The current number of Social Scientist contains several papers on Mughal Emperor Akbar and his times which were presented at a seminar organised some months ago on his 450th birth anniversary. The question may well be asked: why should Social Scientist be so interested in Akbar as to devote a whole issue to him? The decision to do so, we assure the readers, is not a casual one, born out of some necessity to fill up pages in the journal with the help of whatever offerings seminars in the neighbourhood can make, but is a product of careful deliberation. And the reason is two-fold. The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries are widely considered to mark the genesis of capitalism in Europe. It is not just the Marxist tradition with its emphasis on primitive accumulation of capital which sees that period as something special, but even Keynes who linked the birth of capitalism to the inflow of Spanish gold to the European continent. For anyone intersted in the causes of the divergence in the trajectories of development of Europe and India, therefore, this period has a special importance. Given the nature of our journal, we have accordingly an abiding interest in that epoch.
The second and more important reason consists in the fact that recent events have given the period an added significance. When religious-fascism, epitomised by the Hindutva forces, is on the offensive, when the composite culture of the country developed over centuries is being sought to be obliterated, its reassertion and recovery becomes an urgent task. The period of Akbar's regime was a milestone in the development of the composite culture of this region. It is not without reason that in Pakistan, a state founded upon the very rejection of our composite culture, Akbar is either ignored or vilified in history textbooks, as the note by Mubarak Alt, makes clear. For us therefore highlighting this period become urgently necessary, as does the recovery of the entire cultural tradition symbolised by the Sufi-Bhakti poets.
Irfan Habib whose paper on the history of technology had been carried by us in an earlier number, follows it up in this issue by a specific discussion of Akbar and technology. This paper can be 'read' at many levels: for those specifically interested in the history of this period, it is a comprehensive discussion of the subject. At the same time, it implicitly throws up the whole question of the relationship
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 9-10, September-October 1992