Social Scientist. v 25, no. 284-285 (Jan-Feb 1997) p. 94.

Graphics file for this page

Classic Study of Mughal Administration

M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb, Rev. Ed., OUP, 1997, pp. l+XXV+1-294, Price, Rs. 475. 00

When the book was first published (Asia Publishing House, 1966), it was widely acclaimed in the academic circle as breaking new ground in the study of Mughal institutional history with the help of statistical data.

The book examines the composition, organisation and role of the Mughal Nobility during the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707). The different ethnic groups in the Mughal Nobility, their role in administration, politics, economic life, their own establishment and works of public utility, have been examined in a thoroughly documented manner.

A very long Appendix, covering nearly otte third of the book, lists all the identifiable mansabdars of the rank of 1,000 and above, and notes the particulars about racial origins, group affiliations, the ntansab and jagirdari system, and cites the references for these particulars. The changing role of these groups is examined on the basis of statistical data. For the serious minded, as well as the general readers, it brings out, in stark statistical figures (p. 35, Tables 2(a) and (b)), the startling fact that, as opposed to the common impression about Aurangzeb's anti-Hindu policies and measures, the numbers of the Hindu mansabdars, was higher than that of the Muslim mansabdars, during the reign.

On the whole, the author does not find the Mughal administration quite up to the mark, though he is not sure as to whether this was due to 'look of functional training and specialization, or greed and shortsightedness on the nobility's part. Bribery was rampant, and constituted the bane of Mughal bureaucracy. The author, however, notes that the nature arid sphere of the State's activities should be kept in mind, in this context. The welfare of the people was reiterated in general terms, but it in actual practice it meant famine-relief measures, construction of works of public utility, such as the inns and wells, promotion of learning, and patronage of the learned men and skilled artisans by means of rent-free grants of lands, allowances in cash and conferment of jagirs. Works of a wider and permanent value, such as 'irrigation, hospitals and academic institutions' lay outside the mansabdars9 mental horizon. One may, however, wonder as to whether the author in expecting the nobles to do all these works, is

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page