Ruby Lal: Professor of South Asian Studies, Emory University, Atlanta.
Talk: Empress: the Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Four centuries ago, a Muslim woman ruled an empire.
Her legend still lives, but her story was lost—until now.
In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a
Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the
twentieth and favorite wife of the Emperor Jahangir,
who ruled the vast Mughal Empire. An astute politician as well
as a devoted partner, she issued imperial orders; coins of
the realm bore her name. When Jahangir was imprisoned
by a rebellious nobleman, the Empress led troops into battle
and ultimately rescued him. The only woman to acquire the
stature of empress in her male-dominated world, Nur was
also a talented dress designer and innovative architect
whose work inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal. Nur’s confident
assertion of talent and power is revelatory; it far exceeded
the authority of her female contemporaries in Renaissance
Europe, including Elizabeth I. Here, she finally receives her
due in a deeply researched and evocative
biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.
Ruby Lal is Professor of South Asian Studies at Emory University, Atlanta. She holds a D.Phil in Modern History from the University of Oxford, UK, and an M.Phil in History from the University of Delhi, India. She has taught at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, in History and Anthropology, and served as Associate Director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. Her fields of study include feminist history and theory, and the question of archive as it relates to writing about Islamic societies in the pre-colonial and colonial world. She is the author of two books, Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World(Cambridge University Press, New York, 2005) and, Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2013). Her current, creative non-fiction work is a narrative history of Mughal Empress Nur Jahan, EMPRESS: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (W.W. Norton, NY, forthcoming 2018).