Jahangir: An Intimate Portrait of a Great Mughal

A much-needed addition to popular history writing, this biography vividly brings the fourth and least-known of the Great Mughals to life. Plagued by the reputation of being a weak prince who was addicted to alcohol and not held in high esteem by his own father, Jahangir was nonetheless an ambitious ruler– facets that Parvati Sharma draws out with a novelistic flair. She treats the man at the heart of the book as a literary character, possessed of a rich interiority, with flaws and desires that are very much human. It might not be a definitive academic account, but it succeeds in creating an enjoyable story while faithfully recreating a fascinating life and time.

Rebel Sultans: The Deccan from Khilji to Shivaji

An attempt to correct Indian history writing’s skew towards the northern half of the country, this account, aimed at the lay reader, races through 400 years of Deccan history – marked by intrigue, wealth and the rise and fall of empires. With an eye for drama, backed by extensive research, Pillai zooms in on fascinating anecdotes and mesmerising characters to bring a largely forgotten chapter of Indian history into the popular imagination.

Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World

Gandhi’s definitive chronicler returns with the second volume of the exhaustive biography of one of the most iconic men of the 21st century. Charting the course of his life from 1914, when he left South Africa to return to India, to 1948, when he was assassinated in New Delhi, this landmark book extols Gandhi’s virtues while also being cognisant of his flaws.

How India Became Democratic

Written by Ornit Shani, an academic at the University of Haifa, this vital work of scholarship documents the making of the world’s largest democracy. The book tells the story of the daunting administrative and social challenge that India undertook after Independence – to prepare electoral rolls on the basis of universal adult franchise. Indians became voters before they became citizens, Shani argues, writing that by the time the Constitution came into force in 1950, the groundwork for electoral democracy was already laid down. A fascinating account of how a country was united through the right to vote, Shani comprehensively brings a rarely-discussed subject to light.

The Most Dangerous Place: A History of the United States in South Asia

A sweeping account of the historical involvement of the United States in South Asia, this informative book shows that the superpower has long had a stake in shaping politics and events in the region. From how American propaganda influenced the reception of troops stationed in India during World War II to the vagaries of the Cold War, Srinath Raghavan’s comprehensive volume goes back almost 230 years to provide vital insights into how the past influences American foreign policy today.

Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire

This accessible and racily written book corrects a historical wrong by shedding light on the often overlooked role of women in the Mughal empire. From Gulbadan, Babur’s youngest daughter who left us a rare written account of life in the zenana to Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahanara, who owned one of India’s richest ports, the women in this book may not have been rulers but played pivotal role in the furthering of the empire.