A Brief History of the Great Moghuls
An excellent brief history of India's most dramatic rulers.
Two elements really stand out. The first is the Gascoigne is an excellent art historian, able to put the architecture of the Moghuls into perspective and sometimes rejecting the conventional readings of the various buildings. Secondly, he highlights some of the facets of "harem culture" that seem incomprehensible to modern readers, the influence of sequestered wives, favourites, and concubines on their emperors.
Actually there's a third element worth noting. Perhaps cleaving to the "brief" part of the title, Gascoigne leaves off his history halfway through what would conventionally be regarded as the lifespan of the Moghuls, stopping with the death of Aurangzeb. He covers the lives of six great Moghuls and relegates the final eleven to an epilogue, considering that their influence and grandeur waned so fast that they cannot stand next to their great forbears. This certainly demonstrates enviable confidence from an author, but it's impossible not to agree that Gascoigne's brevity keeps the drama and excitement of the earlier history intact and vibrant.
4/5. Finished 18 April 2015.
(Originally published on Goodreads.)