Muzaffar Alam

Muzaffar Alam
George V. Bobrinsky Professor
Foster Hall 201
Office Hours: By appointment.
Ph.D., Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1976
Teaching at UChicago since 2001
Research Interests: Mughal political and institutional history, and the history of Indo-Islamic culture.


Muzaffar Alam is a historian trained at Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi), Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), where he obtained his doctorate in history in 1977. Before joining the SALC at the University of Chicago in 2001, he taught for three decades at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has held visiting positions in the Collège de France (Paris), Leiden University, University of Wisconsin (Madison), and the EHESS (Paris). His working languages include Persian, Arabic, Hindi and Urdu. Professor Alam has taught courses on the history of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire, and he has also worked closely with students on advanced Urdu and Persian literary and historical texts.

Alam supervises students interested in medieval and early modern South Asia. While his own training is in history, he has a strong interest in philology, literature, and textual studies. He works with students trained in Urdu, Hindi, Persian, and Arabic. He offers courses on medieval and Mughal history, South Asian Islam, and advanced reading seminars on Urdu and Persian texts.    

He is also happy to guide BA theses on South Asia, and to work with Masters students.


  • Introduction to South Asian Civilizations I
  • Mughal India: Tradition and Transition
  • Advanced Urdu
  • Talking Birds and Cunning Jackals: A Survey of Indo-Persian Prose
  • Persian Philology and Poetry in South Asia

Field Specialties

His research focuses on Mughal political and institutional history, and the history of Indo-Islamic culture.

History of religious and literary cultures in pre-colonial northern India, history of Indo-Persian travel accounts, comparative history of the Islamic world (as seen from an Indian perspective).



  • The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986)
  • The Mughal State 1526-1750 (edited with Sanjay Subrahmanyam) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • A European Experience of the Mughal Orient (with Seema Alavi) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • The Languages of Political Islam in India: c. 1200-1800 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004)
  • Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discovery: 1400-1800 (With Sanjay Subrahmanyam) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Articles and Contributions to Edited Volumes

  • "Assimilation from a Distance: Confrontation and Sufi Accommodation in Awadh Society," in R. Champakalakshmi and S. Gopal (eds.) Tradition, Dissent and Ideology: Essays in Honour of Romila thapar, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • "Shari`a and Governance in Indo-Islamic Context," in David Gilmartin and Bruce B. Lawrence (eds.), Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.
  • "The Culture and Politics of Persian in Precolonial Hindustan," in Sheldon Pollock (ed.), Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
  • "The Afterlife of a Mughal Masnavi: The Tale of Nal and Daman in Urdu and Persian," (with S. Subrahmanyam), in Kathryn Hansen and David Lelyveld (eds.), A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in Transnational Perspective, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 46-73.
Subject Area: Urdu