Vagabond Princess

Advance Praise for Vagabond Princess

Vagabond Princess is a deeply feminist text interrogating the making of archives, obsessed with imagining the spirit of freedom and love of learning in certain Mughal women, with a stunning buildup of the concept-metaphor of mujawir as “vagabond.” A splendid teaching text, but also a reading text for sheer instructive pleasure; as we follow the epistemological performance of the making of the book with the book itself.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, author of Other Asias

An astonishing work by one of the most exciting historians writing today. Vagabond Princess is more than just a brilliant page-turner of a biography, narrating in vivid detail a story few people know. It is a passionate and compelling argument to place the extraordinary Gulbadan among the pantheon of great adventurers like Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. I loved this book.

Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and An American Martyr in Persia

Meticulous archival research combines with a strikingly imaginative evocation of the world inhabited by Mughal women in Ruby Lal’s writing. Whether set against the dust and grit of imperial caravans, salt-lashed sea voyages, or the manicured precision of Mughal gardens, her vagabond princess, Gulbadan, surprises us at every turn. A superb achievement.

Nandini Das, author of Courting India: Seventeenth-Century England, Mughal India, and the Origins of Empire


The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan became the twentieth and favorite wife of the Emperor Jahangir, who ruled the vast Mughal Empire. An astute politician as well as a talented dress designer and innovative architect whose work inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal, Nur was the only woman to acquire the stature of Empress in her male- dominated world. Here, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.

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Empress book cover

Podcast: Not Just the Tudors

Nur Jahan: Empress of Mughal India

“A luminous biography… It is a captivating account, its depth of detail recreating a world whose constraints of lineage would seem to preclude the advance of an unknown, self-made, widowed queen… Lal’s book is an act of feminist historiography.”
– Rafia Zakaria, Guardian

Awards for Empress

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Finalist, 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes in History;
Winner55th Georgia Author of the Year Award in Biography 

The Publishers Marketplace announcement about Ruby’s young reader’s edition of EMPRESS:

LATimes Book Prize Finalist and Professor of South Asian history at Emory University Ruby Lal’s TIGER SLAYER, a young reader’s edition of the author’s biography of Mughal empress Nur Jahan, often considered the Cleopatra of South Asia, illustrated by National Book Award-nominated artist and journalist Molly Crabapple, to Simon Boughton at Norton Children’s, in an exclusive submission, by Bridget Wagner Matzie at Aevitas Creative Management for the author, and by Alice Whitwham at The Cheney Agency for the illustrator.

Rights to Random House India (India and South Asia), by Bridget Wagner Matzie.

A Lost Classic

By Ruby Lal

LA Times Book Prize Finalist, author of EMPRESS, and Emory University historian Ruby Lal’s A LOST CLASSIC, a scholarly edition of the diary of the Mughal Princess Gulbadan, the only extant prose document by a woman from the entire early modern Muslim world, to Jaya Aninda Chatterjee at Yale University Press, by Bridget Wagner Matzie at Aevitas Creative Management (world English, excl. Indian subcontinent).

“In this scintillating, feminist, and exhaustively researched work of narrative history, Ruby Lal brings the legendary empress Nur Jahan to life in all of her glamour and power.”
– Molly Crabapple, Author of Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun

Four centuries ago, a Muslim woman ruled an empire.
Her legend still lives, but her story was lost — until now.

India's First Female Leader

Empress in the Media

Atlas Obscura

Female scholars write about long-forgotten historic women.

Time Magazine

Featured in Time Magazine

Prospect Magazine UK

The New York Times

Editors’ Choice / Staff Pick in the August 19 issue of The New York Times Book Review!

The New Yorker

features Empress in Books: Briefly Noted

The Guardian

The Rise and Reign of a Self Made Mughal Queen” The Guardian reviews Empress

Los Angeles Review of Books


Kirkus gives Empress a starred review


A must read!


A top ten read for July!


Op-ed on Empress Nur Jahan and the Politics of Erasure in Modern India

Royal News Blog

features Empress


reviews Empress

The Economist

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India New England News

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Business Standard

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Quartz India

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Daily Times Pakistan

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Ruby Lal

Photo by Myron McGhee

Ruby Lal

Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of India. Her recently published biography, Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (NY: W. W. Norton, 2018; Paperback 2020) won the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Biography, and was also a finalist in History for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Among the top ten pick of the Time Magazine, The Telegraph and the Prospect Magazine London, EMPRESS has been lauded by The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Times, the BBC, The Indian Express, Business Standard and numerous other national and international journals, magazines and newspapers. She is Professor of South Asian History at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.

“Nur Jahan emerges from this biography as a spirited, brilliant and gifted leader. Nur’s story weaves into Lal’s gorgeous, nuanced portrait of the glittering splendour of the Mughal Empire and how its political, military and cultural destinies were shaped by this remarkable refugee-turned-empress.”
– Gareth Russell, Author of Young and Damned and Fair

More Books by Ruby Lal

Empress penguin edition cover

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (Penguin India)

Empress Hindi translation

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (Hindi translation)

Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World

Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World

Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India

Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India

“Ruby Lal’s marvelous account of Empress Nur Jahan’s life is as intriguing, inspiring, and relevant to us today in 21st century America, as it was to her times in 17th century India.”
– Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran