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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“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 new book:

LA Times Book Prize Finalist and Professor of South Asian History at Emory University Ruby Lal’s REBEL PRINCESS: THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF GULBADAN, the biography of an extraordinary woman who left the harem of Mughal emperor Akbar the Great to travel across the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean to the Muslim Holy Lands, and who chronicled her adventures in the only extant prose document by a woman from the entire world of Classical Muslim Empires…..To Jaya Aninda Chatterjee at Yale University Press, in a pre-empt by Bridget Wagner Matzie at Aevitas Creative Management

“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.

Empress in the Media

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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reviews Empress

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) 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)

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