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The rise and fall of the Mughal Empire - Stephanie Honchell Smith


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Though he was descended from some of the world’s most successful conquerors, Babur struggled to gain a foothold among the many other ambitious princes in Central Asia. So he turned his attention to India, where his descendants stayed and built the Mughal Empire. Stephanie Honchell Smith details the rise and fall of one of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the early modern world.

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The Mughal Empire (1526 - 1857 CE) was founded by a prince from Central Asia named Babur – meaning “Tiger” – who was a direct descendant of the conquerors Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Babur’s memoir, the Baburnama, is the only existing autobiography written by the founder of a major world empire. To learn more about Babur’s life, see this article and the works of Stephen Dale.

The empire established by Babur in Northern India and Afghanistan expanded under his descendants over the next two centuries to include most of the Indian subcontinent. During that time, the Mughals emerged as one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful empires. To learn more about role of the Mughals in the early modern world, see the works of Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam.

Culturally, the Mughals are celebrated for their contributions to literature, art, and architecture – most famously, the Taj Mahal . Mughal artists combined elements of Islamic, Turkic, Persian, Indian, and European styles, reflecting their own multicultural world. As discussed in this New York Times article, these works served as grandiose displays of Mughal power.

From within the walls of extensive harem complexes, royal Mughal women – including the rulers’ mothers, wives, and daughters – exerted substantial political and economic influence. To learn more about the lives and influence of Mughal women, see the works of Ruby Lal.

The main causes of the empire’s decline are the subject of ongoing debates, as John Green discusses in this Crash Course video. Today, most historians agree that throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a series of complex social, economic, environmental, and political factors wove together to diminish Mughal authority. By the time the last Mughal emperor was deposed by the British, his domain barely extended beyond the walls of Delhi.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Stephanie Honchell Smith
  • Director Jagriti Khirwar, Raghav Arumugam
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Animator Raghav Arumugam
  • Art Director Raghav Arumugam, Jagriti Khirwar
  • Music Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Senior Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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