History by way of “things” has itself become a “thing”. Archaeologists, of course, always did history this way. But they would focus on, usually, assemblages of objects, rather individual pieces. While perhaps not the first—nothing is ever the first—the BBC and the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor popularized the concept.
In popular imagination and even works of scholarship, the names of the six Great Mughals—all male—dominate the narrative of the Mughal Empire in the history of India. School textbooks name them, detail their conquests, their religious tolerance or intolerance, the art and architecture they ushered in, and the gardens they left behind. That Nur Jahan, the 20th wife of the fourth emperor Jahangir (the son of Akbar the Great), was co-sovereign is missing from even the trivia people know about the carefree Prince Salim, the later Emperor Jahangir.
If you live in a foreign country for any length of time, it’s inevitable that some of its customs and culture will rub off, whatever you do to try and avoid it. On the other hand, however well you “adjust” to the new culture, you will never be part of it.
The prolific American geopolitical analyst Robert Kaplan in his book Monsoon wrote that the Indian Ocean region is the new “pivot” of global politics in the 21st century. China’s emergence as America’s peer competitor in East Asia and potentially beyond has magnified the importance of South Asia in global geopolitics.
A few years ago, Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim edited a much-needed and generous selection of Evliya Çelebi’s Seyhatname or Book of Travels. Evliya (1611-1682) spent the better part of forty years traveling around the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia Minor; he’s perhaps the best-known of all Ottoman explorers and travelers, which is not to say a great deal, because non-European travel-writers are still sadly under-represented in English translation.
Steppe women had a greater participation than their settled sisters in politics, war and daily work. With Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire, Anne F Broadbridge sets out to substantiate this general observation in the case of the Mongols, from Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to the Great Mongol Ulus and its successor.
“Once the Master asked, ‘What is the question that lays it all out?’ In place of the asked monk, Yunmen answered, ‘Whack the monk next to me.’”