When India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, died, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, took control of the Congress Party and, in turn, was succeeded by her son Rajiv. The Bhutto family in Pakistan have had similar political success. Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first democratically-elected Prime Minister. Why are political dynasties so important in the Indian subcontinent? Why do certain families find success in politics? What explains their enduring resilience? 

This event brings together former BBC correspondent and author of The Bhutto Dynasty: The Struggle for Power in Pakistan, Owen Bennett-Jones, Professor of Modern Indian History and author of Nehru’s India: A History in Seven Myths, Taylor Sherman, and political scientist Brenda Van Coppenolle. They will be accompanied by the event chair, William Gould, who is Professor of Modern Indian History at the University of Leeds.

About The Speakers

Owen Bennet Jones Headshot

Owen Bennett-Jones

Owen is a freelance journalist, writer and teacher. A former BBC correspondent and presenter he has been a resident foreign correspondent in Bucharest, Geneva, Islamabad, Hanoi and Beirut. 

Yale University Press published his book The Bhutto Dynasty: The Struggle for Power in Pakistan in 2020. His history of Pakistan: Pakistan: Eye of the Storm is now in its third edition was also published by Yale University Press. Target Britain, a thriller set amid the war on terror is available in paperback. In 2004 he contributed to the Lonely Planet guide, Pakistan and the Karakoram Highway. 

His writing for the London Review of Books has concentrated on Pakistan, the Iranian militant group MEK (also known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran), the Deobandi movement and Northern Ireland. He has also written and broadcast extensively on the Pakistani political party the MQM. His columns for Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper Dawn cover Pakistani and international affairs. He has made two major podcast series The Assassination for the BBC and The Hijack for Audible. The Assassination investigated the murder of Benazir Bhutto. The Hijack told the story of PK 326, a plane hijacked in 1981 with fatal consequences. 

Owen graduated from the London School of Economics in 1983 and obtained an M Phil in politics from St Antony’s College Oxford in 1985. In 2018 he was awarded a PhD by publication by the University of Hull. 

Taylor C Sherman Headshot

Taylor C Sherman

Taylor C Sherman was born in the United States and is now Professor of Modern South Asian History at the London School of Economics. Her research concerns the transition from empire to independence in South Asia, with a focus on violence and criminal justice, migration and citizenship, development and socialism. Her most recent book, Nehru’s India: A History in Seven Myths, will be published with Princeton University Press in the autumn of 2022.  


Headshot of Brenda Van Coppenolle

Brenda Van Coppenolle

I’m a Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex. My research interests are political dynasties, elections, lotteries, political careers, and political inequality. I obtained my PhD at the Department of Methodology, LSE in 2014. My work has been published in World Politics, the Journal of Politics, Political Studies, Electoral Studies, French Politics, and Legislative Studies Quarterly. I have studied political dynasties in parliaments, and the development of democratic institutions, in European countries such as France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK. With Dr Alexandra Cirone I have worked on Political Lotteries and Democracy, under contract as part of the series Cambridge Elements in Political Economy at Cambridge University Press. A co-authored chapter on Dynasties with Prof Daniel M. Smith will form part of the edited volume The Oxford Handbook of Historical Political Economy.

About The Chair

William Gould

William Gould is Professor of Indian History at the University of Leeds. He is currently working on a book with Sarah Ansari exploring the aftermath of partition. He is also engaged in documentary film work which explores India’s independence from the perspective of Adivasi communities.