Social Scientist. v 19, no. 221-22 (Oct-Nov 1991) p. 90.

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Approaches to the Mughal State

Doughlas E. Streusand, The Formation of the Mughal Empire, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1989, pp. 206+x, Rs. 175.

The study of the Indian state in the pre-modem period and the question of how political power had been used in achieving certain social and economic goals in the historical past is the main concern of historiography on India. Some of the imperialist theorists projected pre-British India to be a static entity and it is only with the coming of the British that India witnessed a dynamic buoyancy in the socio-economic and political spheres. This Eurocentric theory however, declined in the post-independence period. In fact, the scientific study of Mughal history as a reaction to the concept of Pax Britannica. This included the nationalists, both Hindu and Muslim, and the more recent economic oriented studies of Aligarh University.1 The Aligarh historians informed by the Marxist theory exerted considerable influence in rewriting Mughal history and brought in a new trend in historiography; they introduced secular categories for the interpretation of Mughal history. In Aligarh's historical writings, the Mughal state is perceived as a centralised, sovereign, unitary state governed by 'one elaborate highly unified and systematic bureaucracy under the exclusive control of the sovereign'.2 The state system primarily rested on revenue'and was sustained, according to these historians, by its ability to appropriate a large portion of the economic surplus generated within its frontiers. The system is supposed to have depended on the revenues extracted by the empire-created prebendaries (also seen as bureaucratic elements). The revenue itself was collected to meet the military and political exigencies on which the system rested; this categorises the Mughal state as a 'conquest state'. The state, in order to appropriate the maximum social surplus, sacrificed some of its fiscal rights to the landed assignees and hence the existence of jagirdars and mansabdars. Central as it was, the state, however, saw to it that these elements were controlled by a system of 'checks and balances'by regular transfer of these prebendaries. For

Department of History, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad.

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 9-10, October-November, 1991

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