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date: 20 April 2019

The Mughal Empire

Summary and Keywords

Founded in 1526, the Mughal Empire expanded during the late 16th and 17th centuries across almost the entire Indian subcontinent (except for the southern peninsular tip). At its peak, the empire contained roughly 1.24 million square miles and about 150 million people (half of western Europe in size but double its population). The imperial dynasty was originally Turco-Mongol. But, especially under Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605), the dynasty established the Mughal Empire by incorporating Hindu and other Indian cultures and mobilizing India’s human and natural resources more effectively than any previous state there. Nonetheless, emperors almost constantly faced rebellions and revolts by rival members of the dynasty, imperial administrators, army commanders, regional rulers, and popular movements. By the early 18th century, the empire fragmented into successor states, but the dynasty remained on the throne until 1858 when the British Empire finally displaced it.

Throughout, the imperial court patronized extensive histories and literature (in Persian and a range of Indian languages) and works of architecture and representational arts. The imperial administration compiled detailed records, including about the court, army, and the lands it ruled. Historians, from the time of the empire onward, have used these diverse source materials in their own analyses.

Keywords: Akbar, ʿAlamgir/Aurangzeb, Bangladesh, India, Islam, Mughal, Pakistan, Rajput, South Asia


The Mughal EmpireClick to view larger

Figure 1. South Asian regions and cities during the Mughal Empire.

The Mughal Empire dates from 1526 when Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur (1483–1530), the Turco-Mongol ruler of Kabul, invaded northern India and declared himself its emperor. He based his imperious claim on the brief conquest of Delhi in 1398 by his distant Turkish ancestor Timur (aka Tamerlane, 1336–1405), conqueror of Central Asia.1 Babur’s band of Muslim Turk, Mongol, Afghan, Hazara, Arab, and Baluch warriors defeated Muslim Indo-Afghan Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (r. 1517–1526) and his Hindu Rajput (warrior clan) allies at Panipat (near Delhi) and seized much of the upper Gangetic plain, including the cities and royal treasuries of Delhi and Agra (see figure 1). He distributed conquered wealth and territories to his leading Central Asian military commanders in return for their continued service. The next year, Babur defeated a largely Hindu Rajput army at Khanua (near Agra). In triumph, Babur built a huge tower of enemy skulls in the Timurid mode and seized territories from those who had opposed him.2 Many regional rulers and locally powerful zamindars (landholders) paid his regime revenues and tribute while some members of traditional service elite clans (including diverse Hindu and Muslim soldiers, scribes, tax-collectors, and other officials) joined his army and administration.

During Babur’s four-year reign in north India (1526–1530), he largely continued his family’s Sunni Muslim Timurid cultural and political traditions, even as he explored the wonders and resources he had conquered. Like Timur and many other Timurids, Babur always revered Sufi holy pirs (who sought direct experience of the divine, although some of whom also engaged actively in worldly affairs), especially the Central Asian–based Naqshbandiyya order. Babur additionally began to honor India-based Chishtiyya, Shattariyya, and Suhrawardiyya pirs. Each Sufi order had its own distinctive practice of mystical devotion and widespread network of shrines and disciples. Gaining their backing provided Babur with wider legitimacy among Muslim and also non-Muslim Indians of many social and economic classes.

Following Babur’s authoritative testament and Central Asian custom, at his death in 1530, the males of the imperial family shared sovereignty over his domains. His twenty-two-year-old eldest son, Humayun (1508–1556, r. 1530–1540, 1555–1556), inherited the still thinly fragile Mughal Empire in north India. However, Humayun had only limited experience or ties with India, having hitherto spent 80 percent of his life in Central Asia.

Humayun’s composite Central Asian and Indian armies temporarily expanded the empire by defeating shifting coalitions of Indo-Afghans in north India and the Muslim sultans of Bengal and Gujarat. In addition to some administrative innovations, Humayun used novel rituals to empower and legitimate his reign: making his court a mystical microcosm of the universe, centered on his own sacred self as his regime’s core and the “millennial sovereign.”3 But he could not secure the support of his frequently rebellious three half-brothers, cousins, powerful Central Asian supporters, or diverse Indian subjects.

After a decade, Humayun’s dispirited armies lost a series of disastrous battles to resurgent Indo-Afghans led by the Suri clan’s Sher Shah (1486–1545, r. 1540–1545). Humayun fled to Iran, where he accepted as his pir the Shiʿite Safavid Emperor Tahmasp (1514–1576, r. 1524–1576). Humayun eventually fought his way back to rule over Kabul and then in 1555 reconquered north India, after fifteen years away. Only seven months later, however, he fell down the steps of his library (famously while rushing to answer the Islamic call to prayer) and died. While Babur and Humayun tenuously created the Mughal Empire using largely Timurid ideologies and institutions, the next generation established it, largely by successfully incorporating more Indic cultures and personnel.

Establishment of the Empire under Emperor Akbar

Teenage Akbar (1542–1605, r. 1556–1605) succeeded to Humayun’s north Indian holdings but survived only with the support of powerful guardian-regents, most notably Bairam Khan (1501–1561), a Persianized Shiʿite Turk. In 1562, Akbar threw off his last regent. He and his core advisors then began to create his effective administrative institutions, innovate his incorporative imperial court culture, and organize and deploy his powerful army. Akbar’s five-decade reign thereby firmly grounded the Mughal dynasty in India.

Akbar himself was illiterate (possibly due to dyslexia) but he had a remarkably retentive memory, mastering the vast volumes of records, documents, and official letters that his attendants read out to him. Imperial chroniclers attributed omniscience to Akbar, recording that he personally dictated all important orders, appointments, promotions, demotions, and awards of titles to the hundreds of high-ranking imperial officers and officials. He directed overall diplomatic and military strategy and commanded campaigns. Fawning accounts credit Akbar with inventing many weapons in the imperial arsenal and with mastery of the expanding imperial horse and elephant stables.

Especially during the early decades of Akbar’s reign, he deepened the bonds with the predominantly Sunni Central Asian commanders who had long supported his family, including through political marriage alliances for himself and his sisters and later his sons and daughters. He gave financial and ideological support to Sunni ʿulama (religious scholars) needed to staff courts (using the Hanafi school of sharia jurisprudence), lead Muslim congregational prayers, invoke divine blessing on the sovereign, teach Islamic sciences, and instruct children. Akbar initially punished sects ʿulama claimed were deviant, including millennial Mahdawiyya and outspoken Shiʿites. Through the 1570s, Akbar personally observed conventional Sunni forms of worship, including the prescribed five daily prayers. From 1576, Akbar officially subsidized Indians making the Hajj to Mecca. During this early period, Akbar also characterized as jihads (“holy struggles”) some military campaigns against non-Muslims.

Concurrently, however, Akbar also incorporated into his household, court, and administration non-Sunni people, ideologies, and practices, to an extent unprecedented for either his Mughal predecessors or the Delhi sultans. His mother, Bairam Khan, and several other close companions favored Shiʿism. Akbar associated with mystics and learned men, including Hindus and Jains. Significantly, Akbar also gradually shifted his devotion to Indian-based Sufi orders, particularly the Chishtiyya, who embraced an incorporative vision of Islam. For instance, from 1566, for fourteen years Akbar annually visited the shrine of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din Chishtiyya (1141–1230) in Ajmer—including a 1570 pilgrimage on foot, some 225 miles from Agra.

Even more innovatively, Akbar expanded his pool of loyal supporters by making many political marriages for himself and his sons with Hindu Rajput regional rulers. Akbar’s first Rajput marriage (c. 1562) was with Harkha Bai (d. 1613), eldest daughter of Raja Bihari Mal (r. 1547–1574), the beleaguered Hindu ruler of Amber.4 Indeed, of Akbar’s many official wives, at least eleven (and probably more) were from Hindu Rajput families. Historically, aspiring Rajputs had practiced hypergamy, giving brides to higher-ranked Rajput clans; many Rajputs related similarly to the Mughal dynasty.5 Some earlier Muslim sultans had taken Hindus as wives or concubines, often as war booty, and customarily converted them to Islam. But Akbar innovatively honored his Rajput wives by respecting their religious traditions and choices; some converted to Islam, but others freely performed Hindu rituals in his harem, often with Akbar’s participation. Akbar also recognized their sons as his legitimate heirs. Additionally, Akbar enrolled their menfolk into the highest levels of imperial service and supported them against those Muslim courtiers who held anti-Hindu sentiments.

Akbar also terminated several regulations and taxes that discriminated against non-Muslims, including the prohibition on the construction of new Hindu, Jain, and Parsi temples and the pilgrim tax on them. He made inams (endowments of land revenue) to Hindu temples and to non-Muslim holy men. He prohibited the slaughter of cows and peacocks. In 1564 (reconfirmed in 1579), he halted the collection of jizya (a wealth tax on non-Muslims), regarded as a discriminatory tax by the vast majority of his subjects, including his growing number of Rajput officials. In contrast, some strict Muslims regarded jizya as an appropriate and legally required penalty on subjects who refused to convert to Islam.

Akbar’s many marriages produced a vast women-centered world: the harem. Each imperial wife had a separate sub-household, filled with female attendants and supported by income appropriate to her status. The harem also contained eunuchs as attendants, guards, and intermediaries with the outside world. Akbar’s closest male companions, particularly senior relatives by birth or marriage, might receive the honor of visiting parts of his harem. Through the personal influence of some imperial womenfolk over the emperor and through other indirect interventions, the harem penetrated the empire’s public space.

The Imperial Administration

Mughal emperors ruled a primarily military-fiscalist state that required a vast and growing army and administration to extract tribute and revenues from the diverse areas they conquered; that income then supported the expansions of the imperial army and administration, as well as Akbar’s household and courtiers. Under Akbar’s close direction, Mughal armies attacked neighboring states and suppressed popular rebellions and resistance by landholders. Simultaneously, Akbar and his central courtiers strove to create stable, efficient, and uniform administrative processes throughout the empire. Nonetheless, in practice there was much regional and local variation, since officials had to adjust pragmatically to both satisfy their superiors and yet maintain order and collect revenues.

From around 1566, Akbar’s revenue officials began reaching below zamindars to measure and assess individual fields, eventually producing an official record for most villages, listing its arable, inhabited, forested, pasturage, and uncultivated lands, and exactly who was responsible for paying revenues for each. But powerful zamindars sometimes proved able to obscure this information and themselves pay the revenues as tribute or at rates they negotiated, occasionally provoking armed confrontations with imperial officials.6 Nonetheless, Mughal “land grab” and revenue extractions absorbed a significant share of the GDP (historians differ about the proportion of the harvest demanded, but reasonable estimates range from a third to half, with the proportion varying among areas).7

Akbar’s close courtiers also created one integrated decimal hierarchy for top officer-administrators: the mansab (“rank”) system.8 From about 1574, Akbar assigned each top appointee a numerical grade from ten to five thousand, specifying the required number of cavalrymen (or other soldiers) recruited and paid by that mansabdar (“mansab-holder”). A specific office did not have a fixed rank: a provincial governor might hold one mansab but his successor a lower or higher mansab. Further, officials had no fixed terms, and Akbar might transfer them suddenly in response to a campaign or crisis or else their reported malfeasance. Although careers customarily combined administrative and military responsibilities (the judiciary was largely distinct in training and duties), from around 1595, each mansabdar received two ranks: zat (“personal”) and sawar (the number of “cavalrymen” he must employ). This hierarchal system provided the emperor with a finely regulated process for rewarding or punishing mansabdars.

While the mansab system had many new bureaucratic features, it also contained many personalistic and patrimonial characteristics.9 There was no entrance examination (unlike the contemporary Chinese imperial civil service). Rather, appointments and promotions were all (theoretically) based on Akbar’s personal inspection and superhuman insight about the man’s true worth, usually supported by recommendations from trusted high officials. The sons and grandsons of mansabdars often followed them into service, thereby becoming khanazad (“house born,” implying lifelong loyalty to the emperor). While mansab rank was not routinely hereditary, ancestry clearly affected one’s initial ranking and subsequent career. Further, Mughal imperial princes usually held the highest mansabs (often above the five-thousand limit for others) and thus had the income to support their vast households, military forces, and political factions.10 Defeated but now submissive regional rulers also usually received very high ranks.

Crucially, Akbar ritually bound each mansabdar to him personally. Each offered Akbar deep prostration and nazr (“ritual presentation to a superior,” usually of gold coins but sometimes jewels or other high-value items). Mansabdars (and also tributary rulers and landholders) also offered peshkash (“presentation gift” of money, rare animals, or other valuables) when approaching the emperor, especially on special occasions like imperial birthdays or coronation anniversaries. Conversely, Akbar bestowed gifts, especially sets of khilat (“robes of honor”) by which he clothed the recipient in a garment symbolically worn by Akbar and thus imbued with his bodily essence.11 Catching Akbar’s eye through distinguished deportment in court could garner a desirable appointment.

From about 1580, the central administration assigned each mansabdar one or more jagirs (temporary land revenue assignments) that totaled his mansab’s official income.12 Mansabdars (except for the lowest ranked) had their own agents collect the revenue from zamindars and provide written receipts. To prevent abuses, mansabdars governing a territory were conventionally not assigned jagirs there, although for practical reasons, jagir assignments were often located nearby or even within an official’s jurisdiction.13 But the jagirs were periodically reassigned by the central administration, so mansabdars remained dependent on Akbar’s continued approval. Further, the emperor inherited each deceased mansabdar’s personal property (unlike a classically “feudal” system).14

As a major variation from this system of temporary and rotating jagirs and escheat, starting around 1596 many royal Rajputs, a few Indianized Afghans, and other former regional rulers received recognition of their family estates or kingdoms as their permanent watan jagir (“homeland jagir”). While nominally this land came under imperial authority and was only assigned back to the jagirdar, in practice a watan jagir largely continued his preexisting relationships, both cultural and fiscal, with local zamindars and cultivators.

During the early 1580s, Akbar’s officials also developed and implemented a standard model for provincial governance. They divided the territories under imperial authority into geographically well-defined subas (“provinces”)—in many cases simply adopting traditional political divisions. Each suba had a subadar (“governor”), diwan (“chief revenue official”), faujdar (“military commandant”), chief qazi (“head of the judicial establishment”), sadr (“manager of revenue-grants”), and staff of newswriters. Each official reported independently to his counterpart at the imperial center, forming a system of checks and balances. Regular networks of newswriters, runners, and other communications systems, including carrier pigeons, linked the imperial bureaucracy into an effective information order.15

Akbar’s officials instituted the use of Persian language, script, and technical terms to standardize records throughout the expanding empire. Noted experts wrote numerous technical manuals, Dastur al-ʿAmal, that provided guidance for scribes, with model templates for official documents and correspondence.16 All this helped amalgamate society, as local accountants and officials learned to function within the empire.

Imperial Court Culture

Despite Akbar’s growing number of wives, as he reached his late twenties he still had no surviving children—a daughter and twin sons having died soon after birth. Seeking divine intervention, Akbar humbly made a pilgrimage to Chishtiyya Sufi Sheykh Salim (1478–1572) near Sikri village. Harkha Bai soon became pregnant. For the birth, Akbar sent her to a palace he built near Sheykh Salim’s home. Akbar named his first son and eventual heir Mirza Salim (1569–1627). Akbar then appointed Sheykh Salim’s daughters and daughters-in-law as the baby’s wet-nurses, the Sheykh’s second son as the child’s tutor, the Sheykh’s grandsons as the child’s foster-brothers, and other male descendants of the Sheykh as high-ranking imperial officials. Similarly, Akbar’s two other sons, Mirza Murad (1570–1599) and Mirza Daniyal (1572–1604), were born respectively at the Chishtiyya shrines of Sheykh Salim and Sheykh Daniyal (a 15th-century disciple of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din) in Ajmer. These long-awaited births further bound Akbar to the Chishti order.

From 1571, Akbar built Sheykh Salim’s shrine and, adjacent to it, created a new, purpose-built capital that he called Fatehpur (“City of Victory”).17 During his years ruling from there (1571–1581, 1582–1585), Akbar gradually moved away from Timurid and conventional Sunni beliefs and practices and incorporated more Indic ones. For instance, in his new palace wall, Akbar built an elaborate portal, jharoka, from which he revealed himself daily to revering subjects on the ground below, who thus reassured themselves of his good health, savored his latest sartorial fashion, or worshipped him. Akbar’s amanuensis Sheykh Abu al-Fazl (1551–1602) described this as Akbar bestowing “the light of his countenance” by giving darshan (Sanskrit for the “auspicious sight” that a Hindu deity bestows on devotees).18 A public sect of worshippers of Akbar emerged, called the Darsaniyya. However, Sunni courtier and historian ʿAbd-ul-Qadir Badaʾuni (1540–1605) wrote critically (and secretly) of Akbar’s encouragement of such worship.19

Around 1575, Akbar built in Fatehpur a highly controversial building, the ʿibadat-khana (“divine worship hall” in Persian and Arabic). This building’s exact location remains uncertain, but it housed fiery evening debates among leading religious scholars and leaders, over which Akbar arbitrated.20 At first, Akbar only invited prominent Sunni ʿulama and Sayyids (revered as biological descendants of the Prophet Muhammad). Nonetheless, representing various Sunni legal and philosophical schools, they disputed bitterly. By the late 1570s, Akbar broadened his ʿibadat-khana debates to include Shiʿite, Hindu, and Jain scholars. He listened closely, challenging each speaker’s assertions, testing them against his own developing theology, and adopting parts of their ideology when they confirmed or advanced his own.

In 1578, amid a massive hunt, Akbar collapsed unconscious, to the consternation of his attendants.21 After regaining consciousness, Akbar suddenly ordered the enclosed animals freed rather than killed en masse as usual, he designated the site as sacred, and he had the top of his head shorn (reportedly to enable his soul to escape at death). Sheykh Abu al-Fazl proclaimed this a transfiguring infusion of the divine spirit into Akbar.

Akbar was already extending his control over the ʿulama. Many had received or inherited revenue grants from earlier rulers and from Akbar. Periodically, but particularly after 1578, Akbar reduced or confiscated many grants lacking documentation or merit. Akbar then lavishly redistributed grants to Muslim and non-Muslim worthies who earned his respect and demonstrated loyalty (some grants were for uncultivated lands, thus extending and developing his empire’s agricultural base). Additionally, Akbar added to his many titles Amir al-Muminin (“Commander of Faithful” in Arabic), asserting leadership over the Muslim community in India and globally.22

Continuing this trend of subordinating the ʿulama, in September 1579, a mahzar circulated at court; this was an “attestation,” a religious decree whose authority was endorsed by all who signed or affixed their personal seals. The text explicitly recognized Akbar’s authority to arbitrate any religious issue whenever the ʿulama were not unanimous—as long as his interpretation accorded with the Qurʾan and Hadith, in his judgment.23 Most ʿulama at court signed, under severe threat to their offices, income, or lives.

In 1578, some Portuguese came from Bengal to Fatehpur and the Portuguese Viceroy sent an ambassador from Goa. Seeking more educated informants, Akbar requested the Viceroy in 1579 to “send me two learned priests who should bring with them the chief books of the [Catholic] Law and the Gospel, for I wish to study and learn the Law and what is best and most perfect in it.”24 In response, the Viceroy sent three Jesuits (their young religious order had worked to convert India since 1542). This delegation included a Persian-speaking Iranian convert to Catholicism. Akbar questioned them about many theological topics, including Mary’s sinless impregnation by the Holy Spirit. During their three years at court, these Jesuits diligently but ineffectively pursued their usual strategy for the conversion of the entire kingdom by starting with its ruler.

In 1581, Akbar ceased underwriting the Hajj. He resented the demeaning necessity of either seeking unreliable Portuguese protection while crossing the Indian Ocean or requesting uncertain Safavid permission for the more onerous overland route, and then submitting to Ottoman authority once there. In 1582, Akbar wrote to the hereditary Sharifs of Mecca (who governed under the Ottomans) diplomatically apologizing for the absence of a Mughal Hajj party the previous year and also requesting written receipts for his earlier lavish financial donations, which remained unacknowledged and unaccounted for.25 Despite this deferential letter, Akbar never sponsored another Hajj (although many imperial courtiers went anyway).

Around 1583, Akbar reportedly ceased performing the five daily Islamic prayers and began publicly worshiping the sun four times daily and divine light more generally.26 Akbar’s new rituals may have multiple sources. Mongol traditional proclaims divine luminescence as impregnating the Mongols’ mythic mother. Some of Akbar’s Rajput Hindu wives claimed descent from the sun and performed Brahmanic fire- and solar-worship in his harem. Indeed, Akbar reportedly included in his noontime ritual the recitation of the sun’s 1,001 Sanskrit names.

In 1585, Akbar abruptly left Fatehpur, never to return. He shifted his court and main army to concentrate first on his northwestern and then his southern frontiers. Especially during this period, Akbar and his close companions created a new imperial cult, centering on him as spiritual master, called Din-i Ilahi (“Religion of God” or “Highest/Divine Religion” in Persian) or Tauhid-i-Ilahi (the Arabic term tauhid has a long philosophical tradition and range of meanings including: “belief in the unity of God” and “the fifth degree of perfection in Sufi life, where the divine essence is contemplated as void of any attribute conceived by thought”).27 Initiates received from Akbar an icon of the sun, a special turban, and a small portrait of him to wear on the turban or breast. Imitating Akbar, but going against Sunni custom, many disciples shaved off their beards (except for the mustache). Akbar and his initiates also periodically performed sun and light worship. Further, initiates stopped using among themselves the conventional Arabic greeting al-salam alaykum (“peace be upon you”) and response wa alaykum al-salam (“and unto you be peace”), instead substituting Allah-o Akbar (an Arabic phrase conventionally meaning “God is Great” but also controversially meaning “Akbar is Allah”) with the response jalla jalaluhu (“glorified be His glory”), evoking Akbar’s title, Jalal al-Din. Akbar also added “Allah-o-Akbar” to imperial documents and coins.

Reorienting time, Akbar devised a new solar-based calendar, Tarikh-i Ilahi (“Divine Era” in Persian), that began with his own accession. This calendar also had practical administrative advantages since the annual harvest and thus the revenue cycle varied within the lunar Islamic Hijri calendar. A factor probably strengthening Akbar’s millennial ideology was the approaching Hijri year 1000 (1591–1592 ce), when many Muslims expected the Mahdi to reveal himself and lead the faithful to eternal salvation. In anticipation, in 1585 Akbar ordered seven courtiers to begin to co-author the Tarikh-i Alfi (History of the first thousand years), chronicling Muslim rulers from the death of the Prophet Muhammad to Akbar. He later ordered “Era of the Thousand” minted on his coins.

Akbar’s search to find a universal basis for all religions and create congeniality among all his subjects’ religious communities became his policy sulh-i kul (a Persian-language term translated variously as “universal peace” or “tolerance for all”).28 He thus respected all groups that submitted to him as the “perfect man” and “universal sovereign.” However, his armies continued to suppress dissidents and conquer neighbors.

While Akbar’s military victories, Rajput marriages, and incorporation of mystical Islamic and Indic religious ideologies broadened and strengthened his imperial administration and army by attracting a range of supporters, these also provoked opposition. For instance, around 1579, a prominent Sunni qazi (judge) issued a fatwa (“religious ruling”) legitimating for Muslims the rejection of allegedly apostate Akbar’s authority and supporting a popular insurrection in eastern India during an invasion into the Punjab from Kabul by Akbar’s younger half-brother, Mirza Hakim (1554–1585). In response, Akbar personally led successful expeditions west to Kabul in 1581 against Hakim and then east into Bengal in 1582 against the rebels. Later, Hanafi jurist and Naqshbandi Pir Sheykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564–1624) condemned Akbar for making heretical pretensions of his own divinity, thus affronting Islam’s unqualified monotheism and absolute prohibition against worshipping any except Allah. Most prominently, as Akbar entered his sixties and his fifth decade of rule, his eldest son Salim revolted, establishing his independent imperial rule based in Allahabad, where he patronized his own imperial court culture. Only in 1604, just before Akbar’s death in 1605, did Salim resubmit.

Elaboration of the Empire under Emperor Jahangir

The new Mughal emperor (r. 1605–1627) determined to distinguish himself as the greatest Muslim monarch, making himself the embodiment of universal righteousness and moral authority, the center of an imperial cult that would bind his high officials to him personally. Two Ottoman emperors had already used the title Salim, so he chose a new one for himself, explaining: “the labour of the emperor is world domination so I named myself Jahangir (‘World Seizer’).”29 He also took as his “title of honour” Nur al-Din (“Light of Religion” in Persian and Arabic) “inasmuch as my sitting on the throne coincided with the rising and shining on the earth of the great light (the Sun).” Jahangir inherited treasuries worth roughly 150 million rupees cash (about 150 percent of the empire’s total annual income) plus incalculable jewels and other valuables.30 However, Jahangir’s personal innovations, lavish acquisitions, and costly military expeditions considerably reduced this vast reserve and had unconsidered economic and political consequences.

Initially, the new emperor confirmed and enhanced the revenue grants for many ‘ulama and raised the rank and jagir incomes of many mansabdars. While the total for all mansabs under Akbar never exceeded two hundred thousand, Jahangir awarded nearly eight hundred thousand.31 Jahangir also increased the stipends paid to his womenfolk and other courtiers. Jahangir thus ran an annual deficit. He also began occasionally to practice ijaradara (“revenue farming”): selling entrepreneurs the right to collect imperial revenues for the coming year from designated territories, which garnered cash in advance but relinquished much control over the collection process.32

Jahangir also personally redefined imperial standards for weights, measures, and coins (requiring recalculation of all official accounts). For instance, he increased by 20 percent the size of silver coins minted for general circulation, which disrupted the jagir economy. Indeed, even Jahangir realized that he had overreached; after six years, he restored the official coinage to Akbar’s standards.

Over time, Jahangir interested himself in various religious dignitaries, assembling current favorites at court. While maneuvering for accession and to strengthen his early regime, he courted the support of leading advocates for Sunni traditions, including Naqshbandiyya Pir Sheykh Ahmad Sirhindi, so critical of Akbar. But Jahangir never wanted these religious leaders to interfere in his reign. After fourteen years as emperor, Jahangir tried to intimidate Sirhindi, imprisoning him for a year before restoring him to favor.

Jahangir also developed his self-identification with Chishtiyya pirs. Jahangir proclaimed that he was spiritual heir of his namesake, Sheykh Salim. Emperor Jahangir employed Sheykh Salim’s male descendants; some became Jahangir’s own spiritual devotees. Further, Jahangir claimed in 1614 that long-deceased Sheykh Muʿin al-Din Chishtiyya restored him from illness to health. Jahangir displayed this mark of spiritual blessing by piercing his earlobes for pearl earrings. Out of devotion to Jahangir, hundreds of officials, both at court and in the field, imitated him; Jahangir supplied 732 pearl earrings to his devotees.33 Indeed, Jahangir made himself pir over many officials, symbolized by receipt of his miniature portrait, which they wore on breast or turban. He appeared to them in visions and dreams, curing them of illness, often over great distances.34

As part of his inquisitive probing of the nature of the world around him, Jahangir quizzed men from various religions, often posing provocative queries and pitting theologians against each other. For instance, Portuguese Jesuits (a small but constant presence at his court) recorded how Jahangir questioned their beliefs about Jesus and his miracles, evidently bemused by some responses about their celibacy and the Holy Trinity. But he permitted Jesuits in 1610 to baptize three of his nephews (which also disqualified them for competition for succession to the throne).

While Jahangir regarded as relatively marginal the growing the presence of European missionaries, merchants, and diplomats, their direct and indirect effects were expanding. Portuguese naval vessels continued to capture merchant and pilgrim ships, some owned by Mughal courtiers (including imperial womenfolk). In retaliation, in 1613, Jahangir closed Catholic churches in Lahore and Agra and stopped providing financial aid to Jesuits at court, expelling some. He opportunistically allied with the increasingly assertive English East India Company (chartered 1600) to punish the Portuguese in their Surat and Daman enclaves. After a 1615 treaty, however, these Mughal-Portuguese hostilities subsided temporarily.

The Portuguese, the English, and the Dutch East India Company (from 1616) also affected the empire through increasing intercontinental seaborne trade. European ships transported vast amounts of silver and gold from the Americas to purchase Indian-made textiles and other products, thus lubricating and bolstering the Mughal economy. Crops from the Americas, including tobacco, maize/corn, chili peppers, and tomatoes, were widely adopted by Indian cultivators. Jahangir also increasingly integrated Western-style gunpowder weapons into imperial armies, hiring scattered Europeans and Ottomans to manufacture and fire heavy artillery. Wealthy regional rulers did so as well. Improved firelock muskets and cannons proliferated in India’s military labor market. Gunpowder weapons thus proved ever-more decisive in battle, both for and against the empire, and grew as a proportion of necessary military expenses.

Among his mansabdars, Jahangir evidently balanced his personal preferences with recognition of their competence. Although Jahangir respected his Rajput mother, he highlighted his paternal Timurid ancestry far more. Jahangir formally married at least five Rajput brides (in addition to about fourteen Muslim wives) but he appointed no Rajputs or other Hindus to high offices at the imperial center and only a few as governors—the major exception being Raja Man Singh of Amber (r. 1589–1614), Jahangir’s maternal cousin and senior wife’s brother.

While Jahangir occasionally approached imperial frontiers, he never entered a battlefield, preferring distant supervision. Jahangir’s physical presence was not necessary for campaigns to succeed, showing the empire’s stability. Imperial armies achieved victories to the east (over Bengal, Koch Bihar, and Kamrup), west (against Mewar), north (Kangra, Kishtwar, and Ladakh), and south (against the Marathas and remaining Deccani sultanates). However, many conquered territories were never fully integrated, producing an ever-more sprawling empire. A major Mughal strategy was to coopt enemy leaders, enticing them to aspire to attendance at the imperial court, where they were expected to be overwhelmingly impressed. Instead, many remained alienated by the Persianate imperial court culture and established khanazad.

Distinctive of Jahangir’s later reign was the rise to dominance of Iʿtimad al-Daula’s family. An impoverished Irani immigrant from the Safavid court, he had joined Akbar’s service and climbed due to his administrative expertise, gaining the title Iʿtimad al-Daula (d. 1622). In 1611, he brought his thirty-four-year-old widowed daughter to join the imperial household.35 Within a few months Jahangir married her, soon entitling her Nur Jahan (“Light of the World,” 1577–1645), echoing his own title, Nur al-Din. In his memoirs, she received increasingly extravagant praise as devoted companion, masterful huntswoman, and astute political advisor.36 As Jahangir grew infirm (from substantial alcohol and drug use), she emerged as the empire’s guiding force despite her having no children with him. However, on his death in 1627, her alienated step-son and nephew-in-law, Shah Jahan, eventually seized the throne. Over his reign, Jahangir’s often idiosyncratic religious policies and practices proved less politically effective and culturally incorporative than those of Akbar, but the imperial apparatus and army continued to sustain Mughal dynastic wealth, authority, and power.

Emperor Shah Jahan and Building Up the Mughal Empire

Emperor Shah Jahan (1592–1666, r. 1628–1658/1666) soon established his own court culture, identifying strongly with his Timurid ancestors. He included among his many titles Sahib-i Qiran-i Sani (“Second Lord of the [Astrological] Conjunction” in Persian), evoking his ancestor Timur (“Lord of the Conjunction”) with status as millennial sovereign.37 From his youth Shah Jahan wore a full beard, breaking with Akbar’s and Jahangir’s practice of shaving all but a mustache but emulating Timur and also many religiously observant Sunnis. Indeed, Shah Jahan always devoutly performed the Sunni-required five daily prayers and Ramadan-month fast. He reinstated imperial sponsorship of Hajj pilgrims, sending nine missions to Mecca with generous donations. He favored ʿulama and referenced the Sharia more than his predecessors. Additionally, he associated with Naqshbandiyyas as well as the Indian-based Chishtiyya and Shattariyya Sufi orders. However, he also respected the Shiʿism of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, her family, and numerous other Irani courtiers.

Despite Jahangir’s draining of the imperial treasury, Shah Jahan lavishly displayed his own imperial glory through patronizing art, architecture, and literature. On his accession, he commissioned the uniquely brilliant golden Peacock Throne: a raised 68 square foot platform under a 15 foot high canopy surmounted by ornamental peacocks, everything thickly gem-encrusted. It took seven years to accumulate the vast bullion and precious stones (worth about ten million rupees) and to craft this throne.

Shah Jahan had daughters by his first and third wives, and he gave these womenfolk honored places in his imperial harem. But he remained devoted to his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal. But only three years into his reign, Mumtaz Mahal died at age thirty-eight while giving birth to her fourteenth child. Over a decade, in Agra Shah Jahan created as her tomb a dome and four detached minarets costing five million rupees, celebrated globally as the Taj Mahal. Henceforth, the Taj Mahal has stood as an architectural masterpiece, famous worldwide for the technology of its construction and the exquisite balance and proportion of its forms.38

From 1639, Shah Jahan began constructing his imperial capital, Shahjahanabad.39 Shah Jahan thus sought to combine a newer model of an omnipotent monarch ruling from a stable capital with the Central Asian tradition of imperial mobility. During the nine years following the Red Fort’s completion in 1648, he lived there a total of five-and-a-half years (during six visits). In between, he traveled, supervising his domain and military campaigns.40

Especially along the empire’s external and internal frontiers, various local rulers and landholders only paid tribute or taxes under compulsion. Larger rebellions erupted when imperial armies were committed elsewhere. After negotiating relative peace in the Deccan in 1636, Shah Jahan turned his attention to Central Asia, motivated by the potential prestige of defeating the Safavids and Uzbeks and recovering Timur’s homeland. But Central Asia’s economic value never justified the vast expense of his campaigns there, costing more than double his massive building projects (which totaled twenty-nine million rupees).41

By 1647, Shah Jahan’s total assessed revenue was 220 million rupees: a quarter more than Jahangir’s peak and more than double Akbar’s.42 This increase came from a combination of newly conquered territories in the Deccan and elsewhere, growth in the overall economy, and also inflation (especially from the continuing substantial influx of roughly a ton of silver annually via European merchants). Simultaneously, the gap widened between the official assessed revenue and the actual amount collected, so many mansabdars were unable to support their required military contingent. These stresses intensified from persistent imperial commitments of resources to Deccan wars from the last phase of Shah Jahan’s reign onward.

Shah Jahan’s children developed factions. Some were more eclectic, especially the faction around his eldest child and favorite daughter, Jahanara Begum (b. 1614), and her nearest younger full-brother, Dara Shikoh (1615–1658).43 Both sought the universal truth of Islam, including through esoteric Indic religions.44 However, in a bloody succession war, the third son, Prince Aurangzeb (1618–1707), defeated and killed or exiled his brothers and imprisoned his father, succeeding as Emperor ʿAlamgir.

For nearly eight years Aurangzeb kept Shah Jahan closely imprisoned in Agra Fort, bereft of any significant support among mansabdars or his subjects. Jahanara Begum remained his sole prominent attendant until his death from natural causes in January 1666. Even then, Aurangzeb allowed little ceremony for his interment next to Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb, already firmly enthroned and in control, would rule for five decades until his death during his ninetieth year in 1707.

The Extension of the Empire under Emperor Aurangzeb/ʿAlamgir

During Emperor ʿAlamgir’s nearly half-century reign (1658–1707), the empire reached its territorial limits, but vital imperial processes and institutions were overstrained. He constantly campaigned, asserting his imperial authority over opponents across almost the entire subcontinent.45 While he did not spare himself, he often saw his subordinates fail to accomplish his goals.

Throughout, Emperor ʿAlamgir focused on mobilizing support from leading ʿulama and orthodox pirs.46 ʿAlamgir believed his personal piety would assure triumphs over his enemies and those of Islam. For instance, when companions or loyal servants died, ʿAlamgir personally led commemorative prayers and followed the bier, even while emperor. Late in his life, he sewed prayer caps and copied the Qurʾan for sale, with the proceeds going toward his modest personal expenses.

After ʿAlamgir’s formal enthronement, he sent richly laden embassies to the Sharif of Mecca, eventually gaining sanction for his reign. To protect the Islamic creed from possible disrespect, ʿAlamgir removed it from imperial coins. He also cleansed his court of what he considered un-Islamic practices. For instance, he forbade courtiers from wearing ostentatious garments, including gold or red cloth, considered improper by many devout Muslims.47 He ended the solar Nauroz (“New Year”) festivities—a pre-Islamic Iranian tradition celebrated since Akbar’s reign, which differed from the lunar Hijri calendar. Earlier emperors had weighed themselves against gold and other precious substances on the solar and lunar anniversaries of their coronations and births, with the wealth distributed charitably. By 1668, ʿAlamgir ended this practice in his court (although he allowed his favored children to perform this ritual occasionally on recovery from illness).

ʿAlamgir also terminated the disputations in court among advocates of various religious traditions that Akbar and Jahangir had patronized. Instead, ʿAlamgir ordered his best ʿulama to edit the most authoritative Hanafi legal judgments into the still-widely-consulted Persian-language Fatawa-i ʿAlamgiri (Religious rulings of ʿAlamgir). Thus, Islamic sciences always received his patronage.

Substantial popular uprisings, however, punctuated his reign. Starting in 1667, in Afghanistan, several communities expelled Mughal authorities from their homelands. Imperial armies sent to crush them instead suffered major defeats (1674, 1675). Only after ʿAlamgir himself went to supervise were these uprisings suppressed by combining force and subsidy-payments (protection money), thus securing the vital route to Kabul (by 1676).

Peasant communities in the Mughal heartland also persistently rebelled. Through the late 1660s, Hindu Jats around Mathura rallied under their popular leader, Gokula. Eventually, Mughal troops subdued this insurrection (albeit temporarily) and captured Gokula’s children in 1670, converting them to Islam. ʿAlamgir renamed Mathura “Islamabad” and ordered the demolition of the major temple there (recycling its stonework into a mosque in nearby Agra). In 1672, members of the Satnami religious movement in eastern Punjab revolted. Imperial accounts disparaged them as a “rebellious horde of low people like goldsmiths, carpenters, scavengers, tanners and members of other menial professions.”48 ʿAlamgir personally oversaw the imperial forces that gradually repressed them. Also in Punjab, Sikhs under their gurus renewed their revolts and repulsed several Mughal suppression campaigns.49 For instance, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh (r. 1675–1698), mobilized increasing militant resistance against Mughal authorities for decades.

The Marathas of the western Deccan were the martial-agricultural community most powerfully resistant to imperial arms and enticements. Many Marathas had rallied under their charismatic leader, Shivaji (1627–1680).50 ʿAlamgir sent some of his best commanders and troops against Shivaji, but they repeatedly failed. In a daring, lucrative, and politically significant expedition, Shivaji sacked the rich strategic imperial port of Surat in 1664. In 1666, ʿAlamgir sought to buy off Shivaji by appointing his seven-year-old son, Sambhaji, an imperial official and by summoning them both to the imperial court at Agra. But Shivaji rejected Mughal imperial court culture and escaped to renew his campaigns.

In 1670, Shivaji plundered Surat again, adding to his own wealth and fame and humiliating its imperial defenders. In 1674, Shivaji further enhanced his status through an elaborate Brahmanical enthronement as Maharaja Chatrapati (Sanskrit, “Emperor of the Four Quarters”). Shivaji made the Maratha coalition the most expansive force in central India, mobilized around potent Hindu cultural symbols—like so many other rebellions against ʿAlamgir’s regime and policies.

ʿAlamgir increasingly ordered constraints on non-Muslim subjects (as well as on Muslims whom he considered heterodox). Among other policies, he reinstated the pilgrim tax for non-Muslim religious festivals and tried to curtail them. While ʿAlamgir gave financial support to some Hindu temples, he also cancelled revenue grants and directed the destruction of others, especially those belonging to rebels. In 1679, ʿAlamgir re-imposed the long-abolished jizya tax, sparking popular protests.

In 1679, ‘Alamgir left Shahjahanabad, never to return to that city, initiating the pattern that would dominate his remaining four decades: moving among military encampments and provisional capitals to deal personally with imperial crises. While armies under ʿAlamgir’s direct command gained victories and imperial forces conquered to India’s southern tip as far south as Tanjavur, the overstretched empire fragmented.

Overall, despite ‘Alamgir’s considerable expenditures of manpower and financial resources, his reign proved disappointing to him and to many khanazad mansabdars, who formed the imperial core. Many resented the appointment to high mansabs of former enemies, particularly those considered culturally inferior. This resentment intensified, since there were insufficient available jagirs and since even those jagirs usually failed to produce their nominal income. As ʿAlamgir admitted “We have a small sum of money and many have a demand for it.”51 The empire began to segment as revenue flows and communication links between north and south were periodically interrupted en route due to predations by bandits, warlords, and even intermediate imperial officials. Most mansabdars in north India faced regional uprisings without the prospect of military reinforcement or financial support from ʿAlamgir in the Deccan. Further, distant mansabdars did not bond to the emperor through recurrent direct personal exchanges of nazr and khilat as they had earlier. Conversely, most governors remained unchecked by effective supervision from the imperial center and were able to retain provincial revenues for themselves.52

None of ʿAlamgir’s sons lived up to his standards. Indeed, he exiled or imprisoned several of them. Following his death in 1707, the imperial center lost control over provincial administrations and even the emperor himself.

The Mughal Dynasty’s Final Century-and-a-Half

During the Mughal Empire’s final 150 years, the dynasty retained the throne but usually as the dependent or palace prisoner. A series of only nominally subordinate Sunni, Shiʿite, Hindu, and Protestant Christian British regional governors or warlords divided the empire, usually with one of them as regent. Some regents deposed incumbent emperors and installed another member of the imperial family. In 1738, Nadir Shah (r. 1736–1747), a Persianized Turk, invaded north India, seized the current emperor, and looted Shahjahanabad, before withdrawing. Another series of regents then fought to control the emperor.

Some Islamic scholars and reformers attempted to reverse the empire’s evident spiritual, moral, and political decline. Most notably, Naqushbandiyya Pir Shah Wali Ullah of Delhi (1703–1762) wrote extensive commentaries on theology and jurisprudence. He wrote a Persian-language translation of the Qurʾan to make its message more accessible to Indians not literate in Arabic. He also tried to reconcile the doctrines of all Sufi orders to be fully in accord with each other and Islamic law. To lead the Muslim community politically, he sought a strong and just ruler. Since Mughal emperors were lacking, he invited Afghan Ahmad Shah (r. 1747–1772) to invade and do so. Indeed, in 1757 and again in 1759–1760, Ahmad Shah seized Shahjahanabad and the emperor. But instead of establishing his own rule over India, he fought off Maratha forces at Panipat in 1761 and then withdrew, carrying much booty back with him.

In 1760–1764 and then 1803–1858, the English East India Company seized custody of Mughal emperors. In 1764, in exchange for a pension, Emperor Shah ʿAlam II (1728–1806, r. 1759–1806) appointed the East India Company to be his diwan over the still-rich provinces of Bengal and Bihar (which the English had already conquered following the battle of Plassey in 1757). Then, in 1803, the English defeated the Maratha coalition that had been holding the emperor and conquered Shahjahanabad and the surrounding region. For the next half century, the English nominally recognized the authority of the Mughal dynasty but also kept the current emperor as its palace prisoner.

Yet, the Mughal imperial court remained the center of a synthetic culture that patronized Muslim, Hindu, and other authors of religious and literary works; artists; musicians; and dancers. Urdu poetry particularly flourished in the Mughal imperial capital. During the uprising of 1857, princes whom the British had deposed, popular north Indian Muslim and Hindu leaders and their followers, and Indian sepoys rebelling against the East India Company’s Bengal Army rallied to restore the Mughal dynasty and expel the British. Instead, the British reconquered and then tried for treason and exiled the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1775–1862, r. 1837–1857). To further degrade the dynasty, the British desecrated the imperial palace and the city’s mosques and expelled the inhabitants of Shahjahanabad, not allowing most Muslims to return until 1860.

Discussion of the Literature

The Mughal Empire has been controversial from its own time (see Primary Sources) until the 21st century. Using diverse sources, methodologies, and agendas, various historians have advanced differing or complementary interpretations. Continuing issues include the empire’s relationship to India and Islam and its centralized or decentralized nature.

Early European Orientalists, in both India and Britain, studied Persian, Sanskrit, and other Indian-language texts (and employed Indian scholars to guide them) with the aim of mastering the empire’s history, with a teleology toward British colonial rule.53 Prominent is Henry Miers Elliot’s massive eight-volume collection of excerpted translations, The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians; volumes four to eight (1873–1877) are dedicated to the Mughal period, emphasizing the empire’s Islamic identity and highlighting endemic Muslim-versus-Hindu conflicts.54 Such works tried to make the British Raj seem necessary in order to limit religious violence. But these British scholar-officials largely presented these sources without considering their production conventions and authorial goals.

Some commentators in Europe used Orientalist sources to project their Eurocentric views. James Mill—who never visited India—highlighted in his History of British India (1803–1818) the disorder of the 18th century that allegedly compelled British rule.55 This influential work reinforced the pattern that would become institutionalized of partitioning Indian history into the “Hindu Ancient,” “Muslim Medieval,” and “British Modern” periods. (Even today, leading universities in India teach “Medieval History,” meaning the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire.) In 1853, Karl Marx deprecated the emperor in colorful language for American newspaper readers as an effeminate and decadent parasite, preserved by the British government, thus stifling India’s progress.56 More expansively, Marx identified the “Asiatic mode of production” as stagnant, needing replacement by capitalism before India could enter world history. Other European scholars, including Max Weber, also drew upon Orientalist sources to incorporate this image of Mughal India in their universalist models.57

British colonial authorities also often contrasted the Mughal Empire with “modernizing” British rule, its morally and technologically worthier successor. Studying the empire would provide salutary lessons on how the British could build on it, while avoiding its faults. For example, in 1854, William Erskine explained his motivation for studying Mughal history: “a nation possessing such an empire as that of the British in India ought to have some ampler record of the transactions of the different dynasties which preceded their own . . . The House of Taimur [is] a natural foundation for the modern history of India.”58 This Positivist approach reflected Rankian historical methodology: “giving a faithful statement of facts, to let them speak for themselves,” according to Erskine in his biography of Babur and Humayun.59

In 1857, many north Indians rose up against the British, with the Mughal emperor as the most visible focal point for collective action. The bloody conflict nearly drove out the British and was punctuated by brutal massacres by all sides, deeply affecting British and Indian accounts of each other. Long known by its British description as the “Sepoy Mutiny,” instead early-20th-century Indian nationalists demanded it be called “The First War for Indian Independence.”60 During 1857 and soon thereafter, most Britons rallied together and envisioned the emperor at the center of dark conspiracies. Many Britons concluded that analysis of the history of the empire would reveal the deep Indian racial fanaticism and cultural need for oriental despotism. This interpretation of Mughal history seemed to show that only the imperial state was active and the ruled society eternally stagnant. Hence many Britons believed that the British “Raj” (1858–1947) should rule but its Indian subjects remain passive. Further, the British Raj determined to prevent the recurrence of such collective action through “divide and rule” policies, especially protecting the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority. These British policies deepened with the emergence of Indian nationalism, with leaders who were predominantly middle-class but high-caste Hindus.

British colonial officials also studied and adapted Mughal imperial protocols for many pompous ceremonies, especially when dealing with the hundreds of remaining “feudal” Indian princes under British indirect rule. For instance, in 1877, Victoria proclaimed herself Qaisar-i Hind (“Caesar/Empress of India”)—although she was still only Queen in the United Kingdom.61 The British intentionally created their imperial capital, New Delhi (built 1911–1931), adjacent to Mughal Shahjahanabad, incorporating some Mughal motifs into their own “Indo-Saracenic” architectural style.

Especially from the late 19th century onward, growing numbers of Indian scholars committed themselves to researching and writing their own pre-colonial history, with the Mughal Empire as a major subject. Some sought to understand why the empire had weakened and succumbed to British colonialism. This approach often highlighted disorders and communal antagonisms from ‘Alamgir’s reign. Especially influential, Sir Jadunath Sarkar featured the rise of the Hindu Maratha confederacy against Mughal imperialism.62

Conversely, many Muslim nationalists followed Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in emphasizing Muslims as a community loyal to the British but separate from Hindus (this developed into the “two nation” model of separate Pakistan and India). In 1877, he founded the Muhammadan-Anglo Oriental College (now Aligarh Muslim University) to advance his community through preservation of its distinctive history. Aligarh scholars collected and analyzed Persian-language Mughal sources, some arguing the imperial core was strong when unified but weak when factionalized, with lessons for the current Muslim community.63

Liberal-nationalist Indian historians also studied the empire for its contemporary implications. Many studied in Britain and shared British presuppositions, but reversed the valance—their teleology led to the Indian nation. Among the most widely read and influential was Jawaharlal Nehru (independent India’s first prime minister, 1947–1964), but professional historians also influenced public discourse by providing a congenial model of the empire as a centralized Indian state with a composite Indian culture.64 Many highlighted Akbar’s Indian synthesis as admirably secularist—contrasted with ‘Alamgir’s religious divisiveness—but regarded the empire as feudal, hence an obstacle to modern India’s national reunification.

The prime ideological claims for the creation of Pakistan from India in 1947 were the historically distinct identity of the Muslim community and its long dominance in the subcontinent. Hence, many Pakistani scholarly and popular histories and government-sponsored textbooks present their nation as the successor to the Sunni Muslim-ruled Mughal Empire: the eastern bastion of Islamic states that extended west across north Africa.65 They argued that heretic Akbar—by adopting Hindu customs—created fatal weakness in the empire by divorcing it from Islam, which ‘Alamgir’s later countermeasures could not fully reverse. Further, Christians and Hindus had worked to bring down that Muslim empire, with lessons for today’s Pakistan. The counterpart for Bangladesh—formerly East Pakistan before its 1971 secession—was de facto independent Mughal Bengal that also succumbed to treacherous British imperialism in the late 18th century.66

In independent India, the Mughal Empire remains the subject of extensive popular debate and also scholarly research from a number of perspectives. The politically motivated Hindutva (“Hindu-ness”) movement—led by the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS); its cultural wing, the Visva Hindu Parishad (VHP); and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—regards undivided India as the Hindu homeland, with Mughal invaders as predatory and oppressive foreigners. Hindutva slogans characterize all Muslims in India today as alien “sons of Babur,” regardless of their actual ancestry. In Ayodhya, multiple VHP assaults finally managed in 1992 to destroy the “Baburi mosque” (erected in 1527 by one of Babur’s generals on the alleged site of the birthplace of the divine Lord Ram). Conversely, Maratha Emperor Shivaji appears as a champion of Hindu-based Indian nationalism who fought off Mughal imperialism. During periods when the BJP has been in office, its administration has revised government-approved textbooks and other official histories to advance its own representation of Mughal history.

In contrast, secularist Indian politicians and cultural leaders have worked to incorporate the Mughal Empire as a vital part of the nation’s history. During the first decades after independence, progressive cultural critics who sought an indigenous (but not a Hindu-revivalist line) for the new nation drew on Mughal art and architecture to provide the spirit, but not exact models or motifs, for “modern” India.67 Jawaharlal Nehru began the tradition of the prime minister delivering the annual Independence Day address from the ramparts of Shahjahanabad’s Red Fort. Other Mughal-built forts, tombs, mosques, and other structures still stand as integral parts of life across the Indian nation.68 The Archaeological Survey of India, Indian National Archive, and National Museum all professionally preserve materials from the empire as India’s heritage.

Much scholarly research and writing on the empire has emerged from India’s leading universities. Among them, Aligarh Muslim University’s Centre of Advanced Study in History has produced many justly influential historians with mastery of Persian sources, most prominently Irfan Habib.69 Often Aligarh-trained scholars used Marxist-influenced analysis that features economics rather than religious identity—for example, class struggle between overburdened peasants and the oppressive imperial administration plus declines in agricultural productivity feature as prime causes of Mughal weakness. Some scholars who draw primarily on Persian-language texts and documents produced by the imperial court tend to highlight the Mughal center and its institutions and ideologies.

Significantly, scholars in South Asia and internationally have increasingly come together globally to form discourse communities, exchanging ideas and engaging in debates over shared engagement with Mughal history using a range of primary sources and historiographical approaches and methodologies, often stressing different factors or disagreeing over interpretation.70 Economic historians highlight issues ranging from local market price trends to larger global trade and flows of bullion. Art and architecture historians read the paintings, buildings, and ornamentation commissioned by various emperors, courtiers, noblewomen, and others to decipher the influences and goals of patron and producer. Some scholars reveal continued trade, cultural, and migration links with other Asian Muslim empires, especially the Uzbeks and Safavids. Scholars working on the British colonial period tend to regard the empire retrospectively. They show how most parts of the world began connecting into increasingly integrated economic, political, and cultural networks from the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498 (predating Babur) onward. They find different degrees of continuity and change from the Mughal to the British empires, with the 18th century as the time of major transitions as diverse Indians reoriented from the empire toward the incoming Europeans.71 Further, comparative perspectives raise questions about the “modernity” of the Mughal Empire (versus its contemporary states in Europe and Asia) and also about why European and Asian economies underwent dramatically diverging developments.72

Many social and cultural scholars concentrate on the people and ideologies interacting within the empire. Some highlight how the uneven assimilation of indigenous Indians determined the empire’s trajectory: Rajputs and a few other elite, high-caste Hindus were initially amalgamated into the inner core, however, few lower-caste Hindus or lower-class Muslims were ever incorporated, and many Deccanis remained alienated.73 Other scholars feature the empire’s periodic anti-Hindu discriminatory policies.74 In contrast, yet other historians emphasize the empire as Indian, including through imperial Rajput marriages, evolving court rituals and imperial ideologies, and the vast number of Indians who entered the imperial household, administration, and army.75 Moving below the conventional focus on emperors and mansabdars, the vital roles of Indian scribes and merchants become visible and the empire appears more porous, as various people and ideas flowed into and out of it.76

Drawing on provincial or local sources, including those in regional languages, often produces more decentralized models of the empire. Scholars concentrating at these levels show the empire as an arena for pragmatic compromises and collaborations among lower-level officials and local magnates, merchants, and other power-holders.77 From this perspective, localities collectively composed the Mughal state, but they also existed outside it, with their own ongoing histories. Some scholars especially analyze popular oral and vernacular accounts to focus on those whom the empire ruled, featuring their agency and perspectives.78 While the influential subaltern studies school of neo-Marxist Gramscian interpretation overwhelmingly concentrates on the British colonial period, Gautam Bhadra has shown how to recover popular perspectives through reading imperial texts against the grain.79 Cultural historians have deconstructed even elite texts to recover the texts’ own histories, considering how and why each was produced, the presuppositions inherent in its genre, what its author could or could not express, and how it was consumed by being acquired, preserved, and read silently or aloud—alone or in communal settings.80 Scholars exploring the exciting new approaches of environmental, gender, cultural, new military, technological, and world history have used in new ways the rich and extensive source material available from and about the empire. New insights from all these fields are continuing to revise and deepen our understanding of what the Mughal Empire meant and currently means.

Primary Sources

More than in any previous state in India, Mughal emperors, their relatives, and officials produced rich primary sources. Several emperors penned their own memoirs.81 Emperor Akbar requested that his aunt, Gulbadan Begum (1523–1603), recount her personal experiences of his father and grandfather’s lives.82 Many emperors also commissioned official histories of their reigns, for instance Akbar’s amanuensis, Abu al-Fazl, wrote the massive Akbarnama, including the Ain-i Akbari.83 Shah Jahan closely supervised the series of historians he commissioned to compile his massive official regnal chronicle, the Padshahnama.84 However, critics within the court and empire, including Badaʾuni, recorded and also faulted imperial policies.85 Additionally, largely Muslim West and Central Asian visitors described the empire, for example, shipwrecked Ottoman admiral, Sidi Ali Reis.86

Increasingly over the entire period of the empire, European Christians—including missionaries, merchants, diplomats, and adventurers—compiled extensive accounts, many deprecating Islam and Hinduism, with the goal of converting South Asians and also convincing Christians of their own superiority.87 However, another recurrent motif was exoticism: the empire’s overwhelming wealth in natural and human resources, with vast territories producing spices, grain, and minerals beyond the scale of Europe. Imperial armies of soldiers and artisans dwarfed in size those of European rulers. Further, the vast majority of European visitors were young men, often perceiving the Empire in hyper-sexual ways: the emperor’s imagined unlimited sexual license and the contradictory fantasy of huge harems of unloved women (and the clever ways that the European author allegedly caught sight of them). Further, the relatively scanty clothing (as judged by Europeans) worn by some Indian women in public produced shock or titillation or both. Europeans also noted alleged abuses of Indian women by Indian men, particularly sati (widow immolation), inspiring varying degrees of wonder, repugnance, and horror.

Predominant European attitudes toward the empire, however, became more deprecatory over the 17th century, especially as European economic, military, and political power rose in relative terms in India and globally. Concepts of oriental despotism and moral corruption increasingly informed European accounts, especially when these authors used their image of the Mughal Empire to comment on conditions or policies in their contemporary European kingdom. For instance, in the early 17th century, Frenchman Francois Bernier sought to influence his government to cease revenue farming and also royal confiscation of private property, both policies he attributed to the injudicious Mughal Empire.88 Some European writers came from countries with no realistic political ambitions in India, like the early-17th-century Venetian adventurer Niccolao Manucci; such authors also often featured their own personal adventures.89 But English, French, and Dutch writers, in particular, often sought information about the empire for profit and political advantage.90

From the early 18th century onward, primary sources broadly shifted due to the empire’s fragmentation and the rise of rival powers, both South Asian and European. An entire genre of Indo-Persian and Hindustani literature, called Shahr ashob (“urban misfortune”), bemoaned the evident and accelerating decay. These authors, often from courtier or service-elite families, savored the past in contrast to the degraded present. However, some who still received incomes from the imperial court and its remnant administration highlighted compensating cultural achievements.91 Leading Muslim theologians, most notably Shah Wali Ullah, attributed contemporary problems to deviations from Islam.92 More progressively, Syed Ahmad Khan adopted European-style scientific archaeological methods in order to document systematically the surviving architectural achievements of his fellow Muslims in Delhi.93

Indian authors patronized by a regional successor state recounted its history as it effectively broke away from the empire, but still nominally belonged to it.94 Some Indian historians partly incorporated European historiography to diagnose the causes for British rule’s rapid expansion. Highlighting European military and other technological advances while seeking to preserve their own society’s moral core, they moved their readers toward a synthesis of Indic, Islamic, and Christian European cultures.95 Increasingly, Indian writings were directly sponsored by British officials seeking an insider’s knowledge about the rulers and society they confronted and conquered.96

Major archives holding written materials include the British Library and the Royal Asiatic Society Library (London); the National Archives of India (New Delhi); the Raza Library (Rampur, India); the Aligarh Muslim University’s Maulana Azad Library (Aligarh, India); the Salar Jung Museum, Osmania University Library, and Andhra Pradesh State Archives (Hyderabad, India); and the Khuda Baksh Oriental Library (Patna, India). Mughal works of art are held and available for reproduction in museums and galleries internationally, for instance the British Museum (London), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the Smithsonian Museum (Washington, DC). Coin collections (including evidence about their inscriptions, metallic content, and place of discovery) are valuable sources housed in museums including the American Numismatic Society (New York). Many Mughal period buildings, monuments, and other infrastructure have survived (in varying degrees of preservation) on sites throughout South Asia.

Further Reading

Alam, Muzaffar. Languages of Political Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Alam, Muzaffar. Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Alam, Muzaffar, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discovery. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Anwar, Firdos. Nobility under the Mughals (1628–1658). Delhi: Manohar, 2001.Find this resource:

Asher, Catherine. Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Asher, Catherine, and Cynthia Talbot. India before Europe. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Athar Ali, M. Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Beach, Milo. Mughal and Rajput. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Blake, Stephen. Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India 1639–1739. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Busch, Allison. Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Dale, Stephen. Babur: Timurid Prince and Mughal Emperor 1483–1530. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2018.Find this resource:

Dalrymple, William. The Last Mughal. London: Bloomsbury, 2006.Find this resource:

Eaton, Richard. Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Faruqui, Munis D. Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504–1719. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Fisher, Michael H. A Short History of the Mughal Empire. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.Find this resource:

Habib, Irfan. Atlas of the Mughal Empire. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Habib, Irfan. Agrarian System of Mughal India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Hasan, Farhat. State and Locality in Mughal India. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Kinra, Rajeev. Writing Self, Writing Empire: Chandar Bhan Brahman and the Cultural World of the Indo-Persian State Secretary. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Lal, Ruby. Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Lal, Ruby. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan. New York: W. W. Norton, 2018.Find this resource:

Moin, Ahmed Azfar. Millennial Sovereign. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Mukhia, Harbans. Mughals of India. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.Find this resource:

Pauwels, Heidi, and Anne Murphy, eds. “From Outside the Persianate Centre: Vernacular Views on Alamgir” [Special issue]. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 28, no. 3 (July 2018): 1–581.Find this resource:

Richards, John. Mughal Empire. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Schwartzberg, Joseph. An Historical Atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Sharma, Sunil. Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Truschke, Audrey. Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Truschke, Audrey. Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017.Find this resource:


(1.) Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur, Baburnama, trans. Wheller McIntosh Thackston (New York: Modern Library, 2002); Stephen Dale, Garden of the Eight Paradises (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004); and Stephen Dale, Babur: Timurid Prince and Mughal Emperor, 1483–1530 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

(2.) Ali Anooshahr, “King Who Would Be Man,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18 (2008): 327–340.

(4.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, trans. H. Beveridge, vol. 2 (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1907), 242.

(5.) Frances H. Taft, “Honor and Alliance,” in Idea of Rajasthan, vol. 2, ed. Karine Shomer et al. (Delhi: Manohar, 1994), 217–241; and Norman Ziegler, “Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties during the Mughal Period,” in Kingship and Authority in South Asia, ed. John Richards (Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison Press, 1978), 242–284.

(6.) Tapan Raychaudhuri, Bengal under Akbar and Jahangir (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1966); and Noman Siddiqi, “Faujdar and Faujdari under the Mughals,” in The Mughal State, 1526–1750, ed. Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 234–251.

(7.) David Ludden, “Country Politics and Agrarian Systems: Land Grab on Bengal Frontiers, 1750–1800,” Modern Asian Studies 51, no. 2 (2017): 319–349; Shireen Moosvi, “Share of the Nobility in the Revenues of Akbar’s Empire, 1595–96,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 17, no. 3 (1980): 329–341; Shireen Moosvi, “Zamindars’ Share in the Peasant Surplus in the Mughal Empire,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 15, no. 3 (1978): 359–373; Noman Siddiqi, “Classification of Villages under the Mughals,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 1, no. 1 (1964): 73–83; and Maarten van der Wee, “Semi-Imperial Polity and Service Aristocracy,” Dialectical Anthropology 13, no. 3 (1988): 209–225.

(8.) M. Athar Ali, Apparatus of Empire (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985); and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Mughal State—Structure or Process?” Indian Economic and Social History Review 29, no. 3 (1992): 291–321.

(9.) Stephen Blake, “Patrimonial-Bureaucratic Empire of the Mughals,” Journal of Asian Studies 39, no. 1 (1979): 77–94.

(11.) Stewart Gordon, ed., Robes and Honor (New York: Palgrave, 2001); Stewart Gordon, ed., Robes of Honour (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003); and Rosalind O’Hanlon, “Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 42, no. 1 (1999): 47–93.

(12.) Balkrishan Shivram, Jagirdars in the Mughal Empire during the Reign of Akbar (Delhi: Manohar, 2008).

(13.) Shivram, Jagirdars, 57–58.

(14.) Ebba Koch, The Complete Taj Mahal (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006); and Stephen Dale, Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

(15.) Christopher Alan Bayly, Empire and Information (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996), chap. 1.

(16.) John Richards, Document Forms for Official Orders of Appointment in the Mughal Empire (Cambridge, U.K.: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial, 1986).

(17.) Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, ed., Fatehpur Sikri Revisited (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(18.) Abu al-Fazl, Ain-i Akbari, vol. 1, trans. Henry Blochmann and Henry Sullivan Jarrett (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1873), 165.

(19.) ʿAbd-ul-Qadir Badaʾuni, Muntakhabu-t-Tawarikh, vol. 2, trans. George S. A. Ranking, Wolseley Haig, and Willian Henry Lowe (Delhi: Atlantic, 1990), 336.

(20.) Khwaja Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, vol. 3, trans. Bajendranath De, ed. Bani Prasad (Delhi: Low Price, 1992), 470–472; Muzaffar Alam, “Mughals, the Sufi Shaikhs and the Formation of the Akbari Dispensation,” Modern Asian Studies 43, no. 1 (2009): 135–174; and Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, 200–204.

(21.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, 260–261.

(22.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, trans. H. Beveridge, vol. 3 (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1907), 395–396; and Ahmad, Tabaqat, 520–521.

(23.) Ibn Hasan, Central Structure of the Mughal Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1936); Saiyid Nurul Hasan, Religion, State, and Society in Medieval India, ed. Satish Chandra (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005); and Moin, Millennial, 139.

(24.) Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Frank Disputations,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 46, no. 4 (2009): 463; Edward Maclagan, Jesuits and the Great Mogul (Gurgaon: Vintage, 1990), 24; and Antonio Monserrate, Commentary, trans John S. Hoyland, ed. S. N. Banerjee (Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1992), 2, 28.

(25.) Najaf Haidar, “Prices and Wages in India (1200–1800),” in Towards a Global History of Prices and Wages (Utrecht: International Institute of Social History, 2004), 52–59.

(27.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, 335–336; Satish Chandra et al., “Akbar and His Age,” Social Scientist 20.9–10 (1992): 61–72; and Francis Steingass, Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1892), s.v. Tauhid.

(28.) Ali Anooshahr, “Dialogism and Territoriality in a Mughal History of the Islamic Millennium,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55, nos. 2–3 (2012): 220–254; and Moin, Millennial, 493–526.

(29.) Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, vol. 1, trans. Alexander Rogers, ed. Henry Beveridge (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1914), 22; and Corinne Lefèvre, Pouvoir impérial et élites dan l’Inde moghole de Jahangir (Paris: Les Indes savantes, 2018).

(30.) Shireen Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, c. 1595 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), 195–200.

(31.) Athar Ali, Apparatus, xiv.

(32.) Noman Siddiqi, Land Revenue Administration under the Mughals (1700–1750) (London: Asia Publishing House, 1930).

(33.) Jahangir, Tuzuk, 267–268, 279.

(34.) For example, Mirza Nathan, Baharistan-i-Ghaibi, vol. 1, trans. Moayyidul Islam Borah (Gauhati: Narayani Handiqui Historical Institute, 1936), 25.

(36.) Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, vol. 2, trans. Alexander Rogers, ed. Henry Beveridge (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1914), 348ff.

(37.) Naindeep Singh Chann, “Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction,” Iran and the Caucasus 13, no. 1 (2009): 93–110; and Moin, Millennial, 23.

(38.) Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 209–215; Wayne Begley and Ziyaud-Din Abdul Hayy Desai, Taj Mahal, the Illuminated Tomb (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989); and Koch, Complete Taj Mahal.

(40.) Firdos Anwar, Nobility under the Mughals (1628–1658) (Delhi: Manohar, 2001), 188–189; and Milo Cleveland Beach and Ebba Koch, eds., King of the World, trans. Wheeler Thackston (London: Azimuth Editions, 1997), 11.

(41.) Shireen Moosvi, “Expenditure on Buildings under Shahjahan,” Proceedings of Indian History Congress (1985): 285–299.

(42.) Moosvi, “Estimate of Revenues of the Deccan Kingdoms, 1591,” in Akbar and His India, ed. Irfan Habib (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1997), 288–93.

(43.) Qamar Jahan Begam, Princess Jahan Ara Begam (Karachi: S. M. Hamid Ali, 1991).

(44.) Carl Ernst, “Muslim Studies of Hinduism?,” Iranian Studies 36, no. 2 (2003): 173–195; Bikrama Jit Hasrat, Dara Shikuh (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1982); and Rajeev Kinra, “Infantilizing Baba Dara,” Journal of Persianate Studies 2, no. 2 (2009): 165–193.

(47.) Saqi Mustaid Khan, Maasir-i ʿAlamgiri, trans. Jadunath Sarkar (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1947), 66.

(48.) Khan, Maasir-i, 71–72.

(49.) Hardip Singh Syan, Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century (London: I. B. Tauris, 2012).

(50.) Stewart Gordon, Marathas, 1600–1818 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

(51.) ‘Alamgir, Rukaat-i-‘Alamgiri, trans. Jamshid H. Bilimoria (London: Luzac, 1908), 23.

(52.) Muzaffar Alam, Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013); and John Richards, “Imperial Crisis in the Deccan,” Journal of Asian Studies 35, no. 2 (1976): 237–256.

(53.) For example, Henry Beveridge, “Sultan Khusrau,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (July 1907): 597–609; William Irvine, Army of the Indian Mughals (Delhi: Eurasia, 1962); William Irvine, Later Mughals, ed. Jadunath Sarkar (Delhi: Oriental, 1971); William Harrison Moreland, Agrarian System of Moslem India (London: W. Heffer and Sons, 1929); William Harrison Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb (London: Macmillan, 1923); Vincent Smith, The Great Mogul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1919); Vincent Smith, “Death of Hemu in 1556, after the Battle of Panipat,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (July 1916): 527–535; Vincent Smith, History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1911); and Laurence Frederic Rushbrook Williams, Empire Builder of the Sixteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, 1918).

(54.) Henry Miers Elliot, History of India as Told by Its Own Historians, ed. John Dowson, vols. 4–8 (London: Trubner, 1873–1877).

(55.) James Mill, History of British India (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1818).

(56.) Karl Marx, “East India Question,” New York Daily Tribune, July 25, 1853.

(57.) For example, Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Scribner, 1958).

(58.) William Erskine, History of India under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur, vol. 1 (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1854), vii.

(59.) Erskine, History of India, vii.

(60.) Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, The Indian War of Independence, 1857 (Bombay: Phoenix, 1947).

(61.) Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

(62.) Jadunath Sarkar, House of Shivaji (Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar, 1955).

(63.) For example, Siddiqi, Land Revenue Administration.

(64.) For example, Paratma Saran, Provincial Government of the Mughals, 1526–1658 (Allahabad: Central Book Depot, 1941); Ram Prasad Tripathi, Some Aspects of Mughal Administration (Allahabad: Central Book Depot, 1936); and Ibn Hasan, Central Structure.

(65.) For example, Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Administration of the Mughal Empire (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1966).

(66.) For example, Mohammad Arshad, Advanced History of Muslim Rule in Indo-Pakistan (Dacca: Ideal, 1967), 132–137.

(67.) Devika Singh, “Approaching the Mughal Past in Indian Art Criticism,” Modern Asian Studies 47, no. 1 (2013): 167–203.

(68.) Santhi Kavuri-Bauer, Monumental Matters (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

(70.) For thoughtful historiographies see Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Introduction,” in The Mughal State, 1526–1750, ed. Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 1–65; Iqtidar Alam Khan, “The State in the Mughal India,” Social Scientist 30, nos. 1–2 (2001): 16–45; and Subrahmanyam, “Mughal State.”

(71.) Seema Alavi, Eighteenth Century in India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002); Christopher Alan Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Christopher Alan Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Satish Chandra, Eighteenth Century in India (Calcutta: K. P. Bagchi, 1986); Peter James Marshall, ed., Eighteenth Century in Indian History (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003); Burton Stein, “Eighteenth Century India,” Studies in History 5 (1989): 1–26; and David Washbrook, “South India, 1770–1840: The Colonial Transition,” Modern Asian Studies 38, no. 3 (2004): 479–516.

(72.) Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected History, 2 vols. (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005).

(73.) Michael Naylor Pearson, “Shivaji and the Decline of the Mughal Empire,” Journal of Asian Studies 35, no. 2 (1976): 221–235; and Richards, “Imperial Crisis.”

(74.) Sri Ram Sharma, Mughal Government and Administration (Bombay: Hind Kitabs, 1951); and Sri Ram Sharma, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors (London: Asia Publishing House, 1962).

(75.) Alam, “Mughals”; William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal (London: Bloomsbury, 2006); Richard Eaton, Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996); and David Gilmartin and Bruce Lawrence, eds., Beyond Turk and Hindu (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).

(76.) Najaf Haider, “Norms of Professional Excellence and Good Conduct in Accountancy Manuals of the Mughal Empire,” International Review of Social History 56 (2011): 263–274; Rajeev Kinra, “Master and Munshi,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 47, no. 4 (2010): 527–561; Katherine Schofield, “Courtesan Tale: Female Musicians and Dancers in Mughal Historical Chronicles, c. 1556–1748,” Gender and History 24, no. 1 (2012): 150–171; and Katherine Schofield, “Reviving the Golden Age Again: ‘Classicization’, Hindustani Music, and the Mughals,” Ethnomusicology 54, no. 3 (2010): 484–517.

(77.) Alam, Crisis of Empire; Richard Barnett, North India between Empires (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980); Ashin Das Gupta, Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat (c. 1700–1750) (Delhi: Manohar, 1994); Jorge Flores, “Sea and the World of the Mutasaddi,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 21 (2011): 55–71; Farhat Hasan, State and Locality in Mughal India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Harbans Mukhia, “Illegal Extortions from Peasants, Artisans and Menials in Eighteenth Century Eastern Rajasthan,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 14, no. 2 (1977): 231–245; Michael Naylor Pearson, “Political Participation in Mughal India,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 9, no. 2 (1972): 113–131; R. P. Rana, “Dominant Class in Upheaval,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 24, no. 4 (1987): 395–409; A. M. Shah, “Political System in Eighteenth Century Gujarat,” Enquiry n.s. 1, no. 1 (1964): 83–95; Gopi Nath Sharma, Mewar and the Mughal Emperors (Agra: Shiva Lal Agarwala, 1962); and Chetan Singh, Region and Empire (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991).

(78.) Allison Busch, Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Shail Mayaram, “Mughal State Formation and Indian History,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 34, no. 2 (1997): 169–197; Heidi Pauwels, “Saint, the Warlord, and the Emperor,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52, no. 2 (2009): 187–228; Shantanu Phukan, “‘Through Throats Where Many Rivers Meet’: The Ecology of Hindi in the World of Persian,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 38, no. 1 (2001): 33–58; Cynthia Talbot, “Justifying Defeat,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55.2–3 (2012): 329–368; Audrey Truschke, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016); and Norman Ziegler, “Marvari Historical Chronicles,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 13, no. 2 (1976): 219–250.

(79.) Gautam Bhadra, “Two Frontier Uprisings in Mughal India,” in Subaltern Studies II, ed. Ranajit Guha (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983), 43–59.

(80.) For example, Ali Anooshahr, “Mughal Historians and the Memory of the Islamic Conquest of India,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 43, no. 3 (2006): 275–300; and Chitralekha Zutshi, Kashmir’s Contested Pasts (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014), chap. 2.

(81.) Babur, Baburnama; and Jahangir, Tuzuk.

(82.) Begam Gulbadan, History of Humayun, trans. Annette Beveridge (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1902).

(83.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama; and Abu al-Fazl, Ain-i Akbari.

(84.) Inayat Khan, Shah Jahan Nama, trans. Abraham Richard. Fuller, ed. Wayne Edison. Begley and Ziyaud-Din Abdul Hayy Desai (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990).

(85.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab.

(87.) Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, trans. Archibald Constable (New York: Oxford University Press, 1914–1916); John Correia-Alfonso, Jesuit Letters and Indian History, 1542–1773 (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1969); John Correia-Alfonso, Letters from the Mughal Court (Bombay: Heras Institute, 1980); Niccolao Manucci, Memoirs of the Mogul Court, Storia do Mogor, 4 vols., trans. William Irvine (London: John Murray, 1907–1908); Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, 2 vols., trans. ValentineBall (London: Oxford University Press, 1925); Fernao Guerreiro, Jahangir and the Jesuits, trans. Charles Herbert Payne (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1997); Pierre du Jarric, Akbar and the Jesuits, trans. Charles Herbert Payne (London: George Routledge, 1926); and Maclagan, Jesuits.

(88.) Bernier, Travels.

(89.) Manucci, Memoirs.

(90.) Francisco Pelsaert, Jahangir’s India, trans. William Harrison Moreland and Peter Geyl (Cambridge, U.K.: W. Heffer and Sons, 1925); Thomas Roe, Embassy, 2 vols., ed. William Foster (London: Hakluyt Society, 1899); and Tavernier, Travels.

(91.) Anand Ram Mukhlis, Mir‘atu-l Istilah, trans. Tasneem Ahmad (Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1993).

(92.) Saiyid Athar Rizvi, Shah Wali-Allah and His Times (Canberra: Ma’rifat, 1980); and Vasileios Syros, “Early Modern South Asian Thinker on the Rise and Decline of Empires,” Journal of World History 23, no. 4 (2013): 793–840.

(93.) Choudri Mohammed Naim, “Syed Ahmad and His Two Books Called ‘Asar-al-Sanadid,’” Modern Asian Studies 45, no. 3 (2011): 669–708.

(94.) For example, Jadu Nath Sarkar, Bengal Nawabs (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1952).

(95.) For example, Sayid Ghulam Husain Khan, Seir Mutaqherin, 4 vols., trans. M. Raymond (Calcutta: T. D. Chatterjee, 1902).

(96.) For example, Abu Talib Khan, History of Asafu’d Daula, Nawab Wazir of Oudh, trans. William Hoey (Lucknow: Pustak Kendra, 1971).