michael Schneider, Garth Fowden, Judith Herrin, Dimiter Angelov, Ebba Koch, Velcheru Narayana Rao, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Evelyn S. Rawski, Justyna Olko, Peter Haldén, John A. Hall.

A preview from iPublishCentral is available here. You can buy the book, apparently only hardback for now, here.

The claim by certain rulers to universal empire has a long history stretching as far back as the Assyrian and Achaemenid Empires. This book traces its various manifestations in classical antiquity, the Islamic world, Asia and Central America as well as considering seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European discussions of international order. As such it is an exercise in comparative world history combining a multiplicity of approaches, from ancient history, to literary and philosophical studies, to the history of art and international relations and historical sociology. The notion of universal, imperial rule is presented as an elusive and much coveted prize among monarchs in history, around which developed forms of kingship and political culture. Different facets of the phenomenon are explored under three, broadly conceived, headings: symbolism, ceremony and diplomatic relations; universal or cosmopolitan literary high-cultures; and, finally, the inclination to present universal imperial rule as an expression of cosmic order.

Imperial Identity in the Mughal Empire

I.B. Tauris has published a new book on Imperial Identity in the Mughal Empire: Memory and Dynastic Politics in Early Modern Central Asia by Lisa Balabanlilar.

Description from the publisher:

Having monopolized Central Asian politics and culture for over a century, the Timurid ruling elite was forced from its ancestral homeland in Transoxiana at the turn of the sixteenth century by an invading Uzbek tribal confederation. The Timurids travelled south: establishing themselves as the new rulers of a region roughly comprising modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India, and founding what would become the Mughal Empire (1526-1857). The last survivors of the House of Timur, the Mughals drew invaluable political capital from their lineage, which was recognized for its charismatic genealogy and court culture – the features of which are examined here. By identifying Mughal loyalty to Turco-Mongol institutions and traditions, Lisa Balabanlilar here positions the Mughal dynasty at the centre of the early modern Islamic world as the direct successors of a powerful political and religious tradition.

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