Friday, September 15th, 2017 Aurangzeb: Writing about the most hated man in Indian history and becoming hated myself

Friday, September 15, 20174:00PM - 6:00PM108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place


In twenty first-century India, Aurangzeb Alamgir—the sixth ruler of the Mughal empire who reigned from 1658 until 1707—is relentlessly vilified in the media, politics, and popular culture. Common opinion, bolstered by a divisive Hindu nationalist agenda, pillories Aurangzeb as a callous Islamist oppressor who despised everything about India, especially Hindus. This unrelenting myth of Aurangzeb as a cruel Islamist tyrant is bad history, but it is a difficult—even dangerous—mythology to challenge, as I have learned first-hand from the aftermath of publishing a short biography of Aurangzeb Alamgir.
In this talk, I present a core contention of my Aurangzeb book, namely that, far from being motivated by Islamic orthodoxy or hatred of Hindus, Aurangzeb’s actions are better explained by his vision of justice. I then explore the backlash to my Aurangzeb book and its key arguments, ending by commenting more broadly on how historians ought to respond and, in some cases, must respond to non-academic objections to their work.
Audrey Truschke is Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. She is the author of Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (Columbia University Press, 2016) and, most recently, Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King (Stanford University Press, 2017).


Karen Ruffle
Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Audrey Tuschke
Assistant Professor, Department of South Asian History, Rutgers University

Main Sponsor

Centre for South Asian Studies


Asian Institute


Please note that events posted on this website are considered to be public events – unless otherwise stated – and you are choosing to enter a space where your image and/or voice may be captured as part of event proceedings that may be made public as part of a broadcast, webcast, or publication (online and in print). We make every effort to ensure your personal information is kept and used in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). If you have any questions please get in touch with our office at or 416-946-8900.