The politics, arts and sciences of Mughal India were shaped in part by individuals who had traveled from Iran and the Persophone West to the Indian subcontinent. The reasons for these emigrations, their extent and routes, and the impact that they made have long been debated and analyzed. Each of the papers on our panel offers a specific case study informed by this problematic and casting a new light upon it. The first paper looks at the role of Iranian émigrés in early Mughal state formation and how sixteenth-century historians articulated the struggles of the nascent polity with its constituent members. The second paper reflects on the process of acculturation for Iranian émigrés who had migrated to India and the subsequent debates on literary purity, locality, and temporality. Finally, the third paper, compares the histories of two Iranian émigrés writing in the eighteenth century and considers how their experiences informed their differing accounts of events taking place in their homeland. Taken together these papers shed new light on the process of contestation, acculturation, and nostalgia that accompanied the lived experience of Iranian Émigrés in Mughal India.
This paper explores how early Mughal historiography papered over the mid-sixteenth-century political contestation between Iranian and Central Asian émigrés on the one hand, who advocated for decentralized confederate rule, and the ruling Timurid-Mughal family on the other, which attempted to centralize its administration and exert absolute political authority. In order to do so, this paper looks at how contemporary Mughal historians recorded and reframed episodes from the tumultuous career of the amīr ‘Alī Qulī Khān Uzbek, whose early political success was soon marred by a scandal concerning his alleged sexual transgressions, resulting in one of the many military actions initiated against him and members of his extended kinship network. As such, this paper offers new insights not only on the political realities of the nascent Mughal polity, but also on the rhetorical and figurative strategies employed by Mughal historians in narrating the rise of the dynasty to power. Finally, this paper will also offer a corrective to existing scholarship on ‘Alī Qulī Khān Uzbek, which has tended to study his life in a piecemeal fashion.