What We Are Reading Today: Empress – The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Updated 11 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Empress – The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal has written a brilliant and compelling biography of Nur Jahan.
In 1611, 34-year-old Nur Jahan became the 20th and most cherished wife of the Emperor Jahangir.
The author uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal cliches of romance and intrigue, and giving new insight into the lives of women and girls in the Mughal Empire.
In Empress, Nur finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens readers to a fascinating history.
“Lal has done a service to readers interested in the Mughal period and the many forgotten or poorly remembered women of Indian history. She has helped shine a little light on an enigmatic character many think they know but few actually understand,” Vikas Bajaj writes in a review published in the New York Times.
“Lal is clearly constrained by the paucity of the material she has to work with. But she seems too reluctant to draw inferences and make analytical deductions,” the review added.


What We Are Reading Today: Debating War and Peace by Jonathan Mermin

Updated 15 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Debating War and Peace by Jonathan Mermin

  • Mermin shows that if there is no debate over US policy in Washington, there is no debate in the news
  • The author constructs a new framework for thinking about press-government relations

The First Amendment ideal of an independent press allows American journalists to present critical perspectives on government policies and actions; but are the media independent of government in practice? Here Jonathan Mermin demonstrates that when it comes to military intervention, journalists over the past two decades have let the government itself set the terms and boundaries of foreign policy debate in the news.

Analyzing newspaper and television reporting of US intervention in Grenada and Panama, the bombing of Libya, the Gulf War, and US actions in Somalia and Haiti, he shows that if there is no debate over US policy in Washington, there is no debate in the news. 

Journalists often criticize the execution of US policy, but fail to offer critical analysis of the policy itself if actors inside the government have not challenged it. Mermin ultimately offers concrete evidence of outside-Washington perspectives that could have been reported in specific cases, and explains how the press could increase its independence of Washington in reporting foreign policy news. 

The author constructs a new framework for thinking about press-government relations, based on the observation that bipartisan support for US intervention is often best interpreted as a political phenomenon, not as evidence of the wisdom of US policy. Journalists should remember that domestic political factors often influence foreign policy debate. The media, Mermin argues, should not see a Washington consensus as justification for downplaying critical perspectives.