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Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 254.

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XIV A Geopolitical Synopsis: The Evolution of Regional Power Configurations in the Indian Subcontinent INTRODUCTION

The sixty maps of atlas plates XIV.1–5 provide representations of the maximum territorial extent of nearly one hundred dynasties or other political powers, both indigenous and foreign, that have played important roles in the political history of South Asia.1 For each power shown, capitals, other major cities/towns, and where relevant the core area from which it grew are also presented. Accompanying the maps are dynastic bars indicating the duration of each power as a significant entity in South Asian political affairs, the relative territorial extent of given powers at given periods, the degree of political freedom enjoyed at given periods, the prin- cipal ruling figures and their dates, and the culture or religion of the rulers. The relevant conventions are explained on p. xxxviii. The data of section XIV are abstracted from materials presented on the political maps and chronological charts presented in sections III through IX of the atlas and follow the same conventions employed therein. The purpose of the abstracted presentations in this section is to provide a set of clearer views of the extent of each power than were feasible in preceding portions of the atlas. Presenting such views at a uniform scale, against a uniform background showing only coasts, rivers, and areas of smooth and rugged terrain, facilitates not only an appreciation of the physical environ- ment in which a given power expanded, but also the comparison of the maximum extent and position of the several powers throughout South Asian history.

The following essay provides a quantitative summation of the empirical data on the size and duration of the more important political powers of South Asia as a whole and of its major regions throughout recorded history and for each of the major periods thereof; it seeks, further, to explain in probabilistic terms certain regularities in the data, as expressed in the relative frequency of specific types of regional power configurations within each historical period. In attempting to ex- plain those regularities we wish to provide a new perspective on the geopolitical dynamics operating at particular times and in particular regions. This perspective is predicated on the assumption that those dynamics were influenced in varying degrees at varying times by the ecological constraints and opportunities inherent in the physical environment, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by the varying capabilities of particular powers to overcome or circumvent existing constraints and to take advantage of opportunities available to them.


The area of analysis for this study is the Indian subcontinent as outlined in figure 14.1.2 Within that area five major analytic regions are recognized: Northwest, North Center, Northeast, West, and South.3 The time span of this study is from c. 560 B.C. to A.D. 1976.4 Within that time span five major periods are specified for purposes of analysis: the Ancient Period, from 560 B.C. to A.D. 647; the Early Medieval Period, from 647 to 1206; the Sultanate Period, from 1206 to 1526; the Mughal Period, from 1526 to 1765; and the Modern Period, from 1765 to the present (1976).

Within the spatial and temporal limits indicated above the powers on which we focus are characterized as either "pan-Indian" or "supra-regional." Pan-Indian powers are those that extended over significant portions of at least four of our five analytic regions, including areas both north and south of the east/west-trending Vindhya-Satpura mountain barrier.5 Supra-regional powers are (with a few excep- tions to be noted below) all others that extended over significant portions of at least two regions. The term "major power" or "major state" will be used to denote any power enjoying either pan-Indian or supra-regional status. The specific periods when given powers had major power status may be seen by reference to the dy- nastic bars accompanying the maps. For the period during which these bars are unbroken and of maximum width (roughly 2 mm), they denote a pan-Indian power. Where they are unbroken and of intermediate width (roughly 1⅓ mm) they denote a supra-regional power.6 Broken bars (either dashed or dotted) and bars of minimum width (roughly ⅔ mm) denote powers that, whatever their im- All notes for this section appear at the end of the text, on pages 261–62. portance in a nonterritorial sense, are regarded as neither pan-Indian nor supra- regional.

For each state recognized as supra-regional or pan-Indian, we have determined the length of time during which it merited such status and measured its territorial extent at the time of its apogee and, in most cases, have measured or estimated its extent at one or more other periods as well. These data were then chronologically ordered, regionally grouped, and subjected to various forms of simple statistical summation: by even five-hundred-year periods, by major periods of Indian his- tory, and by major regions of India. The derivative statistics from these operations describe, in generalized form, the changing power configurations on the Indian subcontinent.

Since a portion of the following analysis will attempt to integrate data simulta- neously over both time and space for all major powers, individually and collec- tively, it is necessary to introduce here a concept that will afford us a means of do- ing so; that is, the idea of "chorochronic volume" (CCV). Stated in its simplest terms, CCV is area multiplied by time. Figure 14.2 illustrates the chorochronic volume (or CCV) of the Indian subcontinent and its breakdown by the major his- torical periods noted above. The unit measure we have adopted for quantifying and comparing CCVs is the "chorochronic unit" (CCU), defined as one million square mile-years or, for ease of illustration, 100 miles × 100 miles × 100 years. Using this measure, we find that the Indian subcontinent over the period from 560 B.C.

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