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By Andre Wink

Broadly considered as the best of the Mughal emperors, Jalal ad-Din Akbar (1542-1603) was once an impressive army tactician and renowned demagogue. Ascending to the throne on the age of 13, he governed for part a century, extended the Mughal empire, and left in the back of a legacy to rival his notorious ancestor Chinggis Khan. This lucid biography offers glimpses into Akbar's lifestyle and highlights his contribution to new tools of imperial keep an eye on.

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Sample text

Akbar then built a great fortress at the junction of the Ganges and Yamuna, at what is now Allahabad. The so-called “twelve landholders” of Bengal also submitted to his rule. This happened at about the same time that the conquest of Gujarat was nearing completion and the Uzbeks on the NorthWest Frontier were effectively contained. Akbar’s dominion had now reached its fullest extent. Whatever the value or truth of this judgment may be, it was not yet common in the sixteenth century. Monserrate, who was well acquainted with Akbar personally and traveled widely in the Mughal empire of the 1580s, is also appreciative, but rather more sober in his judgment: “The splendor of his palaces approaches closely to that of the royal dwellings in Europe.

For every day brings accounts of new victories and new conquests, so that by the blessing of God his kingdom extends over the whole of Hindustan (which is called ‘chahardang’, that is, a quarter of the world), east and west, north and south, including all its forts and territories, without anyone being associated with him in power, and without anyone daring to offer opposition” (ED,VI, 180–181). The beneficent monarch is depicted as being ever intent on conquest – but only to liberate the oppressed from the tyranny of other rulers, we are assured.

Owing to the immense expenditure forced upon him, and because the revenue-payers did not pay with the usual promptitude, he was obliged at Aurangabad to melt down all his household silver ware” (Manucci, II, 239). Much of the imperial traveling of Mughal times was prompted by the desire to keep recalcitrant officers – or brothers – on the side of loyalty, in other words to keep aspiring rebels from gaining too much traction in the areas of India yet to be subdued (or unsubduable) and thereby acquiring the ability to turn against the emperor.

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