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Name- Altamash Ahmed

Enroll. no. SKG162E0298

Major- BA(H) History

QUESTION- How the historians tried to redefine the idea of medieval in

Indian historiography?

The historiography basically means the writing of history based on sources which are
available and also critical examination analyzation of sources, so the Indian historiography
started with the powerful or centralized colonial power in 1870 onwards they started firstly
by publishing translated of Indian text all scripts. The British scholar's colonial
historiography begins by periodizing the Indian history in three aspects in ancient, medieval
and modern. This idea of periodization in Indian history is giving of a stabled norm of
periods by colonial and nationalist historians. Colonist historian sees ancient or early as
Hindu rule medieval as the muslim rule and modern as coming of britishers, where they argue
that India was living in a dark and non-productive society but by the coming of British
colonisers Indian society gets modernity and increase in production, trade and

Now, by the passing of the time the colonial historians going in deeper and deeper of Indian
history they make an academic subject. However, by the beginning of the national movement
and nationalism in various forms of lefting post and writing literature etc, To show their
patriotism. Similarly, in 1930s nationalist historians begin critiques of the colonial view of
Indian historiography. In stating these nationalist historians initially focus on rulers career
and personality of mainly on political changes. Now, the idea of medieval is seen as very
complicated and fussy to describe because initially by this time period was known for
sultanate and Mughal and Muslim period. But historians like K.M Munshi proposed that
1000 AD was a faithful year to break ancient form medieval India due to the attack of
Mahmud Ghazni. Here, postcolonial historical department and other historian were facing
problems in placing a suitable periodization of the medieval time, they started seeing towards
Hindu glory period and breakdown of the ancient period in ancient and medieval.
Hence they pointed out the time period in early medieval India due to the heavy reliance of
historians like D.C. Sircar and V.V Mirashi on the evidence of Indic language epigraphy. The
late 1950s and 60's there is a rise of social history in India. The Marxist scholars innovate
mode of production and social formation as new analysis. This starting debate about Indian
feudalism. There was continuous debate began to justify that the Indian society has the feudal
mode of production initially argued that feudalization of political authority rather a system of
landlordism, and says rural areas as self sufficient villages. By 1980s, Hermann kulke and B.
D Chattopadhyay stressed a productive development due to agrarian expansion and
localization etc. Also Chattopadhyay seen post-Gupta India as a proliferation of state
societies and peasentization of cultivators. Here, by the 1980s historian introduced new
methodology inspired by anthropology and sociology by which thry started questining about
state, caste and kinship. Hence, marxist and processsulist concerns the earky medieval
india indian time period in terms of development of Hinduism. Again historians periodize
early medieval as end of gupta rulers and spread of hinduism and also coming of outsiders in
indian subcontinent as ruler.
The period so-called muslim or medieval begins from establishment of delhi sultanate in
1206 by Ghurid slave, Aibak and end of medieval period by fall of mughal polity and
emergence of regional power. The sultanate period referrred to the era as commencing with
emergence of delhi as center of an independent polity. The colonial scholars begin with 8th
century politics by reading persian and vernecular languages as there main body of source
materlial to get Familer with the sultannate. The last but not least politiocal formation before
company rule was the mughal empire which rules around 200 years (1526-1707) as the most
centerlisesd notion of power. However, historians like Dadhabai Naorji and Romesh Chandra
argued in evaluation of economic sphere of Mughal where they said that there was low
standard of living and wide spread poverty. Similarly, the trend start with arguments of
decline of Mughal empire / polity. Here, jadunath sarkar stated the fall of Mughal empire by
stressing on moral degeneration and stoking communal tension under aurangzeb which led to
fall. These explanations were challenged by historian of Aligarh school from 1960s largely
by Ifran Habib, Athar Ali, Nurul Hassan. They worked on accounts of Mughal decline. Like
Habib says agrarian crisis and rebellion and weakening of states hold on provinces, on the
other hand Athar Ali argued administrative crises and distribution of the millitary estate to
imperial nobility. Through the changing of views and increasment of rationality and thinking
various scholars interpret the ideas of medival historigraphy. Habib rather see’s a uniqune
medival indian system rather than fedualism, where mughal state maintained powerful hold
through mansabdari system also. Aligarh school saw mansabdari system as kind of steel
frame for a centerlised state. By 1980s historians started challenging the over reliance of
Persian text say Abul fazl's Ain-i-Akbari which shows Mughal state a kind of revenue
gathering machine and this challenges begins due to expansion of local sources in Vernacular
languages. The historian like muzafar alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam gives very different to
see towards Mughal. They argue that the end of the empire seen as the patchwork quilt rather
than a wall to wall carpet due to the emergence of the regional sultanate.

The changes, as we have seen above shows that how historian analyzes periodization and
again by getting knowledge of decline of Mughal empire saw the breakdown of period. In
medieval to modern but not directly to modern, they firstly see the transition of medieval to
modern as early modern. This term is very debate full because the time of early modern
seems from 18th century because this century had seen collapse of Mughal empire and by its
end emergence of regional power and rise of British company in war of Plassey in 1757. The
historiography is divided in two debates firstly the fall of Mughal and the rise of company
rule and second transition of economy and politics wheater it should be conceived as rupture
or gradual continuity. To convey these debates the Mughal imperial system declined with the
death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and mainly by the crisis of unmitigated political fragmentation
and economic decline and increase in localization of power or political decentralization of
power. Hence it is seen a s a gradual transition of politics and economy than rupture.
In the consequence, as we saw above that the periodization of history which used to be
written as ancient, medieval and modern. However ever as we know that there is not a single
way too look towards any thing and accept it blindly, similarly the rising of various school
like Aligarh, Cambridge school looks at Indian history differently from as colonial historian
see in the post independent India many scholar and historian starting reinterpreting history
from there point of view such as economic historians seen 17th and18th century as a mass
productive society. Revisionist historians argue for continuity of political and economic
production in the rise of British company rule, Social historians therefore see towards effect
in life during Muslim rule, Communal historian see towards their community or religion thus,
they started to fight on various aspect like Ayodhya case in 1992 on basis of religious history.
Hence the idea of medieval in which we see the Indian feudalism and various political
changes and also fall of empire and rise of company rule by which the beginning of
modernity in colonialism emergence.