Cover image for The begums of Bhopal : a dynasty of women rulers in Raj India
The begums of Bhopal : a dynasty of women rulers in Raj India
Khan, Shaharyar M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : I.B. Tauris ; New York St. Martin's Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 276 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
DS485.B5 K456 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Between 1819 and 1926 four Muslim women rulers reigned over Bhopal, the second largest Muslim state of India, despite staunch opposition from powerful neighbors and male claimants. Even the British India Company initially opposed female rule in Bhopal until the Begums quoted Queen Victoria as their model and inspiration. Each Begum--or Queen--impressed her own personality on the role and succeeded in reigning over a mostly Hindu population. Qudisa, the first Begum, was supported by her powerful French-Bourbon Prime Minister in her departure from the traditional. She was succeeded in 1844 by Sikandar, her only daughter, who was also followed by her only daughter, the highly controversial Shahjehan. The story ends with the last Begum, Sultan Jehan, and her abdication in favor of her son, the first male ruler (Nawab) of Bhopal in five generations. This book offers the first balanced history of the state.

Author Notes

Shaharyar M. Khan is a direct descendant of Bhopal's ruling family and is a career diplomat.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

As memories of the British Raj grow dim, it is easy to forget that it included around 560 autonomous enclaves of indigenous rulers ("Princely India"), which maintained dependent but complicated relations with the paramount power. Among these, Bhopal stood out because it was one of the few Muslim states and because for much of its history (c.1709-1947) it was ruled by women, the remarkable Begums of Bhopal. In 1778, Mamola Bai (1749-95), surrounded by predatory enemies, had the foresight to provide much-needed aid to General Goddard on his epic march from Calcutta to the west coast, and thereby laid the foundation for a mutually advantageous relationship between Bhopal and the East India Company, which was further reinforced when Sikandar (1844-68), with steely courage, stood by the Company in the crisis of 1857-58. This splendid narrative by a descendant of the Begums, a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and currently Pakistan's ambassador in Paris, will be of great interest to historians of the subcontinent as well as to students of women's history. Ambassador Khan has drawn upon sources ranging from the official records to private family papers to write an elegant, utterly absorbing account of an important subject. All collections. G. R. G. Hambly; University of Texas at Dallas