May 26, 2017

How national narratives have obscured the history of India’s most controversial king (Excerpt from Audrey Truschke's Blog)

Stanford University Press Blog -

Modern Politics in Premodern History

How national narratives have obscured the history of India’s most controversial king.
Emperor Aurangzeb on horseback
This portrait of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb mounted on a horse, and ready for battle, was originally produced circa 1660.
In 1700, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was arguably the richest, most powerful man in the world. He ruled for nearly fifty years, from 1658 until 1707, over a vast empire in South Asia that boasted a population exceeding the entirety of contemporary Europe. Today, he has been forgotten in the West.
The Mughal Empire in 1707
The Mughal Empire at Aurangzeb’s death in 1707. Reproduced with permission from Juggernaut Books.
In modern-day India, however, Aurangzeb is alive in public debates, national politics, and people’s imaginations. From Mumbai to Delhi to Hyderabad, Indians debate his legacy and, overwhelmingly, condemn him as the cruelest king in Indian history. The list of charges against Aurangzeb is severe and, if they were all true, shocking. Aurangzeb, a Muslim, is widely thought to have destroyed thousands of Hindu temples, forced millions of Indians to convert to Islam, and enacted a genocide of Hindus. As I am reminded daily on Twitter, many Indians sincerely believe that Aurangzeb was Hitler and ISIS rolled into one with a single objective: To eradicate Hindus and Hinduism.
My narrative of Aurangzeb in Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King—based on extensive research and relying on primary source documents—does not match his current reputation. Accordingly, much of the response to Aurangzeb in India, published in February 2017 under the title Aurangzeb: The Man and The Myth, has been fierce. I am the target of daily, sometimes hourly, hate speech on social media. I am regularly attacked on the basis of my gender, nationality, race, and perceived religion. I have even faced (so far, limited) calls to ban Aurangzeb and even to ban me from India. In this blog post, I explore the roots of the controversy over Aurangzeb, my role therein as a historian, and the harsh realities of producing historical analysis in a world where many privilege politically expedient falsehoods. [. . .].

FULL TEXT AT: http://stanfordpress.typepad.com/blog/2017/05/modern-politics-in-premodern-history.html