The Core and the Periphery: A Contribution to the Debate on the Eighteenth Century^*
There is a general unanimity among modern historians on seeing the dissolution of Mughal empire as a notable phenomenon cf the eighteenth century. The discord of views relates to the classification and explanation of historical processes behind it, and also to the interpretation and articulation of its impact on political and socio-economic conditions of the country. Most historians sought to explain the imperial crisis from the angle of medieval society in general, relating it to the character and quality of people, and the roles of the diverse classes. They have laid emphasis on the inquiry into deeper causes of the decreasing social surplus for distribution amongst the governing classes leading to ethnic and regional frictions among them. They have further stressed the need to explore the historical factors responsible for a steady deterioration in the economic condition of actual producers, the changing patterns of relationship between zamindars and political authorities, and failure of government in maintaining direct contacts with small landowners and resident (khud-kasht) cultivators. The researches made in this direction though reflecting divergent formulations have in effect rendered obsolete the perspective of historiography of Medieval India from the conventional paradigms of chronological narrative of events moving in recurrent cycles around royalty, nobility, wars and revolts, and called for a thorough investigation and objective analysis of all possible dimensions of the socio-economic forces. A good many comprehensive monographical studies as well as miscellaneous publications in the form of articles and seminar papers have appeared on socio-economic themes of Indian history during seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Much work in this field, I am happy to say, has been done at the Department of History at Aligarh.
Latterly, scholarly attention has been attracted towards a portra-
* Department of Histpry, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
** Presidential Address, Medieval India Section, Indian History Congress, Calcutta, 1990.
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 11-12, November-December 1990