Reviews /

The Story of Babur: Prince, Emperor, Sage

Authored by Anuradha
Illustrated by Jane Ray
Published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd

The Central Asian emperor Babur (1483-1530) founded the Mughal dynasty which ruled over much of Asia for over three centuries. He told his life story in the Baburnama which is here retold in English for younger readers by English and Nepali writer Anuradha in an attractive volume published in association with the Republic of Uzbekistan’s Art and Culture Development Foundation.

The Story of Babur begins with Babur’s crowning as king of Ferghana aged twelve and follows his subsequent military conquests and defeats, as well as his gradual acquisition of wisdom. Anuradha uses simple but engaging language to bring Babur’s story to life, helping us to understand the scale of Babur’s achievement in uniting such a large empire. There are some exciting descriptions of battles, particularly the battle of Panipat in which Babur is able to outwit Ibrahim Lodi’s much larger army mounted on elephants. Babur also reflects on what brings him happiness, and on the loneliness that often comes with power.

While it is generally counter-productive to judge historical figures by the standards of the present, I felt this book could have engaged a little more with the human cost of Babur’s expansion of his empire. There is some consideration of this at the end when Babur asks, ‘Will people think of me as a great warrior or as a cruel tyrant?’ but the first-person narrative inevitably leans more towards the former view. This might, therefore, be a profitable line of inquiry for classroom discussion; another might be the role of women in this society. I would also have liked to learn more about Babur’s ‘scientific legacy‘ mentioned in the introduction but not explored in much detail thereafter.

Nonetheless, Babur is a crucial figure in Central Asian history, and this book plays a valuable role in introducing his story to a wider audience. This book seems most appropriate for KS2 children, who could either read this book independently or explore it with a teacher while studying the history of this region. A glossary helps to explain unfamiliar vocabulary and Jane Ray’s vibrant illustrations convey the richness of this culture.