Despite a reign that lasted for over two decades, the Mughal emperor Jahangir has often been regarded as a weak ruler who was hobbled by his addictions and dominated in his later years by his wife Nur Jahan. As Lisa Balabanlilar
reveals in The Emperor Jahangir: Power and Kingship in Mughal India
(I. B. Tauris, 2020), this portrayal often exaggerates Jahangir’s defects and glosses over many important aspects of his rule. Much of this this distortion, she notes, originated with his memoir, in which Jahangir was often frank in his assessment of his own failings. This was exploited by his son and successor, Shah Jahan, who sought to justify his rebellion against his father late in Jahangir’s reign once he ascended to the throne. Balabanlilar shows how this image obscures important aspects of the workings of the Mughal emperorship during the early 17th century. These she uncovers by examining Jahangir’s court, his empire’s relations with other kingdoms, and his patronage of the arts, revealing him in the process as a more capable and consequential monarch than his traditional depiction allows.