A History of India under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun


William Erskine (1773–1852) was a Scottish-born scholar and administrator who held a variety of posts in India between 1804 and 1823. He mastered Persian and in 1826 published an English translation of the memoirs of Babur, the first Mughal emperor and the founder of the Mughal dynasty. In 1831 Erskine began formulating plans for a history of the first six Mughal emperors. He died before he could finish the work. In 1854 Erskine’s son, Claudius James Erskine, a member of the Indian Civil Service, published this two-volume study of the first two emperors, Babur (born 1483, reigned 1526–30) and Humayun (reigned 1530–40 and 1555–56), which his father had completed before his death. The book is a pioneering study of Mughal India, based on Erskine’s painstaking research and close reading of original Persian sources. Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire and dynasty, was descended on his father’s side from the Turkic conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) and on his mother’s side from the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan. He was driven from his ancestral domain in Central Asia, but established himself at Kabul from where he secured control of the Punjab and eventually expanded his domains to become ruler of all northern India. Babur was succeeded by his son, Humayun, who ruled for a decade before losing much of the empire to the ethnic Pashtun Sher Shah Suri (1486–1545). With Persian help, Humayun reestablished control of the lost territories 15 years later, after he had passed much of his interregnum in Afghanistan, and ruled until his death in 1556. Following preliminary sections on the Tartar tribes and Genghis Khan and Timur and their dynasties, Erskine recounts the history of Babur and Humayun in meticulous detail. Volume two concludes with supplementary remarks entitled “On the State of Government and Manners in Kabul and the Surrounding Countries during the Reigns of Babur and Humayun.” The topics covered in this section include government and regal etiquette, the court, the state of the provinces, the army, fortresses, inhabitants, administration of justice, men of learning and piety, literature, sciences, architecture, and several others.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London


Title in Original Language

A history of India under the two first sovereigns of the house of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes ; 22 centimeters


  1. Katherine Prior, “Erskine, William (1773–1852),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016