Ottoman empire

The remarkable Princess Gulbadan, flower of the Mughal court

In 1587, the Mughal Emperor Akbar, himself illiterate but with grand vision and even greater ambition, commanded his courtier Abu’l-Fazl to write an official history of his reign and dynasty. An order went around Akbar’s court that anyone who was ‘gifted with the talent for writing history’ should put pen to paper and record the events that had shaped their times. Unusually for a male-dominated society, this included the emperor’s aunt. The 64-year-old Princess Gulbadan was well placed to provide a first-hand description of the creation and consolidation of the Mughal empire, for she was the beloved daughter of the Emperor Babur, who founded the dynasty, and the half-sister of

The moment the modern world went wrong

Spectator contributors were asked: Which moment from history seems most significant or interesting? Here is Jonathan Sumption’s answer: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919-20 was where the modern world went wrong. The consequences of France’s vindictive determination to marginalise Germany are well known, and were denounced at the time by John Maynard Keynes in one of the most biting political pamphlets ever written. It took 30 years to undo its effects. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in the Near East by comparison was an authentically British mess, less well known, whose consequences are still with us. At the end of the Great War, Britain dominated the region, militarily and