Reviews

A. von Kügelgen examines three major issues relating to the autobiographies of rulers: whether author, protagonist and narrator are seen as identical, the relationship between subjective and objective perspectives, and finally the perceived  relationship between autobiography and biography.  Underlying the discussion is the question of whether autobiography is to be seen as a modern and Western form.  Three well-known works are considered: the famous autobiography of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, that of the Emperor Jahangir, and the supposed autobiography of Tamerlane.  A. von Kügelgen shows that Babur stated his authorship through the use of the first person, and Jahangir showed a clear understanding of the importance of the subjective authority.  The section of his autobiography which was written by his courtier from Jahangir’s notes, though continuing in the first person,  is clearly differentiated from the sections authored by the emperor.  The next question posed is whether readers and copyists of these works recognised the value of the personal and subjective tone; here the answer is positive for the earlier period, in which additions are limited to clearly defined marginal notes, but appears to break down from the eighteenth century.  Finally, A. von Kügelgen examines the history of the purported autobiography of Tamerlane, considered a fabrication by most scholars  in Europe and the United States, but accepted in several regions attached to Timur’s legacy.  She presents several additional pieces of evidence suggesting the late provenance of the work. A. von Kügelgen reaches the conclusion that writing on one’s own life was highly valued and  the inviolability of self-authorship was only given up in much later reworkings.  Addressing the  question of individualism she concludes that while personal material was included, it conformed to literary typologies seen in historical and Sufi literature, and thus is not an expression of individualism in the modern sense.  At the end of the article A. von Kügelgen suggests that it would be  useful compare such works to other rulers’ autobiographies from another culture such as Renaissance Europe.  This is an interesting and well-researched article on a genre that has received little attention.  It might have been valuable to bring in the prefaces of histories written at the same period, in which the author often expressed current views about the writing of history and its relation to rulership.

Beatrice F. Manz, Tufts University, Medford, MA
CER: I-3.4.B-271