Akbar the Great Mogul, 1542-1605


Akbar the Great Mogul, 1542‒1605 is a biography of Akbar I (reigned, 1556‒1605), the third and greatest of the Mughal emperors of India. The author, Vincent Arthur Smith, was an Irish-born historian and antiquary who served in the Indian Civil Service before turning to full-time research and scholarship. After assuming the throne while still a youth, Akbar succeeded in consolidating and enlarging the Mughal Empire. He instituted reforms of the tax structure, the organization and control of the military, and the religious establishment and its relationship to the state. He was also a patron of culture and the arts, and he had a keen interest in religion and the possible sources of religious knowledge. The book traces Akbar’s ancestry and early years; his accession to the throne and his regency under Bayram Khan; his many conquests, including Bihar, the Afghan kingdom of Bengal, Malwa, Gujarat, Kashmir, Sind, parts of Orissa, and parts of the Deccan Plateau; and his annexation of other territories through diplomacy, including Baluchistan and Kandahar. The book devotes considerable attention to Akbar’s religious beliefs and interests. On several occasions Akbar requested that the Portuguese authorities in Goa send priests to his court to teach him about Christianity, and the book recounts the stories of the three Jesuit missions organized in response to these requests. By origin a Sunni Muslim, Akbar also sought to learn from Shiʻite scholars, Sufi mystics, and Hindus, Jains, and Parsis. The last four chapters of the book are not chronological but deal with the Akbar’s personal characteristics, civil and military institutions in the empire, the social and economic conditions of the people, and literature and art. The book contains a detailed chronology of the life and reign of Akbar and an annotated bibliography. Also included are maps and illustrations. Maps of India in 1561 and India in 1605 show the extent of Akbar’s conquests, and sketch maps illustrate his main military campaigns.

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Publication Information

Clarendon Press, Oxford


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504 pages : portraits, maps ; 23 centimeters


  1. S.V. Fitz-Gerald, revised by Katherine Prior, “Smith, Vincent Arthur (1848‒1920),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  2. F. Lehmann, “Akbar I,” in Encyclopædia Iranica (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 1999).

Last updated: September 30, 2016