Monday, May 21, 2012

Documentary: The Great Moghuls

A Maghribist friend of mine alerted me to this fabulous documentary on the Mughals, from a few years ago called 'The Great Moghuls'. I am an hour and thirty minutes in and I find it an excellent watch and wanted to share it with everyone. So far my only quibble would be with the so called 'Hindu' army that Akbar faced soon after his accession to the the throne, which I would say more accurately may be called Afghan Surid with naturally a large number of Hindu soldiery. Then again, it was under the command of Hemu, a general in the service of the Surs who, as contemporary witnesses assure us, had begun to assert his own sovereignty, which the late great John F. Richards felt, if successful, would have signaled a reassertion of Hindu rule in North India not seen since the rise of Delhi Sultanate. Regardless, happy watching dear readers:

The Great Moghuls (1990) is a Channel Four Television documentary series covering the dramatic story of the rise of the Moghul Empire (1526-1857) of India. Over six generations, from father to son, the Great Moghuls captured, consolidated and profoundly influenced control of the vast sub-continent of India. The six-part series was written and presented by Bamber Gascoigne based upon his 1971 book of the same name. It was produced and directed by Douglas Rae and filmed in India.

Friday, May 11, 2012

On the Importance of Being Offended

So I spent this afternoon reading a recent book on Mughal history that I had been putting off reading because I had read earlier articles by the same scholar and found them underwhelming and lacking in substance. Having handed in my papers, and finding a comfy spot in the library, I sat down and read the first three chapters. Sadly, with each page I read I got increasingly livid--feeling disturbed and horrified by the deplorable level of scholarship. In short, I was deeply offended; not by the author's arguments, which, when one coyly appeared, mildly sidestepped any actual debate, conceding to contradictory positions in a circular logic. No, it was by the abysmal level of scholarship; assertions without evidence, incorrect citations and names, and observations that were, for a lack of a better word, unabashedly unoriginal. This was not a general survey or introductory work on Mughal history that aimed to present a summary of existing literature. No, it was the product of the scholar's PhD dissertation, which shocked me, and gave me no small pause, given how the author's supervisor was an esteemed scholar. Rarely have I been more offended by a piece of scholarship for its wanton sloppiness and intellectual anemia. I think the problem with our particular field of Islamic history is that we are no longer deeply offended by poor scholarship, happily welcoming lazy students who are more interested in making claims than doing the necessary grunt work. Instead we reserve our blinding fury for when we encounter a political or ideological position we disagree with in a work. Rather than toss meaningless labels, and here I mean the big O, perhaps we should find it a personal affront when authors attempt to insult our intelligence by not even being able to correctly cite a work, transliterate consistently in a logical manner, or maintain some coherent argument. Scholars need to stop being polite, forgiving a lack of rigor for what is rather kindly deemed as creative or innovative scholarship. Where, I ask, are our academic muḥtasibs, commanding right and forbidding wrong?