Among the large number of free lances who emerged on the indian political scene in the wake of the dissolution of the Mughal empire in the second half the 18th century none has left a more fascinating life-story than Begum Samru, a Kashmiri girl, who from abject poverty and obscurity rose to the command of a European-drilled brigade, the sovereignty of a territory and the honoured position of a shield to the Delhi imperial family, and died in the fulness of her years in the odour of sanctity as the honoured ally and social associate of the English rulers and a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Her career, made up of truths stranger than the most imaginative romance ha beeb the subject of numerous treatises in the past. But from the historical point of view these narratives are at the best superficial, based as they are for the most part on bazar gossip recorded by foreign visitors to her court. The present work is the first attempt to study her career on the bass of a critical assessment of the original source materials available in Persian, French, Marahti and English. It is besides, a substantial contribution to the true history of the fall of the Mughal empire which cannot possibly be composed, as Sarkar observes in his Fprewprd, except by a synthesis of many monographs, each exhaustively and critically dealing with its special subject. The exhaustive and authentic history of a very extraordinary woman whose life was closely linked with the chief political powers in her time ought to prove an invaluable book to all serior students of modern Indian history.
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