Audrey Truschke is an assistant professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Her work focuses on the cultural, imperial, and intellectual history of early modern and modern India. Trushke’s book, Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth, released in 2017, is a historical reassessment of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, one of the most prominent figures of seventeenth-century India. Aurangzeb’s historical legacy is widely contested—in public discourse, the Mughal emperor is often seen as a tyrannical Muslim fanatic, who ordered the destruction of Hindu places of worship. However, Truschke is among several scholars who insist that this depiction of Aurangzeb is both misleading and ahistorical. “The historical Aurangzeb fails to live up (or down) to his modern reputation as a Hindu-despising Islamist fanatic,” she said in a recent interview.
Majid Maqbool spoke to Truschke over email. She discussed her book and its reception, and how some of the popular misconceptions surrounding the emperor came to be.
Majid Maqbool: What prompted you to write a biography of Aurangzeb?