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1. X India and the Contemporary World-II

2. XI Themes in World History

3. XII Themes in Indian History-I

4. XII Themes in Indian History-II

5. XII Themes in Indian History-III

This file contains following books in summarized form.

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NCERT Class X History- India and the Contemporary World-II

Chapter Number Chapter Name
1. The Rise of Nationalism in Europe

2. The Nationalist Movement in Indo-China

3. Nationalism in India
4. The Making of a Global World
5. The Age of Industrialisation
6. Cities in the Contemporary World
7. Print Culture and the Modern World
8. Novels, Society and History
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CHAPTER 1: The Rise of Nationalism in Europe

 During the nineteenth century, nationalism emerged as a force which brought about sweeping
changes in the political and mental world of Europe. The end result of these changes was the
emergence of the nation-state in place of the multi-national dynastic empires of Europe.
 The concept and practices of a modern state, in which a centralized power exercised sovereign
control over a clearly defined territory, had been developing over a long period of time in Europe.
 But a nation-state was one in which the majority of its citizens, and not only its rulers, came to
develop a sense of common identity and shared history or descent.
 This commonness did not exist from time immemorial; it was forged through struggles, through
the actions of leaders and the common people.
Some Important Terms
Absolutist – Literally, a government or system of rule that has no restraints on the power
exercised. In history, the term refers to a form of monarchical government that was centralized,
militarized and repressive
Utopian – A vision of a society that is so ideal that it is unlikely to actually exist
Plebiscite – A direct vote by which all the people of a region are asked to accept or reject
a proposal


 The first clear expression of nationalism came with the French Revolution in 1789.
France was a full-fledged territorial state in 1789 under the rule of an absolute monarch.
 French Revolution gave way to the political and constitutional changes that led to the
transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to a body of French citizens.
 The revolution proclaimed that it was the people who would henceforth constitute the
nation and shape its destiny.
 The French revolutionaries introduced various measures and practices that could create a
sense of collective identity amongst the French people.
 The ideas of la patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen) emphasized the notion
of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution.
 Some changes that occurred:
A new French flag, the tricolour, was chosen to replace the former royal
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The Estates General was elected by the body of active citizens and renamed the
National Assembly.
New hymns were composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated, all in the
name of the nation.
A centralized administrative system was put in place and it formulated uniform
laws for all citizens within its territory.
Internal customs duties and dues were abolished and a uniform system of weights
and measures was adopted.
Regional dialects were discouraged and French, as it was spoken and written in
Paris, became the common language of the nation.
 Impact on other European nations
 When the news of the events in France reached the different cities of Europe, students
and other members of educated middle classes began setting up Jacobin clubs.
 Their activities and campaigns prepared the way for the French armies which moved into
Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s.
 In 1797, Napoleon invaded Italy and Napoleonic wars began.
 A wide territory came under Napoleon’s control and introduced many of the reforms that
he had already introduced in France.
 Although Napoleon had destroyed democracy in France, but in the administrative field he
had incorporated revolutionary principles in order to make the whole system more
rational and efficient.
 The Civil Code of 1804 – usually known as the Napoleonic Code – removed all
privileges based on birth, established equality before the law and secured the right to
property. This code was extended to regions under French control.
 In the Dutch Republic, in Switzerland, in Italy and Germany, Napoleon simplified
administrative divisions, abolished the feudal system and freed peasants from serfdom
and manorial dues.
 In the towns guild restrictions were removed
 Transport and communication systems were improved. Peasants, artisans, workers and
new businessmen enjoyed a new-found freedom.
 Businessmen and small-scale producers of goods, in particular, began to realize that
uniform laws, standardized weights and measures, and a common national currency
would facilitate the movement and exchange of goods and capital from one region to
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 In many places such as Holland and Switzerland, as well as in certain cities like
Brussels, Mainz, Milan and Warsaw, The initial enthusiasm soon turned to hostility, as it
became clear that the new administrative arrangements did not go hand in hand with
political freedom. Increased taxation, censorship, forced conscription into the French
armies required to conquer the rest of Europe, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of
the administrative changes.
 During the mid-eighteenth century there were no ‘nation-states’ in Europe as we see today.
 Germany, Italy and Switzerland were divided into kingdoms, duchies and cantons whose rulers
had their autonomous territories.
 Eastern and Central Europe were under autocratic monarchies within where diverse people lived
who did not see themselves as sharing a collective identity or a common culture. They even spoke
different languages and belonged to different ethnic groups.
 For example, the Habsburg Empire that ruled over Austria-Hungary was included the Alpine
regions – the Tyrol, Austria and the Sudetenland – as well as Bohemia, where the aristocracy was
predominantly German-speaking.
 In Hungary, half of the population spoke Magyar while the other half spoke a variety of dialects.
 The differences did not easily promote a sense of political unity.
2.1 The Aristocracy and the New Middle Class
 Landed aristocracy was the social and political dominant class on the continent. It was a
numerically small group.
 Aristocrats: had common way of life that cut across regional divisions, owned estates in
the countryside and also town-houses, spoke French for purposes of diplomacy and in
high society. Their families were often connected by ties of marriage.
 Peasantry formed the bulk of the population. To the west, the bulk of the land was
farmed by tenants and small owners, while in Eastern and Central Europe the
pattern of landholding was characterized by vast estates which were cultivated by serfs.
 In Western and parts of Central Europe due the growth of industrial production and trade
towns and commercial classes emerged,
 Industrialization began in England in the second half of the eighteenth century, but in
France and parts of the German states it occurred only during the nineteenth century.
 New social groups emerged: a working-class population and middle classes made up of
industrialists, businessmen, professionals.
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 In Central and Eastern Europe these groups were smaller in number till late nineteenth
 It was among the educated, liberal middle classes that ideas of national unity following
the abolition of aristocratic privileges gained popularity.

2.2 What did Liberal Nationalism Stand for?

 The term ‘liberalism’ derives from the Latin root liber, meaning free.
 For the new middle classes liberalism stood for freedom for the individual and equality of all
before the law.
 Politically, it emphasized the concept of government by consent.
 Since the French Revolution, liberalism had stood for the end of autocracy and clerical privileges,
a constitution and representative government through parliament. Nineteenth-century liberals also
stressed the inviolability of private property.
 Yet, equality before the law did not necessarily stand for universal suffrage. In revolutionary
France the right to vote and to get elected was granted exclusively to property-owning men.
 Men without property and all women were excluded from political rights.
 Napoleonic Code went back to limited suffrage and reduced women to the status of a minor,
subject to the authority of fathers and husbands.
 In the economic sphere, liberalism stood for the freedom of markets and the abolition of
state-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and capital.
 Conditions like customs barriers and customs duty and different systems if weights and
measurements in different regions were viewed as obstacles to economic exchange and
growth by the new commercial classes, who argued for the creation of a unified economic
territory allowing the unhindered movement of goods, people and capital.
 In 1834, a customs union or zollverein was formed at the initiative of Prussia and joined by
most of the German states.
 The union abolished tariff barriers and reduced the number of currencies from over thirty to
two. Mobility was enhanced by network of railways.
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2.3 A New Conservatism after 1815

Conservatism – A political philosophy that stressed the importance of tradition, established

institutions and customs, and preferred gradual development to quick change.

 Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, European governments were driven by a spirit of
 Conservatives believed that established, traditional institutions of state and society – like the
monarchy, the Church, social hierarchies, property and the family – should be preserved.
 Most conservatives, however, did not propose a return to the society of pre-revolutionary days.
 Rather, they realized, from the changes initiated by Napoleon, that modernization could in fact
strengthen traditional institutions like the monarchy. It could make state power more effective and
 A modern army, an efficient bureaucracy, a dynamic economy, the abolition of feudalism and
serfdom could strengthen the autocratic monarchies of Europe.


 In 1815, representatives of the European powers – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – who had
collectively defeated Napoleon, met at Vienna to draw up a settlement for Europe.
 The Congress was hosted by the Austrian Chancellor Duke Metternich.
 The delegates drew up the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 with the object of undoing most of the
changes that had come about in Europe during the Napoleonic wars.
 The Bourbon dynasty, which had been deposed during the French Revolution, was restored to
power, and France lost the territories it had annexed under Napoleon.
 A series of states were set up on the boundaries of France to prevent French expansion in future.
 Kingdom of the Netherlands, which included Belgium, was set up in the north.
 Genoa was added to Piedmont in the south.
 Prussia was given important new territories on its western frontiers.
 Austria was given control of northern Italy.
 The German confederation of 39 states that had been set up by Napoleon was left untouched.
 In the east, Russia was given part of Poland while Prussia was given a portion of Saxony.
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 The main intention was to restore the monarchies that had been overthrown by Napoleon, and
create a new conservative order in Europe.
 Conservative regimes set up in 1815 were autocratic.
 They did not tolerate criticism and dissent, and sought to curb activities that questioned the
legitimacy of autocratic governments.
 Most of them imposed censorship laws to control what was said in newspapers, books, plays and
songs and reflected the ideas of liberty and freedom.

2.4 The revolutionaries

 During the years following 1815, the fear of repression drove many liberal-nationalists
 Secret societies sprang up in many European states to train revolutionaries and spread their ideas.
 Most of these revolutionaries also saw the creation of nation-states as a necessary part of this
struggle for freedom.
 One such individual was the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini. He founded two
underground societies, first, Young Italy in Marseilles, and then, Young Europe in Berne, whose
members were like-minded young men from Poland, France, Italy and the German states.
 Mazzini believed that God had intended nations to be the natural units of mankind. So Italy could
not continue to be a patchwork of small states and kingdoms.
 Following his model, secret societies were set up in Germany, France, Switzerland and Poland.


 Liberalism and nationalism came to be increasingly associated with revolution in many regions of
Europe such as the Italian and German states, the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Ireland and
 These revolutions were led by the liberal-nationalists belonging to the educated middle-class
elite, among whom were professors, schoolteachers, clerks and members of the commercial
middle classes.
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 The first upheaval took place in France in July 1830. The Bourbon kings who had been restored
to power during the conservative reaction after 1815, were now overthrown by liberal
revolutionaries who installed a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe at its head.
 The July Revolution sparked an uprising in Brussels which led to Belgium breaking away from
the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
 Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the fifteenth century. The growth of
revolutionary nationalism in Europe triggered a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks
which began in 1821.
 Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile and also from many West
Europeans who had sympathies for ancient Greek culture.
 The Treaty of Constantinople of 1832 recognized Greece as an independent nation.

3.1 The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling

 Culture played an important role in creating the idea of the nation: art and poetry, stories and
music helped express and shape nationalist feelings.
 Romanticism: a cultural movement which sought to develop a particular form of nationalist
 Romantic artists and poets generally criticized the glorification of reason and science, and
focused instead on emotions, intuition and mystical feelings. Their effort was to create a sense of
a shared collective heritage, a common cultural past, as the basis of a nation.
 Romantics such as the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) claimed that
true German culture was to be discovered among the common people – das volk and through folk
songs, folk poetry and folk dances that the true spirit of the nation (volksgeist) was popularized.
 The emphasis on vernacular language and the collection of local folklore was not just to recover
an ancient national spirit, but also to carry the modern nationalist message to large audiences who
were mostly illiterate.
 Poland no longer existed as an independent territory and had been partitioned at the end of the
eighteenth century by the Great Powers – Russia, Prussia and Austria but the national feelings
were kept alive through music and language. Karol Kurpinski, for example, celebrated the
national struggle through his operas and music, turning folk dances like the polonaise and
mazurka into nationalist symbols.
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 Language too played an important role in developing nationalist sentiments.

 The use of Polish came to be seen as a symbol of the struggle against Russian dominance.

3.2 Hunger, Hardship and Popular Revolt

 The 1830s were years of great economic hardship in Europe. The first half of the nineteenth
century saw an enormous increase in population all over Europe.
 In most countries there were more seekers of jobs than employment. Population from rural areas
migrated to the cities to live in overcrowded slums. Small producers in towns were often faced
with stiff competition from imports of cheap machine-made goods from England, where
industrialization was more advanced than on the continent.
 In those regions of Europe where the aristocracy still enjoyed power, peasants struggled under the
burden of feudal dues and obligations. In 1848, food shortages and widespread unemployment
brought the population of Paris out on the roads.
 Barricades were erected and Louis Philippe was forced to flee.
 A National Assembly proclaimed a Republic, granted suffrage to all adult males above 21, and
guaranteed the right to work.
 National workshops to provide employment were set up.
 Earlier, in 1845, weavers in Silesia had led a revolt against contractors who supplied them raw
material and gave them orders for finished textiles but drastically reduced their payments.

3.3 1848: The Revolution of the Liberals

 Events of February 1848 in France had brought about the abdication of the monarch and a
republic based on universal male suffrage had been proclaimed.
 In other parts of Europe where independent nation-states did not yet exist – such as Germany,
Italy, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire – men and women of the liberal middle classes
combined their demands for constitutionalism with national unification.
 They took advantage of the growing popular unrest to push their demands for the creation of a
nation-state on parliamentary principles – a constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of
 In the German regions a large number of political associations came together in the city of
Frankfurt and decided to vote for an all-German National Assembly.
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 On 18 May 1848, 831 elected representatives marched in a festive procession to take their places
in the Frankfurt parliament convened in the Church of St Paul. They drafted a constitution for a
German nation to be headed by a monarchy subject to a parliament.
 While the opposition of the aristocracy and military became stronger, the social basis of
parliament eroded.
 The parliament was dominated by the middle classes who resisted the demands of workers and
artisans and consequently lost their support.
 In the end troops were called in and the assembly was forced to disband.
 The issue of extending political rights to women was a controversial one within the liberal
movement, in which large numbers of women had participated actively over the years. Women
had formed their own political associations, founded newspapers and taken part in political
meetings and demonstrations.
 Despite this they were denied suffrage rights during the election of the Assembly. When the
Frankfurt parliament convened in the Church of St Paul, women were admitted only as observers
to stand in the visitors’ gallery.
 Though conservative forces were able to suppress liberal movements in 1848, they could not
restore the old order.
 Monarchs were beginning to realize that the cycles of revolution and repression could only be
ended by granting concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries.
 Serfdom and bonded labour were abolished both in the Habsburg dominions and in Russia. The
Habsburg rulers granted more autonomy to the Hungarians in 1867.
Feminist – Awareness of women’s rights and interests based on the belief of the social, economic and
political equality of the genders.
Ideology – System of ideas reflecting a particular social and political vision


4.1 Germany – Can the Army be the Architect of a Nation?
 After 1848, nationalism in Europe moved away from its association with democracy and
 Nationalist sentiments were often mobilized by conservatives for promoting state power and
achieving political domination over Europe.
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 Nationalist feelings were widespread among middle-class Germans, who in 1848 tried to unite the
different regions of the German confederation into a nation-state governed by an elected
 This liberal initiative to nation-building was, however, repressed by the combined forces of the
monarchy and the military, supported by the large landowners (called Junkers) of Prussia.
 From then on, Prussia took on the leadership of the movement for national unification.
 Otto von Bismarck was the architect of unification process carried out with the help of the
Prussian army and bureaucracy.
 Three wars over seven years – with Austria, Denmark and France – ended in Prussian victory and
completed the process of unification.
 In January 1871, the Prussian king, William I, was proclaimed German Emperor in a ceremony
held at Versailles. Otto von Bismarck gathered in the unheated Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of
Versailles to proclaim the new German Empire headed by Kaiser William I of Prussia.
 The nation-building process in Germany had demonstrated the dominance of Prussian state power
where strong emphasis was placed on modernizing the currency, banking, legal and judicial
systems in Germany. Prussian measures and practices often became a model for the rest of

4.2 Italy Unified

 Italians were scattered over several dynastic states as well as the multi-national Habsburg Empire.
 During the middle of the nineteenth century, Italy was divided into seven states, of which only
one, Sardinia-Piedmont, was ruled by an Italian princely house. The north was under Austrian
Habsburgs, the centre was ruled by the Pope and the southern regions were under the domination
of the Bourbon kings of Spain.
 Italian language had not acquired one common form and still had many regional and local
 During the 1830s, Giuseppe Mazzini had sought to put together a coherent programme for a
unitary Italian Republic.
 The failure of revolutionary uprisings both in 1831 and 1848 promopted Sardinia-Piedmont under
its ruler King Victor Emmanuel II to unify the Italian states through war as it could bring about
economic development and political dominance.
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 Chief Minister Cavour who led the movement to unify the regions of Italy was a wealthy and
educated member of the Italian elite and spoke French much better than he did Italian.
 Through a tactful diplomatic alliance with France engineered by Cavour, Sardinia-Piedmont
succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in 1859.
 Apart from regular troops, a large number of armed volunteers under the leadership of Giuseppe
Garibaldi joined the fray. In 1860, they marched into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies and succeeded in winning the support of the local peasants in order to drive out the
Spanish rulers.
 In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed king of united Italy. Much of the Italian population,
among whom rates of illiteracy were very high, remained blissfully unaware of liberal nationalist

4.3 The Strange Case of Britain

 In Britain the formation of the nation-state was not the result of a sudden upheaval or revolution.
 There was no British nation prior to the eighteenth century.
 The primary identities of the people who inhabited the British Isles were ethnic ones – such as
English, Welsh, Scot or Irish. All of these ethnic groups had their own cultural and political
 The English parliament, which had seized power from the monarchy in 1688 at the end of a
protracted conflict, was the instrument through which a nation-state, with England at its centre,
came to be forged.
 The Act of Union (1707) between England and Scotland resulted in the formation of the ‘United
Kingdom of Great Britain’.
 England was able to impose its influence on Scotland. The British parliament was dominated by
its English members.
 Scotland’s distinctive culture and political institutions were systematically suppressed. The
Catholic clans that inhabited the Scottish Highlands suffered terrible repression whenever they
attempted to assert their independence. The Scottish Highlanders were forbidden to speak their
Gaelic language or wear their national dress, and large numbers were forcibly driven out of their
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 In Ireland, a deep divide existed between Catholics and Protestants. The English helped the
Protestants of Ireland to establish their dominance over a largely Catholic country. Catholic
revolts against British dominance were suppressed.
 After a failed revolt led by Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen (1798), Ireland was forcibly
incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801.
 A new ‘British nation’ was forged through the propagation of a dominant English culture. The
symbols of the new Britain – the British flag (Union Jack), the national anthem (God Save Our
Noble King), the English language – were actively promoted.

Ethnic – Relates to a common racial, tribal, or cultural origin or background that a community identifies
with or claims


 Artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries found a way out by personifying a nation. In
other words they represented a country as if it were a person.
 Nations were then portrayed as female figures.
 The female form that was chosen to personify the nation did not stand for any particular woman
in real life; rather it sought to give the abstract idea of the nation a concrete form. That is, the
female figure became an allegory of the nation.
 During the French Revolution artists used the female allegory to portray ideas such as Liberty,
Justice and the Republic.
 Germania became the allegory of the German nation. In visual representations, Germania wears a
crown of oak leaves, as the German oak stands for heroism.
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Chapter 2: The Nationalist Movement in Indo-China


 Indo-China comprises the modern countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
 Even when an independent country was established in 1945, in what is now northern and
central Vietnam, its rulers continued to maintain the Chinese system of government as
well as Chinese culture.
1.1 Colonial Domination and Resistance
 Vietnam was colonized by the French. French troops landed in Vietnam in 1858 and by
the mid-1880s they had established a firm grip over the northern region.
 After the Franco-Chinese war the French assumed control of Tonkin and Anaam and, in
1887, French Indo-China was formed.
 The most visible form of French control was military and economic domination but the
French also built a system that tried to reshape the culture of the Vietnamese.
 Nationalism in Vietnam emerged through the efforts of different sections of society to
fight against the French and all they represented.
1.2 Why the French thought Colonies Necessary?
 Colonies were considered essential to supply natural resources and other essential goods.
 The French began by building canals and draining lands in the Mekong delta to increase
 The vast system of irrigation works – canals and earthworks – built mainly with forced
labour, increased rice production and allowed the export of rice to the international
 Vietnam exported two-thirds of its rice production and by 1931 had become the third
largest exporter of rice in the world.
 Next, infrastructure projects to help transport goods for trade, move military garrisons
and control the entire region.
 Construction of a trans-Indo-China rail network that would link the northern and
southern parts of Vietnam and China began and this final link with Yunan in China was
completed by 1910.
 The second line was also built, linking Vietnam to Siam (as Thailand was then called),
via the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
1.3 Should Colonies be Developed?
 Colonies had to serve the interests of the mother country.
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 Paul Bernard, an influential writer and policy-maker, argued that the purpose of
acquiring colonies was to make profits.
 If the economy was developed and the standard of living of the people improved, they
would buy more goods leading to market expansion and better profits for French
 The colonial economy in Vietnam was, however, primarily based on rice cultivation and
rubber plantations owned by the French and small Vietnamese elite.
 Rail and port facilities were set up to service this sector.
 Indentured Vietnamese labour was widely used in the rubber plantations.
 The French, contrary to what Bernard would have liked, did little to industrialize the
economy. In the rural areas landlordism spread and the standard of living declined.

Important Term
Indentured labour :
A form of labour widely used in the plantations from the mid-nineteenth century.
Labourers worked on the basis of contracts that did not specify any rights of labourers
but gave immense power to employers. Employers could bring criminal charges against
labourers and punish and jail them for non-fulfilment of contracts.


 French colonisation was not based only on economic exploitation. It was also driven by
the idea of a ‘civilising mission’. Like the British in India, the French claimed that they
were bringing modern civilisation to the Vietnamese.
 Education was seen as one way to civilise the ‘native’. But in order to educate them, the
French had to resolve a dilemma. How far were the Vietnamese to be educated?
 The French needed an educated local labour force but they feared that education might
create problems. Once educated, the Vietnamese may begin to question colonial
 French citizens living in Vietnam (called colons) began fearing that they might lose their
jobs – as teachers, shopkeepers, policemen – to the educated Vietnamese.
 So they opposed policies that would give the Vietnamese full access to French education.
2.1 Talking Modern
 The elites in Vietnam were powerfully influenced by Chinese culture.
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 To consolidate their power, the French had to counter this Chinese influence.
 So they systematically dismantled the traditional educational system and established
French schools for the Vietnamese.
 Some policymakers emphasised the need to use the French language as the medium of
 By learning the language, they felt, the Vietnamese would be introduced to the culture
and civilisation of France and an ‘Asiatic France solidly tied to European France’ would
be created.
 Others were opposed to French being the only medium of instruction. They suggested
that Vietnamese be taught in lower classes and French in the higher classes.
 Only the Vietnamese elite – comprising a small fraction of the population – could enroll
in the schools, and only a few among those admitted ultimately passed the school-leaving
 Deliberate policy of failing students, particularly in the final year was followed so that
they could not qualify for the better-paid jobs.
 School textbooks glorified the French and justified colonial rule. The Vietnamese were
represented as primitive and backward, capable of manual labour but not of intellectual
reflection; they could work in the fields but not rule themselves; they were ‘skilled
copyists’ but not creative.
2.2 Looking Modern
 It was not enough to learn science and Western ideas: to be modern the Vietnamese had to
also look modern.
 The school encouraged the adoption of Western styles such as having a short haircut. For the
Vietnamese this meant a major break with their own identity since they traditionally kept
long hair.

2.3 Resistance in Schools

 Teachers and students did not blindly follow the curriculum. Sometimes there was open
opposition, at other times there was silent resistance.
 Students fought against the colonial government’s efforts to prevent the Vietnamese from
qualifying for white-collar jobs.
 They were inspired by patriotic feelings and the conviction that it was the duty of the
educated to fight for the benefit of society. This brought them into conflict with the
French as well as the traditional elite, since both saw their positions threatened.
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 The battle against French colonial education became part of the larger battle against
colonialism and for independence.


3.1 Plague Strikes Hanoi

 In 1903, the modern part of Hanoi was struck by bubonic plague.
 The French part of Hanoi was built as a beautiful and clean city with wide avenues and a
well-laid-out sewer system, while the ‘native quarter’ was not provided with any modern
 The refuse from the old city drained straight out into the river or, during heavy rains or
floods, overflowed into the streets.
 Thus what was installed to create a hygienic environment in the French city became the
cause of the plague.
 The large sewers in the modern part of the city, a symbol of modernity, were an ideal and
protected breeding ground for rats. The sewers also served as a great transport system,
allowing the rats to move around the city without any problem. And rats began to enter
the well-cared-for homes of the French through the sewage pipes.
3.2 The Rat Hunt
 The French hired Vietnamese workers and paid them for each rat they caught.
 For the Vietnamese the rat hunt seemed to provide an early lesson in the success of
collective bargaining. Those who did the dirty work of entering sewers found that if they
came together they could negotiate a higher bounty.
 They also discovered innovative ways to profit from this situation.
 Defeated by the resistance of the weak, the French were forced to scrap the bounty
programme. None of this prevented the bubonic plague, which swept through.
 In a way, the rat menace marks the limits of French power and the contradictions in their
‘civilizing mission.


 Religion played an important role in strengthening colonial control, it also provided ways
of resistance.
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 Vietnam’s religious beliefs were a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism and local

 Christianity, introduced by French missionaries, was intolerant of this easygoing attitude
and viewed the Vietnamese tendency to revere the supernatural as something to be
 An early movement against French control and the spread of Christianity was the
Scholars Revolt in 1868.
 The elites in Vietnam were educated in Chinese and Confucianism. But religious beliefs
among the peasantry were shaped by a variety of syncretic traditions that combined
Buddhism and local beliefs.
 Some of the religious movements supported the French, but others inspired movements
against colonial rule. One such movement was the Hoa Hao. It began in 1939 and gained
great popularity in the fertile Mekong delta area.
 The founder of Hoa Hao was a man called Huynh Phu So.
 The French authorities exiled him to Laos and sent many of his followers to
concentration camps.
Important Terms:
Syncretic – Characterised by syncretism; aims to bring together different beliefs and
practices, seeing their essential unity rather than their difference.
Concentration camp – A prison where people are detained without due process of law.
The word evokes an image of a place of torture and brutal treatment


 Some intellectuals felt that Vietnamese traditions had to be strengthened to resist the domination
of the West, while others felt that Vietnam had to learn from the West even while opposing
foreign domination.
 In the late nineteenth century, resistance to French domination was very often led by Confucian
scholar-activists, who saw their world crumbling.
 Educated in the Confucian tradition, Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940) was one such nationalist. He
became a major figure in the anti-colonial resistance from the time he formed the Revolutionary
Society (Duy Tan Hoi) in 1903, with Prince Cuong De as the head.
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 Other nationalists strongly differed with Phan Boi Chau. One such was Phan Chu Trinh (1871-
1926). He was intensely hostile to the monarchy and opposed to the idea of resisting the French
with the help of the court. His desire was to establish a democratic republic.
 He accepted the French revolutionary ideal of liberty but charged the French for not abiding by
the ideal. He demanded that the French set up legal and educational institutions, and develop
agriculture and industries.
5.1 Other Ways of Becoming Modern: Japan and China
 Early Vietnamese nationalists had a close relationship with Japan and China. They provided
models for those looking to change, a refuge for those who were escaping French police, and
a location where a wider Asian network of revolutionaries could be established.
 Vietnamese students went to Japan to acquire modern education. For many of them the
primary objective was to drive out the French from Vietnam, overthrow the puppet emperor
and re-establish the Nguyen dynasty that had been deposed by the French.
 They appealed to the Japanese as fellow Asians. Japan had modernised itself and had resisted
colonisation by the West.
 Developments in China also inspired Vietnamese nationalists. In 1911, the long established
monarchy in China was overthrown by a popular movement under Sun Yat-sen, and a
Republic was set up.
 Vietnamese students organised the Association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet-Nam
Quan Phuc Hoi).
 The nature of the anti-French independence movement changed. The objective was no longer
to set up a constitutional monarchy but a democratic republic.


 The Great Depression of the 1930s had a profound impact on Vietnam. The prices of rubber and
rice fell, leading to rising rural debts, unemployment and rural uprisings, such as in the provinces
of Nghe An and Ha Tinh.
 In February 1930, Ho Chi Minh brought together competing nationalist groups to establish the
Vietnamese Communist (Vietnam Cong San Dang) Party, later renamed the Indo-Chinese
Communist Party. He was inspired by the militant demonstrations of the European communist
 In 1940 Japan occupied Vietnam, as part of its imperial drive to control Southeast Asia. So
nationalists now had to fight against the Japanese as well as the French.
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 The League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh), which came to
be known as the Vietminh, fought the Japanese occupation and recaptured Hanoi in September
 The Democratic Republic of Vietnam was formed and Ho Chi Minh became Chairman.

6.1 The New Republic of Vietnam

 The new republic faced a number of challenges. The French tried to regain control by using the
emperor, Bao Dai, as their puppet. Faced with the French offensive, the Vietminh were forced to
retreat to the hills. After eight years of fighting, the French were defeated in 1954 at Dien Bien
 In the peace negotiations in Geneva that followed the French defeat, the Vietnamese were
persuaded to accept the division of the country. North and south were split: Ho Chi Minh and the
communists took power in the north while Bao Dai’s regime was put in power in the south.
 The Bao Dai regime was soon overthrown by a coup led by Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem built a
repressive and authoritarian government. Anyone who opposed him was called a communist and
was jailed and killed.
 Diem retained Ordinance 10, a French law that permitted Christianity but outlawed Buddhism.
 His dictatorial rule came to be opposed by a broad opposition united under the banner of the
National Liberation Front (NLF).
 With the help of the Ho Chi Minh government in the north, the NLF fought for the unification of
the country. US watched this alliance with fear.
6.2 The Entry of the US into the War
 From 1965 to 1972, over 3,403,100 US services personnel served in Vietnam (7,484 were
women). Even though the US had advanced technology and good medical supplies, casualties
were high.
 Thousands of US troops arrived equipped with heavy weapons and tanks and backed by the
most powerful bombers of the time – B52s.
 The wide spread attacks and use of chemical weapons – Napalm, Agent Orange, and
phosphorous bombs – destroyed many villages and decimated jungles. Civilians died in large
 The war grew out of a fear among US policy-planners that the victory of the Ho Chi Minh
government would start a domino effect – communist governments would be established in
other countries in the area.
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 They underestimated the power of nationalism to move people to action, inspire them to
sacrifice their home and family, live under horrific conditions, and fight for independence.
 They underestimated the power of a small country to fight the most technologically advanced
country in the world.
6.3 The Ho Chi Minh Trail
 It symbolizes how the Vietnamese used their limited resources to great advantage. The trail, an
immense network of footpaths and roads, was used to transport men and materials from the north
to the south.
 The trail had support bases and hospitals along the way. In some parts supplies were transported
in trucks, but mostly they were carried by porters, who were mainly women. These porters carried
about 25 kilos on their backs, or about 70 kilos on their bicycles.
 Most of the trail was outside Vietnam in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia with branch lines
extending into South Vietnam.


7.1 Women as Rebels

 Women in Vietnam traditionally enjoyed greater equality than in China, particularly among the
lower classes, but they had only limited freedom to determine their future and played no role in
public life.
 As the nationalist movement grew, the status of women came to be questioned and a new image
of womanhood emerged.
 The rebellion against social conventions marked the arrival of the new woman in Vietnamese
7.3 Women as Warriors
 As casualties in the war increased in the 1960s, women were urged to join the struggle in larger
 Many women responded and joined the resistance movement. They helped in nursing the
wounded, constructing underground rooms and tunnels and fighting the enemy.
7.4 Women in Times of Peace
 By the 1970s, as peace talks began to get under way and the end of the war seemed near,
women were no longer represented as warriors.
 Now the image of women as workers begins to predominate. They are shown working in
agricultural cooperatives, factories and production units, rather than as fighters.
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 US had failed to achieve its objectives: the Vietnamese resistance had not been crushed; the
support of the Vietnamese people for US action had not been won. In the meantime, thousands of
young US soldiers had lost their lives, and countless Vietnamese civilians had been killed.
 A peace settlement was signed in Paris in January 1974. This ended conflict with the US but
fighting between the Saigon regime and the NLF continued. The NLF occupied the presidential
palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975 and unified Vietnam.
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Chapter 3. Nationalism in India

 In India, as in Vietnam and many other colonies, the growth of modern nationalism is intimately
connected to the anti-colonial movement.
 The sense of being oppressed under colonialism provided a shared bond that tied many different
groups together. But each class and group felt the effects of colonialism differently, their
experiences were varied, and their notions of freedom were not always the same.
 The Congress under Mahatma Gandhi tried to forge these groups together within one movement.
But the unity did not emerge without conflict.


 The war created a new economic and political situation. It led to a huge increase in
defence expenditure which was financed by war loans and increasing taxes: customs
duties were raised and income tax introduced.
 Villages were called upon to supply soldiers, and the forced recruitment in rural areas
caused widespread anger. Then in 1918-19 and 1920-21, crops failed in many parts
of India, resulting in acute shortages of food. This was accompanied by an influenza
 People hoped that their hardships would end after the war was over. But that did not
1.1 The Idea of Satyagraha
 The idea of satyagraha emphasised the power of truth and the need to search
for truth. It suggested that if the cause was true, if the struggle was against
injustice, then physical force was not necessary to fight the oppressor.
 People – including the oppressors – had to be persuaded to see the truth,
instead of being forced to accept truth through the use of violence.
 Mahatma Gandhi believed that this dharma of non-violence could unite all
 In 1916 he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle
against the oppressive plantation system.
 Then in 1917, he organised a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda
district of Gujarat. Affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic, the
peasants of Kheda could not pay the revenue, and were demanding that
revenue collection be relaxed.
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 In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmedabad to organise a satyagraha

movement amongst cotton mill workers.
1.2 The Rowlatt Act
 Gandhiji in 1919 decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the
proposed Rowlatt Act (1919).
 The Act gave the government enormous powers to repress political activities,
and allowed detention of political prisoners without trial for two years.
 Rallies were organised in various cities, workers went on strike in railway
workshops, and shops closed down. Alarmed by the popular upsurge, and
scared that lines of communication such as the railways and telegraph would
be disrupted, the British administration decided to clamp down on
 On 10 April, the police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession,
provoking widespread attacks on banks, post offices and railway stations.
Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command.
 On 13 April the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place. On that day
a large crowd gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh.
 While the Rowlatt satyagraha had been a widespread movement, it was still
limited mostly to cities and towns. Mahatma Gandhi now felt the need to
launch a more broad-based movement in India.
 The First World War had ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey. And
there were rumours that a harsh peace treaty was going to be imposed on the
Ottoman emperor – the spiritual head of the Islamic world (the Khalifa). To
defend the Khalifa’s temporal powers, a Khilafat Committee was formed in
Bombay in March 1919. A young generation of Muslim leaders like the
brothers Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, began discussing with Mahatma
Gandhi about the possibility of a united mass action on the issue. Gandhiji
saw this as an opportunity to bring Muslims under the umbrella of a unified
national movement. At the Calcutta session of the Congress in September
1920, he convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-cooperation
movement in support of Khilafat as well as for swaraj.
1.3 Why Non-cooperation?
 Gandhiji proposed that the movement should unfold in stages. It should
begin with the surrender of titles that the government awarded, and a boycott
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of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and
foreign goods. Then, in case the government used repression, a full civil
disobedience campaign would be launched. Through the summer of 1920
Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali toured extensively, mobilising popular
support for the movement.
 At the Congress session at Nagpur in December 1920, a compromise was
worked out and the Non-Cooperation programme was adopted.
 The Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement began in January 1921. Various
social groups participated in this movement, each with its own specific
aspiration. All of them responded to the call of Swaraj.


2.1 The Movement in the Towns

 The movement started with middle-class participation in the cities. Thousands of students left
government-controlled schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned, and lawyers
gave up their legal practices.
 The council elections were boycotted in most provinces except Madras, where the Justice Party,
the party of the non-Brahmans, felt that entering the council was one way of gaining some power
– something that usually only Brahmans had access to.
 Foreign goods were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth burnt in huge bonfires.
The import of foreign cloth halved between 1921 and 1922, its value dropping from Rs 102 crore
to Rs 57 crore.
 In many places merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade.
 This movement in the cities gradually slowed down for a variety of reasons. Khadi cloth was
often more expensive than massproduced mill cloth and poor people could not afford to buy it.
 Boycott of British institutions posed a problem. For the movement to be successful, alternative
Indian institutions had to be set up so that they could be used in place of the British ones. These
were slow to come up.
 Students and teachers began trickling back to government schools and lawyers joined back work
in government courts.
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2.2 Rebellion in the Countryside

 In Awadh, peasants were led by Baba Ramchandra – a sanyasi who had earlier
been to Fiji as an indentured labourer. The movement here was against talukdars
and landlords who demanded from peasants exorbitantly high rents and a variety
of other cesses.
 Peasants had to do begar and work at landlords’ farms without any payment.
 In many places nai – dhobi bandhs were organised by panchayats to deprive
landlords of the services of even barbers and washermen.
 In June 1920, Jawaharlal Nehru began going around the villages in Awadh,
talking to the villagers, and trying to understand their grievances.
 By October, the Oudh Kisan Sabha was set up headed by Jawaharlal Nehru,
Baba Ramchandra and a few others.
 As the movement spread in 1921, the houses of talukdars and merchants were
attacked, bazaars were looted, and grain hoards were taken over. In many places
local leaders told peasants that Gandhiji had declared that no taxes were to be
paid and land was to be redistributed among the poor. The name of the Mahatma
was being invoked to sanction all action and aspirations.
 Tribal peasants interpreted the message of Mahatma Gandhi and the idea of
swaraj in yet another way. In the Gudem Hills of Andhra Pradesh, for instance, a
militant guerrilla movement spread in the early 1920s – not a form of struggle
that the Congress could approve.
 The Gudem rebels attacked police stations, attempted to kill British officials and
carried on guerrilla warfare for achieving swaraj.
2.3 Swaraj in the Plantations
 Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not permitted
to leave the tea gardens without permission.
 When they heard of the Non-Cooperation Movement, thousands of workers
defied the authorities, left the plantations and headed home. They believed that
Gandhi Raj was coming and everyone would be given land in their own villages.
They, however, never reached their destination. Stranded on the way by a railway
and steamer strike, they were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.
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 In February 1922, Mahatma Gandhi decided to withdraw the Non-Cooperation
Movement. He felt the movement was turning violent in many places and satyagrahis
needed to be properly trained before they would be ready for mass struggles.
 Within the Congress, some leaders were by now tired of mass struggles and wanted to
participate in elections to the provincial councils that had been set up by the Government
of India Act of 1919.
 C. R. Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party within the Congress to argue for a
return to council politics.
 But younger leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose pressed for more
radical mass agitation and for full independence.
 Two factors again shaped Indian politics towards the late 1920s. The first was the effect
of the worldwide economic depression.
 Agricultural prices began to fall from 1926 and collapsed after 1930. As the demand for
agricultural goods fell and exports declined, peasants found it difficult to sell their
harvests and pay their revenue. By 1930, the countryside was in turmoil.
 Against this background the new Tory government in Britain constituted a Statutory
Commission under Sir John Simon.
 The commission was to look into the functioning of the constitutional system in India and
suggest changes. The problem was that the commission did not have a single Indian
member. They were all British.
 When the Simon Commission arrived in India in 1928, it was greeted with the slogan ‘Go
back Simon’. All parties, including the Congress and the Muslim League, participated in
the demonstrations.
 Lord Irwin, announced in October 1929, a vague offer of ‘dominion status’ for India in
an unspecified future, and a Round Table Conference to discuss a future constitution.
 . The radicals within the Congress, led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose,
became more assertive.
 The liberals and moderates, who were proposing a constitutional system within the
framework of British dominion, gradually lost their influence.
 In December 1929, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Lahore Congress
formalised the demand of ‘Purna Swaraj’ or full independence for India.
 It was declared that 26 January 1930, would be celebrated as the Independence Day
when people were to take a pledge to struggle for complete independence.
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3.1 The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

 Mahatma Gandhi found in salt a powerful symbol that could unite the nation. On 31
January 1930, he sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands.
 Some of these were of general interest; others were specific demands of different
classes, from industrialists to peasants.
 The most stirring of all was the demand to abolish the salt tax. Salt was something
consumed by the rich and the poor alike, and it was one of the most essential items of
food. The tax on salt and the government monopoly over its production, Mahatma
Gandhi declared, revealed the most oppressive face of British rule.
 Mahatma Gandhi started his famous salt march accompanied by 78 of his trusted
volunteers. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to
the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10
miles a day.
 This movement was different from the Non-Cooperation Movement as people were
now asked not only to refuse cooperation with the British, as they had done in 1921-
22, but also to break colonial laws.
 As the movement spread, foreign cloth was boycotted, and liquor shops were
picketed. Peasants refused to pay revenue and chaukidari taxes, village officials
resigned, and in many places forest people violated forest laws – going into Reserved
Forests to collect wood and graze cattle.
 Worried by the developments, the colonial government began arresting the Congress
leaders one by one.
 A frightened government responded with a policy of brutal repression. Peaceful
satyagrahis were attacked, women and children were beaten, and about 100,000
people were arrested.
 Mahatma Gandhi once again decided to call off the movement and entered into a pact
with Irwin on 5 March 1931. By this Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhiji consented to
participate in a Round Table Conference (the Congress had boycotted the first Round
Table Conference) in London and the government agreed to release the political
 In December 1931, Gandhiji went to London for the conference, but the negotiations
broke down and he returned disappointed.
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 With great apprehension, Mahatma Gandhi relaunched the Civil Disobedience

Movement. For over a year, the movement continued, but by 1934 it lost its

3.2 How Participants saw the Movement

 In the countryside, rich peasant communities – like the Patidars of Gujarat and
the Jats of Uttar Pradesh – were active in the movement because being producers
of commercial crops, they were very hard hit by the trade depression and falling
prices. As their cash income disappeared, they found it impossible to pay the
government’s revenue demand.
 They were deeply disappointed when the movement was called off in 1931
without the revenue rates being revised. So when the movement was restarted in
1932, many of them refused to participate.
 During the First World War, Indian merchants and industrialists had made huge
profits and become powerful. Keen on expanding their business, they now
reacted against colonial policies that restricted business activities.
 To organise business interests, they formed the Indian Industrial and Commercial
Congress in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and
Industries (FICCI) in 1927. Led by prominent industrialists like Purshottamdas
Thakurdas and G. D. Birla, the industrialists attacked colonial control over the
Indian economy, and supported the Civil Disobedience Movement when it was
first launched.
 After the failure of the Round Table Conference, business groups were no longer
uniformly enthusiastic.
 The industrial working classes did not participate in the Civil Disobedience
Movement in large numbers, except in the Nagpur region.
 There were strikes by railway workers in 1930 and dockworkers in 1932. In 1930
thousands of workers in Chotanagpur tin mines wore Gandhi caps and
participated in protest rallies and boycott campaigns. But the Congress was
reluctant to include workers’ demands as part of its programme of struggle.
 Another important feature of the Civil Disobedience Movement was the large-
scale participation of women.
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3.3 The Limits of Civil Disobedience

 Not all social groups were moved by the abstract concept of swaraj. One such group was the
nation’s ‘untouchables’, who from around the 1930s had begun to call themselves dalit or
 Mahatma Gandhi declared that swaraj would not come for a hundred years if untouchability was
not eliminated. He called the ‘untouchables’ harijan, or the children of God, organised satyagraha
to secure them entry into temples, and access to public wells, tanks, roads and schools.
 Dalit participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement was therefore limited, particularly in the
Maharashtra and Nagpur region where their organisation was quite strong.
 Poona Pact of September 1932 gave the Depressed Classes (later to be known as the Schedule
Castes) reserved seats in provincial and central legislative councils, but they were to be voted in
by the general electorate.
 Some of the Muslim political organisations in India were also lukewarm in their response to the
Civil Disobedience Movement.
 From the mid-1920s the Congress came to be more visibly associated with openly Hindu
religious nationalist groups like the Hindu Mahasabha. As relations between Hindus and Muslims
worsened, each community organised religious processions with militant fervour, provoking
Hindu-Muslim communal clashes and riots in various cities. Every riot deepened the distance
between the two communities.


 History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols, all played a part in
the making of nationalism.
 With the growth of nationalism, the identity of India came to be visually associated with
the image of Bharat Mata. The image was first created by Bankim Chandra
 In the 1870s he wrote ‘Vande Mataram’ as a hymn to the motherland. Later it was
included in his novel Anandamath and widely sung during the Swadeshi movement in
 In late-nineteenth-century India, nationalists began recording folk tales sung by bards and
they toured villages to gather folk songs and legends. These tales, they believed, gave a
true picture of traditional culture that had been corrupted and damaged by outside forces.
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 During the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, a tricolour flag (red, green and yellow) was
designed. It had eight lotuses representing eight provinces of British India, and a crescent
moon, representing Hindus and Muslims.
 By 1921, Gandhiji had designed the Swaraj flag. It was again a tricolour (red, green and
white) and had a spinning wheel in the centre, representing the Gandhian ideal of self-
help. Carrying the flag, holding it aloft, during marches became a symbol of defiance.
 The British saw Indians as backward and primitive, incapable of governing themselves.
In response, Indians began looking into the past to discover India’s great achievements.
 They wrote about the glorious developments in ancient times when art and architecture,
science and mathematics, religion and culture, law and philosophy, crafts and trade had
 When the past being glorified was Hindu, when the images celebrated were drawn from
Hindu iconography, then people of other communities felt left out.
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Chapter 4: The Making of a Global World


 All through history, human societies have become steadily more interlinked. From ancient times,
travelers, traders, priests and pilgrims travelled vast distances for knowledge, opportunity and
spiritual fulfillment, or to escape persecution.
 They carried goods, money, values, skills, ideas, inventions, and even germs and diseases.
 As early as 3000 BCE an active coastal trade linked the Indus valley civilizations with present-
day West Asia.

1.1 Silk Routes Link the World

 The name ‘silk routes’ points to the importance of West-bound Chinese silk cargoes
along this route.
 Historians have identified several silk routes, over land and by sea, knitting together vast
regions of Asia, and linking Asia with Europe and northern Africa.
 They are known to have existed since before the Christian era and thrived almost till the
fifteenth century.
 Chinese pottery travelled the same route, as did textiles and spices from India and
Southeast Asia. In return, precious metals – gold and silver – flowed from Europe to
 Buddhism emerged from eastern India and spread in several directions through
intersecting points on the silk routes.

1.2 Food Travels: Spaghetti and Potato

 Traders and travellers introduced new crops to the lands they travelled. Even ‘ready’
foodstuff in distant parts of the world might share common origins.
 Noodles travelled west from China to become spaghetti. Or, perhaps Arab traders
took pasta to fifth-century Sicily, an island now in Italy.
 Many of our common foods such as potatoes, soya, groundnuts, maize, tomatoes,
chillies, sweet potatoes, and so on were not known to our ancestors until about five
centuries ago. These foods were only introduced in Europe and Asia after
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Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the vast continent that would later
become known as the Americas.
 Many of our common foods came from America’s original inhabitants – the
American Indians.
 Europe’s poor began to eat better and live longer with the introduction of the humble
potato. Ireland’s poorest peasants became so dependent on potatoes that when disease
destroyed the potato crop in the mid-1840s, hundreds of thousands died of starvation.

1.3 Conquest, Disease and Trade

 The pre-modern world shrank greatly in the sixteenth century after European sailors
found a sea route to Asia and also successfully crossed the western ocean to America.
The Indian subcontinent was central to the flows of goods, people, knowledge,
customs, etc. and a crucial point in their networks. The entry of the Europeans helped
expand or redirect some of these flows towards Europe.
 America had been cut off from regular contact with the rest of the world for millions
of years. But from the sixteenth century, its vast lands and abundant crops and
minerals began to transform trade and lives everywhere. The Portuguese and Spanish
conquest and colonization of America was decisively under way by the mid-sixteenth
 Precious metals, particularly silver, from mines located in present day Peru and
Mexico also enhanced Europe’s wealth and financed its trade with Asia.
 The most powerful weapon of the Spanish conquerors was the germs such as those of
smallpox that they carried on their person.
 Because of their long isolation, America’s original inhabitants had no immunity
against these diseases that came from Europe. Smallpox killed and decimated whole
 Until the nineteenth century, poverty and hunger were common in Europe. Cities
were crowded and deadly diseases were widespread. Religious conflicts were
common, and religious dissenters were persecuted. Thousands therefore fled Europe
for America. Here, by the eighteenth century, plantations, where slaves captured in
Africa worked, were growing cotton and sugar for European markets.
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 Until well into the eighteenth century, China and India were among the world’s
richest countries. However, from the fifteenth century, China is said to have restricted
overseas contacts and retreated into isolation.
 China’s reduced role and the rising importance of the Americas gradually moved the
centre of world trade westwards. Europe now emerged as the centre of world trade.


2.1 A World Economy Takes Shape

 Population growth from the late eighteenth century had increased the demand for
food grains in Britain. As urban centres expanded and industry grew, the demand
for agricultural products went up, pushing up food grain prices. Under pressure
from landed groups, the government also restricted the import of corn. The laws
allowing the government to do this were commonly known as the ‘Corn Laws’.
Unhappy with high food prices, industrialists and urban dwellers forced the
abolition of the Corn Laws. After the Corn Laws were scrapped, food could be
imported into Britain more cheaply than it could be produced within the country.
British agriculture was unable to compete with imports. Vast areas of land were
now left uncultivated, and thousands of men and women were thrown out of
work. They flocked to the cities or migrated overseas. As food prices fell,
consumption in Britain rose.
 Around the world – in Eastern Europe, Russia, America and Australia – lands
were cleared and food production expanded to meet the British demand.
 Railways were needed to link the agricultural regions to the ports. New harbours
had to be built and old ones expanded to ship the new cargoes.
 Capital flowed from financial centres such as London. The demand for labour in
places where labour was in short supply – as in America and Australia – led to
more migration. Nearly 50 million people emigrated from Europe to America and
Australia in the nineteenth century.
 Thus by 1890, a global agricultural economy had taken shape, accompanied by
complex changes in labour movement patterns, capital flows, ecologies and
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2.2 Role of Technology

 Colonization stimulated new investments and improvements in transport: faster railways, lighter
wagons and larger ships helped move food more cheaply and quickly from faraway farms to final
 Till the 1870s, animals were shipped live from America to Europe and then slaughtered when
they arrived there. But live animals took up a lot of ship space. Many also died in voyage, fell ill,
lost weight, or became unfit to eat. Meat was hence an expensive luxury beyond the reach of the
European poor. High prices in turn kept demand and production down until the development of a
new technology, namely, refrigerated ships, which enabled the transport of perishable foods over
long distances.
 Animals were slaughtered for food at the starting point – in America, Australia or New Zealand –
and then transported to Europe as frozen meat.

2.3 Late nineteenth-century Colonialism

 Late nineteenth-century European conquests produced many painful economic, social and
ecological changes through which the colonised societies were brought into the world
 Britain and France made vast additions to their overseas territories in the late nineteenth
century. Belgium and Germany became new colonial powers. The US also became a
colonial power in the late 1890s by taking over some colonies earlier held by Spain.

2.4 Rinderpest, or the Cattle Plague

 In Africa, in the 1890s, a fast-spreading disease of cattle plague or rinderpest had a

terrifying impact on people’s livelihoods and the local economy.
 It was carried by infected cattle imported from British Asia to feed the Italian soldiers
invading Eritrea in East Africa
 In the late nineteenth century, Europeans were attracted to Africa due to its vast
resources of land and minerals. Europeans came to Africa hoping to establish
plantations and mines to produce crops and minerals for export to Europe. But there
was an unexpected problem – a shortage of labour willing to work for wages.
 Employers used many methods to recruit and retain labour. Heavy taxes were
imposed which could be paid only by working for wages on plantations and mines.
Inheritance laws were changed so that peasants were displaced from land: only one
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member of a family was allowed to inherit land, as a result of which the others were
pushed into the labour market. Mineworkers were also confined in compounds and
not allowed to move about freely.

2.4 Indentured Labour Migration from India

 In the nineteenth century, hundreds of thousands of Indian and Chinese labourers went to
work on plantations, in mines, and in road and railway construction projects around the
world. In India, indentured labourers were hired under contracts which promised return
travel to India after they had worked five years on their employer’s plantation.
 Indentured labour – A bonded labourer under contract to work for an employer for
a specific amount of time, to pay off his passage to a new country or home.
 The main destinations of Indian indentured migrants were the Caribbean islands (mainly
Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam), Mauritius and Fiji. Closer home, Tamil migrants went to
Ceylon and Malaya. Indentured workers were also recruited for tea plantations in Assam.
 On arrival at the plantations, labourers found conditions to be different from what they had
imagined. Living and working conditions were harsh, and there were few legal rights.

2.5 Indian Entrepreneurs Abroad

 Indian traders and moneylenders also followed European colonizers into Africa. Hyderabadi
Sindhi traders, however, ventured beyond European colonies. From the 1860s they established
flourishing emporia at busy ports worldwide, selling local and imported curios to tourists whose
numbers were beginning to swell, thanks to the development of safe and comfortable passenger

2.6 Indian Trade, Colonialism and the Global System

 With industrialization , British cotton manufacture began to expand, and industrialists pressurised
the government to restrict cotton imports and protect local industries. Tariffs were imposed on
cloth imports into Britain. Consequently, the inflow of fine Indian cotton began to decline.
 Excluded from the British market by tariff barriers, Indian textiles now faced stiff competition in
other international markets.
 While exports of manufactures declined rapidly, export of raw materials increased equally fast.
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 Over the nineteenth century, British manufactures flooded the Indian market. Food grain and raw
material exports from India to Britain and the rest of the world increased. But the value of British
exports to India was much higher than the value of British imports from India. Thus Britain had a
‘trade surplus’ with India.
 Britain used this surplus to balance its trade deficits with other countries – that is, with countries
from which Britain was importing more than it was selling to.
 By helping Britain balance its deficits, India played a crucial role in the late-nineteenth-century
world economy.


 The First World War (1914-18) was mainly fought in Europe. But its impact was felt around
the world.

3.1 Wartime Transformations

 The First World War was fought between two power blocs. On the one side were the Allies –
Britain, France and Russia (later joined by the US); and on the opposite side were the Central
Powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey.
 War was thus the first modern industrial war. It saw the use of machine guns, tanks, aircraft,
chemical weapons, etc. on a massive scale. These were all increasingly products of modern
largescale industry. To fight the war, millions of soldiers had to be recruited from around the
world and moved to the frontlines on large ships and trains.
 During the war, industries were restructured to produce war-related goods. Entire societies
were also reorganised for war – as men went to battle, women stepped in to undertake jobs
that earlier only men were expected to do.
 the war transformed the US from being an international debtor to an international creditor. the
US and its citizens owned more overseas assets than foreign governments and citizens owned
in the US.

3.2 Post-war Recovery

 Britain, which was the world’s leading economy in the pre-war period, in
particular faced a prolonged crisis.
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 After the war Britain found it difficult to recapture its earlier position of
dominance in the Indian market, and to compete with Japan internationally.
 When the war boom ended, production contracted and unemployment increased.
 Before the war, Eastern Europe was a major supplier of wheat in the world
market. When this supply was disrupted during the war, wheat production in
Canada, America and Australia expanded dramatically.
 But once the war was over, production in Eastern Europe revived and created a
glut in wheat output. Grain prices fell, rural incomes declined, and farmers fell
deeper into debt.

3.3 Rise of Mass Production and Consumption

 In the US, recovery was quicker.

 One important feature of the US economy of the 1920s was mass production. The
move towards mass production had begun in the late nineteenth century, but in
the 1920s it became a characteristic feature of industrial production in the US.
 A well-known pioneer of mass production was the car manufacturer Henry Ford.
 Mass production lowered costs and prices of engineered goods.
 The housing and consumer boom of the 1920s created the basis of prosperity in
the US. Large investments in housing and household goods seemed to create a
cycle of higher employment and incomes, rising consumption demand, more
investment, and yet more employment and incomes.

3.4 The Great Depression

 The Great Depression began around 1929 and lasted till the mid- 1930s.
 In general, agricultural regions and communities were the worst affected. This
was because the fall in agricultural prices was greater and more prolonged than
that in the prices of industrial goods.
 Agricultural overproduction remained a problem, made worse by falling
agricultural prices. As prices slumped and agricultural incomes declined, farmers
tried to expand production and bring a larger volume of produce to the market to
maintain their overall income. This worsened the glut in the market, pushing
down prices even further. Farm produce rotted for a lack of buyer.
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 Second: in the mid-1920s, many countries financed their investments through

loans from the US. While it was often extremely easy to raise loans in the US
when the going was good, US overseas lenders panicked at the first sign of
trouble. In the first half of 1928, US overseas loans amounted to over $ 1 billion.
A year later it was one quarter of that amount. Countries that depended crucially
on US loans now faced an acute crisis.
 With the fall in prices and the prospect of a depression, US banks had also
slashed domestic lending and called back loans. Farms could not sell their
harvests, households were ruined, and businesses collapsed.
 As unemployment soared, people trudged long distances looking for any work
they could find. Ultimately, the US banking system itself collapsed.

3.5 India and the Great Depression

 India’s exports and imports nearly halved between 1928 and 1934.
 Between 1928 and 1934, wheat prices in India fell by 50 per cent.
 The colonial government refused to reduce revenue demands. Peasants producing
for the world market were the worst hit.
 Rural India was seething with unrest when Mahatma Gandhi launched the civil
disobedience movement at the height of the depression in 1931.


 The Second World War broke out a mere two decades after the end of the First World
War. It was fought between the Axis powers (mainly Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy) and
the Allies (Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the US).
 Two crucial influences shaped post-war reconstruction. The first was the US’s emergence
as the dominant economic, political and military power in the Western world. The second
was the dominance of the Soviet Union.

4.1 Post-war Settlement and the Bretton Woods Institutions

 First lesson learnt : an industrial society based on mass production cannot be

sustained without mass consumption. But to ensure mass consumption, there was
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a need for high and stable incomes. Incomes could not be stable if employment
was unstable. Thus stable incomes also required steady, full employment.
Markets alone could not guarantee full employment. Therefore governments
would have to step in to minimise fluctuations of price, output and employment.
 Second lesson related to a country’s economic links with the outside world. The
goal of full employment could only be achieved if governments had power to
control flows of goods, capital and labour.
 The main aim of the post-war international economic system was to preserve
economic stability and full employment in the industrial world. Its framework
was agreed upon at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held
in July 1944 at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, USA.
 The Bretton Woods conference established the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) to deal with external surpluses and deficits of its member nations. The
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (popularly known as the
World Bank) was set up to finance postwar reconstruction.
 The international monetary system is the system linking national currencies and
monetary system. The Bretton Woods system was based on fixed exchange rates.
In this system, national currencies, for example the Indian rupee, were pegged to
the dollar at a fixed exchange rate. The dollar itself was anchored to gold at a
fixed price of $35 per ounce of gold.

4.2 The Early Post-war Years

 These decades saw the worldwide spread of technology and enterprise.

Developing countries to catch up with the advanced industrial countries invested
vast amounts of capital, imported industrial plant and equipment featuring
modern technology.

4.3 Decolonisation and Independence

 Over the next two decades most colonies in Asia and Africa emerged as free,
independent nations. Their economies and societies were handicapped by long
periods of colonial rule
 The IMF and the World Bank were designed to meet the financial needs of the
industrial countries. They were not equipped to cope with the challenge of
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poverty and lack of development in the former colonies. But as Europe and Japan
rapidly rebuilt their economies, they grew less dependent on the IMF and the
World Bank. Thus from the late 1950s the Bretton Woods institutions began to
shift their attention more towards developing countries.
 Most developing countries did not benefit from the fast growth the Western
economies experienced in the 1950s and 1960s. Therefore they organised
themselves as a group – the Group of 77 (or G-77) – to demand a new
international economic order (NIEO). By the NIEO they meant a system that
would give them real control over their natural resources, more development
assistance, fairer prices for raw materials, and better access for their
manufactured goods in developed countries’ markets.

4.4 End of Bretton Woods and the Beginning of ‘Globalisation’

 From the 1960s the rising costs of its overseas involvements weakened the US’s
finances and competitive strength. The US dollar now no longer commanded
confidence as the world’s principal currency. It could not maintain its value in
relation to gold. This eventually led to the collapse of the system of fixed
exchange rates and the introduction of a system of floating exchange rates.

Exchange rates – They link national currencies for purposes of international

trade. There are broadly two kinds of exchange rates: fixed exchange rate and
floating exchange rate Fixed exchange rates – When exchange rates are fixed and
governments intervene to prevent movements in them Flexible or floating
exchange rates – These rates fluctuate depending on demand and supply of
currencies in foreign exchange markets, in principle without interference by

 China had been cut off from the post-war world economy since its revolution in
1949. But new economic policies in China and the collapse of the Soviet Union
and Soviet-style communism in Eastern Europe brought many countries back
into the fold of the world economy. Wages were relatively low in countries like
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China. Thus they became attractive destinations for investment by foreign MNCs
competing to capture world markets.
 The relocation of industry to low-wage countries stimulated world trade and
capital flows. In the last two decades the world’s economic geography has been
transformed as countries such as India, China and Brazil have undergone rapid
economic transformation.
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Chapter 5: The Age of Industrialisation


 Before factories began to dot the landscape in England and Europe, there was large-scale
industrial production for an international market. This was not based on factories. Many
historians now refer to this phase of industrialisation as proto-industrialisation.
 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, merchants from the towns in Europe began moving
to the countryside, supplying money to peasants and artisans, persuading them to produce for an
international market.
 With the expansion of world trade and the acquisition of colonies in different parts of the world,
the demand for goods began growing. But merchants could not expand production within towns.
This was because here urban crafts and trade guilds were powerful.
 But merchants could not expand production within towns. This was because here urban crafts and
trade guilds were powerful. These were associations of producers that trained craftspeople,
maintained control over production, regulated competition and prices, and restricted the entry of
new people into the trade. Rulers granted different guilds the monopoly right to produce and trade
in specific products. It was therefore difficult for new merchants to set up business in towns. So
they turned to the countryside.
 In the countryside poor peasants and artisans began working for merchants.
 Cottagers and poor peasants who had earlier depended on common lands for their survival,
gathering their firewood, berries, vegetables, hay and straw, had to now look for alternative
sources of income. Many had tiny plots of land which could not provide work for all members of
the household. So when merchants came around and offered advances to produce goods for them,
peasant households eagerly agreed. By working for the merchants, they could remain in the
countryside and continue to cultivate their small plots. Income from proto-industrial production
supplemented their shrinking income from cultivation.
1.1 The Coming Up of the Factory
 The earliest factories in England came up by the 1730s.
 A series of inventions in the eighteenth century increased the efficacy of each step of
the production process (carding, twisting and spinning, and rolling). They enhanced
the output per worker, enabling each worker to produce more, and they made
possible the production of stronger threads and yarn.
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 The costly new machines could be purchased, set up and maintained in the mill.
Within the mill all the processes were brought together under one roof and
 In the early nineteenth century, factories increasingly became an intimate part of the
English landscape.
1.2 The Pace of Industrial Change
 The most dynamic industries in Britain were clearly cotton and metals. Growing at a
rapid pace, cotton was the leading sector in the first phase of industrialisation up to
the 1840s. After that the iron and steel industry led the way. With the expansion of
railways, in England from the 1840s and in the colonies from the 1860s, the demand
for iron and steel increased rapidly. By 1873 Britain was exporting iron and steel
worth about £ 77 million, double the value of its cotton export.
 The new industries could not easily displace traditional industries. Even at the end of
the nineteenth century, less than 20 per cent of the total workforce was employed in
technologically advanced industrial sectors. Textiles was a dynamic sector, but a
large portion of the output was produced not within factories, but outside, within
domestic units.
 The pace of change in the ‘traditional’ industries was not set by steam-powered
cotton or metal industries, but they did not remain entirely stagnant either. Seemingly
ordinary and small innovations were the basis of growth in many non-mechanized
sectors such as food processing, building, pottery, glass work, tanning, furniture
making, and production of implements.
 Technological changes occurred slowly. They did not spread dramatically across the
industrial landscape. New technology was expensive and merchants and industrialists
were cautious about using it. The machines often broke down and repair was costly.
They were not as effective as their inventors and manufacturers claimed.
 James Watt improved the steam engine produced by Newcomen and patented the
new engine in 1781. His industrialist friend Mathew Boulton manufactured the new
model. But for years he could find no buyers.
 In Victorian Britain there was no shortage of human labour. Poor peasants and vagrants
moved to the cities in large numbers in search of jobs, waiting for work.
 Industrialists did not want to introduce machines that got rid of human labour and required
large capital investment.
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 In Victorian Britain, the upper classes – the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie – preferred things
produced by hand. Handmade products came to symbolise refinement and class.
 Machine made goods were for export to the colonies.
 In countries with labour shortage, industrialists were keen on using mechanical power.
2.1 Life of the Workers
 Many jobseekers had to wait weeks, spending nights under bridges or in night
shelters. Some stayed in Night Refuges that were set up by private individuals; others
went to the Casual Wards maintained by the Poor Law authorities.
 Seasonality of work in many industries meant prolonged periods without work.
 At the best of times till the mid-nineteenth century, about 10 per cent of the urban
population was extremely poor. In periods of economic slump, like the 1830s, the
proportion of unemployed went up to anything between 35 and 75 per cent in
different regions.
 The fear of unemployment made workers hostile to the introduction of new
technology. When the Spinning Jenny was introduced in the woollen industry,
women who survived on hand spinning began attacking the new machines.
 After the 1840s, building activity intensified in the cities, opening up greater
opportunities of employment.
3.1 The Age of Indian Textiles
 Before the age of machine industries, silk and cotton goods from India dominated the
international market in textiles.
 A variety of Indian merchants and bankers were involved in this network of export
trade – financing production, carrying goods and supplying exporters.
 By the 1750s this network, controlled by Indian merchants, was breaking down. The
European companies gradually gained power – first securing a variety of concessions
from local courts, then the monopoly rights to trade.
 This resulted in a decline of the old ports of Surat and Hoogly through which local
merchants had operated. Exports from these ports fell dramatically, the credit that
had financed the earlier trade began drying up, and the local bankers slowly went
 While Surat and Hoogly decayed, Bombay and Calcutta grew, trade through the new
ports came to be controlled by European companies, and was carried in European
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3.2 What Happened to Weavers?

 Once the East India Company established political power, it could assert a monopoly
right to trade. It proceeded to develop a system of management and control that
would eliminate competition, control costs, and ensure regular supplies of cotton and
silk goods.
 The Company tried to eliminate the existing traders and brokers connected with the
cloth trade, and establish a more direct control over the weaver. It appointed a paid
servant called the gomastha to supervise weavers, collect supplies, and examine the
quality of cloth.
 It prevented Company weavers from dealing with other buyers.
 Earlier supply merchants had very often lived within the weaving villages, and had a
close relationship with the weavers.
 The new gomasthas were outsiders, with no long-term social link with the village.
 In many places in Carnatic and Bengal, weavers deserted villages and migrated,
setting up looms in other villages where they had some family relation.
3.3 Manchester Comes to India
 As cotton industries developed in England, industrial groups began worrying about
imports from other countries.
 They pressurised the government to impose import duties on cotton textiles so that
Manchester goods could sell in Britain without facing any competition from outside.
 At the same time industrialists persuaded the East India Company to sell British
manufactures in Indian markets as well.
 By 1850 cotton piece-goods constituted over 31 per cent of the value of Indian
imports; and by the 1870s this figure was over 50 per cent.
 Cotton weavers in India thus faced two problems at the same time: their export
market collapsed and the local market shrank, being glutted with Manchester imports.
Produced by machines at lower costs, the imported cotton goods were so cheap that
weavers could not easily compete with them.
 When the American Civil War broke out and cotton supplies from the US were cut
off, Britain turned to India. As raw cotton exports from India increased, the price of
raw cotton shot up.
 Weavers in India were starved of supplies and forced to buy raw cotton at exorbitant
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 The first cotton mill in Bombay came up in 1854 and it went into production two years later.
 In north India, the Elgin Mill was started in Kanpur in the 1860s, and a year later the first
cotton mill of Ahmedabad was set up.
 By 1874, the first spinning and weaving mill of Madras began production.
4.1 The Early Entrepreneurs
 From the late eighteenth century, the British in India began exporting opium to China
and took tea from China to England. Many Indians became junior players in this
trade, providing finance, procuring supplies, and shipping consignments.
 In Bombay, Parsis like Dinshaw Petit and Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata who built
huge industrial empires in India accumulated their initial wealth partly from exports
to China and partly from raw cotton shipments to England. Seth Hukumchand, a
Marwari businessman who set up the first Indian jute mill in Calcutta in 1917, also
traded with China. So did the father as well as grandfather of the famous industrialist
G.D. Birla.
 As colonial control over Indian trade tightened, the space within which Indian
merchants could function became increasingly limited. They were barred from
trading with Europe in manufactured goods, and had to export mostly raw materials
and food grains – raw cotton, opium, wheat and indigo – required by the British.
They were also gradually edged out of the shipping business.
 The European merchant-industrialists had their own chambers of commerce which
Indian businessmen were not allowed to join.
4.2 Where Did the Workers Come From?
 In most industrial regions workers came from the districts around. Peasants and
artisans who found no work in the village went to the industrial centres in search of
work. Over 50 per cent workers in the Bombay cotton industries in 1911 came from
the neighbouring district of Ratnagiri, while the mills of Kanpur got most of their
textile hands from the villages within the district of Kanpur.
 European Managing Agencies, which dominated industrial production in India, were
interested in certain kinds of products. They established tea and coffee plantations,
acquiring land at cheap rates from the colonial government; and they invested in
mining, indigo and jute. Most of these were products required primarily for export
trade and not for sale in India.
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 When Indian businessmen began setting up industries in the late nineteenth century,
they avoided competing with Manchester goods in the Indian market.
 By the first decade of the twentieth century a series of changes affected the pattern of
industrialisation. As the swadeshi movement gathered momentum, nationalists
mobilised people to boycott foreign cloth.
 From 1906, moreover, the export of Indian yarn to China declined since produce
from Chinese and Japanese mills flooded the Chinese market. So industrialists in
India began shifting from yarn to cloth production.
 till the First World War, industrial growth was slow. The war created a dramatically
new situation. With British mills busy with war production to meet the needs of the
army, Manchester imports into India declined. Suddenly, Indian mills had a vast
home market to supply.
 After the war, Manchester could never recapture its old position in the Indian market.
Unable to modernise and compete with the US, Germany and Japan, the economy of
Britain crumbled after the war.
5.1 Small-scale Industries Predominate
 While factory industries grew steadily after the war, large industries formed only a small segment
of the economy. Most of them – about 67 per cent in 1911 – were located in Bengal and Bombay.
Over the rest of the country, small-scale production continued to predominate.
 In the twentieth century, handloom cloth production expanded steadily: almost trebling between
1900 and 1940.
 Handicrafts people adopt new technology if that helps them improve production without
excessively pushing up costs. So, by the second decade of the twentieth century we find weavers
using looms with a fly shuttle. This increased productivity per worker, speeded up production and
reduced labour demand.
 By 1941, over 35 per cent of handlooms in India were fitted with fly shuttles: in regions like
Travancore, Madras, Mysore, Cochin, Bengal the proportion was 70 to 80 per cent.
 Certain groups of weavers were in a better position than others to survive the competition with
mill industries.
 Weavers and other craftspeople who continued to expand production through the twentieth
century, did not necessarily prosper. They lived hard lives and worked long hours. Very often the
entire household – including all the women and children – had to work at various stages of the
production process. But they were not simply remnants of past times in the age of factories. Their
life and labour was integral to the process of industrialisation.
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 When Manchester industrialists began selling cloth in India, they put labels on the cloth
bundles. The label was needed to make the place of manufacture and the name of the
company familiar to the buyer.
 Images of Indian gods and goddesses regularly appeared on these labels. It was as if the
association with gods gave divine approval to the goods being sold.
 By the late nineteenth century, manufacturers were printing calendars to popularise their
products. Unlike newspapers and magazines, calendars were used even by people who could
not read.
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Chapter 6: Cities in the Contemporary World


 Metropolis – A large, densely populated city of a country or state, often the capital of the
 Urbanisation – Development of a city or town.

1.1 Industrialisation and the Rise of the Modern City in England

 The early industrial cities of Britain such as Leeds and Manchester attracted large
numbers of migrants to the textile mills set up in the late eighteenth century. In 1851,
more than three-quarters of the adults living in Manchester were migrants from rural
 Apart from the London dockyards, five major types of industries employed large
numbers: clothing and footwear, wood and furniture, metals and engineering, printing
and stationery, and precision products such as surgical instruments, watches, and
objects of precious metal.

1.2 Marginal Groups

 As London grew, crime flourished.

 The police were worried about law and order, philanthropists were anxious about
public morality, and industrialists wanted a hard-working and orderly labour force.
 They were the cheats and tricksters, pickpockets and petty thieves crowding the
streets of London. In an attempt to discipline the population, the authorities imposed
high penalties for crime and offered work to those who were considered the
‘deserving poor’.
 Factories employed large numbers of women in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries.
 A large number of women used their homes to increase family income by taking in
lodgers or through such activities as tailoring, washing or matchbox making.
 Large number of children was pushed into low-paid work, often by their parents.
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1.3 Housing

 Older cities like London changed dramatically when people began pouring in after
the Industrial Revolution.
 Factory or workshop owners did not house the migrant workers.
 Instead, individual landowners put up cheap, and usually unsafe, tenements for
the new arrivals.

1.4 Cleaning London

 A variety of steps were taken to clean up London. Attempts were made to

decongest localities, green the open spaces, reduce pollution and landscape the
 Architect and planner Ebenezer Howard developed the principle of the Garden
City, a pleasant space full of plants and trees, where people would both live and
 Between the two World Wars (1919-39) the responsibility for housing the
working classes was accepted by the British state, and a million houses, most of
them single-family cottages, were built by local authorities.

1.5 Transport in the City

 The very first section of the Underground in the world opened on 10 January
1863 between Paddington and Farrington Street in London.
 By the twentieth century, most large metropolises such as New York, Tokyo and
Chicago could not do without their well-functioning transit systems. As a result,
the population in the city became more dispersed. Better-planned suburbs and a
good railway network enabled large numbers to live outside central London and
travel to work.


 The function and the shape of the family were completely transformed by life in the industrial
city. Ties between members of households loosened, and among the working class the
institution of marriage tended to break down.
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2.1 Men, Women and Family in the City

 The city encouraged a new spirit of individualism among both men and women, and a
freedom from the collective values that were a feature of the smaller rural communities.

2.2 Leisure and Consumption

 Several cultural events, such as the opera, the theatre and classical music performances were
organised for an elite group of 300-400 families in the late eighteenth century.
 Many new types of large-scale entertainment for the common people came into being, some
made possible with money from the state. Libraries, art galleries and museums were
established in the nineteenth century to provide people with a sense of history and pride in the
achievements of the British.
 British industrial workers were increasingly encouraged to spend their holidays by the sea, so
as to derive the benefits of the sun and bracing winds.
 In the severe winter of 1886, when outdoor work came to a standstill, the London poor
exploded in a riot, demanding relief from the terrible conditions of poverty.
 Alarmed shopkeepers closed down their establishments, fearing the 10,000-strong crowd that
was marching from Deptford to London. The marchers had to be dispersed by the police.
 A similar riot occurred in late 1887; this time, it was brutally suppressed by the police in
what came to be known as the Bloody Sunday of November 1887. Two years later, thousands
of London’s dockworkers went on strike and marched through the city.
 In the early twentieth century, no more than 11 per cent of Indians were living in cities. A
large proportion of these urban dwellers were residents of the three Presidency cities.

4.1 Bombay: The Prime City of India?

 In the seventeenth century, Bombay was a group of seven islands under Portuguese control.
In 1661, control of the islands passed into British hands after the marriage of Britain’s King
Charles II to the Portuguese princess.
 The East India Company quickly shifted its base from Surat, its principal western port, to
 Gradually, it also became an important administrative centre in western India, and then, by
the end of the nineteenth century, a major industrial centre.
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4.2 Work in the City

 Bombay became the capital of the Bombay Presidency in 1819, after the Maratha defeat
in the Anglo-Maratha war.
 With the growth of trade in cotton and opium, large communities of traders and bankers
as well as artisans and shopkeepers came to settle in Bombay.
 Bombay dominated the maritime trade of India till well into the twentieth century. It was
also at the junction head of two major railways. The railways encouraged an even higher
scale of migration into the city.

4.3 Housing and Neighbourhoods

 Bombay was a crowded city. While every Londoner in the 1840s enjoyed an average space of
155 square yards, Bombay had a mere 9.5 square yards.
 The Bombay Fort area which formed the heart of the city in the early 1800s was divided between
a ‘native’ town, where most of the Indians lived, and a European or ‘white’ section.
 With the rapid and unplanned expansion of the city, the crisis of housing and water supply
became acute by the mid-1850s. The arrival of the textile mills only increased the pressure on
Bombay’s housing.
 Like the European elite, the richer Parsi, Muslim and upper caste traders and industrialists of
Bombay lived in sprawling, spacious bungalows.
 Chawls were multi-storeyed structures which had been built from at least the 1860s in the ‘native’
parts of the town.
 The homes being small, streets and neighbourhoods were used for a variety of activities such as
cooking, washing and sleeping. Liquor shops and akharas came up in any empty spot. Streets
were also used for different types of leisure activities.
 People who belonged to the ‘depressed classes’ found it even more difficult to find housing.
Lower castes were kept out of many chawls and often had to live in shelters made of corrugated
sheets, leaves, or bamboo poles.

4.4 Land Reclamation in Bombay

 The Bombay governor William Hornby approved the building of the great sea wall which
prevented the flooding of the low-lying areas of Bombay.
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 The need for additional commercial space in the mid-nineteenth century led to the formulation of
several plans, both by government and private companies, for the reclamation of more land from
the sea.
 A successful reclamation project was undertaken by the Bombay Port Trust, which built a dry
dock between 1914 and 1918 and used the excavated earth to create the 22-acre Ballard Estate.
Subsequently, the famous Marine Drive of Bombay was developed.

4.5 Bombay as the City of Dreams: The World of Cinema and Culture
 Despite its massive overcrowding and difficult living conditions, Bombay appears to
many as a ‘mayapuri’ – a city of dreams.
 By 1925, Bombay had become India’s film capital, producing films for a national


 City development everywhere occurred at the expense of ecology and the environment.
Natural features were flattened out or transformed in response to the growing demand for
space for factories, housing and other institutions. Large quantities of refuse and waste
products polluted air and water, while excessive noise became a feature of urban life.
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Chapter 7: Print Culture and the Modern World


 The earliest kind of print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea. This was a
system of hand printing.

 From AD 594 onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper – also invented there –
against the inked surface of woodblocks. As both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be
printed, the traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side. Superbly
skilled craftsmen could duplicate, with remarkable accuracy, the beauty of calligraphy.
 By the seventeenth century, as urban culture bloomed in China, the uses of print diversified. Print
was no longer used just by scholar officials. Merchants used print in their everyday life, as they
collected trade information. Reading increasingly became a leisure activity.

 Western printing techniques and mechanical presses were imported in the late nineteenth century
as Western powers established their outposts in China. Shanghai became the hub of the new print
culture, catering to the Western-style schools.

1.1 Print in Japan

 Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printing technology into Japan around AD
768-770. The oldest Japanese book, printed in AD 868, is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra,
containing six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations. Pictures were printed on textiles, playing
cards and paper money.
 Printing of visual material led to interesting publishing practices. In the late eighteenth century, in
the flourishing urban circles at Edo (later to be known as Tokyo), illustrated collections of
paintings depicted an elegant urban culture, involving artists, courtesans, and teahouse gatherings.


 In the eleventh century, Chinese paper reached Europe via the silk route.
 In 1295, Marco Polo, a great explorer, returned to Italy after many years of exploration in China.
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 China already had the technology of woodblock printing. Marco Polo brought this knowledge
back with him. Now Italians began producing books with woodblocks, and soon the technology
spread to other parts of Europe.
 Luxury editions were still handwritten on very expensive vellum (A parchment made from the
skin of animals), meant for aristocratic circles and rich monastic libraries.
 By the early fifteenth century, woodblocks were being widely used in Europe to print textiles,
playing cards, and religious pictures with simple, brief texts.
 When Johann Gutenberg developed the first-known printing press in the 1430s, the need for even
quicker and cheaper reproduction of texts could be fulfilled.
2.1 Gutenberg and the Printing Press

 Gutenberg was the son of a merchant and grew up on a large agricultural estate. From his
childhood he had seen wine and olive presses. Subsequently, he learnt the art of polishing
stones, became a master goldsmith, and also acquired the expertise to create lead moulds used
for making trinkets. Drawing on this knowledge, Gutenberg adapted existing technology to
design his innovation. The olive press provided the model for the printing press, and moulds
were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet. By 1448, Gutenberg
perfected the system. The first book he printed was the Bible. About 180 copies were printed
and it took three years to produce them. By the standards of the time this was fast production.
The new technology did not entirely displace the existing art of producing books by hand.
 In the hundred years between 1450 and 1550, printing presses were set up in most
countries of Europe.
 This shift from hand printing to mechanical printing led to the print revolution.


3.1 A New Reading Public

 Common people lived in a world of oral culture. They heard sacred texts read out,
ballads recited, and folk tales narrated. Knowledge was transferred orally.
 After printing technology was introduced books could reach out to wider sections of
people. If earlier there was a hearing public, now a reading public came into being.
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 Printers began publishing popular ballads and folk tales, and such books would be
profusely illustrated with pictures.

3.2. Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

 Those who disagreed with established authorities could now print and circulate their
ideas. Through the printed message, they could persuade people to think differently, and
move them to action. This had significance in different spheres of life.

 Expressed by religious authorities and monarchs, as well as many writers and artists was
the fear that that if there was no control over what was printed and read then rebellious
and irreligious thoughts might spread.

 In 1517, the religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses criticising many
of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
 A printed copy of this was posted on a church door in Wittenberg. It challenged the
Church to debate his ideas. Luther’s writings were immediately reproduced in vast
numbers and read widely.
 This led to a division within the Church and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
 Protestant reformation was a sixteenth-century movement to reform the Catholic Church
dominated by Rome. Several traditions of anti-Catholic Christianity developed out of the

3.3 Print and Dissent

 Menocchio, a miller in Italy, began to read books that were available in his locality. He
reinterpreted the message of the Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that
enraged the Roman Catholic Church.
 When the Roman Church began its inquisition to repress heretical ideas, Menocchio was
hauled up twice and ultimately executed.
 The Roman Church imposed severe controls over publishers and booksellers and began to
maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.

Inquisition –A former Roman Catholic court for identifying and punishing heretics.
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Heretical – Beliefs which do not follow the accepted teachings of the Church. In medieval times, heresy
was seen as a threat to the right of the Church to decide on what should be believed and what should not.
Heretical beliefs were severely punished


 Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries literacy rates went up in most parts of
Europe. Churches of different denominations set up schools in villages, carrying literacy to
peasants and artisans.
 New forms of popular literature appeared in print, targeting new audiences.
 There were almanacs or ritual calendars, along with ballads and folktales.
 In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlars known as chapmen, and sold for a
penny, so that even the poor could buy them.
 The periodical press developed from the early eighteenth century, combining information
about current affairs with entertainment. Newspapers and journals carried information about
wars and trade, as well as news of developments in other places.
 The ideas of scientists and philosophers now became more accessible to the common people.
Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published, and maps and scientific
diagrams were widely printed.

4.1 ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world!’

 By the mid-eighteenth century, many believed that books could change the world,
liberate society from despotism and tyranny, and bring in a time when reason and
intellect would rule.

4.2 Print Culture and the French Revolution

 Print popularised the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers. Collectively, their writings
provided a critical commentary on tradition, superstition and despotism.
 Print created a new culture of dialogue and debate. All values, norms and institutions
were re-evaluated and discussed by a public that had become aware of the power of
reason, and recognised the need to question existing ideas and beliefs.
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 By the 1780s there was an outpouring of literature that mocked the royalty and criticised
their morality. Cartoons and caricatures typically suggested that the monarchy remained
absorbed only in sensual pleasures while the common people suffered immense


5.1 Children, Women and Workers

 Primary education became compulsory from the late nineteenth century; children
became an important category of readers. Production of school textbooks became
critical for the publishing industry.
 The Grimm Brothers in Germany spent years compiling traditional folk tales
gathered from peasants. What they collected was edited before the stories were
published in a collection in 1812. Anything that was considered unsuitable for
children or would appear vulgar to the elites, was not included in the published
 Penny magazines were especially meant for women, as were manuals teaching proper
behaviour and housekeeping.
 When novels began to be written in the nineteenth century, women were seen as
important readers. Some of the bestknown novelists were women: Jane Austen, the
Bronte sisters, George Eliot. Their writings became important in defining a new type
of woman: a person with will, strength of personality, determination and the power to
 In the nineteenth century, lending libraries in England became instruments for
educating white-collar workers, artisans and lower-middle-class people

5.2 Further Innovations

 By the late eighteenth century, the press came to be made out of metal.
 By the mid-nineteenth century, Richard M. Hoe of New York had perfected the
power-driven cylindrical press. This was capable of printing 8,000 sheets per hour.
 In the late nineteenth century, the offset press was developed which could print
up to six colours at a time.
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 Methods of feeding paper improved, the quality of plates became better,

automatic paper reels and photoelectric controls of the colour register were introduced.
 In the 1920s in England, popular works were sold in cheap series, called the
Shilling Series. The dust cover or the book jacket is also a twentieth-century
innovation. With the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, publishers
feared a decline in book purchases. To sustain buying, they brought out cheap
paperback editions.


6.1 Manuscripts before the Age of Print

 Manuscripts, however, were highly expensive and fragile. They had to be handled carefully, and
they could not be read easily as the script was written in different styles.
6.2 Print Comes to India
 The printing press first came to Goa with Portuguese missionaries in the mid-sixteenth century.
Jesuit priests learnt Konkani and printed several tracts. By 1674, about 50 books had been printed
in the Konkani and in Kanara languages.
 The English language press did not grow in India till quite late even though the English East India
Company began to import presses from the late seventeenth century.
 From 1780, James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine.
 By the close of the eighteenth century, a number of newspapers and journals appeared in print.
There were Indians, too, who began to publish Indian newspapers. The first to appear was the
weekly Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohun


 Printed tracts and newspapers not only spread the new ideas, but they shaped the nature of the
debate. A wider public could now participate in these public discussions and express their
views. New ideas emerged through these clashes of opinions.

 To reach a wider audience, the ideas were printed in the everyday, spoken language of
ordinary people. Rammohun Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi from 1821 and the Hindu
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orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions. From 1822, two
Persian newspapers were published, Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar. In the same
year, a Gujarati newspaper, the Bombay Samachar, made its appearance.

 In north India, the ulama were deeply anxious about the collapse of Muslim dynasties. They
feared that colonial rulers would encourage conversion, change the Muslim personal laws. To
counter this, they used cheap lithographic presses, published Persian and Urdu translations of
holy scriptures, and printed religious newspapers and tracts.

 The Deoband Seminary, founded in 1867, published thousands upon thousands of fatwas
telling Muslim readers how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives, and explaining the
meanings of Islamic doctrines.
 The first printed edition of the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a sixteenth-century text, came
out from Calcutta in 1810.


 New literary forms also entered the world of reading – lyrics, short stories, essays about
social and political matters.
 By the end of the nineteenth century, a new visual culture was taking shape. With the setting
up of an increasing number of printing presses, visual images could be easily reproduced in
multiple copies. Painters like Raja Ravi Varma produced images for mass circulation.

 By the 1870s, caricatures and cartoons were being published in journals and newspapers,
commenting on social and political issues.

8.1 Women and Print

 Many journals began carrying writings by women, and explained why women should
be educated. They also carried a syllabus and attached suitable reading matter which
could be used for home-based schooling.
 Conservative Hindus believed that a literate girl would be widowed and Muslims
feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.
 From the 1860s, a few Bengali women like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books
highlighting the experiences of women – about how women were imprisoned at
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home, kept in ignorance, forced to do hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by
the very people they served.
 While Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and Marathi print culture had developed early, Hindi
printing began seriously only from the 1870s.
 the early twentieth century, journals, written for and sometimes edited by women,
became extremely popular. They discussed issues like women’s education,
widowhood, widow remarriage and the national movement. Some of them offered
household and fashion lessons to women and brought entertainment through short
stories and serialised novels.

8.2 Print and the Poor People

 Very cheap small books were brought to markets in nineteenth-century Madras

towns and sold at crossroads, allowing poor people travelling to markets to buy
them. Public libraries were set up from the early twentieth century, expanding the
access to books.
 Jyotiba Phule, the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote
about the injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871).
 In the twentieth century, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy
Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste and their
writings were read by people all over India.


 Before 1798, the colonial state under the East India Company was not too concerned with
 By the 1820s, the Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom
and the Company began encouraging publication of newspapers that would celebrate British
 In 1835, faced with urgent petitions by editors of English and vernacular newspapers,
Governor-General Bentinck agreed to revise press laws.
 In 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed, modelled on the Irish Press Laws. It provided
the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.
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 Despite repressive measures, nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of India.
They reported on colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities.
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Chapter 8: Novels, Society and History


 The novel first took firm root in England and France. Novels began to be written from the
seventeenth century, but they really flowered from the eighteenth century.
 As readership grew and the market for books expanded, the earnings of authors increased. This
freed them from financial dependence on the patronage of aristocrats, and gave them
independence to experiment with different literary styles.
1.1 The Publishing Market
 For a long time the publishing market excluded the poor. Initially, novels did not come
 People had easier access to books with the introduction of circulating libraries in 1740.
 Technological improvements in printing brought down the price of books and
innovations in marketing led to expanded sales.
 In 1836 a notable event took place when Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers was
serialised in a magazine. Serialisation is a format in which the story is published in
instalments, each part in a new issue of a journal.

1.2 The World of the Novel

 In the nineteenth century, Europe entered the industrial age. Factories came up,
business profits increased and the economy grew. But at the same time, workers
faced problems.
 Cities expanded in an unregulated way and were filled with overworked and
underpaid workers. The unemployed poor roamed the streets for jobs, and the
homeless were forced to seek shelter in workhouses.
 The growth of industry was accompanied by an economic philosophy which
celebrated the pursuit of profit and undervalued the lives of workers.
 Deeply critical of these developments, novelists such as Charles Dickens wrote
about the terrible effects of industrialisation on people’s lives and characters.
1.3 Community and Society
 The vast majority of readers of the novel lived in the city. The novels created in them
a feeling of connection with the fate of rural communities.
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 The nineteenth-century British novelist Thomas Hardy, for instance, wrote about
traditional rural communities of England that were fast vanishing.
1.4 The New Woman
 The eighteenth century saw the middle classes become more prosperous. Women got
more leisure to read as well as write novels.
 Many novels were about domestic life – a theme about which women were allowed
to speak with authority.
 The novels of Jane Austen give us a glimpse of the world of women in genteel rural
society in early-nineteenth-century Britain. They make us think about a society which
encouraged women to look for ‘good’ marriages and find wealthy or propertied
 But women novelists did not simply popularise the domestic role of women. Often
their novels dealt with women who broke established norms of society before
adjusting to them.
 Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847, young Jane is shown as independent
and assertive.
1.5 Novels for the Young
 Novels for young boys idealised a new type of man: someone who was powerful,
assertive, independent and daring.
 Most of these novels were full of adventure set in places remote from Europe. The
colonisers appear heroic and honourable – confronting ‘native’ peoples and strange
surroundings, adapting to native life as well as changing it, colonising territories and
then developing nations there.
 Love stories written for adolescent girls also first became popular in this period,
especially in the US.
1.6 Colonialism and After
 The novel originated in Europe at a time when it was colonising the rest of the world.
The early novel contributed to colonialism by making the readers feel they were part
of a superior community of fellow colonialists.
 Colonised people were seen as primitive and barbaric, less than human; and colonial
rule was considered necessary to civilise them, to make them fully human.
 It was only later, in the twentieth century, that writers like Joseph Conrad (1857-
1924) wrote novels that showed the darker side of colonial occupation.
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 Stories in prose were not new to India. Banabhatta’s Kadambari, written in Sanskrit in the
seventh century, is an early example. The Panchatantra is another. There was also a long
tradition of prose tales of adventure and heroism in Persian and Urdu, known as dastan.
 The modern novel form developed in India in the nineteenth century, as Indians became
familiar with the Western novel. The development of the vernaculars, print and a reading
public helped in this process.
 Some of the earliest Indian novels were written in Bengali and Marathi.
 Indian novelists wrote to develop a modern literature of the country that could produce a
sense of national belonging and cultural equality with their colonial masters.
2.1 The Novel in South India
 Novels began appearing in south Indian languages during the period of colonial rule.
Quite a few early novels came out of attempts to translate English novels into Indian
 Indulekha, written by O. Chandu Menon published in 1889, was the first modern
novel in Malayalam.
2.2 The Novel in Hindi
 In the north, Bharatendu Harishchandra, the pioneer of modern Hindi literature,
encouraged many members of his circle of poets and writers to recreate and translate
novels from other languages.
 The first proper modern novel was written by Srinivas Das of Delhi. Srinivas Das’s
novel, published in 1882, was titled Pariksha-Guru.
 The writings of Devaki Nandan Khatri created a novel-reading public in Hindi. His
best-seller, Chandrakanta – a romance with dazzling elements of fantasy – is believed
to have contributed immensely in popularising the Hindi language and the Nagari
script among the educated classes of those times.
 Many critics think that his novel Sewasadan (The Abode of Service), published in
1916, lifted the Hindi novel from the realm of fantasy, moralising and simple
entertainment to a serious reflection on the lives of ordinary people and social issues.
2.3 Novels in Bengal
 In the nineteenth century, the early Bengali novels lived in two worlds. Many of
these novels were located in the past, their characters, events and love stories based
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on historical events. Another group of novels depicted the inner world of domestic
life in contemporary settings.
 The old merchant elite of Calcutta patronised public forms of entertainment such as
kabirlarai (poetry contests), musical soirees and dance performances. In contrast, the
new bhadralok found himself at home in the more private world of reading novels.
Novels were read individually.
 In Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay ‘s room, however, a group of literary friends
would collect to read, discuss and judge literary works. Bankim read out
Durgeshnandini (1865), his first novel, to such a gathering of people who were
stunned to realise that the Bengali novel had achieved excellence so quickly.
 Initially the Bengali novel used a colloquial style associated with urban life. It also
used meyeli, the language associated with women’s speech. This style was quickly
replaced by Bankim’s prose which was Sanskritised but also contained a more
vernacular style.
 The power of telling stories in simple language made Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
(1876-1938) the most popular novelist in Bengal and probably in the rest of India.

3.1 Uses of the Novel

 Colonial administrators found ‘vernacular’ novels a valuable source of information
on native life and customs. Such information was useful for them in governing Indian
society, with its large variety of communities and castes.
 Indians used the novel as a powerful medium to criticise what they considered
defects in their society and to suggest remedies.
 Novels also helped in establishing a relationship with the past. Many of them told
thrilling stories of adventures and intrigues set in the past.
3.2 The Problem of Being Modern
 Although they were about imaginary stories, novels often spoke to their readers about
the real world. But novels did not always show things exactly as they were in reality.
Sometimes, they presented a vision of how things ought to be. Social novelists often
created heroes and heroines with ideal qualities, who their readers could admire and
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 The heroes and heroines in most of the novels were people who lived in the modern
world. Thus they were different from the ideal or mythological characters of the
earlier poetic literature of India.
 Under colonial rule, many of the English-educated class found new Western ways of
living and thinking attractive. But they also feared that a wholesale adoption of
Western values would destroy their traditional ways of living.
3.3 Pleasures of Reading
 Picture books, translations from other languages, popular songs sometimes composed
on contemporary events, stories in newspapers and magazines – all these offered new
forms of entertainment.
 Women did not remain mere readers of stories written by men; soon they also began
to write novels.
 A reason for the popularity of novels among women was that it allowed for a new
conception of womanhood. Stories of love – which was a staple theme of many
novels – showed women who could choose or refuse their partners and relationships.
It showed women who could to some extent control their lives.
 Some women authors also wrote about women who changed the world of both men
and women.
 Many men were suspicious of women writing novels or reading them.
 Women and girls were often discouraged from reading novels.
4.1 Caste Practices, ‘Lower-Castes’ and Minorities
 Novels like Indirabai and Indulekha were written by members of the upper castes,
and were primarily about upper-caste characters. But not all novels were of this kind.
 Potheri Kunjambu, a ‘lower-caste’ writer from north Kerala, wrote a novel called
Saraswativijayam in 1892, mounting a strong attack on caste oppression.
 Saraswativijayam stresses the importance of education for the upliftment of the lower
 Over time, the medium of the novel made room for the experiences of communities
that had not received much space in the literary scene earlier. Vaikkom Muhammad
Basheer (1908-94), for example, was one of the early Muslim writers to gain wide
renown as a novelist in Malayalam.
 Basheer’s short novels and stories were written in the ordinary language of
conversation. With wonderful humour, Basheer’s novels spoke about details from the
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everyday life of Muslim households. He also brought into Malayalam writing themes
which were considered very unusual at that time – poverty, insanity and life in
 The history written by colonial historians tended to depict Indians as weak, divided, and
dependent on the British. These histories could not satisfy the tastes of the new Indian
administrators and intellectuals.
 Nor did the traditional Puranic stories of the past – peopled by gods and demons, filled with
the fantastic and the supernatural – seem convincing to those educated and working under the
English system.
 Such minds wanted a new view of the past that would show that Indians could be
independent minded and had been so in history. The novel provided a solution. In it, the
nation could be imagined in a past that also featured historical characters, places, events and
 The imagined nation of the novel was so powerful that it could inspire actual political
movements. Bankim’s Anandamath (1882) is a novel about a secret Hindu militia that fights
Muslims to establish a Hindu kingdom. It was a novel that inspired many kinds of freedom
5.1 The Novel and Nation Making
 Imagining a heroic past was one way in which the novel helped in popularising the
sense of belonging to a common nation. Another way was to include various classes
in the novel so that they could be seen to belong to a shared world. Premchand’s
novels, for instance, are filled with all kinds of powerful characters drawn from all
levels of society.
 In his novels you meet aristocrats and landlords, middle-level peasants and landless
labourers, middle-class professionals and people from the margins of society. The
women characters are strong individuals, especially those who come from the lower
classes and are not modernised.
 Unlike many of his contemporaries, Premchand rejected the nostalgic obsession with
ancient history. Instead, his novels look towards the future without forgetting the
importance of the past.
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NCERT Class XI History- Themes in World History

Chapter Number Chapter Name

1. The Early Societies
2. Empires
3. Changing Traditions
4. Towards Modernisation
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Chapter 1: The Early Societies

Timeline: 6 MYA to 1 BCE

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Theme 1: From The Beginning Of Time

 It was 5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first humanlike creatures appeared on the
earth's surface. Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as 'modern humans')
originated about 160,000 years ago.

 During this long period of human history, people learnt to arrange food, to make stone tools and
to communicate with each other. Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued.

 Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings help us to understand early human

 The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of species of humans which have become
extinct. Fossils can be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly by dating the
sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be
worked out.

 About 200 years ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils and other finds
were actually connected with early forms of humans due to their belief in the Old Testament of
the Bible, according to which human origin was regarded as an act of Creation by God.

 In 1859, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published, marked a landmark in
the study of evolution. Darwin argued that humans had evolved from animals a long time ago

The Story of Human Evolution

(a) The Precursors of Modern Human Beings

 The story of human evolution is enormously long, and somewhat complicated. It is possible to
trace these developments back to between 36 and 24 mya.

 36 million years ago, primates, a category of mammals, emerged in Asia and Africa.
Subsequently, by about 24 mya, there emerged a subgroup amongst primates, called hominoids.
This included apes. And, much later, about 5.6 mya, we find evidence of the first hominids.

 While hominids have evolved from hominoids and share certain common features, there are
major differences as well:
1. Hominoids have a smaller brain than hominids.
2. Hominoids are quadrupeds, walking on all fours, but with flexible forelimbs. Hominids,
by contrast, have an upright posture and bipedal locomotion (walking on two feet).
3. There are also marked differences in the hand, which enables the making and use of
 Two lines of evidence suggest an African origin for hominids.
1. It is the group of African apes that are most closely related to hominids.
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2. The earliest hominid fossils, which belong to the genus Australopithecus, have been
found in East Africa and date back to about 5.6 mya.

 Hominids:
1. They belong to a family known as Hominidae, which includes all forms of human beings.
2. They have a large brain size, upright posture, bipedal locomotion and specialization of
the hand.
3. Hominids are further subdivided into branches, known as genus, of which
Australopithecus and Homo are important. Each of these in turn includes several species.

 The major differences between Australopithecus and Homo relate to brain size, jaws and teeth.
The former has a smaller brain size, heavier jaws and larger teeth than the latter.

 The name Australopithecus comes from a Latin word, ‘austral’, meaning ‘southern’ and a Greek
word, ‘pithekos’, meaning ‘ape.’ Characteristics:
1. They retained many features of an ape, such as a relatively small brain size in comparison
to Homo, large back teeth and limited dexterity of the hands.
2. Upright walking was also restricted, as they still spent a lot of time on trees.
3. They retained characteristics (such as long forelimbs, curved hand and foot bones and
mobile ankle joints) suited to life on trees.
4. Over time, as tool making and long-distance walking increased, many human
characteristics also developed.

 The remains of early humans are often distinguished from one another on the basis of differences
in bone structure. These characteristics may have evolved due to what has been called the positive
feedback mechanism.
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 There is indirect evidence of bipedalism as early as 3.6 mya. This comes from the fossilised
hominid footprints at Laetoli, Tanzania. Fossil limb bones recovered from Hadar, Ethiopia
provide more direct evidence of bipedalism.

 Around 2.5 mya, with the onset of a phase of glaciation (or an Ice Age), when large parts of the
earth were covered with snow, there were major changes in climate and vegetation. Due to the
reduction in temperatures as well as rainfall, grassland areas expanded at the expense of forests,
leading to the gradual extinction of the early forms of Australopithecus (that were adapted to
forests) and the replacement by species that were better adapted to the drier conditions. Among
these were the earliest representatives of the genus Homo.

 Homo is a Latin word, meaning ‘man’, although there were women as well! Scientists distinguish
amongst several types of Homo. So fossils are classified as Homo habilis (the tool maker), Homo
erectus (the upright man), and Homo sapiens (the wise or thinking man).

 As the finds in Asia belong to a later date than those in Africa, it is likely that hominids migrated
from East Africa to southern and northern Africa, to southern and north-eastern Asia, and perhaps
to Europe, some time between 2 and 1.5 mya.

 In some instances, the names for fossils are derived from the places where the first fossils of a
particular type were found. The earliest fossils from Europe are of Homo heidelbergensis and
Homo neanderthalensis. Both belong to the species of archaic (that is, old) Homo sapiens.

 In general, compared with Australopithecus, Homo have a larger brain, jaws with a reduced
outward protrusion and smaller teeth. An increase in brain size is associated with more
intelligence and a better memory. The changes in the jaws and teeth were probably related to
differences in dietary habits.
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(b) Modern Human beings

 The issue of the place of origin of modern humans has been much debated. Two totally divergent
views have been expounded, one advocating the regional continuity model (with multiple regions
of origin), the other the replacement model (with a single origin in Africa).

 According to the regional continuity model, the archaic Homo sapiens in different regions
gradually evolved at different rates into modern humans. The argument is based on the regional
differences in the features of present-day humans.

 The replacement model visualises the complete replacement everywhere of all older forms of
humans with modern humans. The similarity amongst modern humans is due to their descent
from a population that originated in a single region, which is Africa and the physical differences
are the result of adaptation (over a span of thousands of years) by populations who migrated to
the particular regions where they finally settled down.

Early Humans: Ways of Obtaining Food

 Early humans would have obtained food through a number of ways, such as gathering, hunting,
scavenging and fishing. That gathering was practised is generally assumed rather than
conclusively established, as there is very little direct evidence for it.

 While we get a fair amount of fossil bones, fossilised plant remains are relatively rare. The only
other way of getting information about plant intake would be if plant remains were accidentally
burnt. This process results in carbonisation. In this form, organic matter is preserved for a long
span of time.

 Increasingly, it is being suggested that the early hominids scavenged or foraged for meat and
marrow from the carcasses of animals that had died naturally or had been killed by other
predators. It is equally possible that small mammals such as rodents, birds (and their eggs),
reptiles and even insects (such as termites) were eaten by early hominids. Hunting probably
began later – about 500,000 years ago.

 From about 35,000 years ago, there is evidence of planned hunting from some European sites
such as Dolni Vestonice (in the Czech Republic)

 Today we find societies that live by hunting and gathering, where women and men undertake a
range of different activities, but it is not always possible to suggest parallels with the past.

Early Humans From Trees, to Caves and Open-air Sites

 We try to reconstruct the evidence for patterns of residence by plotting the distribution of
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 It is possible that some places, where food resources were abundant, were visited repeatedly. In
such areas, people would tend to leave behind traces of their activities and presence, including
artefacts. The deposited artefacts would appear as patches on the landscape.

 In the Lazaret cave in southern France, a 12x4 metre shelter was built against the cave wall. At
another site, Terra Amata on the coast of southern France, flimsy shelters with roofs of wood and
grasses were built for short-term, seasonal visits. Pieces of baked clay and burnt bone along with
stone tools, dated between 1.4 and 1 mya, have been found at Chesowanja, Kenya and
Swartkrans, South Africa.

 Hearths are indications of the controlled use of fire. This had several advantages – fire provided
warmth and light inside caves, and could be used for cooking. Besides, fire was used to harden
wood, as for instance the tip of the spear. The use of heat also facilitated the flaking of tools. As
important, fire could be used to scare away dangerous animals.

Early Humans: Making Tools

 There are some features of human tool making that are not known among apes. Certain
anatomical and neurological (related to the nervous system) adaptations have led to the skilled
use of hands, probably due to the important role of tools in human lives.

 The earliest evidence for the making and use of stone tools comes from sites in Ethiopia and
Kenya. It is likely that the earliest stone tool makers were the Australopithecus.

 About 35,000 years ago, improvements in the techniques for killing animals are evident from the
appearance of new kinds of tools such as spear-throwers and the bow and arrow. The meat thus
obtained was probably processed by removing the bones, followed by drying, smoking and
storage. Thus, food could be stored for later consumption.

 There were other changes, such as the trapping of fur-bearing animals (to use the fur for clothing)
and the invention of sewing needles. The earliest evidence of sewn clothing comes from about
21,000 years ago.

 Besides, with the introduction of the punch blade technique to make small chisel-like tools, it was
now possible to make engravings on bone, antler, ivory or wood.

Modes of Communication: Language and Art

 There are several views on language development:
1. That hominid language involved gestures or hand movements;
2. That spoken language was preceded by vocal but non-verbal communication such as
singing or humming;
3. That human speech probably began with calls like the ones that have been observed
among primates.
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 It has been suggested that the brain of Homo habilis had certain features which would have made
it possible for them to speak. Thus, language may have developed as early as 2 mya.

 The development of spoken language has been seen as closely connected with art, since both are
media for communication.

 Hundreds of paintings of animals (done between 30,000 and 12,000 years ago) have been
discovered in the caves. Because of the importance of hunting, the paintings of animals were
associated with ritual and magic.

 The act of painting could have been a ritual to ensure a successful hunt. These caves were
possibly meeting places for small groups of people or locations for group activities. These groups
could share hunting techniques and knowledge, while paintings and engravings served as the
media for passing information from one generation to the next.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies:From the Present to the Past

 Can the information about living hunters and gatherers be used to understand past societies?
Some archaeologists agree. On the other side are scholars who feel that present-day hunter-
gatherer societies pursue several other economic activities along with hunting and gathering.

 Moreover, these societies are totally marginalised in all senses – geographically, politically and
socially. The conditions in which they live are very different from those of early humans.

 Another problem is that there is tremendous variation amongst living hunter-gatherer societies.
There are conflicting data on many issues such as the relative importance of hunting and
gathering, group sizes, or the movement from place to place.

 Also, there is little consensus regarding the division of labour in food procurement. Although
today generally women gather and men hunt, there are societies where both women and men hunt
and gather and make tools.

 For several million years, humans lived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. Then,
between 10,000 and 4,500 years ago, people in different parts of the world learnt to domesticate
certain plants and animals. This led to the development of farming and pastoralism as a way of

 The shift from foraging to farming was a major turning point in human history. Changes which
led to this shift:
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1. The last ice age came to an end about 13,000 years ago and with that warmer, wetter
conditions prevailed.
2. As a result, conditions were favourable for the growth of grasses such as wild barley and
3. At the same time, as open forests and grasslands expanded, the population of certain
animal species such as wild sheep, goat, cattle, pig and donkey increased.
4. With some areas being clearly preferred, a pressure may have built up to increase the
food supply.
5. This may have triggered the process of domestication of certain plants and animals.

 It is likely that a combination of factors which included climatic change, population pressure, a
greater reliance on and knowledge of a few species of plants (such as wheat, barley, rice and
millet) and animals (such as sheep, goat, cattle, donkey and pig) played a role in this

 With the introduction of agriculture, more people began to stay in one place for even longer
periods than they had done before. Thus permanent houses began to be built of mud, mud bricks
and even stone.

 Farming and pastoralism led to the introduction of many other changes such as the making of pots
in which to store grain and other produce, and to cook food. Besides, new kinds of stone tools
came into use. Other new tools such as the plough were used in agriculture.

 Gradually, people became familiar with metals such as copper and tin. The wheel, important for
both pot making and transportation, came into use. About 5,000 years ago, even larger
concentrations of people began to live together in cities.
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Theme 2: Writing and City Life

 CITY life began in Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers that is now
part of the Republic of Iraq.

 Mesopotamian civilisation is known for its prosperity, city life, its voluminous and rich literature
and its mathematics and astronomy.

 Mesopotamia’s writing system and literature spread to the eastern Mediterranean, northern Syria,
and Turkey after 2000 BCE, so that the kingdoms of that entire region were writing to one
another, and to the Pharaoh of Egypt, in the language and script of Mesopotamia.

 The first known language of the land was Sumerian. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian
around 2400 BCE when Akkadian speakers arrived. This language flourished till about
Alexander’s time (336-323 BCE), with some regional changes occurring.

 From 1400 BCE, Aramaic also trickled in. This language, similar to Hebrew, became widely
spoken after 1000 BCE. It is still spoken in parts of Iraq.

 Mesopotamia was important to Europeans because of references to it in the Old Testament, the
first part of the Bible. Travellers and scholars of Europe looked on Mesopotamia as a kind of
ancestral land, and when archaeological work began in the area, there was an attempt to prove the
literal truth of the Old Testament.

Mesopotamia and its Geography

 Iraq is a land of diverse environments. Here, agriculture began between 7000 and 6000 BCE. In
the north, there is a stretch of upland called a steppe, where animal herding offers people a better
livelihood than agriculture.

 To the east, tributaries of the Tigris provide routes of communication into the mountains of Iran.

 The south is a desert – and this is where the first cities and writing emerged. This desert could
support cities because the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which rise in the northern mountains, carry
loads of silt (fine mud). When they flood or when their water is let out on to the fields, fertile silt
is deposited.

 After the Euphrates has entered the desert, its water flows out into small channels. These channels
flood their banks and, in the past, functioned as irrigation canals: water could be let into the fields
of wheat, barley, peas or lentils when necessary.

 Of all ancient systems, that of the Roman Empire included, it was the agriculture of southern
Mesopotamia that was the most productive, even though the region did not have sufficient rainfall
to grow crops.
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 Not only agriculture, Mesopotamian sheep and goats that grazed on the steppe, the north-eastern
plains and the mountain slopes (that is, on tracts too high for the rivers to flood and fertilise)
produced meat, milk and wool in abundance. Further, fish was available in rivers and date-palms
gave fruit in summer.

The Significance of Urbanism

 Cities and towns are not just places with large populations. It is when an economy develops in
spheres other than food production that it becomes an advantage for people to cluster in towns.

 Urban economies comprise besides food production, trade, manufactures and services. City
people, thus, cease to be self-sufficient and depend on the products or services of other (city or
village) people.

 The division of labour is a mark of urban life. Further, there must be a social organisation in
place. Fuel, metal, various stones, wood, etc., come from many different places for city
manufacturers. Thus, organised trade and storage is needed.

 There are deliveries of grain and other food items from the village to the city, and food supplies
need to be stored and distributed. Obviously, in such a system some people give commands that
others obey, and urban economies often require the keeping of written records.

Movement of Goods into Cities

 However rich the food resources of Mesopotamia, its mineral resources were few. So we can
surmise that the ancient Mesopotamians could have traded their abundant textiles and agricultural
produce for wood, copper, tin, silver, gold, shell and various stones from Turkey and Iran, or
across the Gulf. These latter regions had mineral resources, but much less scope for agriculture.

 Besides crafts, trade and services, efficient transport is also important for urban development. The
canals and natural channels of ancient Mesopotamia were in fact routes of goods transport.

The Development of Writing

 The first Mesopotamian tablets, written around 3200 BCE, contained picture-like signs and
numbers. These were about 5,000 lists of oxen, fish, bread loaves, etc. – lists of goods that were
brought into or distributed from the temples of Uruk, a city in the south.

 Clearly, writing began when society needed to keep records of transactions – because in city life
transactions occurred at different times, and involved many people and a variety of goods.

 Mesopotamians wrote on tablets of clay. Once dried in the sun, the clay would harden and tablets
would be almost as indestructible as pottery.
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 By 2600 BCE or so, the letters became cuneiform, and the language was Sumerian. Writing was
now used not only for keeping records, but also for making dictionaries, giving legal validity to
land transfers, narrating the deeds of kings, and announcing the changes a king had made in the
customary laws of the land.

 Sumerian, the earliest known language of Mesopotamia, was gradually replaced after 2400 BCE
by the Akkadian language. Cuneiform writing in the Akkadian language continued in use until
the first century CE, that is, for more than 2,000 years.

The System of Writing

 The sound that a cuneiform sign represented was not a single consonant or vowel (such as m or a
in the English alphabet), but syllables (say, -put-, or -la-, or –in-).

 Writing was a skilled craft but, more important, it was an enormous intellectual achievement,
conveying in visual form the system of sounds of a particular language.

 Very few Mesopotamians could read and write. Not only were there hundreds of signs to learn,
many of these were complex.

 For the most part, however, writing reflected the mode of speaking. A letter from an official
would have to be read out to the king.

The Uses of Writing

 The connection between city life, trade and writing is brought out in a long Sumerian epic poem
about Enmerkar, one of the earliest rulers of Uruk. Enmerkar is associated with the organisation
of the first trade of Sumer.

 It can be inferred that in Mesopotamian understanding it was kingship that organized trade and
writing. Besides being a means of storing information and of sending messages afar, writing was
seen as a sign of the superiority of Mesopotamian urban culture.

Urbanisation in Southern Mesopotamia: Temples and Kings

 From 5000 BCE, settlements had begun to develop in southern Mesopotamia. The earliest cities
were of various kinds: those that gradually developed around temples; those that developed as
centres of trade; and imperial cities.
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 Temples were the residences of various gods: of the Moon God of Ur, or of Inanna the Goddess
of Love and War. Constructed in brick, temples became larger over time, with several rooms
around open courtyards.

 The god was the focus of worship: to him or her people brought grain, curd and fish (the floors of
some early temples had thick layers of fish bones). The god was also the theoretical owner of the
agricultural fields, the fisheries, and the herds of the local community.

 In time, the processing of produce (for example, oil pressing, grain grinding, spinning, and the
weaving of woollen cloth) was also done in the temple.

 Organiser of production at a level above the household, employer of merchants and keeper of
written records of distributions and allotments of grain, plough animals, bread, beer, fish, etc., the
temple gradually developed its activities and became the main urban institution.

 The archaeological record shows, villages were periodically relocated in Mesopotamian history
due to both natural as well as man-made problems. The early Mesopotamian countryside saw
repeated conflict over land and water.

 When there was continuous warfare in a region, those chiefs who had been successful in war
could oblige their followers by distributing the loot, and could take prisoners from the defeated
groups to employ as their guards or servants.

 In time, victorious chiefs began to offer precious booty to the gods and thus beautify the
community’s temples. This gave the king high status and the authority to command the

 At Uruk, one of the earliest temple towns, we find depictions of armed heroes and their victims.
Significantly, Uruk also came to have a defensive wall at a very early date. War captives and
local people were put to work for the temple, or directly for the ruler. This, rather than
agricultural tax, was compulsory.

 Those who were put to work were paid rations. Hundreds of ration lists have been found, which
give, against people’s names, the quantities of grain, cloth or oil allotted to them.

 By 3000 BCE Bronze tools came into use for various crafts. Architects learnt to construct brick
columns, there being no suitable wood to bear the weight of the roof of large halls. In sculpture,
there were superb achievements, not in easily available clay but in imported stone. And then there
was a technological landmark that we can say is appropriate to an urban economy: the potter’s
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Life in the City

 We know from the legal texts (disputes, inheritance matters, etc.) that in Mesopotamian society
the nuclear family was the norm, although a married son and his family often resided with his
parents. The father was the head of the family.

 When the wedding took place, gifts were exchanged by both parties, who ate together and made
offerings in a temple. When her mother-in-law came to fetch her, the bride was given her share of
the inheritance by her father. The father’s house, herds, fields, etc., were inherited by the sons.

 Narrow winding streets at Ur indicate that wheeled carts could not have reached many of the
houses. Sacks of grain and firewood would have arrived on donkey-back. It also indicates an
absence of town planning.

 There were no street drains of the kind we find in contemporary Mohenjo-daro. Drains and clay
pipes were instead found in the inner courtyards of the Ur houses and it is thought that house
roofs sloped inwards and rainwater was channelled via the drainpipes into sumps in the inner

 Light came into the rooms not from windows but from doorways opening into the courtyards: this
would also have given families their privacy.

 There were superstitions about houses, recorded in omen tablets at Ur: a raised threshold brought
wealth; a front door that did not open towards another house was lucky.

A Trading Town in a Pastoral Zone

 After 2000 BCE the royal capital of Mari flourished. The agriculture and animal rearing were
carried out close to each other in this region.

 Some communities in the kingdom of Mari had both farmers and pastoralists, but most of its
territory was used for pasturing sheep and goats.

 Through Mesopotamian history, nomadic communities of the western desert filtered into the
prosperous agricultural heartland. A few gained the power to establish their own rule. These
included the Akkadians, Amorites, Assyrians and Aramaeans.

 Mesopotamian society and culture were thus open to different people and cultures, and the
vitality of the civilisation was perhaps due to this intermixture.

 Located on the Euphrates in a prime position for trade – in wood, copper, tin, oil, wine, and
various other goods that were carried in boats along the Euphrates – between the south and the
mineral-rich uplands of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, Mari is a good example of an urban centre
prospering on trade.
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 Most important, tablets refer to copper from ‘Alashiya’, the island of Cyprus, known for its
copper, and tin was also an item of trade. As bronze was the main industrial material for tools and
weapons, this trade was of great importance.

 Thus, although the kingdom of Mari was not militarily strong, it was exceptionally prosperous.

Cities in Mesopotamian Culture

 Mesopotamians valued city life in which people of many communities and cultures lived side by
side. The most poignant reminder to us of the pride Mesopotamians took in their cities comes at
the end of the Gilgamesh Epic, which was written on twelve tablets.

 Gilgamesh is said to have ruled the city of Uruk some time after Enmerkar. He admired the
foundations made of fired bricks that he had put into place. After the death of his friend, takes
consolation in the city that his people had built.

The Legacy of Writing

 While moving narratives can be transmitted orally, science requires written texts that generations
of scholars can read and build upon. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Mesopotamia to the world is
its scholarly tradition of time reckoning and mathematics.

 Dating around 1800 BCE are tablets with multiplication and division tables, square- and square-
root tables, and tables of compound interest.

 The division of the year into 12 months according to the revolution of the moon around the earth,
the division of the month into four weeks, the day into 24 hours, and the hour into 60 minutes –
all that we take for granted in our daily lives – has come to us from the Mesopotamians.

 These time divisions were adopted by the successors of Alexander and from there transmitted to
the Roman world, then to the world of Islam, and then to medieval Europe. Whenever solar and
lunar eclipses were observed, their occurrence was noted according to year, month and day.

 None of these momentous Mesopotamian achievements would have been possible without
writing and the urban institution of schools, where students read and copied earlier written tablets.
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Chapter 2: Empires
Timeline II (c. 100 BCE to 1300 BCE)
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 By the sixth century BCE, Iranians had established control over major parts of the Assyrian
empire. Networks of trade developed overland, as well as along the coasts of the Mediterranean


 In the eastern Mediterranean, Greek cities and their colonies benefited from improvements in
trade especially from close trade with nomadic people to the north of the Black Sea. City-states
such as Athens and Sparta were the focus of civic life.

 From among the Greek states, in the late fourth century BCE, the ruler of the kingdom of
Macedon, Alexander, undertook a series of military campaigns and conquered parts of North
Africa, West Asia and Iran, reaching up to the Beas.

 Throughout the area under Alexander’s control, ideals and cultural traditions were shared
amongst the Greeks and the local population. The region on the whole became ‘Hellenised’ (the
Greeks were called Hellenes), and Greek became a well-known language throughout.

 The period is often referred to as the ‘Hellenistic period’ in the history of the region, but this
ignores the way in which other cultures (especially Iranian culture associated with the old empire
of Iran) were as important as – if not often more important than – Hellenistic notions and ideas.


 Rome took advantage of the political discord that followed the disintegration of Alexander’s
empire and established control over North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean from the second
century BCE. At the time, Rome was a republic.

 In the middle of the first century BCE, under Julius Caesar, a high-born military commander, this
‘Roman Empire’ was extended to present-day Britain and Germany.

 Latin (spoken in Rome) was the main language of the empire, though many in the east continued
to use Greek, and the Romans had a great respect for Hellenic culture.

 The empire was Christianised after the emperor Constantine became a Christian in the fourth
century CE.

 To make government easier, the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western halves in
the fourth century CE.

 Conflicts between Rome and the tribes in frontier areas increased in scale, and coincided with
internal dissensions in the empire, leading the collapse of the empire in the west by the fifth
century CE.
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 Between the seventh century and the fifteenth century, almost all the lands of the eastern Roman
Empire (centred on Constantinople) came to be taken over by the Arab empire. There was a close
interaction between Greek and Islamic traditions in the region.

 The trading networks of the area and its prosperity attracted the attention of pastoral peoples to
the north including various Turkic tribes, who often attacked the cities of the region and
established control. The last of these peoples to attack the area and attempt to control it were the
Mongols, under Genghis Khan and his successors.

 All these attempts to make and maintain empires were driven by the search to control the
resources of the trading networks that existed in the region as a whole, and to derive benefit from
the links of the region with other areas such as India or China.

 All the empires evolved administrative systems to give stability to trade. They also evolved
different types of military organisation.

 Over time, the area came to be marked by Persian, Greek, Latin and Arabic above many other
languages that were spoken and written.

 The empires were not very stable. This was partly due to disputes and conflict over resources in
various regions. It was also due to the crisis that developed in relations between empires and
pastoral peoples to the north – from whom empires derived support both for their trade and to
provide them with labour for production of manufactures and for their armies.

 The Mongol empire of Genghis Khan and his successors is a good example of how an empire
could be maintained by pastoral people for a long time and with success.

 Religions that appealed to peoples of different ethnic origins, who often spoke different
languages, were important in the making of large empires. This was true in the case of
Christianity (which originated in Palestine in the early first century CE) and Islam (which
originated in the seventh century CE).

Theme 3: An Empire Across Three Continents

 THE Roman Empire covered a vast stretch of territory that included most of Europe as we know
it today and a large part of the Fertile Crescent and North Africa.

 The empire embraced a wealth of local cultures and languages, women had a stronger legal
position then than they do in many countries today, but also that much of the economy was run on
slave labour, denying freedom to substantial numbers of persons.

 From the fifth century on, the empire fell apart in the west but remained intact and exceptionally
prosperous in its eastern half.
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 Roman historians have a rich collection of sources to go on, which we can broadly divide into
three groups: (a) texts, (b) documents and (c) material remains.

 Textual sources include histories of the period written by contemporaries (these were usually
called ‘Annals’, because the narrative was constructed on a year-by-year basis), letters, speeches,
sermons, laws, and so on.

 Documentary sources include mainly inscriptions and papyri. Inscriptions were usually cut on
stone, so a large number survive, in both Greek and Latin. The ‘papyrus’ was a reed-like plant
that grew along the banks of the Nile in Egypt.

 Material remains include a very wide assortment of items that mainly archaeologists discover (for
example, through excavation and field survey), for example, buildings, monuments and other
kinds of structures, pottery, coins, mosaics, even entire landscapes (for example, through the use
of aerial photography).

 Two powerful empires of Rome and Iran ruled over most of Europe, North Africa and the
Middle East in the period between the birth of Christ and the early part of the seventh century,
say, down to the 630s.

 The Romans and Iranians were rivals and fought against each other for much of their history.
Their empires lay next to each other, separated only by a narrow strip of land that ran along the
river Euphrates.

 Rome dominated the Mediterranean and all the regions around that sea in both directions, north as
well as south.

 Iran controlled the whole area south of the Caspian Sea down to eastern Arabia, and sometimes
large parts of Afghanistan as well.

The Early Empire

 The Roman Empire can broadly be divided into two phases, ‘early’ and ‘late’, divided by the
third century as a sort of historical watershed between them.

 A major difference between the two superpowers and their respective empires was that the
Roman Empire was culturally much more diverse than that of Iran.

 The Roman Empire was a mosaic of territories and cultures that were chiefly bound together by a
common system of government. Many languages were spoken in the empire, but for the purposes
of administration Latin and Greek were the most widely used, indeed the only languages.

 The regime established by Augustus, the first emperor, in 27 BCE was called the ‘Principate’.
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 The Senate had existed in Rome for centuries, and had been and remained a body representing the
aristocracy, that is, the wealthiest families of Roman and, later, Italian descent, mainly

 Most of the Roman histories that survive in Greek and Latin were written by people from a
senatorial background. The worst emperors were those who were hostile to the senatorial class.

 Unlike the army of its rival in the Persian empire, which was a conscripted army, the Romans had
a paid professional army where soldiers had to put in a minimum of 25 years of service. Indeed,
the existence of a paid army was a distinctive feature of the Roman Empire.

 To sum up, the emperor, the aristocracy and the army were the three main ‘players’ in the
political history of the empire. Succession to the throne was based as far as possible on family
descent, either natural or adoptive, and even the army was strongly wedded to this principle.

 External warfare was also much less common in the first two centuries. Much more characteristic
was the gradual extension of Roman direct rule. This was accomplished by absorbing a whole
series of ‘dependent’ kingdoms into Roman provincial territory.

 Except for Italy, which was not considered a province in these centuries, all the territories of the
empire were organised into provinces and subject to taxation.

 At its peak in the second century, the Roman Empire stretched from Scotland to the borders of
Armenia, and from the Sahara to the Euphrates and sometimes beyond.

 The great urban centres that lined the shores of the Mediterranean (Carthage, Alexandria, Antioch
were the biggest among them) were the true bedrock of the imperial system. It was through the
cities that ‘government’ was able to tax the provincial country-sides which generated much of the
wealth of the empire.

 A city in the Roman sense was an urban centre with its own magistrates, city council and a
‘territory’ containing villages which were under its jurisdiction. Villages could be upgraded to the
status of cities, and vice versa, usually as a mark of imperial favour (or the opposite).

 Public baths were a striking feature of Roman urban life and urban populations also enjoyed a
much higher level of entertainment.

The Third-Century Crisis

 From the 230s, the empire found itself fighting on several fronts simultaneously. In Iran a new
and more aggressive dynasty emerged in 225 (they called themselves the ‘Sasanians’).

 The Romans were forced to abandon much of the territory beyond the Danube, while the
emperors of this period were constantly in the field against what the Romans called ‘barbarians’.
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 The rapid succession of emperors in the third century (25 emperors in 47 years!) is an obvious
symptom of the strains faced by the empire in this period.

Gender, Literacy, Culture

 One of the more modern features of Roman society was the widespread prevalence of the
nuclear family. Adult sons did not live with their families, and it was exceptional for adult
brothers to share a common household.

 While the woman’s dowry went to the husband for the duration of the marriage, the woman
remained a primary heir of her father and became an independent property owner on her
father’s death. Thus Roman women enjoyed considerable legal rights in owning and
managing property.

 Divorce was relatively easy and needed no more than a notice of intent to dissolve the
marriage by either husband or wife.

 Marriages were generally arranged, and there is no doubt that women were often subject to
domination by their husbands.

 Finally, fathers had substantial legal control over their children – sometimes to a shocking
degree, for example, a legal power of life and death in exposing unwanted children, by
leaving them out in the cold to die.

 It is certain that rates of casual literacy varied greatly between different parts of the empire.
Walls on the main streets of Pompeii often carried advertisements, and graffiti were found all
over the city.

 By contrast, in Egypt where hundreds of papyri survive, most formal documents such as
contracts were usually written by professional scribes. The cultural diversity of the empire
was reflected in many ways and at many levels.

Economic Expansion
 The empire had a substantial economic infrastructure of harbours, mines, quarries, brickyards,
olive oil factories, etc. Wheat, wine and olive-oil were traded and consumed in huge quantities

 The Spanish olive oil of this period was mainly carried in a container called ‘Dressel 20’ (after
the archaeologist who first established its form).

 The success of the Spanish olive growers was then repeated by North African producers – olive
estates in this part of the empire dominated production through most of the third and fourth
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 The empire included many regions that had a reputation for exceptional fertility e.g. Campania in
Italy, Sicily, the Fayum in Egypt, Galilee, Byzacium (Tunisia), southern Gaul (called Gallia
Narbonensis), and Baetica (southern Spain).

 The best kinds of wine came from Campania. Sicily and Byzacium exported large quantities of
wheat to Rome. Galilee was densely cultivated, and Spanish olive oil came mainly from
numerous estates (fundi) along the banks of the river Guadalquivir in the south of Spain.

 Diversified applications of water power around the Mediterranean as well as advances in water-
powered milling technology, the use of hydraulic mining techniques in the Spanish gold and
silver mines and the gigantic industrial scale on which those mines were worked in the first and
second centuries (with levels of output that would not be reached again till the nineteenth century,
some 1,700 years later!), the existence of well-organised commercial and banking networks, and
the widespread use of money are all indications of how much we tend to under-estimate the
sophistication of the Roman economy. This raises the issue of labour and of the use of slavery

Controlling Workers
 Slavery was an institution deeply rooted in the ancient world. Slaves were an investment, and at
least one Roman agricultural writer advised landowners against using them in contexts where too
many might be required (for example, for harvests) or where their health could be damaged (for
example, by malaria).

 As warfare became less widespread with the establishment of peace in the first century, the
supply of slaves tended to decline and the users of slave labour thus had to turn either to slave
breeding or to cheaper substitutes such as wage labour which was more easily dispensable.

 Unlike hired workers, slaves had to be fed and maintained throughout the year, which increased
the cost of holding this kind of labour. This is probably why slaves are not widely found in the
agriculture of the later period, at least not in the eastern provinces.

 Masters often gave their slaves or freedmen capital to run businesses on their behalf or even
businesses of their own. The Roman agricultural writers paid a great deal of attention to the
management of labour.

 To make supervision easier, workers were sometimes grouped into gangs or smaller teams. This
shows a detailed consideration of the management of labour.

 Agricultural labour must have been fatiguing and disliked, for a famous edict of the early third
century refers to Egyptian peasants deserting their villages ‘in order not to engage in agricultural

 A law of 398 referred to workers being branded so they could be recognised if and when they run
away and try to hide.
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 Many private employers cast their agreements with workers in the form of debt contracts to be
able to claim that their employees were in debt to them and thus ensure tighter control over them.
A lot of the poorer families went into debt bondage in order to survive. Parents sometimes sold
their children into servitude for periods of 25 years.

Social Hierarchies
 Tacitus described the leading social groups of the early empire as follows: senators (patres, lit.
‘fathers’); leading members of the equestrian class; the respectable section of the people, those
attached to the great houses; the unkempt lower class (plebs sordida) who, he tells us, were
addicted to the circus and theatrical displays; and finally the slaves.

 By the late empire, which starts with the reign of Constantine I in the early part of the fourth
century, the senators and the equites had merged into a unified and expanded aristocracy.

 The ‘middle’ class now consisted of the considerable mass of persons connected with imperial
service in the bureaucracy and army but also the more prosperous merchants and farmers.

 Below them were the vast mass of the lower classes known collectively as humiliores (lit.
‘lower’). They comprised a rural labour force.

 The monetary system of the late empire broke with the silver-based currencies of the first three
centuries because the Spanish silver mines were exhausted and government ran out of sufficient
stocks of the metal to support a stable coinage in silver.

 Constantine founded the new monetary system on gold and there were vast amounts of this in
circulation throughout late antiquity.

 The late Roman bureaucracy, both the higher and middle echelons, was a comparatively affluent
group because it drew the bulk of its salary in gold and invested much of this in buying up assets
like land.

 The Roman state was an authoritarian regime; in other words, dissent was rarely tolerated and
government usually responded to protest with violence.

 A strong tradition of Roman law had emerged by the fourth century, and this acted as a brake on
even the most fearsome emperors. Emperors were not free to do whatever they liked, and the law
was actively used to protect civil rights.

Late Antiquity
 ‘Late antiquity’ is the term now used to describe the final, fascinating period in the evolution and
break-up of the Roman Empire and refers broadly to the fourth to seventh centuries.
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 At the cultural level, the period saw momentous developments in religious life, with the emperor
Constantine deciding to make Christianity the official religion, and with the rise of Islam in the
seventh century.

 Overexpansion had led emperor Diocletian to ‘cut back’ by abandoning territories with little
strategic or economic value. Diocletian also fortified the frontiers, reorganised provincial
boundaries, and separated civilian from military functions, granting greater autonomy to the
military commanders (duces), who now became a more powerful group.

 Constantine consolidated some of these changes and added others of his own:
1. He introduced a new denomination, the solidus, a coin of 4½ gm of pure gold that would in fact
outlast the Roman Empire itself.
2. He created a second capital at Constantinople (at the site of modern Istanbul in Turkey, and
previously called Byzantium), surrounded on three sides by the sea.

 Monetary stability and an expanding population stimulated economic growth, and the
archaeological record shows considerable investment in rural establishments, including industrial
installations like oil presses and glass factories, in newer technologies such as screw presses and
multiple water-mills, and in a revival of the long-distance trade with the East.

 In Egypt, hundreds of papyri survive from these later centuries and they show us a relatively
affluent society where money was in extensive use and rural estates generated vast incomes in

 The traditional religious culture of the classical world, both Greek and Roman, had been
polytheist. That is, it involved a multiplicity of cults that included both Roman/Italian gods like
Jupiter, Juno, Minerva and Mars, as well as numerous Greek and eastern deities.

 The other great religious tradition in the empire was Judaism. There was a great deal of diversity
within the Jewish communities of late antiquity. Thus, the ‘Christianisation’ of the empire in the
fourth and fifth centuries was a gradual and complex process.

 The boundaries between religious communities were much more fluid in the fourth century than
in later times.

 By the early seventh century, the war between Rome and Iran had flared up again, and the
Sasanians who had ruled Iran since the third century launched a wholesale invasion of all the
major eastern provinces (including Egypt).

 By 642, barely ten years after Prophet Muhammad’s death, large parts of both the eastern Roman
and Sasanian empires had fallen to the Arabs in a series of stunning confrontations.
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Theme 4: The Central Islamic Lands

 The Islamic community has its roots in a more unified past which unfolded roughly 1,400 years
ago in the Arabian peninsula. The term Islamic is used here not only in its purely religious sense
but also for the overall society and culture historically associated with Islam. Non-Muslims
always formed an integral, if subordinate, part of this society as did Jews in Christendom.

 Our understanding of the history of the central Islamic lands between 600 and 1200 is based on
chronicles or tawarikh (which narrate events in order of time) and semi-historical works, such as
biographies (sira), records of the sayings and doings of the Prophet (hadith) and commentaries on
the Quran (tafsir).

 Most of the chronicles and semi-historical works are in Arabic, the best being the Tarikh of
Tabari (d. 923) which has been translated into English in 38 volumes. Persian chronicles are few
but they are quite detailed in their treatment of Iran and Central Asia.

 Besides chronicles, we have legal texts, geographies, travelogues and literary works, such as
stories and poems. Some evidence has emerged from archaeological (excavations done at desert
palaces), numismatic (study of coins) and epigraphic (study of inscriptions) sources.

 Colonial interests in the Middle East and North Africa encouraged French and British researchers
to study Islam as well.

 Christian priests too paid close attention to the history of Islam and produced some good work,
although their interest was mainly to compare Islam with Christianity. These scholars, called
Orientalists, are known for their knowledge of Arabic and Persian and critical analysis of original

 The historiography of Islam is a good example of how religion can be studied with modern
historical methods by those who may not share the customs and beliefs of the people they are

The Rise of Islam in Arabia: Faith, Community and Politics

 During 612-32, the Prophet Muhammad preached the worship of a single God, Allah, and the
membership of a single community of believers (umma). This was the origin of Islam.

 Sixth-century Arab culture was largely confined to the Arabian Peninsula and areas of southern
Syria and Mesopotamia. The Arabs were divided into tribes (qabila), each led by a chief.

 Each tribe had its own god or goddess, who was worshipped as an idol (sanam) in a shrine
(masjid). Many Arab tribes were nomadic (Bedouins), moving from dry to green areas (oases) of
the desert in search of food (mainly dates) and fodder for their camels. Some settled in cities and
practised trade or agriculture.
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 Muhammad’s own tribe, Quraysh, lived in Mecca and controlled the main shrine there, a cube-
like structure called Kaba, in which idols were placed. Even tribes outside Mecca considered the
Kaba holy and installed their own idols at this shrine, making annual pilgrimages (hajj) to the

 Mecca was located on the crossroads of a trade route between Yemen and Syria which further
enhanced the city’s importance.

 Pilgrimage and commerce gave the nomadic and settled tribes opportunities to communicate with
one another and share their beliefs and customs.

 The worship involved simple rituals, such as daily prayers (salat), and moral principles, such as
distributing alms and abstaining from theft.

 Muhammad was to found a community of believers (umma) bound by a common set of religious
beliefs. The community would bear witness (shahada) to the existence of the religion before God
as well as before members of other religious communities. Those who accepted the doctrine were
called Muslims.

 The Muslims soon faced considerable opposition from affluent Meccans who took offence to the
rejection of their deities and found the new religion a threat to the status and prosperity of Mecca.

 In 622, Muhammad was forced to migrate with his followers to Medina. Muhammad’s journey
from Mecca (hijra) was a turning point in the history of Islam, with the year of his arrival in
Medina marking the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

 In Medina, Muhammad created a political order from all three sources which gave his followers
the protection they needed as well as resolved the city’s ongoing civil strife. Muhammad
consolidated the faith for his followers by adding and refining rituals (such as fasting) and ethical

 The community survived on agriculture and trade, as well as an alms tax (zakat). In addition, the
Muslims organised expeditionary raids (ghazw) on Meccan caravans and nearby oases.

 Muhammad now insisted on conversion as the sole criterion for membership of the community.
Impressed by Muhammad’s achievements, many tribes, mostly Bedouins, joined the community
by converting to Islam.

 Medina became the administrative capital of the emerging Islamic state with Mecca as its
religious centre. The Kaba was cleansed of idols as Muslims were required to face the shrine
when offering prayers.
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The Caliphate: Expansion, Civil Wars and Sect Formation

 After Muhammad’s death in 632, no one could legitimately claim to be the next prophet of Islam.
As a result, his political authority was transferred to the umma with no established principle of
succession. This created opportunities for innovations but also caused deep divisions among the

 The biggest innovation was the creation of the institution of caliphate, in which the leader of the
community (amir almuminin) became the deputy (khalifa) of the Prophet.

 The twin objectives of the caliphate were to retain control over the tribes constituting the umma
and to raise resources for the state. Following Muhammad’s death, many tribes broke away from
the Islamic state. Some even raised their own prophets to establish communities modelled on the

 Realising that rich booty (ghanima) could be obtained from expeditionary raids, the caliph and his
military commanders mustered their tribal strength to conquer lands belonging to the Byzantine
Empire in the west and the Sasanian empire in the east.

 The Byzantine Empire promoted Christianity and the Sasanian empire patronised Zoroastrianism,
the ancient religion of Iran. On the eve of the Arab invasions, these two empires had declined in
strength due to religious conflicts and revolts by the aristocracy. This made it easier for the Arabs
to annex territories through wars and treaties.

 Within a decade of the death of Muhammad, the Arab-Islamic state controlled the vast territory
between the Nile and the Oxus. These lands remain under Muslim rule to this day.

 In all the conquered provinces, the caliphs imposed a new administrative structure headed by
governors (amirs) and tribal chieftains (ashraf ). The central treasury (bait al-mal) obtained its
revenue from taxes paid by Muslims as well as its share of the booty from raids.

 The non-Muslim population retained their rights to property and religious practices on payment
of taxes (kharaj and jiziya). Jews and Christians were declared protected subjects of the state
(dhimmis) and given a large measure of autonomy in the conduct of their communal affairs.

 With territorial expansion, the unity of the umma became threatened by conflicts over the
distribution of resources and offices. The ruling class of the early Islamic state comprised almost
entirely the Quraysh of Mecca.

 The rifts among the Muslims deepened after Ali (656-61), the fourth caliph, fought two wars
against those who represented the Meccan aristocracy. Ali’s supporters and enemies later came to
form the two main sects of Islam: Shias and Sunnis.
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 After Ali’s death, his followers paid allegiance to his son, Hussain, and his descendants. After the
civil wars, it appeared as if Arab domination would disintegrate. It was under the Umayyads, a
prosperous clan of the Quraysh tribe, that a second round of consolidation took place.

The Umayyads and the Centralisation of Polity

 The Umayyads implemented a series of political measures which consolidated their leadership
within the umma.

 The Umayyad state was now an imperial power, no longer based directly on Islam but on
statecraft and the loyalty of Syrian troops. Islam continued to provide legitimacy to their rule.

 The Umayyads always appealed for unity and suppressed rebellions in the name of Islam. They
also retained their Arab social identity.

 Among the measures Abd al-Malik took were the adoption of Arabic as the language of
administration and the introduction of an Islamic coinage.

 The gold dinar and silver dirham that had been circulating in the caliphate were copies of
Byzantine and Iranian coins (denarius and drachm), with symbols of crosses and fire altars and
Greek and Pahlavi (the language of Iran) inscriptions. These symbols were removed and the coins
now carried Arabic inscriptions.

 Abd alMalik also made a highly visible contribution to the development of an Arab-Islamic
identity, by building the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

The Abbasid Revolution

 A well-organised movement, called dawa, brought down the Umayyads and replaced them with
another family of Meccan origin, the Abbasids, in 750. The Abbasids portrayed the Umayyad
regime as evil and promised a restoration of the original Islam of the Prophet.

 The Abbasids, descendants of Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, mustered the support of the various
dissident groups and legitimised their bid for power by promising that a messiah (mahdi) from the
family of the Prophet (ahl al-bayt) would liberate them from the oppressive Umayyad regime.

 Under Abbasid rule, Arab influence declined, while the importance of Iranian culture increased.

 The Abbasids established their capital at Baghdad, near the ruins of the ancient Iranian
metropolis, Ctesiphon. The army and bureaucracy were reorganised on a non-tribal basis to
ensure greater participation by Iraq and Khurasan.
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 The Abbasid rulers strengthened the religious status and functions of the caliphate and patronised
Islamic institutions and scholars. But they were forced by the needs of government and empire to
retain the centralised nature of the state. They maintained the magnificent imperial architecture
and elaborate court ceremonials of the Umayyads.

Break-up of the Caliphate and the Rise of Sultanates

 The Abbasid state became weaker from the ninth century because Baghdad’s control over the
distant provinces declined, and because of conflict between pro-Arab and pro-Iranian factions in
the army and bureaucracy.

 Shiism once again competed with Sunni orthodoxy for power. A number of minor dynasties
arose, such as the Tahirids and Samanids in Khurasan and Transoxiana, and the Tulunids in
Egypt and Syria.

 Buyids, a Shiite clan from the Caspian region of Iran (Daylam), captured Baghdad in 945. They
kept the Abbasid caliph as the symbolic head of their Sunni subjects.

 The Fatimids belonging to the Ismaili sub-sect of Shiism and claimed to be descended from the
Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, and hence, the sole rightful rulers of Islam.

 Between 950 and 1200, Islamic society was held together not by a single political order or a
single language of culture (Arabic) but by common economic and cultural patterns. Unity in the
face of political divisions was maintained by the separation between state and society, the
development of Persian as a language of Islamic high culture, and the maturity of the dialogue
between intellectual traditions.

 Scholars, artists and merchants moved freely within the central Islamic lands and assured the
circulation of ideas and manners. A third ethnic group was added to the Arabs and Iranians, with
the rise of the Turkish sultanates in the tenth and eleventh centuries.

 The Turks were nomadic tribes from the Central Asian steppes (grasslands) of Turkistan (north-
east of the Aral Sea up to the borders of China) who gradually converted to Islam. They were
skilled riders and warriors and entered the Abbasid, Samanid and Buyid administrations as slaves
and soldiers, rising to high positions on account of their loyalty and military abilities.

 The Ghaznavid sultanate was established by Alptegin (961) and consolidated by Mahmud of
Ghazni (998-1030). Like the Buyids, the Ghaznavids were a military dynasty with a professional
army of Turks and Indians (one of the generals of Mahmud was an Indian named Tilak).

 Taking advantage of the chaos following the death of Mahmud of Ghazni, the Saljuq turks
conquered Khurasan in 1037 and made Nishapur their first capital. The Saljuqs next turned their
attention to western Persia and Iraq (ruled by the Buyids) and in 1055, restored Baghdad to Sunni
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 From the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, there was a series of conflicts between European
Christians and the Arab states. Then, at the start of the thirteenth century, the Muslim world
found itself on the verge of a great disaster. This was the threat from the Mongols, the last but
most decisive of all nomadic assaults on settled civilisations.

The Crusades
 In medieval Islamic societies, Christians were regarded as the People of the Book (ahl al-kitab)
since they had their own scripture (the New Testament or Injil). Christians were granted safe
conduct (aman) while venturing into Muslim states as merchants, pilgrims, ambassadors and

 Jerusalem was conquered by the Arabs in 638 but it was ever-present in the Christian imagination
as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. This was an important factor in the formation
of the image of Muslims in Christian Europe.

 Hostility towards the Muslim world became more pronounced in the eleventh century. Normans,
Hungarians and some Slavs had been converted to Christianity, and the Muslims alone remained
as the main enemy.

 The possibilities of military confrontation between competing feudal principalities and a return to
economic organisation based on plunder were contained by the Peace of God movement.

 The Peace of God deflected the aggressive tendencies of feudal society away from the Christian
world and towards the ‘enemies’ of God. It built a climate in which fighting against the infidels
(non-believers) became not only permissible but also commendable.

 Between 1095 and 1291, western European Christians planned and fought wars against Muslim
cities on the coastal plains of the eastern Mediterranean (Levant). These wars were later
designated as Crusades.

 The Mamluks, the rulers of Egypt, finally drove the crusading Christians from all of Palestine in
1291. Europe gradually lost military interest in Islam and focused on its internal political and
cultural development.

 The Crusades left a lasting impact on two aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. One was the
harsher attitude of the Muslim state towards its Christian subjects which resulted from the bitter
memories of the conflict as well as the needs for security in areas of mixed populations. The other
was the greater influence of Italian mercantile communities (from Pisa, Genoa and Venice) in the
trade between the East and the West even after the restoration of Muslim power.
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Economy: Agriculture, Urbanisation and Commerce

 Agriculture was the principal occupation of the settled populations in the newly conquered
territories. In Iraq and Iran, land existed in fairly large units cultivated by peasants. The estate
owners collected taxes on behalf of the state during the Sasanian as well as Islamic periods.

 The state had overall control of agricultural lands, deriving the bulk of its income from land
revenue once the conquests were over.

 The lands conquered by the Arabs that remained in the hands of the owners were subject to a tax
(kharaj), which varied from half to a fifth of the produce, according to the conditions of

 On land held or cultivated by Muslims, the tax levied was one-tenth (ushr) of the produce. When
non-Muslims started to convert to Islam to pay lower taxes, this reduced the income of the state.
To address the shortfall, the caliphs first discouraged conversions and later adopted a uniform
policy of taxation.

 From the tenth century onwards, the state authorised its officials to claim their salaries from
agricultural revenues from territories, called iqtas (revenue assignments). Agricultural prosperity
went hand in hand with political stability.

 In many areas, especially in the Nile valley, the state supported irrigation systems, the
construction of dams and canals, and the digging of wells (often equipped with waterwheels or
noria), all of which were crucial for good harvests.

 Islamic law gave tax concessions to people who brought land under cultivation. Through peasant
initiatives and state support, cultivable land expanded and productivity rose, even in the absence
of major technological changes. Many new crops such as cotton, oranges, bananas, watermelons,
spinach and brinjals (badinjan) were grown and even exported to Europe.

 Islamic civilisation flourished as the number of cities grew phenomenally. Many new cities were
founded, mainly to settle Arab soldiers (jund) who formed the backbone of the local

 Alongside these cities were older towns such as Damascus, Isfahan and Samarqand, which
received a new lease of life. Their size and population surged, supported by an expansion in the
production of foodgrains and raw materials such as cotton and sugar for urban manufactures.

 A vast urban network developed, linking one town with another and forming a circuit. At the
heart of the city were two building complexes radiating cultural and economic power: the
congregational mosque (masjid al-jami), big enough to be seen from a distance, and the central
marketplace (suq), with shops in a row, merchants’ lodgings (fanduq) and the office of the
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 The cities were homes to administrators (ayan or eyes of the state), and scholars and merchants
(tujjar) who lived close to the centre. At the outskirts were the houses of the urban poor, inns for
people to rest and cemeteries.

 For five centuries, Arab and Iranian traders monopolised the maritime trade between China, India
and Europe. This trade passed through two major routes, namely, the Red Sea and the Persian

 High-value goods suitable for long-distance trade, such as spices, textile, porcelain and
gunpowder, were shipped from India and China to the Red Sea ports of Aden and Aydhab and the
Gulf ports of Siraf and Basra.

 The caravans passing through Mecca got bigger whenever the hajj coincided with the sailing
seasons (mawasim, origin of the word monsoon) in the Indian Ocean.

 From the tenth century, the Red Sea route gained greater importance due to the rise of Cairo as a
centre of commerce and power and growing demand for eastern goods from the trading cities of

 Towards the eastern end, caravans of Iranian merchants set out from Baghdad along the Silk
Route to China, via the oasis cities of Bukhara and Samarqand (Transoxiana), to bring Central
Asian and Chinese goods, including paper.

 Islamic coins, used for the payment of these goods, were found in hoards discovered along the
Volga river and in the Baltic region. Male and female Turkish slaves (ghulam) too were
purchased in these markets for the courts of the caliphs and sultans.

 The fiscal system (income and expenditure of the state) and market exchange increased the
importance of money in the central Islamic lands. Coins of gold, silver and copper (fulus) were
minted and circulated, often in bags sealed by money-changers, to pay for goods and services.

 Gold came from Africa (Sudan) and silver from Central Asia (Zarafshan valley). Precious metals
and coins also came from Europe, which used these to pay for its trade with the East. Rising
demand for money forced people to release their accumulated reserves and idle wealth into

 The greatest contribution of the Muslim world to medieval economic life was the development of
superior methods of payment and business organisation. Letters of credit (sakk, origin of the word
cheque) and bills of exchange (suftaja) were used by merchants and bankers to transfer money
from one place or individual to another. The widespread use of commercial papers freed
merchants from the need to carry cash everywhere and also made their journeys safer.
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 Islam did not stop people from making money so long as certain prohibitions were respected. For
instance, interest-bearing transactions (riba) were unlawful, although people circumvented usury
in ingenious ways (hiyal), such as borrowing money in one type of coin and paying in another
while disguising the interest as a commission on currency exchange (the origin of the bill of

Learning and Culture

 As the religious and social experiences of the Muslims deepened through contact with other
people, the community was obliged to reflect on itself and confront issues pertaining to God and
the world.

 For religious scholars (ulama), knowledge (ilm) derived from the Quran and the model behaviour
of the Prophet (sunna) was the only way to know the will of God and provide guidance in this

 The ulama in medieval times devoted themselves to writing tafsir and documenting Muhammad’s
authentic hadith. Some went on to prepare a body of laws or sharia (the straight path) to govern
the relationship of Muslims with God through rituals (ibadat) and with the rest of the humanity
through social affairs (muamalat).

 In framing Islamic law, jurists also made use of reasoning (qiyas) since not everything was
apparent in the Quran or hadith and life had become increasingly complex with urbanisation.

 Differences in the interpretation of the sources and methods of jurisprudence led to the formation
of four schools of law (mazhab) in the eight and ninth centuries. These were the Maliki, Hanafi,
Shafii and Hanbali schools, each named after a leading jurist (faqih), the last being the most

 The sharia provided guidance on all possible legal issues within Sunni society, though it was
more precise on questions of personal status (marriage, divorce and inheritance) than on
commercial matters or penal and constitutional issues.

 Before it took its final form, the sharia was adjusted to take into account the customary laws (urf)
of the various regions as well as the laws of the state on political and social order (siyasa sharia).

 The qazi, appointed by the state in each city or locality, often acted as an arbitrator in disputes,
rather than as a strict enforcer of the sharia. A group of religious-minded people in medieval
Islam, known as Sufis, sought a deeper and more personal knowledge of God through asceticism
(rahbaniya) and mysticism.

 The more society gave itself up to material pursuits and pleasures, the more the Sufis sought to
renounce the world (zuhd) and rely on God alone (tawakkul). In the eighth and ninth centuries,
ascetic inclinations were elevated to the higher stage of mysticism (tasawwuf) by the ideas of
pantheism and love.
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 Pantheism is the idea of oneness of God and His creation which implies that the human soul must
be united with its Maker. Unity with God can be achieved through an intense love for God (ishq),
which the woman-saint Rabia of Basra (d. 891) preached in her poems.

 Bayazid Bistami (d. 874), an Iranian Sufi, was the first to teach the importance of submerging the
self (fana) in God. Sufis used musical concerts (sama) to induce ecstasy and stimulate emotions
of love and passion. By making religion more personal and less institutional, Sufism gained
popularity and posed a challenge to orthodox Islam.

 An alternative vision of God and the universe was developed by Islamic philosophers and
scientists under the influence of Greek philosophy and science. In the schools of Alexandria,
Syria and Mesopotamia, once part of Alexander’s empire, Greek philosophy, mathematics and
medicine were taught along with other subjects.

 The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs commissioned the translation of Greek and Syriac books into
Arabic by Christian scholars. The works of Aristotle, the Elements of Euclid and Ptolemy’s
Almagest were brought to the attention of Arabic-reading scholars. Indian works on astronomy,
mathematics and medicine were also translated into Arabic during the same period.

 Scholars with a theological bent of mind, such as the group known as Mutazila, used Greek logic
and methods of reasoning (kalam) to defend Islamic beliefs. Philosophers (falasifa) posed wider
questions and provided fresh answers.

 Ibn Sina’s (980-1037) medical writings were widely read. The most influential was al-Qanun fil
Tibb (Canon of Medicine), which points out the importance of dietetics (healing through dietary
regulation), the influence of the climate and environment on health and the contagious nature of
some diseases. The Canon was used as a textbook in Europe, where the author was known as

 In medieval Islamic societies, fine language and a creative imagination were among the most
appreciated qualities in a person. These qualities raised a person’s communication to the level of
adab, a term which implied literary and cultural refinement. Adab forms of expressions included
poetry (nazm or orderly arrangement) and prose (nathr or scattered words) which were meant to
be memorised and used when the occasion arose.

 The most popular poetic composition of pre-Islamic origin was the ode (qasida), developed by
poets of the Abbasid period to glorify the achievements of their patrons.

 Poets of Persian origin revitalised and reinvented Arabic poetry and challenged the cultural
hegemony of the Arabs. Abu Nuwas (d. 815), who was of Persian origin, broke new ground by
composing classical poetry on new themes such as wine and male love with the intention of
celebrating pleasures forbidden by Islam.
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 By the time the Arabs conquered Iran, Pahlavi, the language of the sacred books of ancient Iran,
was in decay. A version of Pahlavi, known as New Persian, with a huge Arabic vocabulary, soon

 The rubai is a four-line stanza in which the first two lines set the stage, the third is finely poised,
and the fourth delivers the point. It can be used to express the beauty of a beloved, praise a
patron, or express the thoughts of the philosopher. The rubai reached its zenith in the hands of
Umar Khayyam (1048-1131), also an astronomer and mathematician, who lived at various times
in Bukhara, Samarqand and Isfahan.

 At the beginning of the eleventh century, Ghazni became the centre of Persian literary life.
Mahmud of Ghazni gathered around him a group of poets who composed anthologies (diwans)
and epic poetry (mathnavi). The most outstanding was Firdausi (d. 1020), who took 30 years to
complete the Shahnama (Book of Kings), an epic of 50,000 couplets which has become a
masterpiece of Islamic literature.

 It was in keeping with the Ghaznavid tradition that Persian later became the language of
administration and culture in India.

 The most widespread and lasting literary works are the stories of hero-adventurers such as
Alexander (al-Iskandar) and Sindbad, or those of unhappy lovers such as Qays (known as Majnun
or the Madman).

 The Thousand and One Nights is another collection of stories told by a single narrator, Shahrzad,
to her husband night after night. The collection was originally in Indo-Persian and was translated
into Arabic in Baghdad in the eighth century.

 The tradition of history writing was well established in literate Muslim societies. History books
were read by scholars and students as well as by the broader literate public. For rulers and
officials, history provided a good record of the glories and achievements of a dynasty as well as
examples of the techniques of administration.

 Books were written in Persian about dynasties, cities or regions to explore the unity and variety of
the world of Islam. Geography and travel (rihla) constituted a special branch of adab which
combined knowledge from Greek, Iranian and Indian books with the observations of merchants
and travellers.

 In mathematical geography, the inhabited world was divided into seven climes (singular iqlim)
parallel with the Equator, corresponding to our three continents. The exact position of each city
was determined astronomically.

 Alberuni’s famous Tahqiq ma lil-Hind (History of India) was the greatest attempt by an eleventh-
century Muslim writer to look beyond the world of Islam and observe what was of value in
another cultural tradition.
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 Religious buildings were the greatest external symbols of Islamic world. Mosques, shrines and
tombs from Spain to Central Asia showed the same basic design – arches, domes, minarets and
open courtyards – and expressed the spiritual and practical needs of Muslims.

 In the first Islamic century, the mosque acquired a distinct architectural form (roof supported by
pillars) which transcended regional variations. The mosque had an open courtyard (sahn) where a
fountain or pond was placed, leading to a vaulted hall which could accommodate long lines of
worshippers and the prayer leader (imam).

 Two special features were located inside the hall: a niche (mihrab) in the wall indicating the
direction of Mecca (qibla), and a pulpit (minbar, pronounced mimbar) from where sermons were
delivered during noon prayers on Friday.

 Time was marked in cities and villages by the five daily prayers and weekly sermons. The same
pattern of construction – of buildings built around a central courtyard (iwan) – appeared not only
in mosques and mausoleums but also in caravanserais, hospitals and palaces.

 The Umayyads built ‘desert palaces’ in oases, such as Khirbat al-Mafjar in Palestine and Qusayr
Amra in Jordan, which served as luxurious residences and retreats for hunting and pleasure.

 The Abbasids built a new imperial city in Samarra amidst gardens and running waters which is
mentioned in the stories and legends revolving round Harun al-Rashid. The great palaces of the
Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad or the Fatimids in Cairo have disappeared, leaving only traces in
literary texts.

 The rejection of representing living beings in the religious art of Islam promoted two art forms:
calligraphy (khattati or the art of beautiful writing) and arabesque (geometric and vegetal
designs). Small and big inscriptions, usually of religious quotations, were used to decorate

 In addition, a wide variety of illumination techniques were introduced to enhance the beauty of a
book. Plant and floral designs, based on the idea of the garden, were used in buildings and book

 Towards the end of our period, the influence of Islam over state and government was minimal,
and politics involved many things which had no sanction in religion (kingship, civil wars, etc.).
The circles of religion and community overlapped.

 The Muslim community was united in its observance of the sharia in rituals and personal matters.
The only way the circles of religion and community could have separated was through the
progressive secularisation of Muslim society. Philosophers and Sufis advocated this, suggesting
that civil society should be made autonomous, and rituals be replaced by private spirituality.
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Theme 5: Nomadic Empires

 Nomads are arguably quintessential wanderers, organised in family assemblies with a relatively
undifferentiated economic life and rudimentary systems of political organisation.

 This chapter studies a different group of nomads: the Mongols of Central Asia who established a
transcontinental empire under the leadership of Genghis Khan, straddling Europe and Asia during
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

 Relative to the agrarian-based imperial formations in China, the neighbouring nomads of

Mongolia may have inhabited a humbler, less complex, social and economic world.

 Mongols under Genghis Khan adapted their traditional social and political customs to create a
fearsome military machine and a sophisticated method of governance. They innovated and
compromised, creating a nomadic empire that had a huge impact on the history of Eurasia.

 The steppe dwellers themselves usually produced no literature, so our knowledge of nomadic
societies comes mainly from chronicles, travelogues and documents produced by city-based

 The imperial success of the Mongols, however, attracted many literati. Some of them produced
travelogues of their experiences; others stayed to serve Mongol masters. These individuals came
from a variety of backgrounds – Buddhist, Confucian, Christian, Turkish and Muslim.

 Perhaps the most valuable research on the Mongols was done by Russian scholars starting in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the Tsarist regime consolidated its control over Central
Asia. This work was produced within a colonial milieu and was largely survey notes produced by
travellers, soldiers, merchants and antiquarian scholars.

 In the early twentieth century, after the extension of the soviet republics in the region, a new
Marxist historiography argued that the prevalent mode of production determined the nature of
social relations. It placed Genghis Khan and the emerging Mongol empire within a scale of
human evolution that was witnessing a transition from a tribal to a feudal mode of production:
from a relatively classless society to one where there were wide differences between the lord, the
owners of land and the peasant.

 The transcontinental span of the Mongol empire also meant that the sources available to scholars
are written in a vast number of languages. Perhaps the most crucial are the sources in Chinese,
Mongolian, Persian and Arabic, but vital materials are also available in Italian, Latin, French and

 Since the Mongols produced little literature on their own and were instead ‘written about’ by
literati from foreign cultural milieus, historians have to often double as philologists to pick out the
meanings of phrases for their closest approximation to Mongol usage.
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 In the early decades of the thirteenth century a new political power arrived in the steppes of
Central Asia: Genghis Khan (d. 1227) had united the Mongol people. Genghis Khan’s political
vision, however, went far beyond the creation of a confederacy of Mongol tribes in the steppes of
Central Asia: he had a mandate from God to rule the world.

 Even though his own lifetime was spent consolidating his hold over the Mongol tribes, leading
and directing campaigns into adjoining areas in north China, Transoxiana, Afghanistan, eastern
Iran and the Russian steppes, his descendants travelled further afield to fulfil Genghis Khan’s
vision and create the largest empire the world had ever seen.

Social and Political Background

 The Mongols were a diverse body of people, linked by similarities of language to the Tatars,
Khitan and Manchus to the east, and the Turkic tribes to the west. Some of the Mongols were
pastoralists while others were hunter-gatherers. They nomadised in the steppes of Central Asia in
a tract of land in the area of the modern state of Mongolia.

 The hunter-gatherers resided to the north of the pastoralists in the Siberian forests. There were
extremes of temperature in the entire region: harsh, long winters followed by brief, dry summers.

 Agriculture was possible in the pastoral regions during short parts of the year but the Mongols
(unlike some of the Turks further west) did not take to farming. Neither the pastoral nor the
hunting-gathering economies could sustain dense population settlements and as a result the region
possessed no cities.

 Ethnic and language ties united the Mongol people but the scarce resources meant that their
society was divided into patrilineal lineages; the richer families were larger, possessed more
animals and pasture lands.

 Periodic natural calamities – either unusually harsh, cold winters when game and stored
provisions ran out or drought which parched the grasslands – would force families to forage
further afield leading to conflict over pasture lands and predatory raids in search of livestock.

 Groups of families would occasionally ally for offensive and defensive purposes around richer
and more powerful lineages but, barring the few exceptions, these confederacies were usually
small and shortlived.

 The Mongols administered complex agrarian economies and urban settlements – sedentary
societies – that were quite distant from their own social experience and habitat. Although the
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social and political organisations of the nomadic and agrarian economies were very different, the
two societies were hardly foreign to each other.

 The scant resources of the steppe lands drove Mongols and other Central Asian nomads to trade
and barter with their sedentary neighbours in China. This was mutually beneficial to both parties:
agricultural produce and iron utensils from China were exchanged for horses, furs and game
trapped in the steppe.

 Throughout its history, China suffered extensively from nomad intrusion and different regimes –
even as early as the eighth century BCE – built fortifications to protect their subjects. Starting
from the third century BCE, these fortifications started to be integrated into a common defensive
outwork known today as the ‘Great Wall of China’ a dramatic visual testament to the disturbance
and fear perpetrated by nomadic raids on the agrarian societies of north China.

The Career of Genghis Khan

 Born: 1162 near the Onon river in the north of present-day Mongolia. Named Temujin, he was
the son of Yesugei, the chieftain of the Kiyat, a group of families related to the Borjigid clan.

 He emerged as the dominant personality in the politics of the steppe lands, a position that was
recognised at an assembly of Mongol chieftains (quriltai) where he was proclaimed the ‘Great
Khan of the Mongols’ (Qa’an) with the title Genghis Khan, the ‘Oceanic Khan’ or ‘Universal

 Just before the quriltai of 1206, Genghis Khan had reorganised the Mongol people into a more
effective, disciplined military force that facilitated the success of his future campaigns.

 The first of his concerns was to conquer China, divided at this time into three realms. The ‘Great
Wall of China’ was breached in 1213 and Peking sacked in 1215.

 After the defeat in 1218 of the Qara Khita who controlled the Tien Shan mountains north-west of
China, Mongol dominions reached the Amu Darya, and the states of Transoxiana and Khwarazm.
Sultan Muhammad, the ruler of Khwarazm, felt the fury of Genghis Khan’s rage when he
executed Mongol envoys.

 In the campaigns between 1219 and 1221 the great cities – Otrar, Bukhara, Samarqand, Balkh,
Gurganj, Merv, Nishapur and Herat – surrendered to the Mongol forces. Towns that resisted were

 Genghis Khan died in 1227, having spent most of his life in military combat.

 The horse-riding skills of the Mongols and the Turks provided speed and mobility to the army;
their abilities as rapid-shooting archers from horseback were further perfected during regular
hunting expeditions which doubled as field manoeuvres.
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 The steppe cavalry had always travelled light and moved quickly, but now it brought all its
knowledge of the terrain and the weather to do the unimaginable: they carried out campaigns in
the depths of winter, treating frozen rivers as highways to enemy cities and camps.

 Nomads were conventionally at a loss against fortified encampments but Genghis Khan learnt the
importance of siege engines and naphtha bombardment very quickly. His engineers prepared light
portable equipment, which was used against opponents with devastating effect.

The Mongols after Genghis Khan

 We can divide Mongol expansion after Genghis Khan’s death into two distinct phases:
1. The first which spanned the years 1236-42 when the major gains were in the Russian
steppes, Bulghar, Kiev, Poland and Hungary.
2. The second phase including the years 1255-1300 led to the conquest of all of China
(1279), Iran, Iraq and Syria.

 As interests in the conquest of China increased during the 1260s, forces and supplies were
increasingly diverted into the heartlands of the Mongol dominion. As a result, the Mongols
fielded a small, understaffed force against the Egyptian military. Slowly the western expansion of
the Mongols ended.

 The suspension of Mongol expansion in the West did not arrest their campaigns in China which
was reunited under the Mongols. Paradoxically, it was at the moment of its greatest successes that
internal turbulence between members of the ruling family manifested itself.

Social, Political and Military Organisation

 Among the Mongols, and many other nomadic societies as well, all the able-bodied, adult males
of the tribe bore arms: they constituted the armed forces when the occasion demanded.

 The unification of the different Mongol tribes and subsequent campaigns against diverse people
introduced new members into Genghis Khan’s army complicating the composition of this
relatively small, undifferentiated body into an incredibly heterogeneous mass of people.

 His army was organised according to the old steppe system of decimal units: in divisions of 10s,
100s, 1,000s and [notionally] 10,000 soldiers. In the old system the clan and the tribe would have
coexisted within the decimal units. Genghis Khan stopped this practice.

 He divided the old tribal groupings and distributed their members into new military units. Any
individual who tried to move from his/her allotted group without permission received harsh
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 The new military contingents were required to serve under his four sons and specially chosen
captains of his army units called noyan. Also important within the new realm were a band of
followers who had served Genghis Khan loyally through grave adversity for many years.

 In this new hierarchy, Genghis Khan assigned the responsibility of governing the newly-
conquered people to his four sons. These comprised the four ulus, a term that did not originally
mean fixed territories. Genghis Khan’s lifetime was still the age of rapid conquests and
expanding domains, where frontiers were still extremely fluid.
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Chapter 3: Changing Traditions

 By the ninth century, large parts of Asia and America witnessed the growth and expansion of
great empires – some nomadic, some based on well-developed cities and trading networks that
centred on them.

 They covered greater areas of territory, and were continental or trans-continental in nature. The
arrival of empires was almost always sudden, but they were almost always the result of changes
that had been taking place over a long time in the core of what would become an empire.

 In western Europe during the period from the ninth to the seventeenth century, much that we
connect with modern times evolved slowly – the development of scientific knowledge based on
experiment rather than religious belief, serious thought about the organisation of government,
with attention to the creation of civil services, parliaments and different codes of law,
improvements in technology that was used in industry and agriculture.

 From the ninth to the eleventh centuries, there were major developments in the countryside in
Western Europe.
1. The Church and royal government developed a combination of Roman institutions with
the customary rules of tribes.
2. Feudalism was marked by agricultural production around castles and ‘manor houses’,
where lords of the manor possessed land that was cultivated by peasants (serfs) who
pledged them loyalty, goods and services. These lords in turn pledged their loyalty to
greater lords who were ‘vassals’ of kings.
3. The Catholic Church (centred on the papacy) supported this state of affairs and itself
possessed land.
4. Monasteries were created where God-fearing people could devote themselves to the
service of God in the way Catholic churchmen thought fit.
5. Trade within Europe improved (centred on fairs and the port cities of the Baltic Sea and
the North Sea and stimulated by a growing population).
 And from the fourteenth century (in what is called the ‘Renaissance’), especially in north Italian
towns, the wealthy became less concerned with life after death and more with the wonders of life
itself. Sculptors, painters and writers became interested in humanity and the discovery of the

 By the end of the fifteenth century, this state of affairs encouraged travel and discovery as never
a) Spaniards and Portuguese, who had traded with northern Africa, pushed further
down the coast of western Africa, finally leading to journeys around the Cape of
Good Hope to India – which had a great reputation in Europe as a source of
spices that were in great demand.
b) Columbus attempted to find a western route to India and in 1492 reached the
islands which the Europeans called the West Indies.
c) Other explorers tried to find a northern route to India and China via the Arctic.
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d) The papacy encouraged the work of the North African geographers. Jesuit
churchmen observed and wrote on Japan in the sixteenth century.
e) In their encounters, Europeans many times attempted to establish trade
monopolies and enforce their authority by force of arms as the Portuguese
attempted to do in the Indian Ocean after Vasco da Gama’s arrival in Calicut
(present-day Kozhikode) in 1498.

 The Church was the centre for the study of other cultures and languages, but encouraged attacks
on people it saw as ‘un-Christian’.
 For much of the Islamic lands and India and China, though, Europeans remained a curiosity until
the end of the seventeenth century. They were perceived as hardy traders and seamen who had
little to contribute to their sense of the larger world.
 The Japanese learnt some of the advantages of European technology quickly – for instance, they
had begun large-scale production of muskets by the late sixteenth century.
 In the Americas, enemies of the Aztec empire sometimes used Europeans to challenge the power
of the Aztecs.
 At the same time the diseases the Europeans brought devastated the populations, leading to the
death of over 90 per cent of the people in some areas by the end of the sixteenth century
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Theme 6: The Three Orders

 This chapter deals with the socio-economic and political changes which occurred in western
Europe between the ninth and sixteenth centuries.

 In the absence of any unifying political force, military conflict was frequent, and the need to
gather resources to protect one’s land became very important. Social organization was therefore
centered on the control of land.

 Christianity, the official religion of the Roman Empire from the fourth century, survived the
collapse of Rome, and gradually spread to central and northern Europe. The Church also became
a major landholder and political power in Europe.

 The ‘three orders’ are three social categories: Christian priests, landowning nobles and peasants.
The changing relationship between these three groups was an important factor in shaping
European history for several centuries.

 Of the many scholars in France who have worked on feudalism, one of the earliest was Marc
Bloch (1886–1944). His Feudal Society is about European, particularly French, society between
900 and 1300, describing in remarkable detail social relations and hierarchies, land management
and the popular culture of the period.

An Introduction to Feudalism
 Derived from the German word ‘feud’, which means ‘a piece of land’, it refers to the kind of
society that developed in medieval France, and later in England and in southern Italy.

 In an economic sense, feudalism refers to a kind of agricultural production which is based on the
relationship between lords and peasants. The peasants performed labour services for the lords,
who in exchange provided military protection. The lords also had extensive judicial control over

 Although its roots have been traced to practices that existed in the Roman Empire and during the
age of the French king Charlemagne (742-814), feudalism as an established way of life in large
parts of Europe may be said to have emerged later, in the eleventh century.

France and England

 The Franks, a Germanic tribe, gave their name to Gaul, a province of the Roman Empire, making
it ‘France’. The French had very strong links with the Church.

 Across a narrow channel lay the island of England–Scotland, which in the eleventh century was
conquered by a duke from the French province of Normandy
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The Three Orders

 French priests believed in the concept that people were members of one of the three ‘orders’,
depending on their work. Thus, the three orders of society were broadly the clergy, the nobility
and the peasantry.

The Second Order: The Nobility

 Priests placed themselves in the first order, and nobles in the second. The nobility had, in reality,
a central role in social processes as they controlled land. This control was the outcome of a
practice called ‘vassalage’.

 The kings of France were linked to the people by ‘vassalage’, similar to the practice among the
Germanic peoples, of whom the Franks were one. The big landowners – the nobles – were vassals
of the king, and peasants were vassals of the landowners. A nobleman accepted the king as his
seigneur (senior).

 The noble enjoyed a privileged status. He had absolute control over his property, in perpetuity.
He could raise troops called ‘feudal levies’. The lord held his own courts of justice and could
even coin his own money.

The Manorial Estate

 A lord had his own manor-house. Almost everything needed for daily life was found on the
manorial estate. There was a church on the estate and a castle for defence.

 Those lords who wanted a luxurious lifestyle and were keen to buy rich furnishings, musical
instruments and ornaments not locally produced, had to get these from other places.

The Knights
 From the ninth century, there were frequent localised wars in Europe. The amateur peasant-
soldiers were not sufficient, and good cavalry was needed. This led to the growing importance of
a new section of people – the knights.

 They were linked to the lords, just as the latter were linked to the king. The lord gave the knight a
piece of land (called ‘fief’) and promised to protect it. The fief could be inherited.

 As in the feudal manor, the land of the fief was cultivated by peasants. In exchange, the knight
paid his lord a regular fee and promised to fight for him in war.
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The First Order: The Clergy

 The Catholic Church had its own laws, owned lands given to it by rulers, and could levy taxes. It
was thus a very powerful institution which did not depend on the king. At the head of the western
Church was the Pope. He lived in Rome.

 The Christians in Europe were guided by bishops and clerics – who constituted the first ‘order’.
Serfs, physically challenged and women could not become priests. Men who became priests
could not marry.

 The Church was entitled to a tenth share of whatever the peasants produced from their land over
the course of the year, called a ‘tithe’. Money also came in the form of endowments made by the

 The act of kneeling while praying, with hands clasped and head bowed, was an exact replica of
the way in which a knight conducted himself while taking vows of loyalty to his lord. Similarly,
the use of the term ‘lord’ for God was another example of feudal culture that found its way into
the practices of the Church.

 Apart from the Church, devout Christians had another kind of organisation. Some deeply
religious people chose to live isolated lives and lived in religious communities called abbeys or

 Two of the more well-known monasteries were those established by St Benedict in Italy in 529
and of Cluny in Burgundy in 910.

 Men became monks and women nuns. Except in a few cases, all abbeys were single-sex
communities, that is, there were separate abbeys for men and women. Like priests, monks and
nuns did not marry.

 Abbeys contributed to the development of the arts. Abbess Hildegard (see p.135) was a gifted
musician, and did much to develop the practice of community singing of prayers in church.

 From the thirteenth century, some groups of monks – called friars – chose not to be based in a
monastery but to move from place to place, preaching to the people and living on charity.

The Church and Society

 Though Europeans became Christian, they still held on to some of their old beliefs in magic and
folk traditions. Christmas and Easter became important dates from the fourth century. Easter
marked the crucifixion of Christ and his rising from the dead.
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 People called the village the ‘parish’ (the area under the supervision of one priest). Overworked
peasants welcomed ‘holy days’/holidays because they were not expected to work then. These
days were meant for prayer, but people usually spent a good part of them having fun and feasting.

 Pilgrimage was an important part of a Christian’s life, and many people went on long journeys to
shrines of martyrs or to big churches

The Third Order: Peasants, Free and Unfree

 They were the people who sustained the first two orders. Cultivators were of two kinds: free
peasants and serfs (from the verb ‘to serve’). Free peasants held their farms as tenants of the lord.
The men had to render military service (at least forty days every year).

 There was one direct tax called ‘taille’ that kings sometimes imposed on peasants (the clergy and
nobles were exempted from paying this).

 Serfs cultivated plots of land, but these belonged to the lord. They received no wages and could
not leave the estate without the lord’s permission. The lord claimed a number of monopolies at
the expense of his serfs.

 Feudalism developed in England from the eleventh century. The Angles and Saxons, from central
Europe, had settled in England in the sixth century. The country’s name, England, is a variant of

 The lords became the chief tenants of the king, and were expected to give him military help. They
were obliged to supply a certain number of knights to the king.

Factors Affecting Social and Economic Relations

The Environment

 From the fifth to the tenth centuries, most of Europe was covered with vast forests. Thus the land
available for agriculture was limited. Also, peasants dissatisfied with their conditions could flee
from oppression and take refuge in the forest. Europe was undergoing an intensely cold climatic
spell in this period.

 From the eleventh century, Europe entered a warm phase. Average temperatures increased, which
had a profound effect on agriculture. Peasants now had a longer growing season and the soil, now
less subjected to frost, could be more easily ploughed.
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Land Use

 Initially, agricultural technology was very primitive. The only mechanical aid available to the
peasant was the wooden plough, drawn by a team of oxen. Agriculture was therefore very labour
intensive. Also, an ineffective method of crop rotation was in use.

 The land was divided in half, one field was planted in autumn with winter wheat, while the other
field was left fallow. Rye was planted on this piece of fallow land the next year while the other
half was put to fallow.

 Chronic malnutrition alternated with devastating famines and life was difficult for the poor.
Despite these hardships, the lords were anxious to maximise their incomes. Since it was not
possible to increase output from the land, the peasants were forced to bring under cultivation all
the land in the manorial estate, and spend more time doing this than they were legally bound to

 The peasants did not bow quietly to oppression. Since they could not protest openly, they resorted
to passive resistance. They spent more time cultivating their own fields, and kept much of the
product of that labour for themselves. They also avoided performing unpaid extra services. They
came into conflict with the lords over pasture and forest lands, and saw these lands as resources to
be used by the whole community, while the lords treated these as their private property.

New Agricultural Technology

 By the eleventh century, there is evidence of several technological changes. Instead of the basic
wooden ploughs, cultivators began using heavy iron-tipped ploughs and mould-boards.

 The methods of harnessing animals to the plough improved. Instead of the neck-harness, the
shoulder-harness came into use. This enabled animals to exert greater power. Horses were now
better shod, with iron horseshoes, which prevented foot decay.

 There was increased use of wind and water energy for agriculture. More water-powered and
wind-powered mills were set up all over Europe for purposes like milling corn and pressing

 There were also changes in land use. The most revolutionary one was the switch from a two-field
to a three-field system. Each year they rotated the use among the three fields.

 Food availability doubled. The greater use of plants like peas and beans meant more vegetable
proteins in the diet of the average European and a better source of fodder for their animals. For
cultivators, it meant better opportunities.

 Holdings which were smaller could be more efficiently cultivated and reduced the amount of
labour needed. This gave the peasants time for other activities.
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 From the eleventh century, the personal bonds that had been the basis of feudalism were
weakening, because economic transactions were becoming more and more money based. Lords
found it convenient to ask for rent in cash, not services, and cultivators were selling their crops
for money (instead of exchanging them for other goods) to traders, who would then take such
goods to be sold in the towns.

 The increasing use of money began to influence prices, which became higher in times of poor
harvests. In England, for instance, agricultural prices doubled between the 1270s and the 1320s.

A Fourth Order? New Towns and Townspeople

 Expansion in agriculture was accompanied by growth in three related areas: population, trade and
towns. Better food meant a longer lifespan.

 The towns of the Roman Empire had become deserted and ruined after its fall. But from the
eleventh century, as agriculture increased and became able to sustain higher levels of population,
towns began to grow again.

 Peasants who had surplus grain to sell needed a place where they could set up a selling centre and
where they could buy tools and cloth. This led to the growth of periodic fairs and small marketing
centres which gradually developed town-like features – a town square, a church, roads where
merchants built shops and homes, an office where those who governed the town could meet.

 Towns offered the prospect of paid work and freedom from the lord’s control, for young people
from peasant families. Many serfs craving to be free ran away and hid in towns.

 Many people in towns were free peasants or escaped serfs who provided unskilled labour. Later
there was need for individuals with specialised skills, like bankers and lawyers. They could be
said to have formed a ‘fourth’ order.

 The basis of economic organisation was the guild. Each craft or industry was organised into a
guild, an association which controlled the quality of the product, its price and its sale. The ‘guild-
hall’ was a feature of every town; it was a building for ceremonial functions, and where the heads
of all the guilds met formally.

 By the eleventh century, new trade routes with West Asia were developing. In France, by the
twelfth century, commerce and crafts began to grow. Earlier, craftsmen used to travel from manor
to manor; now they found it easier to settle in one place where goods could be produced and
traded for food.
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 One of the ways that rich merchants spent their money was by making donations to churches.
From the twelfth century, large churches – called cathedrals – were being built in France. Small
towns developed around them and they became centres of pilgrimage.

 Cathedrals were designed so that the priest’s voice could be heard clearly within the hall where
large numbers of people gathered.

The Crisis of the Fourteenth Century

 By the early fourteenth century, Europe’s economic expansion slowed down. This was due to
three factors.
1. Cold summers, Storms and oceanic flooding destroyed many farmsteads, which resulted
in less income in taxes for governments. Intensive ploughing had exhausted the soil
despite the practice of the three-field rotation of crops, because clearance was not
accompanied by proper soil conservation. Population growth was outstripping resources,
and the immediate result was famine.
2. In addition, trade was hit by a severe shortage of metal money because of a shortfall in
the output of silver mines in Austria and Serbia. This forced governments to reduce the
silver content of the currency, and to mix it with cheaper metals.
3. As trade expanded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, ships carrying goods from
distant countries had started arriving in European ports. Along with the ships came rats –
carrying the deadly bubonic plague infection (the ‘Black Death’). Western Europe,
relatively isolated in earlier centuries, was hit by the epidemic between 1347 and 1350.
The modern estimate of mortality in that epidemic is that 20 per cent of the people of the
whole of Europe died, with some places losing as much as 40 per cent of the population.

 Depopulation resulted in a major shortage of labour.

 Serious imbalances were created between agriculture and manufacture, because there were not
enough people to engage in both equally.
 Prices of agricultural goods dropped as there were fewer people to buy.
 Wage rates increased because the demand for labour, particularly agricultural labour, rose in
England by as much as 250 per cent in the aftermath of the Black Death.

Social Unrest

 The income of lords was thus badly hit. It declined as agricultural prices came down and wages of
labourers increased. In desperation, they tried to give up the money-contracts they had entered
into and revive labour services. This was violently opposed by peasants, particularly the better-
educated and more prosperous ones.

 Rebellions occurred with the most violent intensity in those areas which had experienced the
prosperity of the economic expansion – a sign that peasants were attempting to protect the gains
they had made in previous centuries.
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 Despite the severe repression, the sheer intensity of peasant opposition ensured that the old feudal
relations could not be reimposed. The money economy was too far advanced to be reversed.

 Therefore, though the lords succeeded in crushing the revolts, the peasants ensured that the feudal
privileges of earlier days could not be reinvented.

Political Changes

 In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European kings strengthened their military and financial
power. Historians have called these kings ‘the new monarchs’.

 Louis XI in France, Maximilian in Austria, Henry VII in England and Isabelle and Ferdinand in
Spain were absolutist rulers, who started the process of organising standing armies, a permanent
bureaucracy and national taxation and, in Spain and Portugal, began to play a role in Europe’s
expansion overseas.

 The most important reason for the triumph of these monarchies was the social changes which had
taken place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The dissolution of the feudal system of
lordship and vassalage, and the slow rate of economic growth had given the first opportunity to
kings to increase their control over their powerful and not-so-powerful subjects.

 Rulers dispensed with the system of feudal levies for their armies and introduced professionally
trained infantry equipped with guns and siege artillery directly under their control. The resistance
of the aristocracies crumbled in the face of the firepower of the kings.

 By increasing taxes, monarchs got enough revenues to support larger armies and thus defended
and expanded their frontiers and overcame internal resistance to royal authority. Centralisation,
however, did not occur without resistance from the aristocracy. Lesser nobles, often members of
local assemblies, resisted this royal usurpation of their powers.

 The nobility managed a tactical shift in order to ensure their survival. From being opponents to
the new regimes, they quickly transformed themselves into loyalists. It is for this reason that royal
absolutism has been called a modified form of feudalism. Precisely the same class of people who
had been rulers in the feudal system – the lords – continued to dominate the political scene.

 All monarchies, weak or powerful, needed the cooperation of those who could command
authority. Patronage became the means of ensuring such cooperation. And patronage could be
given or obtained by means of money. Therefore money became an important way in which non-
aristocratic elements like merchants and bankers could gain access to the court. Rulers thus made
space for non-feudal elements in the state system.

 In the reign of the child-king Louis XIII of France, in 1614, a meeting was held of the French
consultative assembly, known as the Estates-General (with three houses to represent the three
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estates/orders – clergy, nobility, and the rest). After this, it was not summoned again for nearly
two centuries, till 1789, because the kings did not want to share power with the three orders.

 Today, France has a republican form of government and England has a monarchy. This is because
of the different directions that the histories of the two countries took after the seventeenth

Theme 7: Changing Cultural Traditions

 From the fourteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, towns were growing in many countries
of Europe. A distinct ‘urban culture’ also developed. Townspeople began to think of themselves
as more ‘civilised’ than rural people.

 Towns – particularly Florence, Venice and Rome – became centres of art and learning. Artists
and writers were patronised by the rich and the aristocratic. The invention of printing at the same
time made books and prints available to many people, including those living in distant towns or

 Religion came to be seen as something which each individual should choose for himself. The
church’s earthcentric belief was overturned by scientists who began to understand the solar
system, and new geographical knowledge overturned the Europe-centric view that the
Mediterranean Sea was the centre of the world.

 From the nineteenth century, historians used the term ‘Renaissance’ (literally, rebirth) to describe
the cultural changes of this period. History was as much concerned with culture as with politics.

 A new ‘humanist’ culture had flowered in Italian towns from the fourteenth to the seventeenth
century. This culture was characterised by a new belief – that man, as an individual, was capable
of making his own decisions and developing his skills. He was ‘modern’, in contrast to
‘medieval’ man whose thinking had been controlled by the church.

The Revival of Italian Cities

 After the fall of the western Roman Empire, many of the towns that had been political and
cultural centres in Italy fell into ruin. There was no unified government, and the Pope in Rome,
who was sovereign in his own state, was not a strong political figure.

 While western Europe was being reshaped by feudal bonds and unified under the Latin Church,
and eastern Europe under the Byzantine Empire, and Islam was creating a common civilisation
further west, Italy was weak and fragmented.
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 With the expansion of trade between the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic countries, the ports on
the Italian coast revived. From the twelfth century, as the Mongols opened up trade with China
via the Silk Route and as trade with western European countries also increased, Italian towns
played a central role. They no longer saw themselves as part of a powerful empire, but as
independent citystates.

 One of the most vibrant cities was Venice, another was Genoa. Rich merchants and bankers
actively participated in governing the city, and this helped the idea of citizenship to strike root.
Even when these towns were ruled by military despots, the pride felt by the townspeople in being
citizens did not weaken.

Universities and Humanism

 The earliest universities in Europe had been set up in Italian towns. The universities of Padua and
Bologna had been centres of legal studies from the eleventh century.

 Commerce being the chief activity in the city, there was an increasing demand for lawyers and
notaries (a combination of solicitor and record-keeper) to write and interpret rules and written
agreements without which trade on a large scale was not possible. Law was therefore a popular
subject of study.

 To Francesco Petrarch (1304-78), antiquity was a distinctive civilisation which could be best
understood through the actual words of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This was the culture
which historians in the nineteenth century were to label ‘humanism’.

 By the early fifteenth century, the term ‘humanist’ was used for masters who taught grammar,
rhetoric, poetry, history and moral philosophy. These subjects were not drawn from or connected
with religion, and emphasised skills developed by individuals through discussion and debate.

 A city is known by its great citizens as much as by its wealth, and Florence had come to be known
because of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), a layman who wrote on religious themes, and Giotto
(1267-1337), an artist who painted lifelike portraits, very different from the stiff figures done by
earlier artists. From then it developed as the most exciting intellectual city in Italy and as a centre
of artistic creativity.

The Humanist View of History

 Humanists thought that they were restoring ‘true civilisation’ after centuries of darkness, for they
believed that a ‘dark age’ had set in after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

 In the ‘Middle Ages’, they argued, the Church had had such complete control over men’s minds
that all the learning of the Greeks and Romans had been blotted out. The humanists used the word
‘modern’ for the period from the fifteenth century.
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 Periodisation used by humanists and by later scholars:

1. 5th–14th century -The Middle Ages
a) 5th–9th century -The Dark Ages
b) 9th–11th century -The Early Middle Ages
c) 11th–14th century- The Late Middle Ages
2. 15th century onwards -The Modern Age

Science and Philosophy: The Arabs’ Contribution

 Arab translators had carefully preserved and translated ancient manuscripts (Plato was Aflatun,
and Aristotle Aristu in Arabic). While some European scholars read Greek in Arabic translation,
the Greeks translated works of Arabic and Persian scholars for further transmission to other

 These were works on natural science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and chemistry.
Ptolemy’s Almagest (a work on astronomy, written in Greek before 140 CE and later translated
into Arabic) carries the Arabic definite article ‘al’, which brings out the Arabic connection.

 Among the Muslim writers who were regarded as men of wisdom in the Italian world were Ibn
Sina (‘Avicenna’ in Latin, 980- 1037), an Arab physician and philosopher of Bukhara in Central
Asia, and al-Razi (‘Rhazes’), author of a medical encyclopaedia.

 Humanists reached out to people in a variety of ways. Though the curricula in universities
continued to be dominated by law, medicine and theology, humanist subjects slowly began to be
introduced in schools, not just in Italy but in other European countries as well.

Artists and Realism

 Artists were inspired by studying works of the past. The material remains of Roman culture were
sought with as much excitement as ancient texts. Their admiration for the figures of ‘perfectly’
proportioned men and women sculpted so many centuries ago, made Italian sculptors want to
continue that tradition.

 In 1416, Donatello (1386- 1466) broke new ground with his lifelike statues. Artists’ concern to be
accurate was helped by the work of scientists. To study bone structures, artists went to the
laboratories of medical schools.

 Andreas Vesalius (1514-64), a Belgian and a professor of medicine at the University of Padua,
was the first to dissect the human body. This was the beginning of modern physiology.

 Painters did not have older works to use as a model. But they, like sculptors, painted as
realistically as possible. They found that a knowledge of geometry helped them understand
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perspective, and that by noting the changing quality of light, their pictures acquired a
threedimensional quality.

 The use of oil as a medium for painting also gave a greater richness of colour to paintings than
before. In the colours and designs of costumes in many paintings, there is evidence of the
influence of Chinese and Persian art, made available to them by the Mongols.

 Thus, anatomy, geometry, physics, as well as a strong sense of what was beautiful, gave a new
quality to Italian art, which was to be called ‘realism’ and which continued till the nineteenth

 The city of Rome revived in a spectacular way in the fifteenth century. From 1417, the popes
were politically stronger. They actively encouraged the study of Rome’s history.

 The ruins in Rome were carefully excavated by archaeologists (archaeology was a new skill).
This inspired a ‘new’ style in architecture, which was actually a revival of the imperial Roman
style – now called ‘classical’.

 Popes, wealthy merchants and aristocrats employed architects who were familiar with classical
architecture. Artists and sculptors were also to decorate buildings with paintings, sculptures and

 Some individuals were skilled equally as painters, sculptors and architects. The most impressive
example is Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) – immortalised by the ceiling he painted for the
Pope in the Sistine Chapel, the sculpture called ‘The Pieta’ and his design of the dome of St
Peter’s Church, all in Rome.

 Another remarkable change was that from this time, artists were known individually, by name,
not as members of a group or a guild, as earlier.

The First Printed Books

 The greatest revolution of the sixteenth century was the mastery of the technology of printing. For
this, Europeans were indebted to other peoples– the Chinese, for printing technology, and to
Mongol rulers because European traders and diplomats had become familiar with it during visits
to their courts. (This was also the case with three other important innovations – firearms, the
compass and the abacus.)

 Earlier, texts existed in a few hand-written copies. By 1500, many classical texts, nearly all in
Latin, had been printed in Italy.
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 As printed books became available, it was possible to buy them, and students did not have to
depend solely on lecture-notes. Ideas, opinions and information moved more widely and more
rapidly than ever before.

 The chief reason that the humanist culture of Italy spread more rapidly across the Alps from the
end of the fifteenth century is that printed books were circulating. This also explains why earlier
intellectual movements had been limited to particular regions.

A New Concept of Human Beings

 One of the features of humanist culture was a slackening of the control of religion over human
life. Italians were strongly attracted to material wealth, power and glory, but they were not
necessarily irreligious.

 There was also a concern at this time with good manners – how one should speak politely and
dress correctly, what skills a person of culture should learn.

 Humanism also implied that individuals were capable of shaping their own lives through means
other than the mere pursuit of power and money. This ideal was closely tied with the belief that
human nature was many-sided, which went against the three separate orders that feudal society
believed in.

The Aspirations of Women

 The new ideal of individuality and citizenship excluded women. Men from aristocratic families
dominated public life and were the decision-makers in their families. Often, marriages were
intended to strengthen business alliances. If an adequate dowry could not be arranged, daughters
were sent to convents to live the life of a nun.

 In families of merchants and bankers, wives looked after the businesses when the male members
were away on work. A few women were intellectually very creative and sensitive about the
importance of a humanist education.

 Venetian Cassandra Fedele (1465-1558) was one of a handful of women who questioned the idea
that women were incapable of achieving the qualities of a humanist scholar. Fedele was known
for her proficiency in Greek and Latin, and was invited to give orations at the University of

 Women’s writings revealed their conviction that they should have economic power, property and
education to achieve an identity in a world dominated by men.
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Debates within Christianity

 Trade and travel, military conquest and diplomatic contacts linked Italian towns and courts with
the world beyond. Very few of the new ideas filtered down to the ordinary man who, after all,
could not read or write.

 In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, many scholars in universities in north Europe were
attracted to humanist ideas. Like their Italian colleagues, they too focused on classical Greek and
Roman texts along with the holy books of the Christians.

 But, unlike Italy, where professional scholars dominated the humanist movement, in north Europe
humanism attracted many members of the Church. They called on Christians to practise religion
in the way laid down in the ancient texts of their religion, discarding unnecessary rituals, which
they condemned as later additions to a simple religion.

 Christian humanists like Thomas More (1478 -1535) in England and Erasmus (1466-1536) in
Holland felt that the Church had become an institution marked by greed, extorting money at will
from ordinary people.

 One of the favourite methods of the clergy was to sell ‘indulgences’, documents which apparently
freed the buyer from the burden of the sins he had committed. In almost every part of Europe,
peasants began to rebel against the taxes imposed by the Church.

 In 1517, a young German monk called Martin Luther (1483-1546) launched a campaign against
the Catholic Church and argued that a person did not need priests to establish contact with God.
This movement – called the Protestant Reformation – led to the churches in Germany and
Switzerland breaking their connection with the Pope and the Catholic Church.

 In Switzerland, Luther’s ideas were popularised by Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and later by Jean
Calvin (1509-64). Backed by merchants, the reformers had greater popular appeal in towns, while
in rural areas the Catholic Church managed to retain its influence.

 Some reformers blended the idea of salvation with the end of all forms of social oppression. This
appealed to peasants oppressed by feudalism.

 Eventually, in France, as in many other parts of Europe, the Catholic Church allowed Protestants
to worship as they chose. In England, the rulers ended the connection with the Pope. The Catholic
Church itself did not escape the impact of these ideas, and began to reform itself from within.

 In Spain, Ignatius Loyola, in an attempt to combat Protestantism, set up the Society of Jesus in
1540. His followers were called Jesuits, whose mission was to serve the poor and to widen their
knowledge of other cultures
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The Copernican Revolution

 The turning point in European science came with the work of Copernicus (1473-1543), a
contemporary of Martin Luther.

 Christians had believed that the earth stood at the centre of the universe around which moved the
celestial planets. Copernicus asserted that the planets, including the earth, rotate around the sun.

 It took time for people to accept this idea. It was much later – more than half a century later, in
fact – that the difference between ‘heaven’ and earth was bridged through the writings of
astronomers like Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).

 The theory of the earth as part of a sun-centred system was made popular by Kepler’s
Cosmographical Mystery, which demonstrated that the planets move around the sun not in circles
but in ellipses.

 Galileo confirmed the notion of the dynamic world in his work The Motion. This revolution in
science reached its climax with Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation.

Reading the Universe

 The work of these thinkers showed that knowledge, as distinct from belief, was based on
observation and experiments. Once these scientists had shown the way, experiments and
investigations into what came to be called physics, chemistry and biology expanded rapidly.

 Historians were to label this new approach to the knowledge of man and nature the Scientific
Revolution. God began to be replaced by Nature as the source of creation.

 Such ideas were popularised through scientific societies that established a new scientific culture in
the public domain. The Paris Academy, established in 1670 and the Royal Society in London for
the promotion of natural knowledge, formed in 1662, held lectures and conducted experiments for
public viewing.

Was there a European ‘Renaissance’ in the Fourteenth Century?

 Scholars in earlier centuries had been familiar with Greek and Roman cultures, and religion
continued to be a very important part of people’s lives. To contrast the Renaissance as a period of
dynamism and artistic creativity, and the Middle Ages as a period of gloom and lack of
development is an over-simplification.

 Many elements associated with the Renaissance in Italy can be traced back to the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries. It has been suggested by some historians that in the ninth century in France,
there had been similar literary and artistic blossoming.
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 The archaeological and literary recovery of Roman culture did create a great admiration of that
civilisation. But technologies and skills in Asia had moved far ahead of what the Greeks and
Romans had known.

 The expansion of Islam and the Mongol conquests had linked Asia and North Africa with Europe,
not politically but in terms of trade and of learning skills.

 An important change that did happen in this period was that gradually the ‘private’ and the
‘public’ spheres of life began to become separate: the ‘public’ sphere meant the area of
government and of formal religion; the ‘private’ sphere included the family and personal religion.
The individual had a private as well as a public role.

 Another development was that the different regions of Europe started to have their separate sense
of identity, based on language. Europe, earlier united partly by the Roman Empire and later by
Latin and Christianity, was now dissolving into states, each united by a common language.

Theme 8: Confrontation Of Cultures

 This chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters between Europeans and the people of
the Americas between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries.

 The first Europeans to venture out were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded the Pope
to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new regions they might locate.

 Christopher Columbus, an Italian, sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India and countries east of India about
which he had read in the Travels of Marco Polo). Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of
the ‘New World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were not part of Asia.

 Two types of culture were to be found in the Americas. There were small subsistence economies
in the Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful monarchical systems based on
well-developed agriculture and mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of Central America and
the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.

 The exploration and later the settlement of South America marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in plantations and mines in the

 European conquest of the people of America was accompanied by the ruthless destruction of their
manuscripts and monuments.
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Communities of the Caribbean and Brazil

 The Arawakian Lucayos lived on a cluster of hundreds of small islands in the Caribbean Sea,
today known as the Bahamas, and the Greater Antilles. They lived by hunting, fishing and
agriculture, growing corn, sweet potatoes, tubers and cassava.

 A central cultural value was the organisation of people to produce food collectively and to feed
everyone in the community. They were organised under clan elders. Polygamy was common.

 The Arawaks were animists. As in many other societies, shamans played an important role as
healers and intermediaries between this world and that of the supernatural.

 The art of weaving was highly developed – the hammock was one of their specialities, and one
which captured the imagination of the Europeans.

 People called the Tupinamba lived on the east coast of South America, and in villages in the
forests (the name ‘Brazil’ is derived from the brazilwood tree). The Europeans who met them
envied their happy freedom, with no king, army or church to regulate their lives.

The State Systems of Central and South America

 In contrast to the Caribbean and Brazil, there were some highly organised states in Central
America. There was a generous surplus of corn, which provided the basis for the urbanised
civilisations of the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas.

The Aztecs

 In the twelfth century, the Aztecs had migrated from the north into the central valley of Mexico
(named after their god Mexitli).

 Aztec society was hierarchical. The nobility included those who were nobles by birth, priests, and
others who had been awarded the rank. The hereditary nobility were a small minority who
occupied the senior positions in the government, the army and the priesthood.

 The king was regarded as the representative of the sun on earth. Warriors, priests and nobles were
the most respected groups.

 Since land was limited, the Aztecs undertook reclamations. They made chinampas, artificial
islands, in Lake Mexico, by weaving huge reed-mats and covering them with mud and plants.

 Because the Aztecs were frequently engaged in war, the most impressive temples were dedicated
to the gods of war and the sun.
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 People cultivated corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, manioc root, potatoes and other crops. Land was
owned not by individuals but by clans, which also organised public construction works. Peasants,
like European serfs, were attached to lands owned by the nobility and cultivated them in exchange
for part of the harvest.

 The Aztecs made sure that all children went to school. Boys received military training as well as
training in agriculture and the trades. Girls were trained in domestic skills.

 In the early sixteenth century, the Aztec empire was showing signs of strain. This was largely to
do with discontent among recently conquered peoples who were looking for opportunities to
break free from central control.

The Mayas
 The Mayan culture of Mexico developed remarkably between the eleventh and fourteenth

 Corn cultivation was central to their culture, and many religious ceremonies were centred on the
planting, growing and harvesting of corn. Efficient agricultural production generated surplus,
which helped the ruling classes, priests and chiefs to invest in architecture and in the development
of astronomy and mathematics.

 The Mayas devised a pictographic form of writing that has only been partially deciphered.

The Incas of Peru

 The largest of the indigenous civilisations in South America was that of the Quechuas or Incas in
Peru. At its maximum extent the Inca empire stretched 3,000 miles from Ecuador to Chile.

 The empire was highly centralised, with the king representing the highest source of authority.
Like the Aztec empire, the Inca empire resembled a confederacy, with the Incas in control. There
are no precise figures of the population, but it would seem that it included over a million people.

 Like the Aztecs, the Incas too were magnificent builders. They built roads through mountains
from Ecuador to Chile. Their forts were built of stone slabs that were so perfectly cut that they
did not require mortar.

 The basis of the Inca civilisation was agriculture. To cope with the infertile soil conditions, they
terraced hillsides and developed systems of drainage and irrigation.

 The Incas grew corn and potatoes, and reared llamas for food and labour. Their weaving and
pottery were of a high quality. They did not develop a system of writing. However, there was an
accounting system in place – the quipu, or cords upon which knots were made to indicate specific
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mathematical units. Some scholars now suggest that the Incas wove a sort of code into these

 The cultures of the Aztecs and Incas had certain features in common, and were very different
from European culture.
 Society was hierarchical, but there was no private ownership of resources by a few
people, as in Europe.
 Though priests and shamans were accorded an exalted status, and large temples were
built, in which gold was used ritually, there was no great value placed on gold or silver.
This was also in marked contrast to contemporary European society.

Voyages of Exploration by Europeans

 The people of South America and the Caribbean got to know of the existence of European people
when the latter began to sail across the Atlantic Sea. The magnetic compass had been known
since 1380, but only in the fifteenth century did people use it when they ventured on voyages into
unknown areas.

 By this time many improvements had been made in European sailing ships. Larger ships were
built, that could carry a huge quantity of cargo as well as equipment to defend themselves if
attacked by enemy ships.

 The circulation of travel literature and books on cosmography and geography created widespread
interest right through the fifteenth century. In 1477, Ptolemy’s Geography (written 1,300 years
earlier) became available in print and thus came to be widely read.

 People from the Iberian peninsula – the Portuguese and the Spanish – were the pioneers in the
fifteenth-century voyages of exploration. For a long time these were called ‘voyages of

 Arabs, Chinese and Indians had navigated vast stretches of ocean, and sailors from the Pacific
Islands (the Polynesians and Micronesians) had made major ocean crossings. The Vikings of
Norway had reached North America in the eleventh century.

 The European economy went through a decline from the midfourteenth to the mid-fifteenth
centuries. Plague and wars led to depopulation in many parts of Europe, trade grew slack, and
there was a shortage of gold and silver, used for making European coins.

 In the late fourteenth century, long-distance trade declined, and then became difficult after the
Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453. Italians managed to do business with Turks, but were
now required to pay higher taxes on trade.

 The possibility that many more people could be brought into the fold of Christianity made many
devout Christian Europeans ready to face adventure.
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 As it happened, the ‘Crusades’ against the Turks began as a religious war, but they increased
Europe’s trade with Asia and created a taste for the products of Asia, especially spices.

 When thinking of new regions where gold and spices might be found, one possibility was West
Africa, where Europeans had not traded directly so far. Prince Henry of Portugal (called the
Navigator) organised the coasting of West Africa. Africans were captured and enslaved, and gold
dust yielded the precious metal.

 In Spain, economic reasons encouraged individuals to become knights of the ocean. Private
ambitions grew and it gave rise to contracts known as capitulaciones. Under these contracts the
Spanish ruler claimed rights of sovereignty over newly conquered territories and gave rewards to
leaders of expeditions in the form of titles and the right to govern the conquered lands.

The Atlantic Crossing

 Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) sought adventure and glory. Believing in prophecies, he was
convinced that his destiny lay in discovering a route to the East (the ‘Indies’) by sailing

 Spanish authorities sanctioned a modest expedition that set sail from the port of Palos on 3
August 1492. The fleet was small, consisting of a small nao called Santa Maria, and two caravels
(small light ships) named Pinta and Nina.

 On 12 October 1492, they sighted land; they had reached what Columbus thought was India, but
which was the island of Guanahani (which he renamed San Salvador) in the Bahamas. They were
welcomed by the Arawaks, who were happy to share their food and provisions; in fact, their
generosity made a deep impression upon Columbus.

 He enlisted their cooperation in pressing forward to the larger islands of Cubanascan (Cuba,
which he thought was Japan!) and Kiskeya (renamed Hispaniola, today divided between two
countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

 Three more voyages followed, in the course of which Columbus completed his explorations in the
Bahamas and the Greater Antilles, the South American mainland and its coast. Subsequent
voyages revealed that it was not the ‘Indies’ that the Spaniards had found, but a new continent.

 Since places are often given the names of individuals, it is curious that Columbus is
commemorated only in a small district in the USA and in a country in north-western South
America (Columbia), though he did not reach either of these areas.

 The two continents were named after Amerigo Vespucci, a geographer from Florence who
realised how large they might be, and described them as the ‘New World’. The name ‘America’
was first used by a German publisher in 1507.
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Spain Establishes an Empire in America

 Spanish expansion was based on a display of military strength with the use of gunpowder and of
horses. The local people were compelled either to pay tribute or to work in gold and silver mines.

 Local chieftains were enlisted to explore new lands and, hopefully, more sources of gold. The
greed for gold led to violent incidents provoking local resistance.

 The diseases of the Old World, particularly smallpox wreaked havoc on the Arawaks whose lack
of immunity resulted in large-scale deaths. The extinction of the Arawaks and all traces of their
way of life is a silent reminder of their tragic encounter with Spaniards.

 Within half a century, the Spanish had explored and laid claim to a vast area of the western
hemisphere, from approximately latitudes 40 degrees north to 40 degrees south, without anyone
challenging them.

Cortes and the Aztecs

 In 1519, Hernan Cortes (1488-1547) set sail from Cuba to Mexico, where he made friends with
the Totonacs, a group who wanted to secede from Aztec rule. The Aztecs led the Spaniards into
the heart of the city, where the Emperor showered them with gifts.

 The fears of the Aztecs proved to be well founded. Cortes without any explanation placed the
Emperor under house arrest and attempted to rule in his name. In an attempt to formalise the
Emperor’s submission to Spain, Cortes installed Christian images in the Aztec temple.

 The high-handedness of the Spanish occupation and their incessant demands for gold provoked a
general uprising. The Aztecs continued to fight the Spaniards.

 The conquest of Mexico had taken two years. Cortes became CaptainGeneral of New Spain in
Mexico and was showered with honours by Charles V. From Mexico, the Spaniards extended
their control over Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Honduras.

Pizarro and the Incas

 Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) made repeated attempts to reach Inca kingdom from the Pacific.
The Spanish king promised Pizarro the governorship of the Inca lands if he conquered it.

 Pizarro had the king executed, and his followers went on a looting spree. This was followed by
the occupation of the country.

 The cruelty of the conquerors provoked an uprising in 1534 that continued for two years, during
which time thousands died in war and due to epidemics. In another five years, the Spanish had
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located the vast silver mines in Potosi (in Upper Peru, modern Bolivia) and to work these they
made the Inca people into slaves.

Cabral and Brazil

 In 1500, a grand procession of ships set out from Portugal for India, headed by Pedro Alvares
Cabral. To avoid stormy seas, he made a wide loop around West Africa, and found to his surprise
that he had reached the coast of present-day Brazil.

 The Portuguese were more eager to increase their trade with western India than with Brazil,
which did not promise any gold. But there was one natural resource there which they exploited:

 The brazilwood tree, after which the Europeans named the region, produced a beautiful red dye.
The natives readily agreed to cut the trees and carry the logs to the ships in exchange for iron
knives and saws, which they regarded as marvels. This trade in timber led to fierce battles
between Portuguese and French traders.

 In the 1540s, the Portuguese began to grow sugarcane on large plantations and built mills to
extract sugar, which was then sold in Europe. In this very hot and humid climate they depended
on the natives to work the sugar mills.

 When the natives refused to do this exhausting and dreary work, the mill-owners resorted to
kidnapping them to work as slaves. The natives kept retreating into the forests to escape the
‘slavers’ and, as time went on, there were hardly any native villages on the coast; instead, there
were large, well-laid-out European towns.

 Plantation owners were then forced to turn to another source for slaves: West Africa. This was a
contrast to the Spanish colonies. A large part of the population in the Aztec and Inca empires had
been used to labouring in mines and fields, so the Spanish did not need to formally enslave them
or to look elsewhere for slaves.

Conquest, Colonies and the Slave-Trade

 From the fifteenth century, European maritime projects produced knowledge of continuous sea
passages from ocean to ocean. Before this, most of these passages had been unknown to
Europeans. No ship had penetrated the Caribbean or the Americas. The South Atlantic was
wholly unexplored.

 For Europe, the ‘discovery’ of the Americas had consequences for others besides the initial
voyagers. The influx of gold and silver helped further expansion of international trade and
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 Spain and Portugal did not invest their huge income in further trade, or in building up a merchant
navy. Instead, it was the countries bordering the Atlantic, particularly England, France, Belgium
and Holland, that took advantage of the ‘discoveries’. Their merchants formed jointstock
companies and sent out trading expeditions, established colonies and introduced Europeans to the
products of the New World, including tobacco, potatoes, canesugar, cacao and rubber.

 Europe also became familiar with new crops from America, notably potatoes and chillies. These
were then taken by Europeans to other countries like India.

 For the native people of the Americas, the immediate consequences were the physical decimation
of local populations, the destruction of their way of life and their enslavement in mines,
plantations and mills. Warfare and disease were primarily responsible for this.

 The Spanish avarice for gold and silver was incomprehensible to the natives. The enslavement of
the population was a sharp reminder of the brutality of the encounter. Slavery was not a new idea,
but the South American experience was new in that it accompanied the emerging capitalist
system of production. Working conditions were horrific, but the Spanish regarded the exploitation
as essential to their economic gain.

 As new economic activities began – cattle farming on lands cleared of forests, and mining after
the discovery of gold in 1700 – the demand for cheap labour continued. It was clear that the local
people would resist enslavement. The alternative was to turn to Africa.

 From the early debates in the 1780s on abolishing slavery, there were those who argued that
slavery existed in Africa prior to the entry of the Europeans, indeed slaves formed the bulk of the
labour-force in the states being formed in Africa from the fifteenth century. They also pointed out
that European traders were helped by Africans who helped capture young men and women to be
sold as slaves, in return for crops imported from South America (maize, manioc and cassava,
which became their staple foods).

 In the early nineteenth century, European settlers in the South American colonies were to rebel
against Spain and Portugal and become independent countries, just as in 1776 the thirteen North
American colonies rebelled against Britain and formed the United States of America.

 South America today is also called ‘Latin America’. This is because Spanish and Portuguese, two
of the main languages of the continent, are part of the Latin family of languages.

 The inhabitants are mostly native European (called Creole), European, and African by origin.
Most of them are Catholics. Their culture has many elements of native traditions mixed with
European ones.
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Chapter 4: Towards Modernisation

 Apart from feudalism, the European ‘Renaissance’ and the encounters between Europeans and
the peoples of the Americas two further developments in world history created a context for what
has been called ‘modernisation’. These were the Industrial Revolution and a series of political
revolutions that transformed subjects into citizens, beginning with the American Revolution
(1776-81) and the French Revolution (1789-94).

 Britain has been the world’s first industrial nation. In Britain coal and cotton textile industries
were developed in the first phase of industrialisation, while the invention of railways initiated the
second stage of that process.

 In other countries such as Russia, which began to industrialise much later (from the late
nineteenth century onwards), the railway and other heavy industry emerged in the initial phase of
industrialisation itself. Likewise, the role of the state, and of banks, in industrialisation has
differed from country to country.

 European powers began to colonise parts of America and Asia and South Africa well before the
Industrial Revolution. The bourgeois mentality of the settlers made them buy and sell everything,
including land and water. The natives did not feel the need to own land, fish or animals.

 Quite obviously, the natives and the Europeans represented competing notions of civilisation.
Western capitalisms – mercantile, industrial and financial – and early-twentieth-century Japanese
capitalism created colonies in large parts of the third world. Some of these were settler colonies.
Others, such as British rule in India, are examples of direct imperial control.

 The case of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century China illustrates a third variant of
imperialism. Here Britain, France, Germany, Russia, America and Japan meddled in Chinese
affairs without directly taking over state power. They exploited the country’s resources to their
own advantage, seriously compromising Chinese sovereignty and reducing the country to the
status of a semi-colony.

 Almost everywhere, colonial exploitation was challenged by powerful nationalist movements.

Nationalist movements believe that political power should rest with the people and this is what
makes nationalism a modern concept.

 Civic nationalism vests sovereignty in all people regardless of language, ethnicity, religion or
gender. It seeks to create a community of rights-exercising citizens and defines nationhood in
terms of citizenship, not ethnicity or religion.

 Ethnic and religious nationalisms try to build national solidarities around a given language,
religion or set of traditions, defining the people ethnically, not in terms of common citizenship.
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 Today, most western countries define their nationhood in terms of common citizenship and not by
common ethnicity. Ideologies of civic nationalism have vied with those of ethnic/religious
nationalism the world over and this has been so in modern India, China and Japan as well.

 Different societies have evolved their distinctive modernities. Japan succeeded in remaining free
of colonial control and achieved fairly rapid economic and industrial progress throughout the
twentieth century. The rebuilding of the Japanese economy after a humiliating defeat in the
Second World War should not be seen as a mere post-war miracle.

 The Japanese path to modernization nevertheless, like that of any other country, has had its own
tensions: those between democracy and militarism, ethnic nationalism and civic nation-building
and between what many Japanese describe as ‘tradition’ and ‘westernisation’.

 By the early 1930s, the Chinese Communist Party, which drew its strength from peasant
mobilisation, had begun confronting the imperial powers as well as the Nationalists who
represented the country’s elite. Their egalitarian ideology, stress on land reforms and awareness
of women’s problems helped them overthrow foreign imperialism and the Nationalists in 1949.

 Once in power, the Chinese Communists succeeded in reducing inequalities, spreading education
and creating political awareness. Even so, the country’s single-party framework and state
repression contributed to considerable dissatisfaction with the political system after the mid-

 The Communist Party has been able to retain control over the country largely because, in
embracing certain market principles, it reinvented itself and has worked hard to transform China
into an economic powerhouse.
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Theme 9: The Industrial Revolution

 The transformation of industry and the economy in Britain between the 1780s and the 1850s is
called the ‘first industrial revolution’. This had far-reaching effects in Britain. Later, similar
changes occurred in European countries and in the USA.

 This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly associated with new machinery and
technologies. These made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale compared to handicraft
and handloom industries.

 Steam, a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in British industries. Its use led
to faster forms of transportation, by ships and railways.

 Industrialization led to greater prosperity for some, but in the initial stages it was linked with poor
living and working conditions of millions of people, including women and children. This sparked
off protests, which forced the government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.

 The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European scholars – Georges Michelet in France
and Friedrich Engels in Germany. There was remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to
1820 in the cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of roads and canals and in
foreign trade.

Why Britain?

 It had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England, Wales and Scotland
unified under a monarchy.
 The kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was not fragmented by local
authorities levying taxes on goods that passed through their area, thus increasing their price.
 By the end of the seventeenth century, money was widely used as the medium of exchange. By
then a large section of the people received their income in the form of wages and salaries rather
than in goods.
 This gave people a wider choice for ways to spend their earnings and expanded the market for the
sale of goods.
 In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major economic change, later described as
the ‘agricultural revolution’. This was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small
farms near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands, thus creating very large
estates and increasing food production.
 This forced landless farmers, and those who had lived by grazing animals on the common lands,
to search for jobs elsewhere. Most of them went to nearby towns.

Towns, Trade and Finance

 From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were growing in area and in population. The
largest of them was London, which served as the hub of the country’s markets.
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 By the eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted from the Mediterranean ports of
Italy and France to the Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London replaced
Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for international trade. London also became the centre
of a triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and the West Indies.

 In England the movement of goods between markets was helped by a good network of rivers, and
an indented coastline with sheltered bays. Until the spread of railways, transport by waterways
was cheaper and faster than by land.

 The centre of the country’s financial system was the Bank of England (founded in 1694). The
financial requirements to establish and maintain big industrial enterprises were met by these

 The industrialisation that occurred in Britain from the 1780s to the 1850s is explained partly by
the factors described above – many poor people from the villages available to work in towns;
banks which could loan money to set up large industries; and a good transport network.

 Two new factors were: a range of technological changes that increased production levels
dramatically and a new transport network created by the construction of railways. Of the 26,000
inventions recorded in the eighteenth century, more than half were listed for the period 1782-

 These led to four major changes: the transformation of the iron industry, the spinning and
weaving of cotton, the development of steam ‘power’ and the coming of the railways.

Coal and Iron

 England was fortunate in that coal and iron ore, the staple materials for mechanisation, were
plentifully available, as were other minerals – lead, copper and tin – that were used in industry.
However, until the eighteenth century, there was a scarcity of usable iron.

 Iron is drawn out from ore as pure liquid metal by a process called smelting. For centuries,
charcoal (from burnt timber) was used for the smelting process. This had several problems:
charcoal was too fragile to transport across long distances; its impurities produced poor-quality
iron; it was in short supply because forests had been destroyed for timber; and it could not
generate high temperatures.

 An invention in 1709 by the first Abraham Darby (1677-1717) was a blast furnace that would use
coke, which could generate high temperatures; coke was derived from coal by removing the
sulphur and impurities. This invention meant that furnaces no longer had to depend on charcoal.
The melted iron that emerged from these furnaces permitted finer and larger castings than before.
The process was further refined by more inventions.
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 The second Darby (1711-68) developed wrought-iron (which was less brittle) from pig-iron.
Henry Cort (1740-1823) designed the puddling furnace (in which molten iron could be rid of
impurities) and the rolling mill, which used steam power to roll purified iron into bars

 Unlike wood, which could burn or splinter, the physical and chemical properties of iron could be
controlled. In the 1770s, John Wilkinson (1728-1808) made the first iron chairs, vats for
breweries and distilleries, and iron pipes of all sizes. In 1779, the third Darby (1750- 91) built the
first iron bridge in the world, in Coalbrookdale, spanning the river Severn. Wilkinson used cast
iron for the first time to make water pipes (40 miles of it for the water supply of Paris).

 Britain was lucky in possessing excellent coking coal and high-grade iron ore in the same basins
or even the same seams. These basins were also close to ports; there were five coastal coalfields
which could deliver their products almost straight into ships. Since the coalfields were near the
coast, shipbuilding increased, as did the shipping trade.By 1848, Britain was smelting more iron
than the rest of the world put together.

Cotton Spinning and Weaving

 The British had always woven cloth out of wool and flax (to make linen). From the seventeenth
century, the country had been importing bales of cotton cloth from India at great cost. As the East
India Company’s political control of parts of India was established, it began to import, along with
cloth, raw cotton, which could be spun and woven into cloth in England.

 A series of technological inventions successfully closed the gap between the speed in spinning
raw cotton into yarn or thread, and of weaving the yarn into fabric. To make it even more
efficient, production gradually shifted from the homes of spinners and weavers to factories.

 From the 1780s, the cotton industry symbolised British industrialisation in many ways. This
industry had two features which were also seen in other industries. Raw cotton had to be entirely
imported and a large part of the finished cloth was exported. This sustained the process of

 The industry was heavily dependent on the work of women and children in factories. This
exemplified the ugly face of early industrialisation, as will be described below.

1. The flying shuttle loom, designed by John Kay (1704-64) in 1733 made it possible to weave
broader fabrics in less time and consequently called for more yarn than could be supplied at the
prevailing pace of spinning.
2. The spinning jenny was a machine made by James Hargreaves (1720-78) in 1765 on which a
single person could spin several threads of yarn simultaneously. This provided weavers with yarn
at a faster rate than they could weave into fabric.
3. The water frame, which Richard Arkwright (1732-92) invented in 1769, produced a much
stronger thread than before. This also made it possible to weave pure cotton fabrics rather than
fabrics that combined linen and cotton yarn.
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4. The mule was the nickname for a machine invented in 1779 by Samuel Crompton (1753-1827)
that allowed the spinning of strong and fine yarn.
5. The cycle of inventions in the cotton textile industry that sought to maintain a balance between
the tasks of spinning and weaving concluded with the invention of the powerloom by Edmund
Cartwright (1743-1823) in 1787. This was easy to work, stopped automatically every time a
thread broke and could be used to weave any kind of material.

Steam Power
 The realisation that steam could generate tremendous power was decisive to large-scale
industrialisation. Steam power provided pressure at high temperatures that enabled the use of a
broad range of machinery.

 Steam power was first used in mining industries. As the demand for coal and metals expanded,
efforts to obtain them from ever-deeper mines intensified. Flooding in mines was a serious
problem. Thomas Savery (1650-1715) built a model steam engine called the Miner’s Friend in
1698 to drain mines. These engines worked slowly, in shallow depths, and the boiler burst under
too much pressure.

 Another steam engine was built by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) in 1712. This had the major
defect of losing energy due to continuous cooling of the condensing cylinder.

 The steam engine had been used only in coal mines until James Watt (1736-1819) developed his
machine in 1769. Watt’s invention converted the steam engine from being a mere pump into a
‘prime mover’ capable of providing energy to power machines in factories.

 By the end of the eighteenth century, Watt’s steam engine was beginning to replace hydraulic

Canals and Railways

 The demand for coal, as industrial energy and for heating and lighting homes in cities, grew
constantly. The making of the first English canal, the Worsley Canal (1761) by James Brindley
(1716-72), had no other purpose than to carry coal from the coal deposits at Worsley (near
Manchester) to that city; after the canal was completed the price of coal fell by half.

 Canals were usually built by big landowners to increase the value of the mines, quarries or forests
on their lands. The confluence of canals created marketing centres in new towns. The city of
Birmingham, for example, owed its growth to its position at the heart of a canal system
connecting London, the Bristol Channel, and the Mersey and Humber rivers. The period 1788 to
1796 is known as the ‘canal-mania’.

 The first steam locomotive, Stephenson’s Rocket, appeared in 1814. They combined two
inventions, the iron track which replaced the wooden track in the 1760s, and haulage along it by
steam engine.
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 The invention of the railways took the entire process of industrialisation to a second stage. In the
1830s, the use of canals revealed several problems. The congestion of vessels made movement
slow on certain stretches of canals, and frost, flood or drought limited the time of their use. The
railways now appeared as a convenient alternative. They used vast amounts of coal and iron,
employed large numbers of workers and boosted activity in the construction and public works
industries. Most of England had been connected by railway by 1850.

Who were the inventors?

 Dozens of scientific journals and published papers of scientific societies appeared in England
between 1760 and 1800. There was a widespread thirst for knowledge even in the smaller towns.

 Most inventions were more the product of determination, interest, curiosity, even luck, than the
application of scientific knowledge. Some inventors in the cotton industry, like John Kay and
James Hargreaves, were familiar with the skills of weaving and carpentry.

Changed lives
 There were rich individuals who took risks and invested money in industries in the hope that
profits could be made, and that their money would ‘multiply’.

 There was, at the same time, a massive negative human cost. The pace of growth of cities was not
matched with the provision of adequate housing, sanitation or clean water for the rapidly growing
urban population.

 Newcomers were forced to live in overcrowded slums in the congested central areas of towns
near factories, while the rich inhabitants escaped, by shifting to homes in the suburbs where the
air was cleaner and the water safe to drink.

The Workers
 More people died, and died at a younger age, in the new industrial cities, than in the villages they
had come from. Half the children failed to survive beyond the age of five. The increase in the
population of cities was because of immigrants, rather than by an increase in the number of
children born to families who already lived there.

 Deaths were primarily caused by epidemics of disease that sprang from the pollution of water,
like cholera and typhoid, or of the air, like tuberculosis.
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Women, Children and Industrialisation

 The Industrial Revolution was a time of important changes in the way that children and women

 In villages women were actively involved in farm work; they reared livestock, gathered firewood
and spun yarn on spinning wheels in their homes. Work in the factories, with long, unbroken
hours of the same kind of work, under strict discipline and sharp forms of punishment, was
completely different.

 As the use of machinery spread, and fewer workers were needed, industrialists preferred to
employ women and children who would be less agitated about their poor working conditions and
work for lower wages than men.

 Women were employed in large numbers in the cotton textile industry in Lancashire and
Yorkshire, in the silk, lace-making and knitting industries, as well as (along with children) in the
metal industries of Birmingham.

 Machinery like the cotton spinning jenny was designed to be used by child workers with their
small build and nimble fingers. Children were often employed in textile factories because they
were small enough to move between tightly packed machinery.

 The owners of coal mines used children to reach deep coal faces or those where the approach path
was too narrow for adults. Factory managers considered child labour to be important training for
future factory work.

 Women may well have gained increased financial independence and self-esteem from their jobs;
but this was more than offset by the humiliating terms of work they endured, the children they
lost at birth or in early childhood and the squalid urban slums that industrial work compelled
them to live in

Protest Movements
 The early decades of industrialisation coincided with the spread of new political ideas pioneered
by the French Revolution (1789-94). The movements for ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ showed
the possibilities of collective mass action.

 In England, political protest against the harsh working conditions in factories kept increasing, and
the working population agitated to be given the right to vote. The government reacted by
repression and by new laws that denied people the right to protest.

 England had been at war with France for a long time – from 1792 to 1815. Trade between
England and Europe was disrupted, factories were forced to shut down, unemployment grew and
the price of essential items of food, like bread and meat, soared to heights beyond the level of
average wages.
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 There were bread or food riots throughout the country from the 1790s onwards. Bread was the
staple item in the diet of the poor and its price governed their standard of living.

 Another cause of hardship was the process known as ‘enclosure’ – by which, from the 1770s,
hundreds of small farms had been merged into the larger ones of powerful landlords. Poor rural
families affected by this had sought industrial work. But the introduction of machines in the
cotton industry threw thousands of handloom weavers out of work and into poverty.

 From the 1790s, these weavers began to demand a legal minimum wage, which was refused by
Parliament. In Lancashire, cotton weavers destroyed the powerlooms which they believed had
destroyed their livelihood.

 In Yorkshire, shearing-frames were destroyed by croppers, who had traditionally sheared sheep
by hand. The movement known as Luddism (1811-17), led by the charismatic General Ned Ludd,
exemplified another type of protest.

 Luddism was not merely a backward-looking assault on machines. Its participants demanded a
minimum wage, control over the labour of women and children, work for those who had lost their
jobs because of the coming of machinery, and the right to form trade unions so that they could
legally present these demands.

 During the early years of industrialisation, the working population possessed neither the vote nor
legal methods to express their anger at the drastic manner in which their lives had been

Reforms through Laws

 Laws were passed in 1819 prohibiting the employment of children under the age of nine in
factories and limiting the hours of work of those between the ages of nine and sixteen to 12 hours
a day.

 In 1847, after more than 30 years of agitation, the Ten Hours’ Bill was passed. This limited the
hours of work for women and young people, and secured a 10-hour day for male workers. These
Acts applied to the textile industries but not to the mining industry.

 The Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 banned children under ten and women from working
underground. Fielder’s Factory Act laid down in 1847 that children under eighteen and women
should not work more than 10 hours a day.

 These laws were to be enforced by factory inspectors, but this was difficult to do. The inspectors
were poorly paid and easily bribed by factory managers, while parents lied about the real ages of
their children, so that they could work and contribute to family incomes.
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The Debate on the ‘Industrial Revolution’

 Until the 1970s, historians used the term ‘industrial revolution’ for the changes that occurred in
Britain from the 1780s to the 1820s. From then, it was challenged, on various grounds.

 Until well into the nineteenth century, large regions of England remained untouched by factories
or mines and therefore the term ‘industrial revolution’ was regarded as inaccurate.

 The impressive growth of cotton textiles, based on new machinery, was in an industry that relied
on a non-British raw material, on sales abroad (especially India), on non-metallic machinery, and
with few links to other branches of industry. Metallic machinery and steam power was rare until
much later in the nineteenth century.

 The rapid growth in British imports and exports from the 1780s occurred because of the
resumption of trade with North America that the War of American Independence had interrupted.

 The decades after 1793 had experienced the disruptive effects of the French Revolutionary and
Napoleonic Wars. The cotton, iron and engineering industries had accounted for less than half of
the industrial output until the 1840s.

 From the 1760s to 1815, Britain tried to do two things simultaneously – to industrialise, and to
fight wars in Europe, North America and India - and it may possibly have failed with one. Capital
that was borrowed was used to fight the wars rather than invested.

 Workers were transferred out of factories and farms to the army. Food prices rose so sharply that
the poor had little money left for buying consumer goods. Napoleon’s policies of blockade, and
British reactions to them, closed the European continent, the destination for more than half of
British exports, to British traders.

 From the 1850s, the proportion of people living in urban areas went up dramatically, and most of
these were workers in industry – the working class. Only 20 per cent of Britain’s workforce now
lived in rural areas. This was a far more rapid rate of industrialisation than had been witnessed in
other European countries.
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Theme 10: Displacing Indigenous Peoples

 From the eighteenth century, more areas of South America, Central America, North America,
South Africa, Australia and New Zealand came to be settled by immigrants from Europe. This led
to many of the native peoples being pushed out into other areas.

 The European settlements were called ‘colonies’. When the European inhabitants of the colonies
became independent of the European ‘mother-country’, these colonies became ‘states’ or

 In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people from Asian countries also migrated to some of
these countries. Today, these Europeans and Asians form the majority in these countries, and the
number of the native inhabitants are very small.

 Till the middle of the twentieth century, American and Australian history textbooks used to
describe how Europeans ‘discovered’ the Americas and Australia. They hardly mentioned the
native peoples except to suggest that they were hostile to Europeans.

European Imperialism
 The American empires of Spain and Portugal did not expand after the seventeenth century. From
that time other countries – France, Holland and England – began to extend their trading activities
and to establish colonies – in America, Africa and Asia; Ireland also was virtually a colony of
England, as the landowners there were mostly English settlers.

 In South Asia, trading companies like the East India Company made themselves into political
powers, defeated local rulers and annexed their territories. They retained the older well-developed
administrative system and collected taxes from landowners. Later they built railways to make
trade easier, excavated mines and established big plantations.

 In Africa, Europeans traded on the coast, except in South Africa, and only in the late nineteenth
century did they venture into the interior. After this, some of the European countries reached an
agreement to divide up Africa as colonies for themselves.

 The word ‘settler’ is used for the Dutch in South Africa, the British in Ireland, New Zealand and
Australia, and the Europeans in America. The official language in these colonies was English
(except in Canada, where French is also an official language).

North America
 The earliest inhabitants of North America came from Asia over 30,000 years ago on a land-bridge
across the Bering Straits, and during the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago they moved further south.
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The oldest artefact found in America – an arrow-point – is 11,000 years old. The population
started to increase about 5,000 years ago when the climate became more stable.

 These peoples lived in bands, in villages along river valleys. They did not attempt extensive
agriculture and since they did not produce a surplus, they did not develop kingdoms and empires
as in Central and South America.

 Numerous languages were spoken in North America, though these were not written down. They
were skilled craftspeople and wove beautiful textiles.

 In the seventeenth century, the European traders who reached the north coast of North America
found the native peoples friendly and welcoming. In exchange for local products the Europeans
gave the natives blankets, iron vessels, guns, which was a useful supplement for bows and arrows
to kill animals, and alcohol.

 Alcohol was something the natives had not known earlier, and they became addicted to it, which
suited the Europeans, because it enabled them to dictate terms of trade. (The Europeans acquired
from the natives an addiction to tobacco.)

Mutual Perceptions
 In the eighteenth century, western Europeans defined ‘civilised’ people in terms of literacy, an
organised religion and urbanism. To them, the natives of America appeared ‘uncivilised’.

 To the natives, the goods they exchanged with the Europeans were gifts, given in friendship. For
the Europeans, dreaming of becoming rich, the fish and furs were commodities, which they
would sell for a profit in Europe.

 In their impatience to get furs, Europeans had slaughtered hundreds of beavers, and the natives
were very uneasy, fearing that the animals would take revenge on them for this destruction.

 From the seventeenth century, there were groups of Europeans who were being persecuted
because they were of a different sect of Christianity (Protestants living in predominantly Catholic
countries, or Catholics in countries where Protestantism was the official religion).

 Natives and Europeans saw different things when they looked at forests – natives identified tracks
invisible to the Europeans. Europeans imagined the forests cut down and replaced by cornfields.

 The countries that are known as Canada and the United States of America came into existence at
the end of the eighteenth century. Large areas were acquired by the USA by purchase – they
bought land in the south from France (the ‘Louisiana Purchase’) and from Russia (Alaska), and
by war – much of southern USA was won from Mexico. It did not occur to anyone that the
consent of natives living in these areas should have been asked.
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 The Europeans cleared land and developed agriculture, introducing crops (rice and cotton) which
could not grow in Europe and therefore could be sold there for profit. To protect their huge farms
from wild animals – wolves and mountain lions – these were hunted to extinction. They felt
totally secure only with the invention of barbed wire in 1873.

 Protests by anti-slavery groups led to a ban on slave trade, but the Africans who were in the USA
remained slaves, as did their children. The northern states of the USA, where the economy did not
depend on plantations (and therefore on slavery), argued for ending slavery which they
condemned as an inhuman practice.

 In 1861-65, there was a war between the states that wanted to retain slavery and those supporting
abolition. The latter won. Slavery was abolished, though it was only in the twentieth century that
the African Americans were able to win the battle for civil liberties, and segregation between
‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ in schools and public transport was ended.

 In 1763 Canada had been won by the British after a war with France. The French settlers
repeatedly demanded autonomous political status. It was only in 1867 that this problem was
solved by organizing Canada as a Confederation of autonomous states.

The Native Peoples Lose their Land

 In the USA, as settlement expanded, the natives were induced or forced to move, after signing
treaties selling their land. The prices paid were very low and natives were often cheated.

 Those who took the land occupied by the tribes justified it by saying the natives did not deserve
to occupy land which they did not use to the maximum. The prairies were cleared for farmland,
and wild bison killed off.

 Meanwhile, the natives were pushed westward, given land elsewhere but often moved again if
any mineral – lead or gold – or oil was found on their lands. They were locked off in small areas
called ‘reservations’, which often was land with which they had no earlier connection.

The Gold Rush, and the Growth of Industries

 There was always the hope that there was gold in North America. In the 1840s, traces of gold
were found in the USA, in California. This led to the ‘Gold Rush’, when thousands of eager
Europeans hurried to America in the hope of making a quick fortune. This led to the building of
railway lines across the continent, for which thousands of Chinese workers were recruited.

 One reason why the Industrial Revolution happened in England when it did was because small
peasants were losing their land to big farmers, and moving to jobs in factories. In North America,
industries developed for very different reasons – to manufacture railway equipment so that rapid
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transport could link distant places, and to produce machinery which would make large-scale
farming easier.

 Industrial towns grew and factories multiplied, both in the USA and Canada. In 1860, the USA
had been an undeveloped economy. In 1890, it was the leading industrial power in the world.

 In 1892, the USA’s continental expansion was complete. The area between the Pacific and
Atlantic Oceans was divided up into states. Within a few years the USA was setting up its own
colonies – in Hawaii and the Philippines. It had become an imperial power.

Constitutional Rights
 The ‘democratic spirit’ which had been the rallying cry of the settlers in their fight for
independence in the 1770s, came to define the identity of the USA against the monarchies and
aristocracies of the Old World. Also important to them was that their constitution included the
individual’s ‘right to property’, which the state could not override.

 But both democratic rights (the right to vote for representatives to Congress and for the President)
and the right to property were only for white men.

The Winds of Change

 Not till the 1920s did things begin to improve for the native peoples of the USA and Canada.
Surveys showed a grim picture of the terribly poor health and education facilities for natives in

 A landmark law in the USA, the Indian Reorganisation Act of 1934 gave natives in reservations
the right to buy land and take loans. In the 1950s and 1960s, the US and Canadian governments
thought of ending all special provisions for the natives in the hope that they would ‘join the
mainstream’, that is, adopt European culture.

 In 1954, in the ‘Declaration of Indian Rights’ prepared by them, a number of native peoples
accepted citizenship of the USA but on condition that their reservations would not be taken away
and their traditions would not be interfered with.

 Similarly in Canada, the Constitution Act was passed in 1982 which accepted the existing
aboriginal and treaty rights of the natives.

 The ‘aborigines’ (a general name given to a number of different societies) began to arrive on the
continent over 40,000 years ago (it is possible it was even earlier). They came from New Guinea,
which was connected to Australia by a land-bridge.
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 There is another large group of indigenous people living in the north, called the Torres Strait
Islanders. The term ‘Aborigine’ is not used for these as they are believed to have migrated from
elsewhere and belong to a different race. Together, they make up 2.4 per cent of Australia’s
population in 2005.

 Australia is sparsely populated, and even now most of the towns are along the coast (where the
British first arrived in 1770) because the central region is arid desert.

 The story of the interaction between the European settlers, the native peoples and the land in
Australia has many points of similarity to the story of the Americas, though it began nearly 300
years later.

 Most of the early settlers were convicts who had been deported from England and, when their jail
term ended, were allowed to live as free people in Australia on condition that they did not return
to Britain.

 The economic development of Australia under European settlement was not as varied as in
America. Vast sheep farms and mining stations were established over a long period and with
much labour, followed by vineyards and wheat farming.

 Later, Chinese immigrants provided cheap labour, as in California, but unease about being
dependent on non-whites led to the governments in both countries to ban Chinese immigrants.

The Winds of Change

 From the 1970s, as was happening in North America, there was an eagerness to understand
natives. The practice of writing Australian history as though it had begun with Captain Cook’s
‘discovery’ was criticized.

 From 1974, ‘multiculturalism’ has been official policy in Australia, which gave equal respect to
native cultures and to the different cultures of the immigrants from Europe and Asia.

 From the 1970s, as the term ‘human rights’ began to be heard at meetings of the UNO and other
international agencies, the Australian public realised with dismay that, in contrast to the USA,
Canada and New Zealand, Australia had no treaties with the natives formalising the takeover of
land by Europeans. The government had always termed the land of Australia terra nullius, that is
belonging to nobody.

 Two important decisions were taken: one, to recognise that the natives had strong historic bonds
with the land which was ‘sacred’ to them, and which should be respected; two, that while past
acts could not be undone, there should be a public apology for the injustice done to children in an
attempt to keep ‘white’ and ‘coloured’ people apart.
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Theme 11: Paths to Modernisation

 East Asia at the beginning of the nineteenth century was dominated by China. Japan, a small
island country, seemed to be locked in isolation.

 Yet, within a few decades China was thrown into turmoil unable to face the colonial challenge.
The imperial government lost political control, was unable to reform effectively and the country
was convulsed by civil war.

 Japan on the other hand was successful in building a modern nation-state, creating an industrial
economy and even establishing a colonial empire by incorporating Taiwan (1895) and Korea
(1910). It defeated China, the land that had been the source of its culture and ideals, in 1894, and
Russia, a European power, in 1905.

 The Chinese Communist Party emerged victorious from the civil war in 1949. However, by the
end of the 1970s Chinese leaders felt that the ideological system was retarding economic growth
and development. This led to wide-ranging reforms of the economy that brought back capitalism
and the free market even as the Communist Party retained political control.

 Japan became an advanced industrial nation but its drive for empire led to war and defeat at the
hands of the Anglo-American forces. The US Occupation marked the beginning of a more
democratic political system and Japan rebuilt its economy to emerge by the 1970s as a major
economic power.

 The Japanese path to modernisation was built on capitalist principles and took place within a
world dominated by Western colonialism. Japanese expansion was justified by the call to resist
Western domination and liberate Asia.

 China and Japan have had a long tradition of historical writings, as history was an important
guide for the rulers. There was great respect for the written word and literary ability was highly

 China is a vast continental country that spans many climatic zones. A large part of the country is
mountainous. The dominant ethnic group are the Han and the major language is Chinese
(Putonghua) but there are many other nationalities such as the Uighur, Hui, Manchu and Tibetan,
and aside from dialects such as Cantonese (Yue) and Shanghainese (Wu) there are other minority
languages spoken as well.

 Japan, by contrast, is a string of islands, the four largest being Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and
Hokkaido. More than 50 per cent of the land area of the main islands is mountainous and Japan is
situated in a very active earthquake zone. These geographical conditions have influenced
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 Japan lacks a tradition of animal rearing. Rice is the staple crop and fish the major source of


The Political System

 In the late sixteenth century, three changes laid the pattern for future development.
1. The peasantry was disarmed and only the samurai could carry swords. This ensured peace
and order, ending the frequent wars of the previous century.
2. The daimyo (lords) were ordered to live in the capitals of their domains, each with a large
degree of autonomy.
3. Land surveys identified owners and taxpayers and graded land productivity to ensure a
stable revenue base.

 By the mid-seventeenth century, Japan became a commercial economy with financial and credit
systems. A vibrant culture blossomed in the towns, where the fast-growing class of merchants
patronized theatre and the arts.

 Japan was considered rich, because it imported luxury goods like silk from China and textiles
from India. Paying for these imports with gold and silver strained the economy.

 Other developments such as the increased use of money and the creation of a stock market in rice
show that the economy was developing in new ways.

 Social and intellectual changes – such as the study of ancient Japanese literature – led people to
question the degree of Chinese influence.

The Meiji Restoration

 Internal discontent coincided with demands for trade and diplomatic relations. In 1853, the USA
sent Commodore Matthew Perry (1794- 1858) to Japan to demand that the government sign a
treaty that would permit trade and open diplomatic relations, which it did the following year.

 Japan lay on the route to China which the USA saw as a major market; also, their whaling ships
in the Pacific needed a place to refuel. At that time, there was only one Western country that
traded with Japan, Holland.

 Perry’s arrival had an important effect on Japanese politics. The emperor, who till then had had
little political power, now re-emerged as an important figure. In 1868, Edo was made the capital
and renamed Tokyo, which means ‘eastern capital’.
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 The government launched a policy with the slogan ‘fukoku kyohei’ (rich country, strong army).
They realised that they needed to develop their economy and build a strong army, otherwise they
would face the prospect of being subjugated like India. To do this they needed to create a sense of
nationhood among the people, and to transform subjects into citizens.

 At the same time, the new government also worked to build what they called the ‘emperor
system’. (Japanese scholars use this term as the emperor was part of a system, along with the
bureaucracy and the military, that exercised power.)

 Officials were sent to study the European monarchies on which they planned to model their own.
The Emperor would be treated with reverence as he was considered a direct descendant of the
Sun Goddess but he was also shown as the leader of westernisation.

 The Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890 urged people to pursue learning, advance public
good and promote common interests. Schooling was compulsory for boys and girls and by 1910
almost universal. While emphasizing modern ideas, stress was placed on loyalty and the study of
Japanese history.

 The administrative unit had to have revenue adequate to maintain the local schools and health
facilities, as well as serve as a recruitment centre for the military. All young men over twenty had
to do a period of military service.

 A legal system was set up to regulate the formation of political groups, control the holding of
meetings and impose strict censorship. The military and the bureaucracy were put under the direct
command of the emperor.

 The army pressed for a vigorous foreign policy to acquire more territory. This led to wars with
China and Russia, in both of which Japan was the victor.

 Popular demand for greater democracy was often in opposition to the government’s aggressive
policies. Japan developed economically and acquired a colonial empire that suppressed the spread
of democracy at home and put it in collision with the people it colonised.

Modernising the Economy

 Funds were raised by levying an agricultural tax. Japan’s first railway line, between Tokyo and
the port of Yokohama, was built in 1870-72. Textile machinery was imported from Europe, and
foreign technicians were employed to train workers, as well as to teach in universities and
schools, and Japanese students were sent abroad.

 In 1872, modern banking institutions were launched. Companies like Mitsubishi and Sumitomo
were helped through subsidies and tax benefits to become major shipbuilders so that Japanese
trade was from now carried in Japanese ships.
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 Zaibatsu (large business organisations controlled by individual families) dominated the economy
till after the Second World War. To reduce population pressure the government actively
encouraged migration, first to the northern island of Hokkaido, and then to Hawaii and Brazil, as
well as to the growing colonial empire of Japan.

Industrial Workers
 The number of people in manufacturing increased. Most of them worked in units employing less
than five people and using neither machinery nor electric power. Over half of those employed in
modern factories were women.

 The number of men and the size of factories also began to increase. This sustained the family-
centred ideology, just as nationalism was sustained by a strong patriarchal system under an
emperor who was like a family patriarch.

 The rapid and unregulated growth of industry and the demand for natural resources such as
timber led to environmental destruction.

Aggressive Nationalism
 The Meiji constitution was based on a restricted franchise and created a Diet (the Japanese used
the German word for parliament because of the influence of German legal ideas) with limited
powers. The leaders who brought about the imperial restoration continued to exercise power and
even established political parties.

 The strengthening of the military, together with the expansion of Japan’s colonial empire, was
connected with the fear that Japan was at the mercy of the Western powers. This fear was used to
silence opposition to military expansion and to higher taxes to fund the armed forces.

‘Westernisation’ and ‘Tradition’

 Some Japanese intellectuals considered the USA and western European countries at the highest
point of civilisation, to which Japan aspired. Others urged that national pride be built on
indigenous values.

 By contrast, many intellectuals were attracted to Western liberalism and wanted a Japan based not
on the military but on democracy. They demanded constitutional government, admired the French
Revolution’s doctrine of the natural rights of man and of popular sovereignty, and spoke for a
liberal education that would develop each individual. Others even advocated voting rights for
women. This pressure led the government to announce a constitution.
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Daily Life
 Japan’s transformation into a modern society can be seen also in the changes in everyday life. As
more people became affluent, new ideas of the family such as nuclear family spread.

 The new concept of domesticity in turn generated demands for new types of domestic goods, new
types of family entertainments, and new forms of housing.

 In the 1920s, construction companies made cheap housing available.

‘Overcoming Modernity’
 State-centred nationalism found full expression in the 1930s and 1940s as Japan launched wars to
extend its empire in China and other parts of Asia, a war that merged into the Second World War
after Japan attacked the USA at Pearl Harbor.

 This period saw greater controls on society, the repression and imprisonment of dissidents, as
well as the formation of patriotic societies, many of them women’s organisations, to support the

 An influential symposium on ‘Overcoming Modernity’ in 1943 debated the dilemma facing Japan
– of how to combat the West while being modern. A musician, Moroi Saburo, posed the question
of how to rescue music from the art of sensory stimulation and restore it to an art of the spirit. He
was not rejecting Western music but trying to find a way that went beyond merely rewriting or
playing Japanese music on Western instruments. The philosopher Nishitani Keiji defined
‘modern’ as the unity of three streams of Western thought: the Renaissance, the Protestant
Reformation, and the rise of natural sciences. He argued that Japan’s ‘moral energy’ (a term taken
from the German philosopher Ranke) had helped it to escape colonisation and it was its duty to
establish a new world order, a Greater East Asia. For this a new vision that would integrate
science and religion was necessary. After Defeat: Re-emerging as a Global Economic Power
Japan’s attempt to carve out a colonial empire ended with its defeat by the Allied forces. It has
been argued that nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to shorten the war. But
others think the immense destruction and suffering it caused were unnecessary. Under the US-led
Occupation (1945-47) Japan was demilitarised and a new constitution introduced. This had
Article 9, the so-called ‘no war clause’ that renounces the use of war as an instrument of state
policy. Agrarian reforms, the re-establishment of trade unions and an attempt to dismantle the
zaibatsu or large monopoly houses that dominated the Japanese economy were also carried out.
Political parties were revived and the first post-war elections held in 1946 where women voted
for the first time. The rapid rebuilding of the Japanese economy after its shattering defeat was
called a post-war ‘miracle’. But it was more than that – it was firmly rooted in its long history.
The constitution was democratised only now, but the Japanese had a historic tradition of popular
struggles and intellectual engagement with how to broaden political participation. The social
cohesion of the pre-war years was strengthened, allowing for a close working of the government,
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bureaucracy and industry. US support, as well as the demand created by the Korean and the
Vietnamese wars also helped the Japanese economy

The 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo marked a symbolic coming of age. In much the same way the network
of high-speed Shinkansen or bullet trains, started in 1964, which ran at 200 miles per hour (now it is 300
miles per hour) have come to represent the ability of the Japanese to use advanced technologies to
produce better and cheaper goods. The 1960s saw the growth of civil society movements as
industrialisation had been pushed with utter disregard to its effect on health and the environment.
Cadmium poisoning, which led to a painful disease, was an early indicator, followed by mercury
poisoning in Minamata in the 1960s and problems caused by air pollution in the early 1970s. Grass-roots
pressure groups began to demand recognition of these problems as well as compensation for the victims.
Government action and new legal regulations helped to improve conditions. From the mid- 1980s there
has been an increasing decline in interest in environmental issues as Japan enacted some of the strictest
environmental controls in the world. Today, as a developed country it faces the challenge of using its
political and technological capabilities to maintain its position as a leading world power. CHINA The
modern history of China has revolved around the question of how to regain sovereignty, end the
humiliation of foreign occupation and bring about equality and development. Chinese debates were
marked by the views of three groups. The early reformers such as Kang Youwei (1858-1927) or Liang
Qichao (1873-1929) tried to use traditional ideas in new and different ways to meet the challenges posed
by the West. Second, republican revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the republic,
were inspired by ideas from Japan and the West. The third, the Communist Party of China (CCP) wanted
to end age-old inequalities and drive out the foreigners. The beginning of modern China can be traced to
its first encounter with the West in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when Jesuit missionaries
introduced Western sciences such as astronomy and mathematics. Limited though its immediate impact
was, it set in motion events that gathered momentum in the nineteenth century when Britain used force to
expand its lucrative trade in opium leading to the first Opium War (1839-42). This undermined the ruling
Qing dynasty and strengthened demands for reform and change.

Qing reformers such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao realised the need to strengthen the system and
initiated policies to build a modern administrative system, a new army and an educational system, and set
up local assemblies to establish constitutional government. They saw the need to protect China from
colonisation. The negative example of colonised countries worked powerfully on Chinese thinkers. The
partition of Poland in the eighteenth century was a much-discussed example. So much so that by the late
1890s it came to be used as a verb: ‘to Poland us’ (bolan wo). India was another such example. In 1903,
the thinker Liang Qichao, who believed that only by making people aware that China was a nation would
they be able to resist the West, wrote that India was ‘a country that was destroyed by a non-country that is
the East India Company’.

He criticised Indians for being cruel to their own people and subservient to the British. Such arguments
carried a powerful appeal as ordinary Chinese could see that the British used Indian soldiers in their wars
on China. Above all many felt that traditional ways of thinking had to be changed. Confucianism,
developed from the teachings of Confucius (551-479 BCE) and his disciples was concerned with good
conduct, practical wisdom and proper social relationships. It influenced the Chinese attitude toward life,
provided social standards and laid the basis for political theories and institutions. It was now seen as a
major barrier to new ideas and institutions. To train people in modern subjects students were sent to study
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in Japan, Britain and France and bring back new ideas. Many Chinese students went to Japan in the
1890s. They not only brought back new ideas but many became leading republicans. The Chinese
borrowed even Japanese translations of European words such as justice, rights, and revolution because
they used the same ideographic script, a reversal of the traditional relationship. In 1905, just after the
Russo-Japanese war (a war fought on Chinese soil and over Chinese territory) the centuries-old Chinese
examination system that gave candidates entry into the elite ruling class was abolished

Establishing the Republic The Manchu empire was overthrown and a republic established in 1911 under
Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) who is unanimously regarded as the founder of modern China. He came from a
poor family and studied in missionary schools where he was introduced to democracy and Christianity.
He studied medicine but was greatly concerned about the fate of China. His programme was called the
Three Principles (San min chui). These were nationalism – this meant overthrowing the Manchu who
were seen as a foreign dynasty, as well as other foreign imperialists; democracy or establishing
democratic government; and socialism regulating capital and equalising landholdings. The social and
political situation continued to be unstable. On 4 May 1919, an angry demonstration was held in Beijing
to protest against the decisions of the post-war peace conference. Despite being an ally of the victorious
side led by Britain, China did not get back the territories seized from it. The protest became a movement.
It galvanised a whole generation to attack tradition and to call for saving China through modern science,
democracy and nationalism. Revolutionaries called for driving out the foreigners, who were controlling
the country’s resources, to remove inequalities and reduce poverty. They advocated reforms such as the
use of simple language in writing, abolishing the practice of foot-binding and the subordination of
women, equality in marriage, and economic development to end poverty. After the republican revolution
the country entered a period of turmoil. The Guomindang (the National People’s Party) and the CCP
emerged as major forces striving to unite the country and bring stability. Sun Yat-sen’s ideas became the
basis of the political philosophy of the Guomindang. They identified the ‘four great needs’ as clothing,
food, housing and transportation. After the death of Sun, Chiang Kaishek (1887-1975) emerged as the
leader of the Guomindang as he launched a military campaign to control the ‘warlords’, regional leaders
who had usurped authority, and to eliminate the communists. He advocated a secular and rational ‘this-
worldly’ Confucianism, but also sought to militarise the nation. The people, he said, must develop a
‘habit and instinct for unified behaviour’. He encouraged women to cultivate the four virtues of ‘chastity,
appearance, speech and work’ and recognise their role as confined to the household. Even the length of
hemlines was prescribed. The Guomindang’s social base was in urban areas. Industrial growth was slow
and limited. In cities such as Shanghai, which became the centres of modern growth, by 1919 an
industrial working class had appeared numbering 500,000. Of these, however, only a small percentage
were employed in modern industries such as shipbuilding. Most were ‘petty urbanites’ (xiao shimin),
traders and shopkeepers. Urban workers, particularly women, earned very low wages. Working hours
were long and conditions of work bad. As individualism increased, there was a growing concern with
women’s rights, ways to build the family and discussions about love and romance. Social and cultural
change was helped along by the spread of schools and universities (Peking University was established in
1902). Journalism flourished reflecting the growing attraction of this new thinking. The popular Life
Weekly, edited by Zao Taofen (1895-1944), is representative of this new trend. It introduced readers to
new ideas, as well as to leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Kemal Ataturk, the modernist leader of
Turkey. Its circulation increased rapidly from just 2,000 in 1926 to a massive 200,000 copies in 1933.
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The Guomindang despite its attempts to unite the country failed because of its narrow social base and
limited political vision. A major plank in Sun Yat-sen’s programme – regulating capital and equalising
land – was never carried out because the party ignored the peasantry and the rising social inequalities. It
sought to impose military order rather then address the problems faced by the people.

The Rise of the Communist Party of China When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, the Guomindang
retreated. The long and exhausting war weakened China. Prices rose 30 per cent per month between 1945
and 1949, and utterly destroyed the lives of ordinary people. Rural China faced two crises: one ecological,
with soil exhaustion, deforestation and floods, and the second, a socio-economic one caused by
exploitative land-tenure systems, indebtedness, primitive technology and poor communications. The CCP
had been founded in 1921, soon after the Russian Revolution. The Russian success exercised a powerful
influence around the world and leaders such as Lenin and Trotsky went on to establish the Comintern or
the Third International in March 1918 to help bring about a world government that would end
exploitation. The Comintern and the Soviet Union supported communist parties around the world but they
worked within the traditional Marxist understanding that revolution would be brought about by the
working class in cities. Its initial appeal across national boundaries was immense but it soon became a
tool for Soviet interests and was dissolved in 1943. Mao Zedong (1893-1976), who emerged as a major
CCP leader, took a different path by basing his revolutionary programme on the peasantry. His success
made the CCP a powerful political force that ultimately won against the Guomindang. Mao Zedong’s
radical approach can be seen in Jiangxi, in the mountains, where they camped from 1928 to 1934, secure
from Guomindang attacks. A strong peasants’ council (soviet) was organised, united through confiscation
and redistribution of land. Mao, unlike other leaders, stressed the need for an independent government
and army. He had become aware of women’s problems and supported the emergence of rural women’s
associations, promulgated a new marriage law that forbade arranged marriages, stopped purchase or sale
of marriage contracts and simplified divorce The Guomindang blockade of the Communists’ Soviet
forced the party to seek another base. This led them to go on what came to be called the Long March
(1934-35), 6,000 gruelling and difficult miles to Shanxi. Here, in their new base in Yanan, they further
developed their programme to end warlordism, carry out land reforms and fight foreign imperialism. This
won them a strong social base. In the difficult years of the war, the Communists and the Guomindang
worked together, but after the end of the war the Communists established themselves in power and the
Guomindang was defeated.

ablishing the New Democracy: 1949-65 The Peoples Republic of China government was established in
1949. It was based on the principles of the ‘New Democracy’, an alliance of all social classes, unlike the
‘dictatorship of the proletariat’* that the Soviet Union said it had established. Critical areas of the
economy were put under government control, and private enterprise and private ownership of land were
gradually ended. This programme lasted till 1953 when the government declared that it would launch a
programme of socialist transformation. The Great Leap Forward movement launched in 1958 was a
policy to galvanise the country to industrialise rapidly. People were encouraged to set up steel furnaces in
their backyards. In the rural areas, people’s communes (where land would be collectively owned and
cultivated) were started. By 1958, there were 26,000 communes covering 98 per cent of the farm
population. Mao was able to mobilise the masses to attain the goals set by the Party. His concern was with
creating a ‘socialist man’ who would have five loves: fatherland, people, labour, science and public
property. Mass organisations were created for farmers, women, students and other groups. For instance,
the All-China Democratic Women’s Federation had 76 million members, the All-China Students
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Federation 3.29 million members. These objectives and methods did not appeal to everyone in the Party.
In 1953-54, some were urging for more attention to industrial organisation and economic growth. Liu
Shaochi (1896-1969) and Deng Xiaoping (1904-97) tried to modify the commune system as it was not
working efficiently. The steel produced in the backyard furnaces was unusable industrially. Conflicting
Visions: 1965-78 The conflict between the Maoists wanting to create a ‘Socialist Man’ and those who
objected to his emphasis on ideology rather than expertise, culminated in Mao launching the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1965 to counter his critics. The Red Guards, mainly students and the
army, was used for a campaign against old culture, old customs and old habits. Students and professionals
were sent to the countryside to learn from the masses. Ideology (being Communist) was more important
than having professional knowledge. Denunciations and slogans replaced rational debate. The Cultural
Revolution began a period of turmoil, weakened the Party and severely disrupted the economy and
educational system. From the late 1960s, the tide began to turn. In 1975, the Party once again laid
emphasis on greater social discipline and the need to build an industrial economy so that China could
become a power before the end of the century. Reforms from 1978 The Cultural Revolution was followed
by a process of political manoeuvring. Deng Xiaoping kept party control strong while introducing a
socialist market economy. In 1978, the Party declared its goal as the Four Modernisations (to develop
science, industry, agriculture, defence). Debate was allowed as long as the Party was not questioned. In
this new and liberating climate, as at the time of the May Fourth movement 60 years earlier, there was an
exciting explosion of new ideas. On 5 December 1978, a wall-poster, ‘The Fifth Modernisation’
proclaimed that without Democracy the other modernisations would come to nothing. It went on to
criticise the CCP for not solving the problem of poverty or ending sexual exploitation, even citing cases
of such abuse from within the Party

These demands were suppressed, but in 1989 on the seventieth anniversary of the May Fourth movement
many intellectuals called for a greater openness and an end to ‘ossified dogmas’ (su shaozhi). Student
demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing were brutally repressed. This was strongly condemned
around the world. The post-reform period has seen the emergence of debates on ways to develop China.
The dominant view supported by the Party is based on strong political control, economic liberalisation
and integration into the world market. Critics argue that increasing inequalities between social groups,
between regions and between men and women are creating social tensions, and question the heavy
emphasis on the market. Finally, there is a growing revival of earlier so-called ‘traditional’ ideas, of
Confucianism and arguments that China can build a modern society following its own traditions rather
than simply copying the West. The Story of Taiwan Chiang Kai-shek, defeated by the CCP fled in 1949
to Taiwan with over US$300 million in gold reserves and crates of priceless art treasures and established
the Republic of China. Taiwan had been a Japanese colony since the Chinese ceded it after the 1894-95
war with Japan. The Cairo Declaration (1943) and the Potsdam Proclamation (1949) restored sovereignty
to China. Massive demonstrations in February 1947 had led the GMD to brutally kill a whole generation
of leading figures. The GMD, under Chiang Kai-shek went on to establish a repressive government
forbidding free speech and political opposition and excluding the local population from positions of
power. However, they carried out land reforms that increased agricultural productivity and modernised
the economy so that by 1973 Taiwan had a GNP second only to that of Japan in Asia. The economy,
largely dependent on trade has been steadily growing, but what is important is that the gap between the
rich and poor has been steadily declining. Even more dramatic has been the transformation of Taiwan into
a democracy. It began slowly after the death of Chiang in 1975 and grew in momentum when martial law
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was lifted in 1987 and opposition parties were legally permitted. The first free elections began the process
of bringing local Taiwanese to power. Diplomatically most countries have only trade missions in Taiwan.
Full diplomatic relations and embassies are not possible as Taiwan is considered to be part of China. The
question of re-unification with the mainland remains a contentious issue but “ Cross Strait” relations (that
is between Taiwan and China) have been improving and Taiwanese trade and investments in the mainland
are massive and travel has also become easier. China may be willing to tolerate a semi-autonomous
Taiwan as long as it gives up any move to seek independence. Two Roads to Modernisation Industrial
societies far from becoming like each other have found their own paths to becoming modern. The
histories of Japan and China show how different historical conditions led them on widely divergent paths
to building independent and modern nations. Japan was successful in retaining its independence and using
traditional skills and practices in new ways. However, its elite-driven modernisation generated an
aggressive nationalism, helped to sustain a repressive regime that stifled dissent and demands for
democracy, and established a colonial empire that left a legacy of hatred in the region as well as distorted
internal developments. Japan’s programme of modernisation was carried out in an environment
dominated by Western imperial powers. While it imitated them it also attempted to find its own solutions.
Japanese nationalism was marked by these different compulsions – while many Japanese hoped to liberate
Asia from Western domination, for others these ideas justified building an empire. It is important to note
that the transformation of social and political institutions and daily life was not just a question of reviving
traditions, or tenaciously preserving them, but rather of creatively using them in new and different ways.
For instance, the Meiji school system, modelled on European and American practices, introduced new
subjects but the curriculum’s main objective was to make loyal citizens. A course on morals that stressed
loyalty to the emperor was compulsory. Similarly, changes in the family or in daily life show how foreign
and indigenous ideas were brought together to create something new. The Chinese path to modernisation
was very different. Foreign imperialism, both Western and Japanese, combined with a hesitant and unsure
Qing dynasty to weaken government control and set the stage for a breakdown of political and social
order leading to immense misery for most of the people. Warlordism, banditry and civil war exacted a
heavy toll on human lives, as did the savagery of the Japanese invasion. Natural disasters added to this
burden. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a rejection of traditions and a search for ways to build
national unity and strength. The CCP and its supporters fought to put an end to tradition, which they saw
as keeping the masses in poverty, the women subjugated and the country undeveloped. While calling for
power to the people, it built a highly centralised state. The success of the Communist programme
promised hope but its repressive political system turned the ideals of liberation and equality into slogans
to manipulate the people. Yet it did remove centuries-old inequalities, spread education and raise
consciousness among the people. The Party has now carried out market reforms and has been successful
in making China economically powerful but its political system continues to be tightly controlled. The
society now faces growing inequalities, as well as a revival of traditions long suppressed. This new
situation again poses the question of how China can develop while retaining its heritage.
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NCERT Class XII History - Themes in Indian History-I

Chapter Number Chapter Name
1. Bricks, Beads and Bones the Harappan Civilisation
2. Kings, Farmers and Towns Early States Economies
3. Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies
4. Thinkers, Beliefs & Buildings Cultural Developments
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Bricks, Beads and Bones the Harappan Civilisation Chapter 1

The Harappan seal

● Most distinctive artefact.

● Made of a stone called steatite,seals like this one often contain animal motifs and signs from a
undeciphered script
● The Harappans ate a wide range of plant and animal products, including fish
● Grains found at Harappan sites include wheat, barley, lentil, chickpea and sesame.
● Millets are found from sites in Gujarat. Finds of rice are relatively rare.
● Animal bones found at Harappan sites include those of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo and pig
indicating that these animals were domesticated.
● Bones of wild species such as boar, deer and gharial are also found. Bones of fish and fowl are
also found

Agricultural technologies

● Representations on seals and terracotta sculpture indicate that the bull was known, and
archaeologists extrapolate from this that oxen were used for ploughing.
● Terracotta models of the plough have been found at sites in Cholistan and at Banawali (Haryana)
and a ploughed field at Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
● The field had two sets of furrows at right angles to each other, suggesting that two different crops
were grown together
● Most Harappan sites are located in semi-arid lands, where irrigation was probably required for
● Traces of canals have been found at the Harappan site of Shortughai in Afghanistan, but not in
Punjab or Sind. It is possible that ancient canals silted up long ago.
● It is also likely that water drawn from wells was used for irrigation. Besides, water reservoirs
found in Dholavira (Gujarat) may have been used to store water for agriculture.
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Mohenjodaro A Planned Urban Centre

● Development of urban centres was unique feature

● The first site to be discovered was Harappa. The settlement is divided into two sections, one
smaller but higher and the other much larger but lower.
● Archaeologists designate these as the Citadel and the Lower Town respectively.
● The Citadel owes its height to the fact that buildings were constructed on mud brick platforms. It
was walled, which meant that it was physically separated from the Lower Town.
● The Lower Town was also walled. Several buildings were built on platforms, which served as
● While most Harappan settlements have a small high western part and a larger lower eastern
section, there are variations.
● At sites such as Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat), the entire settlement was fortified, and sections
within the town were also separated by walls.
● The Citadel within Lothal was not walled off, but was built at a height
● The settlement was first planned and then implemented accordingly. Other signs of planning
include bricks, which, whether sun-dried or baked, were of a standardised ratio, where the length
and breadth were four times and twice the height respectively.
● Such bricks were used at all Harappan settlements.

Laying out drains

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● Carefully planned drainage system, roads and streets were laid out along an approximate “grid”
pattern, intersecting at right angles.
● It seems that streets with drains were laid out first and then houses built along them. If domestic
waste water had to flow into the street drains, every house needed to have at least one wall along
a street.

Domestic architecture

● The Lower Town at Mohenjo-Daro provides examples of residential buildings.

● Many were centered on a courtyard, with rooms on all sides.
● The courtyard was probably the centre of activities such as cooking and weaving, particularly
during hot and dry weather.
● Also an apparent concern for privacy: there are no windows in the walls along the ground level.
Besides, the main entrance does not give a direct view of the interior or the courtyard.
● Every house had its own bathroom paved with bricks, with drains connected through the wall to
the street drains.
● Some houses have remains of staircases to reach a second storey or the roof. Many houses had
wells, often in a room that could be reached from the outside and perhaps used by passers-by.
● Scholars have estimated that the total number of wells in Mohenjo-Daro was about 700.

The Citadel

● It is on the Citadel that we find evidence of structures that were probably used for special public
● These include the warehouse – a massive structure of which the lower brick portions remain,
while the upper portions, probably of wood, decayed long ago – and the Great Bath.
● The Great Bath was a large rectangular tank in a courtyard surrounded by a corridor on all four
● There were two flights of steps on the north and south leading into the tank, which was made
watertight by setting bricks on edge and using a mortar of gypsum.
● There were rooms on three sides, in one of which was a large well. Water from the tank flowed
into a huge drain.
● Across a lane to the north lay a smaller building with eight bathrooms, four on each side of a
corridor, with drains from each bathroom connecting to a drain that ran along the corridor.
● The uniqueness of the structure, as well as the context in which it was found (the Citadel, with
several distinctive buildings), has led scholars to suggest that it was meant for some kind of a
special ritual bath.

Tracking Social Differences

● The dead were generally laid in pits. Sometimes, there were differences in the way the burial pit
was made – in some instances; the hollowed­out spaces were lined with bricks.
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● Some graves contain pottery and ornaments, perhaps indicating a belief that these could be used
in the afterlife. Jewellery has been found in burials of both men and women.
● In some instances the dead were buried with copper mirrors.
● It appears that the Harappans did not believe in burying precious things with the dead.

Looking for “luxuries”

● Little pots of faience (a material made of ground sand or silica mixed with colour and a gum and
then fired) were probably considered precious because they were difficult to make.
● The situation becomes more complicated when we find what seem to be articles of daily use, such
as spindle whorls made of rare materials such as faience
● Rare objects made of valuable materials are generally concentrated in large settlements like
Mohenjodaro and Harappa and are rarely found in the smaller settlements. For example,
miniature pots of faience, perhaps used as perfume bottles, are found mostly in Mohenjodaro and
Harappa, and there are none from small settlements like Kalibangan.
● Gold too was rare, and as at present, probably precious – all the gold jewellery found at Harappan
sites was recovered from hoards.

Craft Production

● Chanhudaro is a tiny settlement (less than 7 hectares) as compared to Mohenjodaro (125

hectares), almost exclusively devoted to craft production, including bead-making, shell-cutting,
metal-working, seal-making and weight-making.
● The variety of materials used to make beads is remarkable: stones like carnelian (of a beautiful
red colour), jasper, crystal, quartz and steatite; metals like copper, bronze and gold; and shell,
faience and terracotta or burnt clay.
● Some beads were made of two or more stones, cemented together, some of stone with gold caps.
● The shapes were numerous – discshaped, cylindrical, spherical, barrel-shaped, segmented. Some
were decorated by incising or painting, and some had designs etched onto them.
● Techniques for making beads differed according to the material. Steatite, a very soft stone, was
easily worked.
● Some beads were moulded out of a paste made with steatite powder. This permitted making a
variety of shapes, unlike the geometrical forms made out of harder stones.
● How the steatite micro bead was made remains a puzzle for archaeologists studying ancient
● Archaeologists’ experiments have revealed that the red colour of carnelian was obtained by firing
the yellowish raw material and beads at various stages of production.
● Nodules were chipped into rough shapes, and then finely flaked into the final form. Grinding,
polishing and drilling completed the process.
● Specialised drills have been found at Chanhudaro, Lothal and more recently at Dholavira.
● Nageshwar and Balakot both settlements are near the coast. These were specialised centres for
making shell objects – including bangles, ladles and inlay – which were taken to other
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● Similarly, it is likely that finished products (such as beads) from Chanhudaro and Lothal were
taken to the large urban centres such as Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

Centres of production

● In order to identify centres of craft production, archaeologists usually look for the following: raw
material such as stone nodules, whole shells, copper ore; tools; unfinished objects; rejects and
waste material.
● In fact, waste is one of the best indicators of craft work. For instance, if shell or stone is cut to
make objects, then pieces of these materials will be discarded as waste at the place of production.
● Sometimes, larger waste pieces were used up to make smaller objects, but minuscule bits were
usually left in the work area. These traces suggest that apart from small, specialised centres, craft
production was also undertaken in large cities such as Mohenjodaro and Harappa.

Strategies for Procuring Materials

● Terracotta toy models of bullock carts suggest that this was one important means of transporting
goods and people across land routes.
● Riverine routes along the Indus and its tributaries, as well as coastal routes were also probably

Materials from the subcontinent and beyond

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● The Harappans procured materials for craft production in various ways. For instance, they
established settlements such as Nageshwar and Balakot in areas where shell was available.
● Other such sites were Shortughai, in far-off Afghanistan, near the best source of lapis lazuli, a
blue stone that was apparently very highly valued, and Lothal which was near sources of
carnelian (from Bharuch in Gujarat), steatite (from south Rajasthan and north Gujarat) and metal
(from Rajasthan)

● Another strategy for procuring raw materials may have been to send expeditions to areas such as
the Khetri region of Rajasthan (for copper) and south India (for gold). These expeditions
established communication with local communities.
● Occasional finds of Harappan artefacts such as steatite micro beads in these areas are indications
of such contact. There is evidence in the Khetri area for what archaeologists call the Ganeshwar
Jodhpura culture, with its distinctive non-Harappan pottery and an unusual wealth of copper
● It is possible that the inhabitants of this region supplied copper to the Harappans.

Contact with distant lands

● Copper was also probably brought from Oman, on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Chemical analyses have shown that both the Omani copper and Harappan artefacts have traces of
nickel, suggesting a common origin.
● A distinctive type of vessel, a large Harappan jar coated with a thick layer of black clay has been
found at Omani sites. Such thick coatings prevent the percolation of liquids.
● Mesopotamian texts datable to the third millennium BCE refer to copper coming from a region
called Magan, perhaps a name for Oman, and interestingly enough copper found at
Mesopotamian sites also contains traces of nickel.
● Mesopotamian texts mention contact with regions named Dilmun (probably the island of
Bahrain), Magan and Meluhha, possibly the Harappan region.
● They mention the products from Meluhha: carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold, and varieties of
wood. Mesopotamian texts refer to Meluhha as a land of seafarers. Besides, we find depictions of
ships and boats on seals.

Seals, Script, Weights

● Seals and sealings were used to facilitate long distance communication

● The sealing also conveyed the identity of the sender.

An enigmatic script

● Harappan seals usually have a line of writing, probably containing the name and title of the
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● The motif (generally an animal) conveyed a meaning to those who could not read. Most
inscriptions are short, the longest containing about 26 signs.
● Although the script remains undeciphered to date, it was evidently not alphabetical (where each
sign stands for a vowel or a consonant) as it has just too many signs – somewhere between 375
and 400.
● It is apparent that the script was written from right to left as some seals show a wider spacing on
the right and cramping on the left, as if the engraver began working from the right and then ran
out of space.

● Exchanges were regulated by a precise system of weights, usually made of a stone called chert
and generally cubical with no markings.
● The lower denominations of weights were binary (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. up to 12,800), while the
higher denominations followed the decimal system.
● The smaller weights were probably used for weighing jewellery and beads. Metal scale-pans
have also been found.

Ancient Authority

● There are indications of complex decisions being taken and implemented in Harappan society.
● The extraordinary uniformity of Harappan artefacts as evident in pottery, seals, weights and
bricks. Notably, bricks, though obviously not produced in any single centre, were of a uniform
ratio throughout the region, from Jammu to Gujarat.
● Settlements were strategically set up in specific locations for various reasons. Besides, labour
was mobilised for making bricks and for the construction of massive walls and platforms.
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Palaces and kings

● A large building found at Mohenjo-Daro was labelled as a palace by archaeologists but no

spectacular finds were associated with it.
● A stone statue was labelled and continues to be known as the “priest­king”. This is because
archaeologists were familiar with Mesopotamian history and its “priest­kings” and have found
parallels in the Indus region.
● The ritual practices of the Harappan civilisation are not well understood yet nor are there any
means of knowing whether those who performed them also held political power.
● There was a single state, given the similarity in artefacts, the evidence for planned settlements,
the standardised ratio of brick size, and the establishment of settlements near sources of raw

The End of the Civilisation

● There is evidence that by c. 1800 BCE most of the Mature Harappan sites in regions such as
Cholistan had been abandoned.
● These range from climatic change, deforestation, excessive floods, the shifting and/or drying up
of rivers, to overuse of the landscape.
● Evidenced by the disappearance of seals, the script, distinctive beads and pottery, the shift from a
standardized weight system to the use of local weights; and the decline and abandonment of

Problems of interpretation

● Cunningham, the first Director-General of the ASI, began archaeological excavations in the
mid-nineteenth century.
● Some animals – such as the one­horned animal, often called the “unicorn” – depicted on seals
seem to be mythical, composite creatures.
● In some seals, a figure shown seated cross­legged in a “yogic” posture, sometimes surrounded by
animals, has been regarded as a depiction of “proto­Shiva”, that is, an early form of one of the
major deities of Hinduism.
● The earliest religious text, the Rigveda (compiled c. 1500-1000 BCE) mentions a god named
Rudra, which is a name used for Shiva in later Puranic traditions.
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Kings, Farmers and Towns Early States Economies chapter 2

At the end of the Harappan civilisation several developments occurred in different parts of the
subcontinent during the long span of 1,500 years
● Rigveda was composed
● Agricultural settlements emerged
● Evidence of pastoral populations in the Deccan and further south.
● New modes of disposal of the dead,
● The making of elaborate stone structures known as megaliths, emerged in central and south India
from the first millennium BCE.
● New towns appeared almost throughout the subcontinent

The Earliest States

The sixteen mahajanapadas

● The sixth century BCE is an era associated with early states, cities, the growing use of iron, the
development of coinage, etc.It also witnessed the growth of diverse systems of thought, including
Buddhism and Jainism.
● Sixteen states known as mahajanapadas some names such as Vajji, Magadha, Koshala, Kuru,
Panchala, Gandhara and Avanti occur frequently. Clearly, these were amongst the most important
● In Vajji sangha, the rajas probably controlled resources such as land collectively.
● Each mahajanapada had a capital city, which was often fortified. Maintaining these fortified cities
as well as providing for incipient armies and bureaucracies required resources.
● From c. sixth century BCE onwards, Brahmanas began composing Sanskrit texts known as the
● These laid down norms for rulers (as well as for other social categories), who were ideally
expected to be Kshatriyas.

First amongst the sixteen: Magadha

● The most powerful mahajanapada.
● Magadha was a region where agriculture was especially productive.
● Besides, iron mines (in present-day Jharkhand) were accessible and provided resources for tools
and weapons.
● Elephants, an important component of the army, were found in forests in the region.
● Also, the Ganga and its tributaries provided a means of cheap and convenient communication
● Ruthlessly ambitious kings of whom Bimbisara, Ajatasattu and Mahapadma Nanda are the best
known, and their ministers, who helped implement their policies.
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● Mauryan Empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya, extended control as far northwest as

Afghanistan and Baluchistan.
● There were five major political centres in the empire – the capital Pataliputra and the provincial
centres of Taxila, Ujjayini, Tosali and Suvarnagiri, all mentioned in Asokan inscriptions.
● The Arthashastra lays down minute details of administrative and military organisation
● Megasthenes(wrote Indica) mentions a committee with six subcommittees for coordinating
military activity.
● One looked after the navy, the second managed transport and provisions, the third was
responsible for foot-soldiers, the fourth for horses, the fifth for chariots and the sixth for
● The activities of the second subcommittee were rather varied: arranging for bullock carts to carry
equipment, procuring food for soldiers and fodder for animals, and recruiting servants and
artisans to look after the soldiers.
● Special officers, known as the dharma mahamatta, were appointed by Asoka to spread the
message of dhamma.
● The early Tamil Sangam texts contain poems describing chiefs and the ways in which they
acquired and distributed resources.
● Satavahanas who ruled over parts of western and central India and the Shakas, a people of
Central Asian origin who established kingdoms in the north-western and western parts of the
subcontinent, derived revenues from long-distance trade.

Divine kings

● One means of claiming high status was to identify with a variety of deities
● This strategy is best exemplified by the Kushanas who ruled over a vast kingdom extending from
Central Asia to northwest India.
● The notions of kingship they wished to project are perhaps best evidenced in their coins and
● Many Kushana rulers also adopted the title devaputra, or “son of god”
● The Prayaga Prashasti (also known as the Allahabad Pillar Inscription) composed in Sanskrit by
Harishena, the court poet of Samudragupta, arguably the most powerful of the Gupta rulers
● The Jatakas were written in Pali around the middle of the first millennium CE.
● The Manusmrti is one of the best-known legal texts of early India, written in Sanskrit
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Strategies for increasing production

● Shift to plough agriculture, which spread in fertile alluvial river valleys such as those of the
Ganga and the Kaveri
● The iron-tipped ploughshare was used to turn the alluvial soil in areas which had high rainfall.
● Moreover, in some parts of the Ganga valley, production of paddy was dramatically increased by
the introduction of transplantation, although this meant back-breaking work for the producer
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● Transplantation is used for paddy cultivation in areas where water is plentiful. Here, seeds are
first broadcast; when the saplings have grown they are transplanted in waterlogged fields. This
ensures a higher ratio of survival of saplings and higher yields
● Another strategy adopted to increase agricultural production was the use of irrigation, through
wells and tanks, and less commonly, canals
● The Sudarshana Lake was an artificial reservoir.

Differences in rural society

● The term gahapati was often used in Pali texts to designate the second and third categories.
● A gahapati was the owner, master or head of a household, who exercised control over the women,
children, slaves and workers who shared a common residence
● The large landholders, as well as the village headman emerged as powerful figures, and often
exercised control over other cultivators.
● The Sangam texts also mention different categories of people living in the villages – large
landowners or vellalar, ploughmen or uzhavar and slaves or adimai.
● It is likely that these differences were based on differential access to land, labour and some of the
new technologies.
● An agrahara was land granted to a Brahmana, who was usually exempted from paying land
revenue and other dues to the king, and was often given the right to collect these dues from the
local people

Urban populations: Elites and craftspersons

● A wide range of artefacts have been recovered These include fine pottery bowls and dishes, with
a glossy finish, known as Northern Black Polished Ware, probably used by rich people
● Votive inscriptions record gifts made to religious institutions.

Trade & Coinage

● From the sixth century BCE, land and river routes criss-crossed the subcontinent and extended in
various directions
● – overland into Central Asia and beyond, and overseas, from ports that dotted the coastline
● – extending across the Arabian Sea to East and North Africa and West Asia, and through the Bay
of Bengal to Southeast Asia and China.
● Rulers often attempted to control these routes, possibly by offering protection for a price.
● Successful merchants, designated as masattuvan in Tamil and setthis and satthavahas in Prakrit,
could become enormously rich. To some extent, exchanges were facilitated
● Punch-marked coins made of silver and copper were amongst the earliest to be minted and used.
● The first coins to bear the names and images of rulers were issued by the Indo-Greeks, who
established control over the north-western part of the subcontinent
● The first gold coins were issued c. first century CE by the Kushanas.
● These were virtually identical in weight with those issued by contemporary Roman Emperors and
the Parthian rulers of Iran, and have been found from several sites in north India and Central Asia.
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● The widespread use of gold coins indicates the enormous value of the transactions that were
taking place.
● Besides, hoards of Roman coins have been found from archaeological sites in south India.
● Coins were also issued by tribal republics such as that of the Yaudheyas of Punjab and Haryana
● Archaeologists have unearthed several thousand copper coins issued by the Yaudheyas,
● From c. sixth century CE onwards, finds of gold coins taper off.


● James Prinsep, an officer in the mint of the East India Company, deciphered Brahmi and
Kharosthi, two scripts used in the earliest inscriptions and coins.
● He found that most of these mentioned a king referred to as Piyadassi – meaning “pleasant to
● Most Asokan inscriptions were in the Prakrit language while those in the northwest of the
subcontinet were in Aramaic and Greek.
● Most Prakrit inscriptions were written in the Brahmi script; however, some, in the northwest,
were written in Kharosthi.
● The Aramaic and Greek scripts were used for inscriptions in Afghanistan.
● Most scripts used to write modern Indian languages are derived from Brahmi, the script used in
most Asokan inscriptions.
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Kinship, Caste and Class Early Societies Chapter 3

● Sanskrit texts use the term kula to designate families and jnati for the larger network of kinfolk.
The term vamsha is used for lineage.
● Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras were Sanskrit texts
● The Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras also contained rules about the ideal “occupations” of the
four categories or varnas.
● The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the earliest Upanishads contains a list of successive
generations of teachers and students, many of whom were designated by metronymics
● To justify their claims, Brahmanas often cited a verse from a hymn in the Rigveda known as the
Purusha sukta, describing the sacrifice of Purusha, the primeval man
● Endogamy refers to marriage within a unit – this could be a kin group, caste, or a group living in
the same locality. Exogamy refers to marriage outside the unit.

● Rudradaman, the best-known Shaka ruler (c. second century CE), rebuilt Sudarshana lake
● Sanskrit texts and inscriptions used the term vanik to designate merchants
● The Chinese Buddhist monk Fa Xian And Xuan Zang (c. seventh century) travelled India
● Majjhima Nikaya is Buddhist text in Pali
● Historians usually classify the contents of the present text under two broad heads
● Sections that contain stories, designated as the narrative, and sections that contain prescriptions
about social norms, designated as didactic.
● This division is by no means watertight – the didactic sections include stories, and the narrative
often contains a social message.
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Thinkers, Beliefs & Buildings Cultural Developments Chapter 4

● Earlier debates took place in the kutagarashala – literally, a hut with a pointed roof – or in groves
where travelling mendicants halted.
● The Vinaya Pitaka included rules and regulations for those who joined the sangha or monastic
● The Buddha’s teachings were included in the Sutta Pitaka
● The Abhidhamma Pitaka dealt with philosophical matters.
● Each pitaka comprised a number of individual texts
● Other texts such as the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa were written, containing regional histories of
● The most important idea in Jainism is that the entire world is animated: even stones, rocks and
water have life.

● According to Buddhist philosophy, the world is transient (anicca) and constantly changing; it is
also soulless (anatta) as there is nothing permanent or eternal in it.
● The Buddha emphasised individual agency and righteous action as the means to escape from the
cycle of rebirth and attain self-realisation and nibbana
● Literally the extinguishing of the ego and desire – and thus end the cycle of suffering for those
who renounced the world.
● Buddha’s last words to his followers were: “Be lamps unto yourselves as all of you must work out
your own liberation
● The Buddha’s foster mother, Mahapajapati Gotami was the first woman to be ordained as a

● Many women who entered the sangha became teachers of dhamma and went on to become theris,
or respected women who had attained liberation.
● The internal functioning of the sangha was based on the traditions of ganas and sanghas, where
consensus was arrived at through discussions.
● If that failed, decisions were taken by a vote on the subject

● Buddhist text Therigatha (Sutta Pitaka’s part), is a collection of verses composed by bhikkhunis
● It provides an insight into women’s social and spiritual experiences.
● Buddhism laid importance attached to conduct and values rather than claims of superiority based
on birth, the emphasis placed on metta (fellow feeling) and karuna (compassion)
● Chaitya may also have been derived from the word chita, meaning a funeral pyre, and by
extension a funerary mound.
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● Buddha’s life – where he was born (Lumbini), where he attained enlightenment (Bodh Gaya),
where he gave his first sermon (Sarnath) and where he attained nibbana (Kusinagara).
● Mahaparinibbana Sutta, part of the Sutta Pitaka


● The stupa originated as a simple semi-circular mound of earth, later called anda.
● Gradually, it evolved into a more complex structure, balancing round and square shapes.
● Above the anda was the harmika, a balcony like structure represented the abode of the gods.
● Arising from the harmika was a mast called the yashti, often surmounted by a chhatri or umbrella.
● Around the mound was a railing, separating the sacred space from the secular world.
● The early stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut were plain except for the stone railings, which resembled
a bamboo or wooden fence, and the gateways, which were richly carved and installed at the four
cardinal points.

● Worshippers entered through the eastern gateway and walked around the mound in a clockwise
direction keeping the mound on the right, imitating the sun’s course through the sky.
● Later, the mound of the stupas came to be elaborately carved with niches and sculptures as at
Amaravati, and Shahji-ki-Dheri in Peshawar (Pakistan).
● Shalabhanjika was a woman whose touch caused trees to flower and bear fruit
● The shalabhanjika motif suggests that many people who turned to Buddhism enriched it with their
own pre-Buddhist and even non-Buddhist beliefs, practices and ideas.
● The paintings at Ajanta depict stories from the Jatakas
● Supporters of Mahayana regarded other Buddhists as followers of Hinayana.
● However, followers of the older tradition described themselves as theravadins
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Building temples

● The early temple was a small square room, called the garbhagriha, with a single doorway for the
worshipper to enter and offer worship to the image.
● Gradually, a tall structure, known as the shikhara, was built over the central shrine.
● Temple walls were often decorated with sculpture.
● Later temples became far more elaborate – with assembly halls, huge walls and gateways, and
arrangements for supplying water
● Some temples were hollowed out of huge rocks, as artificial caves.
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NCERT Class XII History- Themes in Indian History-II

Chapter Number Chapter Name
5. Through The Eyes of Travellers
6. Bhakti-Sufi Traditions
7. An Imperial Capital- Vijayanagara
8. Peasants, Zamindars, And The State
9. Kings And Chronicles- The Mughal Courts
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Chapter 1: Through The Eyes of Travellers

 Women and men have travelled in search of work, to escape from natural disasters, as traders,
merchants, soldiers, priests, pilgrims, or driven by a sense of adventure.

 Those who visit or come to stay in a new land invariably encounter a world that is different: in
terms of the landscape or physical environment as well as customs, languages, beliefs and
practices of people.

 Many of them try to adapt to these differences; others, somewhat exceptional, note them carefully
in accounts, generally recording what they find unusual or remarkable.

 The accounts that survive are often varied in terms of their subject matter. Some deal with affairs
of the court, while others are mainly focused on religious issues, or architectural features and
monuments. For example, one of the most important descriptions of the city of Vijayanagara in
the fifteenth century comes from Abdur Razzaq Samarqandi, a diplomat who came visiting from

 In a few cases, travellers did not go to distant lands. For example, in the Mughal Empire,
administrators sometimes travelled within the empire and recorded their observations. Some of
them were interested in looking at popular customs and the folklore and traditions of their own

 In this chapter descriptions of three men have been discussed: Al-Biruni who came from
Uzbekistan (eleventh century), Ibn Battuta who came from Morocco, in northwestern Africa
(fourteenth century) and the Frenchman François Bernier (seventeenth century)

 As these authors came from vastly different social and cultural environments, they were often
more attentive to everyday activities and practices which were taken for granted by indigenous
writers, for whom these were routine matters, not worthy of being recorded. It is this difference in
perspective that makes the accounts of travellers interesting.

Al- Biruni and the Kitab-ul-Hind

 Al-Biruni was born in 973, in Khwarizm in presentday Uzbekistan.
 He was well versed in several languages: Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Sanskrit.
 In 1017, when Sultan Mahmud invaded Khwarizm, he took several scholars and poets back to his
capital, Ghazni; Al-Biruni was one of them.It was in Ghazni that Al-Biruni developed an interest
in India.
 Sanskrit works on astronomy, mathematics and medicine had been translated into Arabic from the
eighth century onwards. When the Punjab became a part of the Ghaznavid empire, contacts with
the local population helped create an environment of mutual trust and understanding.
 Al-Biruni spent years in the company of Brahmana priests and scholars, learning Sanskrit, and
studying religious and philosophical texts.
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 Travel literature was already an accepted part of Arabic literature by the time he wrote. This
literature dealt with lands as far apart as the Sahara desert in the west to the River Volga in the
north. So, while few people in India would have read Al-Biruni before 1500, many others outside
India may have done so.

The Kitab-ul-Hind
 Al-Biruni’s Kitab-ul-Hind, written in Arabic, is a voluminous text, divided into 80 chapters on
subjects such as religion and philosophy, festivals, astronomy, alchemy, manners and customs,
social life, weights and measures, iconography, laws and metrology.

 Generally (though not always), Al-Biruni adopted a distinctive structure in each chapter,
beginning with a question, following this up with a description based on Sanskritic traditions, and
concluding with a comparison with other cultures.

 Al-Biruni, who wrote in Arabic, probably intended his work for peoples living along the frontiers
of the subcontinent.

 He was familiar with translations and adaptations of Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit texts into Arabic –
these ranged from fables to works on astronomy and medicine.

Ibn Batuta’s Rihla

 An early globe-trotter Ibn Battuta’s book of travels, called Rihla, written in Arabic, provides
extremely rich and interesting details about the social and cultural life in the subcontinent in the
fourteenth century.

 Ibn Battuta received literary and scholastic education when he was quite young. He considered
experience gained through travels to be a more important source of knowledge than books.

 Before he set off for India in 1332-33, he had made pilgrimage trips to Mecca, and had already
travelled extensively in Syria, Iraq, Persia, Yemen, Oman and a few trading ports on the coast of
East Africa.

 He had heard about Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the Sultan of Delhi, and lured by his reputation as a
generous patron of arts and letters, set off for Delhi, passing through Multan and Uch. The Sultan
was impressed by his scholarship, and appointed him the qazi or judge of Delhi.

 He was ordered in 1342 to proceed to China as the Sultan’s envoy to the Mongol ruler. With the
new assignment, Ibn Battuta proceeded to the Malabar coast through central India. He travelled
extensively in China, going as far as Beijing, but did not stay for long, deciding to return home in

 His account is often compared with that of Marco Polo, who visited China (and also India) from
his home base in Venice in the late thirteenth century.
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 Ibn Battuta meticulously recorded his observations about new cultures, peoples, beliefs, values,
etc. Travelling was also more insecure: Ibn Battuta was attacked by bands of robbers several
times. In fact he preferred travelling in a caravan along with companions, but this did not deter
highway robbers.

The “enjoyment of curiosities”

 Ibn Battuta was an inveterate traveller who spent several years travelling through north Africa,
West Asia and parts of Central Asia (he may even have visited Russia), the Indian subcontinent
and China, before returning to his native land, Morocco. When he returned, the local ruler issued
instructions that his stories be recorded.

Francois Bernier: A Doctor With a Difference

 Once the Portuguese arrived in India in about 1500, a number of them wrote detailed accounts
regarding Indian social customs and religious practices. A few of them, such as the Jesuit Roberto
Nobili, even translated Indian texts into European languages.

 Among the best known of the Portuguese writers is Duarte Barbosa, who wrote a detailed account
of trade and society in south India.

 Later, after 1600, we find growing numbers of Dutch, English and French travellers coming to
India. One of the most famous was the French jeweller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who travelled to
India at least six times. He was particularly fascinated with the trading conditions in India, and
compared India to Iran and the Ottoman empire.

 Some of these travellers, like the Italian doctor Manucci, never returned to Europe, and settled
down in India.

 François Bernier, a Frenchman, was a doctor, political philosopher and historian. Like many
others, he came to the Mughal Empire in search of opportunities.

 He was in India for twelve years, from 1656 to 1668, and was closely associated with the Mughal
court, as a physician to Prince Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan, and later as
an intellectual and scientist, with Danishmand Khan, an Armenian noble at the Mughal court.

 Bernier described what he saw in India as a bleak situation in comparison to developments in

Europe. As we will see, this assessment was not always accurate. However, when his works were
published, Bernier’s writings became extremely popular.

 Bernier’s works were published in France in 1670-71 and translated into English, Dutch, German
and Italian within the next five years.
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 Between 1670 and 1725 his account was reprinted eight times in French, and by 1684 it had been
reprinted three times in English. This was in marked contrast to the accounts in Arabic and
Persian, which circulated as manuscripts and were generally not published before 1800.

 Travellers often compared what they saw in the subcontinent with practices with which they were
familiar. Each traveller adopted distinct strategies to understand what they observed.

 Al-Biruni, for instance, was aware of the problems inherent in the task he had set himself. He
discussed several “barriers” that he felt obstructed understanding. The first amongst these was
language. According to him, Sanskrit was so different from Arabic and Persian that ideas and
concepts could not be easily translated from one language into another.

 The second barrier he identified was the difference in religious beliefs and practices. The self-
absorption and consequent insularity of the local population according to him, constituted the
third barrier.

 What is interesting is that even though he was aware of these problems, Al-Biruni depended
almost exclusively on the works of Brahmanas, often citing passages from the Vedas, the
Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita, the works of Patanjali, the Manusmriti, etc., to provide an
understanding of Indian society.

Al-Biruni’s description of the caste system

 Al-Biruni tried to explain the caste system by looking for parallels in other societies. He noted
that in ancient Persia, four social categories were recognised: those of knights and princes;
monks, fire-priests and lawyers; physicians, astronomers and other scientists; and finally,
peasants and artisans. In other words, he attempted to suggest that social divisions were not
unique to India.

 At the same time he pointed out that within Islam all men were considered equal, differing only in
their observance of piety.

 In spite of his acceptance of the Brahmanical description of the caste system, Al-Biruni
disapproved of the notion of pollution. The conception of social pollution, intrinsic to the caste
system, was according to him, contrary to the laws of nature.

 As we have seen, Al-Biruni’s description of the caste system was deeply influenced by his study
of normative Sanskrit texts which laid down the rules governing the system from the point of
view of the Brahmanas.

 However, in real life the system was not quite as rigid. For instance, the categories defined as
antyaja (literally, born outside the system) were often expected to provide inexpensive labour to
both peasants and zamindars. In other words, while they were often subjected to social
oppression, they were included within economic networks.
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 By the time Ibn Battuta arrived in Delhi in the fourteenth century, the subcontinent was part of a
global network of communication that stretched from China in the east to north-west Africa and
Europe in the west.

 Some of the best examples of Ibn Battuta’s strategies of representation are evident in the ways in
which he described the coconut and the paan, two kinds of plant produce that were completely
unfamiliar to his audience.

Ibn Battuta and Indian cities

 Ibn Battuta found cities in the subcontinent densely populated and prosperous, except for the
occasional disruptions caused by wars and invasions.

 Most cities had crowded streets and bright and colourful markets that were stacked with a wide
variety of goods.

 Ibn Battuta described Delhi as a vast city, with a great population, the largest in India.
Daulatabad (in Maharashtra) was no less, and easily rivalled Delhi in size.

 The bazaars were not only places of economic transactions, but also the hub of social and cultural
activities. Most bazaars had a mosque and a temple, and in some of them at least, spaces were
marked for public performances by dancers, musicians and singers.

 While Ibn Battuta was not particularly concerned with explaining the prosperity of towns,
historians have used his account to suggest that towns derived a significant portion of their
wealth through the appropriation of surplus from villages.

 Ibn Battuta found Indian agriculture very productive because of the fertility of the soil, which
allowed farmers to cultivate two crops a year.

 He also noted that the subcontinent was well integrated with inter-Asian networks of trade and
commerce, with Indian manufactures being in great demand in both West Asia and Southeast
Asia, fetching huge profits for artisans and merchants.

 Indian textiles, particularly cotton cloth, fine muslins, silks, brocade and satin, were in great
demand. Ibn Battuta informs us that certain varieties of fine muslin were so expensive that they
could be worn only by the nobles and the very rich

A unique system of communication

 The state evidently took special measures to encourage merchants. Almost all trade routes were
well supplied with inns and guest houses.
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 Ibn Battuta was also amazed by the efficiency of the postal system which allowed merchants to
not only send information and remit credit across long distances, but also to dispatch goods
required at short notice.

 The postal system was so efficient that while it took fifty days to reach Delhi from Sind, the news
reports of spies would reach the Sultan through the postal system in just five days.

Bernier and the “Degenerate” East

 If Ibn Battuta chose to describe everything that impressed and excited him because of its novelty,
François Bernier was far more preoccupied with comparing and contrasting what he saw in India
with the situation in Europe in general and France in particular, focusing on situations which he
considered depressing.

 Bernier’s idea seems to have been to influence policy-makers and the intelligentsia to ensure that
they made what he considered to be the “right” decisions.

 Bernier’s Travels in the Mughal Empire is marked by detailed observations, critical insights and
reflection. He constantly compared Mughal India with contemporary Europe, generally
emphasising the superiority of the latter.

 His representation of India works on the model of binary opposition, where India is presented as
the inverse of Europe. He also ordered the perceived differences hierarchically, so that India
appeared to be inferior to the Western world.

The question of landownership

 According to Bernier, one of the fundamental differences between Mughal India and Europe was
the lack of private property in land in the former. He was a firm believer in the virtues of private
property, and saw crown ownership of land as being harmful for both the state and its people.

 He thought that in the Mughal Empire the emperor owned all the land and distributed it among
his nobles, and that this had disastrous consequences for the economy and society.

 Owing to crown ownership of land, argued Bernier, landholders could not pass on their land to
their children. So they were averse to any long-term investment in the sustenance and expansion
of production.

 The absence of private property in land had, therefore, prevented the emergence of the class of
“improving” landlords (as in Western Europe) with a concern to maintain or improve the land. It
had led to the uniform ruination of agriculture, excessive oppression of the peasantry and a
continuous decline in the living standards of all sections of society, except the ruling aristocracy.
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 As an extension of this, Bernier described Indian society as consisting of undifferentiated masses

of impoverished people, subjugated by a small minority of a very rich and powerful ruling class.

 Bernier confidently asserted: “There is no middle state in India.” This, then, is how Bernier saw
the Mughal Empire – its king was the king of “beggars and barbarians”; its cities and towns were
ruined and contaminated with “ill air”; and its fields, “overspread with bushes” and full of
“pestilential marishes”. And, all this was because of one reason: crown ownership of land.

 Curiously, none of the Mughal official documents suggest that the state was the sole owner of
land. For instance, Abu’l Fazl, the sixteenth-century official chronicler of Akbar’s reign,
describes the land revenue as “remunerations of sovereignty”, a claim made by the ruler on his
subjects for the protection he provided rather than as rent on land that he owned.

 It is possible that European travellers regarded such claims as rent because land revenue demands
were often very high. However, this was actually not a rent or even a land tax, but a tax on the

 Bernier’s descriptions influenced Western theorists from the eighteenth century onwards. The
French philosopher Montesquieu, for instance, used this account to develop the idea of oriental
despotism, according to which rulers in Asia (the Orient or the East) enjoyed absolute authority
over their subjects, who were kept in conditions of subjugation and poverty, arguing that all land
belonged to the king and that private property was non-existent.

 According to this view, everybody, except the emperor and his nobles, barely managed to
survive. This idea was further developed as the concept of the Asiatic mode of production by Karl
Marx in the nineteenth century.
 He argued that in India (and other Asian countries), before colonialism, surplus was
appropriated by the state.
 This led to the emergence of a society that was composed of a large number of
autonomous and (internally) egalitarian village communities.
 The imperial court presided over these village communities, respecting their autonomy as
long as the flow of surplus was unimpeded. This was regarded as a stagnant system.

 However, this picture of rural society was far from true. In fact, during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, rural society was characterized by considerable social and economic

 At one end of the spectrum were the big zamindars, who enjoyed superior rights in land and, at
the other, the “untouchable” landless labourers. In between was the big peasant, who used hired
labour and engaged in commodity production, and the smaller peasant who could barely produce
for his subsistence.
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A more complex social reality

 While Bernier’s preoccupation with projecting the Mughal state as tyrannical is obvious, his
descriptions occasionally hint at a more complex social reality. For instance, he felt that artisans
had no incentive to improve the quality of their manufactures, since profits were appropriated by
the state.

 Manufactures were, consequently, everywhere in decline. At the same time, he conceded that vast
quantities of the world’s precious metals flowed into India, as manufactures were exported in
exchange for gold and silver.

 He also noticed the existence of a prosperous merchant community, engaged in long-distance

exchange. In fact, during the seventeenth century about 15 per cent of the population lived in
towns. This was, on average, higher than the proportion of urban population in Western Europe in
the same period.

 In spite of this Bernier described Mughal cities as “camp towns”, by which he meant towns that
owed their existence, and depended for their survival, on the imperial camp. He believed that
these came into existence when the imperial court moved in and rapidly declined when it moved

 As in the case of the question of landownership, Bernier was drawing an oversimplified picture.
There were all kinds of towns: manufacturing towns, trading towns, port-towns, sacred centres,
pilgrimage towns, etc. Their existence is an index of the prosperity of merchant communities and
professional classes.

 Merchants often had strong community or kin ties, and were organized into their own caste-cum
occupational bodies. In western India these groups were called mahajans, and their chief, the

 In urban centres such as Ahmedabad the mahajans were collectively represented by the chief of
the merchant community who was called the nagarsheth. Other urban groups included
professional classes such as physicians (hakim or vaid), teachers (pundit or mulla), lawyers
(wakil ), painters, architects, musicians, calligraphers, etc. While some depended on imperial
patronage, many made their living by serving other patrons, while still others served ordinary
people in crowded markets or bazaars.

 Travellers who left written accounts were generally men who were interested in and sometimes
intrigued by the condition of women in the subcontinent. Sometimes they took social inequities
for granted as a “natural” state of affairs. For instance, slaves were openly sold in markets, like
any other commodity, and were regularly exchanged as gifts.
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 When Ibn Battuta reached Sind he purchased “horses, camels and slaves” as gifts for Sultan
Muhammad bin Tughlaq. When he reached Multan, he presented the governor with, “a slave and
horse together with raisins and almonds”.

 Muhammad bin Tughlaq, informs Ibn Battuta, was so happy with the sermon of a preacher named
Nasiruddin that he gave him “a hundred thousand tankas (coins) and two hundred slaves”. It
appears from Ibn Battuta’s account that there was considerable differentiation among slaves.

 Some female slaves in the service of the Sultan were experts in music and dance, and Ibn Battuta
enjoyed their performance at the wedding of the Sultan’s sister. Female slaves were also
employed by the Sultan to keep a watch on his nobles.

 Slaves were generally used for domestic labour, and Ibn Battuta found their services particularly
indispensable for carrying women and men on palanquins or dola. The price of slaves,
particularly female slaves required for domestic labour, was very low, and most families who
could afford to do so kept at least one or two of them.

 Contemporary European travellers and writers often highlighted the treatment of women as a
crucial marker of difference between Western and Eastern societies. Not surprisingly, Bernier
chose the practice of sati for detailed description. He noted that while some women seemed to
embrace death cheerfully, others were forced to die.

 However, women’s lives revolved around much else besides the practice of sati. Their labour was
crucial in both agricultural and non-agricultural production.

 Women from merchant families participated in commercial activities, sometimes even taking
mercantile disputes to the court of law. It therefore seems unlikely that women were confined to
the private spaces of their homes.
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Chapter 2: Bhakti-Sufi Traditions

 By the mid-first millennium CE the landscape of the subcontinent was dotted with a variety of
religious structures – stupas, monasteries, temples.

 If these structures typified certain religious beliefs and practices, others have been reconstructed
from textual traditions, including the Puranas, many of which received their present shape around
the same time, and yet others remain only faintly visible in textual and visual records.

 New textual sources available from this period include compositions attributed to poet-saints,
most of whom expressed themselves orally in regional languages used by ordinary people. These
compositions, which were often set to music, were compiled by disciples or devotees, generally
after the death of the poet-saint.

 What is more, these traditions were fluid – generations of devotees tended to elaborate on the
original message, and occasionally modified or even abandoned some of the ideas that appeared
problematic or irrelevant in different political, social or cultural contexts. Using these sources
thus poses a challenge to historians.

 Historians also draw on hagiographies or biographies of saints written by their followers (or
members of their religious sect). These may not be literally accurate, but allow a glimpse into the
ways in which devotees perceived the lives of these path-breaking women and men.

A Mosaic Of Religious Beliefs And Practices

 Perhaps the most striking feature of this phase is the increasing visibility of a wide range of gods
and goddesses in sculpture as well as in texts.

 At one level, this indicates the continued and even extended worship of the major deities –
Vishnu, Shiva and the goddess – each of whom was visualized in a variety of forms.

Integration of cults

 Historians who have tried to understand these developments suggest that there were at least two
processes at work.
1. The process of disseminating Brahmanical ideas exemplified by the composition,
compilation and preservation of Puranic texts in simple Sanskrit verse, explicitly meant
to be accessible to women and Shudras, who were generally excluded from Vedic
2. Brahmanas accepting and reworking the beliefs and practices of these and other social
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 In fact, many beliefs and practices were shaped through a continuous dialogue between what
sociologists have described as “great” Sanskritic Puranic traditions and “little” traditions
throughout the land.

 One of the most striking examples of this process is evident at Puri, Orissa, where the principal
deity was identified, by the twelfth century, as Jagannatha (literally, the lord of the world), a form
of Vishnu. In this instance, a local deity, whose image was and continues to be made of wood by
local tribal specialists, was recognised as a form of Vishnu.

 Such instances of integration are evident amongst goddess cults as well. Worship of the goddess,
often simply in the form of a stone smeared with ochre, was evidently widespread.

 These local deities were often incorporated within the Puranic framework by providing them with
an identity as a wife of the principal male deities – sometimes they were equated with Lakshmi,
the wife of Vishnu, in other instances, with Parvati, the wife of Shiva.

Difference and conflict

 Often associated with the goddess were forms of worship that were classified as Tantric.

 Tantric practices were widespread in several parts of the subcontinent – they were open to women
and men, and practitioners often ignored differences of caste and class within the ritual context.

 Many of these ideas influenced Shaivism as well as Buddhism, especially in the eastern, northern
and southern parts of the subcontinent.

 All of these somewhat divergent and even disparate beliefs and practices would come to be
classified as Hindu over the course of the next millennium. The divergence is perhaps most stark
if we compare Vedic and Puranic traditions.

 The principal deities of the Vedic pantheon, Agni, Indra and Soma, become marginal figures,
rarely visible in textual or visual representations. And while we can catch a glimpse of Vishnu,
Shiva and the goddess in Vedic mantras, these have little in common with the elaborate Puranic

 However, in spite of these obvious discrepancies, the Vedas continued to be revered as


 Not surprisingly, there were sometimes conflicts as well – those who valued the Vedic tradition
often condemned practices that went beyond the closely regulated contact with the divine through
the performance of sacrifices or precisely chanted mantras.

 On the other hand those engaged in Tantric practices frequently ignored the authority of the
Vedas. Also, devotees often tended to project their chosen deity, either Vishnu or Shiva, as
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 Relations with other traditions, such as Buddhism or Jainism, were also often fraught with tension
if not open conflict. The traditions of devotion or bhakti need to be located within this context.

 During this time, expressions of devotion ranged from the routine worship of deities within
temples to ecstatic adoration where devotees attained a trance-like state.

 The singing and chanting of devotional compositions was often a part of such modes of worship.
This was particularly true of the Vaishnava and Shaiva sects.

Poems Of Prayer: Early Traditions Of Bhakti

 In the course of the evolution of these forms of worship, in many instances, poet-saints emerged
as leaders around whom there developed a community of devotees.

 Further, while Brahmanas remained important intermediaries between gods and devotees in
several forms of bhakti, these traditions also accommodated and acknowledged women and the
“lower castes”, categories considered ineligible for liberation within the orthodox Brahmanical

 What also characterised traditions of bhakti was a remarkable diversity. At a different level,
historians of religion often classify bhakti traditions into two broad categories: saguna (with
attributes) and nirguna (without attributes).

 The Saguna tradition included traditions that focused on the worship of specific deities such as
Shiva, Vishnu and his avatars (incarnations) and forms of the goddess or Devi, all often
conceptualised in anthropomorphic forms.

 Nirguna bhakti on the other hand was worship of an abstract form of god.

The Alvars and Nayanars of Tamil Nadu

 Some of the earliest bhakti movements (c. sixth century) were led by the Alvars (literally, those
who are “immersed” in devotion to Vishnu) and Nayanars (literally, leaders who were devotees
of Shiva). They travelled from place to place singing hymns in Tamil in praise of their gods.

 During their travels the Alvars and Nayanars identified certain shrines as abodes of their chosen
deities. Very often large temples were later built at these sacred places. These developed as
centres of pilgrimage.

 Singing compositions of these poet-saints became part of temple rituals in these shrines, as did
worship of the saints’ images.
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Attitudes towards caste

 Some historians suggest that the Alvars and Nayanars initiated a movement of protest against the
caste system and the dominance of Brahmanas or at least attempted to reform the system.

 To some extent this is corroborated by the fact that bhaktas hailed from diverse social
backgrounds ranging from Brahmanas to artisans and cultivators and even from castes considered

 The importance of the traditions of the Alvars and Nayanars was sometimes indicated by the
claim that their compositions were as important as the Vedas. For instance, one of the major
anthologies of compositions by the Alvars, the Nalayira Divyaprabandham, was frequently
described as the Tamil Veda, thus claiming that the text was as significant as the four Vedas in
Sanskrit that were cherished by the Brahmanas.

Women devotees

 Perhaps one of the most striking features of these traditions was the presence of women.

 For instance, the compositions of Andal, a woman Alvar, were widely sung (and continue to be
sung to date). Andal saw herself as the beloved of Vishnu; her verses express her love for the

 Another woman, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, a devotee of Shiva, adopted the path of extreme
asceticism in order to attain her goal. Her compositions were preserved within the Nayanar

 These women renounced their social obligations, but did not join an alternative order or become
nuns. Their very existence and their compositions posed a challenge to patriarchal norms.

Relations with the state

 There were several important chiefdoms in the Tamil region in the early first millennium CE.
From the second half of the first millennium there is evidence for states, including those of the
Pallavas and Pandyas (c. sixth to ninth centuries CE).

 While Buddhism and Jainism had been prevalent in this region for several centuries, drawing
support from merchant and artisan communities, these religious traditions received occasional
royal patronage.

 Interestingly, one of the major themes in Tamil bhakti hymns is the poets’ opposition to
Buddhism and Jainism. This is particularly marked in the compositions of the Nayanars.

 Historians have attempted to explain this hostility by suggesting that it was due to competition
between members of other religious traditions for royal patronage.
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 What is evident is that the powerful Chola rulers (ninth to thirteenth centuries) supported
Brahmanical and bhakti traditions, making land grants and constructing temples for Vishnu and

 In fact, some of the most magnificent Shiva temples, including those at Chidambaram, Thanjavur
and Gangaikondacholapuram, were constructed under the patronage of Chola rulers. This was
also the period when some of the most spectacular representations of Shiva in bronze sculpture
were produced.

 Clearly, the visions of the Nayanars inspired artists. Both Nayanars and Alvars were revered by
the Vellala peasants. Not surprisingly, rulers tried to win their support as well.

 The Chola kings, for instance, often attempted to claim divine support and proclaim their own
power and status by building splendid temples that were adorned with stone and metal sculpture
to recreate the visions of these popular saints who sang in the language of the people.

 These kings also introduced the singing of Tamil Shaiva hymns in the temples under royal
patronage, taking the initiative to collect and organise them into a text (Tevaram).

 Further, inscriptional evidence from around 945 suggests that the Chola ruler Parantaka I had
consecrated metal images of Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar in a Shiva temple. These were
carried in processions during the festivals of these saints.

The Virashaiva Tradition In Karnataka

 The twelfth century witnessed the emergence of a new movement in Karnataka, led by a
Brahmana named Basavanna (1106-68) who was initially a Jaina and a minister in the court of a
Chalukya king. His followers were known as Virashaivas (heroes of Shiva) or Lingayats (wearers
of the linga).

 Lingayats continue to be an important community in the region to date. They worship Shiva in his
manifestation as a linga, and men usually wear a small linga in a silver case on a loop strung over
the left shoulder.

 Those who are revered include the jangama or wandering monks.

 Lingayats believe that on death the devotee will be united with Shiva and will not return to this
world. Therefore they do not practise funerary rites such as cremation, prescribed in the
Dharmashastras. Instead, they ceremonially bury their dead.

 The Lingayats challenged the idea of caste and the “pollution” attributed to certain groups by

 They also questioned the theory of rebirth.

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 These won them followers amongst those who were marginalised within the Brahmanical social

 The Lingayats also encouraged certain practices disapproved in the Dharmashastras, such as post-
puberty marriage and the remarriage of widows.

 Our understanding of the Virashaiva tradition is derived from vachanas (literally, sayings)
composed in Kannada by women and men who joined the movement.

Religious Ferment In North India

 During the same period, in north India deities such as Vishnu and Shiva were worshipped in
temples, often built with the support of rulers. However, historians have not found evidence of
anything resembling the compositions of the Alvars and Nayanars till the fourteenth century.

 Some historians point out that in north India this was the period when several Rajput states
emerged. In most of these states Brahmanas occupied positions of importance, performing a
range of secular and ritual functions. There seems to have been little or no attempt to challenge
their position directly.

 At the same time other religious leaders, who did not function within the orthodox Brahmanical
framework, were gaining ground. These included the Naths, Jogis and Siddhas.

 Many of these leaders came from artisanal groups, including weavers, who were becoming
increasingly important with the development of organised craft production. Demand for such
production grew with the emergence of new urban centres, and long-distance trade with Central
Asia and West Asia.

 Many of these new religious leaders questioned the authority of the Vedas, and expressed
themselves in languages spoken by ordinary people, which developed over centuries into the ones
used today.

 However, in spite of their popularity these religious leaders were not in a position to win the
support of the ruling elites.

 A new element in this situation was the coming of the Turks which culminated in the
establishment of the Delhi Sultanate (thirteenth century). This undermined the power of many of
the Rajput states and the Brahmanas who were associated with these kingdoms.

 This was accompanied by marked changes in the realm of culture and religion. The coming of the
sufis was a significant part of these developments.
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New Strands In The Fabric: Islamic Traditions

 Just as the regions within the subcontinent were not isolated from one another, so too, contact
with lands beyond the seas and mountains had existed for millennia.

 Arab merchants, for instance, frequented ports along the western coast in the first millennium CE,
while Central Asian people settled in the north-western parts of the subcontinent during the same

 From the seventh century, with the advent of Islam, these regions became part of what is often
termed the Islamic world.

Faiths of rulers and subjects

 One axis of understanding the significance of these connections that is frequently adopted is to
focus on the religions of ruling elites.

 In 711 an Arab general named Muhammad Qasim conquered Sind, which became part of the
Caliph’s domain. Later (c. thirteenth century) the Turks and Afghans established the Delhi
Sultanate. This was followed by the formation of Sultanates in the Deccan and other parts of the

 Islam was an acknowledged religion of rulers in several areas. This continued with the
establishment of the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century as well as in many of the regional
states that emerged in the eighteenth century.

 Theoretically, Muslim rulers were to be guided by the ulama, who were expected to ensure that
they ruled according to the shari‘a.

 Clearly, the situation was complicated in the subcontinent, where there were populations that did
not subscribe to Islam. It is in this context that the category of the zimmi, meaning protected
(derived from the Arabic word zimma, protection) developed for people who followed revealed
scriptures, such as the Jews and Christians, and lived under Muslim rulership.

 They paid a tax called jizya and gained the right to be protected by Muslims. In India this status
was extended to Hindus as well.

 The rulers such as the Mughals came to regard themselves as emperors of not just Muslims but of
all peoples. In effect, rulers often adopted a fairly flexible policy towards their subjects.

 Several rulers gave land endowments and granted tax exemptions to Hindu, Jaina, Zoroastrian,
Christian and Jewish religious institutions and also expressed respect and devotion towards non-
Muslim religious leaders. These grants were made by several Mughal rulers, including Akbar and
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The popular practice of Islam

 The developments that followed the coming of Islam were not confined to ruling elites; in fact
they permeated far and wide, through the subcontinent, amongst different social strata – peasants,
artisans, warriors, merchants, to name a few.

 All those who adopted Islam accepted, in principle, the five “pillars” of the faith:
1. There is one God, Allah, and Prophet Muhammad is his messenger (shahada);
2. Offering prayers five times a day (namaz/salat);
3. Giving alms (zakat);
4. Fasting during the month of Ramzan (sawm); and
5. Performing the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj ).

 However, these universal features were often overlaid with diversities in practice derived from
sectarian affiliations (Sunni, Shi‘a), and the influence of local customary practices of converts
from different social milieus.

 For example, the Khojahs, a branch of the Ismailis (a Shi‘a sect), developed new modes of
communication, disseminating ideas derived from the Qur’an through indigenous literary genres.
These included the ginan (derived from the Sanskrit jnana, meaning “knowledge”), devotional
poems in Punjabi, Multani, Sindhi, Kachchi, Hindi and Gujarati, sung in special ragas during
daily prayer meetings.

 Elsewhere, Arab Muslim traders who settled along the Malabar coast (Kerala) adopted the local
language, Malayalam. They also adopted local customs such as matriliny and matrilocal

 The complex blend of a universal faith with local traditions is perhaps best exemplified in the
architecture of mosques.

 Some architectural features of mosques are universal – such as their orientation towards Mecca,
evident in the placement of the mihrab (prayer niche) and the minbar (pulpit). However, there are
several features that show variations – such as roofs and building materials.

Names for communities

 We often take the terms Hindu and Muslim for granted, as labels for religious communities. Yet,
these terms did not gain currency for a very long time.

 Historians who have studied Sanskrit texts and inscriptions dating between the eighth and
fourteenth centuries point out that the term musalman or Muslim was virtually never used.
Instead, people were occasionally identified in terms of the region from which they came.
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 So, the Turkish rulers were designated as Turushka, Tajika were people from Tajikistan and
Parashika were people from Persia.

 Sometimes, terms used for other peoples were applied to the new migrants. For instance, the
Turks and Afghans were referred to as Shakas (Chapters 2 and 3) and Yavanas (a term used for

 A more general term for these migrant communities was mlechchha, indicating that they did not
observe the norms of caste society and spoke languages that were not derived from Sanskrit.

 Such terms sometimes had a derogatory connotation, but they rarely denoted a distinct religious
community of Muslims in opposition to Hindus. And the term “Hindu” was used in a variety of
ways, not necessarily restricted to a religious connotation.

The Growth Of Sufism

 In the early centuries of Islam a group of religious minded people called sufis turned to asceticism
and mysticism in protest against the growing materialism of the Caliphate as a religious and
political institution.

 They were critical of the dogmatic definitions and scholastic methods of interpreting the Qur’an
and sunna (traditions of the Prophet) adopted by theologians.

 Instead, they laid emphasis on seeking salvation through intense devotion and love for God by
following His commands, and by following the example of the Prophet Muhammad whom they
regarded as a perfect human being.

 The sufis thus sought an interpretation of the Qur’an on the basis of their personal experience.

Khanqahs and silsilas

 By the eleventh century Sufism evolved into a well-developed movement with a body of
literature on Quranic studies and sufi practices.

 Institutionally, the sufis began to organise communities around the hospice or khanqah (Persian)
controlled by a teaching master known as shaikh (in Arabic), pir or murshid (in Persian). He
enrolled disciples (murids) and appointed a successor (khalifa). He established rules for spiritual
conduct and interaction between inmates as well as between laypersons and the master.

 Sufi silsilas began to crystallise in different parts of the Islamic world around the twelfth century.

 The word silsila literally means a chain, signifying a continuous link between master and disciple,
stretching as an unbroken spiritual genealogy to the Prophet Muhammad. It was through this
channel that spiritual power and blessings were transmitted to devotees.
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 Special rituals of initiation were developed in which initiates took an oath of allegiance, wore a
patched garment, and shaved their hair.

 When the shaikh died, his tomb-shrine (dargah, a Persian term meaning court) became the centre
of devotion for his followers. This encouraged the practice of pilgrimage or ziyarat to his grave,
particularly on his death anniversary or urs (or marriage, signifying the union of his soul with

 This was because people believed that in death saints were united with God, and were thus closer
to Him than when living. People sought their blessings to attain material and spiritual benefits.

 Thus evolved the cult of the shaikh revered as wali.

Outside the khanqah

 Some mystics initiated movements based on a radical interpretation of sufi ideals.

 Many scorned the khanqah and took to mendicancy and observed celibacy. They ignored rituals
and observed extreme forms of asceticism.

 They were known by different names – Qalandars, Madaris, Malangs, Haidaris, etc.

 Because of their deliberate defiance of the shari‘a they were often referred to as be-shari‘a, in
contrast to the ba-shari‘a sufis who complied with it.

The Chistis In The Subcontinent

 Of the groups of sufis who migrated to India in the late twelfth century, the Chishtis were the
most influential. This was because they adapted successfully to the local environment and
adopted several features of Indian devotional traditions.

Life in the Chishti khanqah

 The khanqah was the centre of social life.

 We know about Shaikh Nizamuddin’s hospice (c. fourteenth century) on the banks of the river
Yamuna in Ghiyaspur, on the outskirts of what was then the city of Delhi.
 It comprised several small rooms and a big hall (jama’at khana) where the inmates and visitors
lived and prayed. The inmates included family members of the Shaikh, his attendants and
 The Shaikh lived in a small room on the roof of the hall where he met visitors in the morning and
 A veranda surrounded the courtyard, and a boundary wall ran around the complex. On one
occasion, fearing a Mongol invasion, people from the neighbouring areas flocked into the
khanqah to seek refuge.
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 Visitors also included poets such as Amir Hasan Sijzi and Amir Khusrau and the court historian
Ziyauddin Barani, all of whom wrote about the Shaikh.

 Practices that were adopted, including bowing before the Shaikh, offering water to visitors,
shaving the heads of initiates, and yogic exercises, represented attempts to assimilate local

 Shaikh Nizamuddin appointed several spiritual successors and deputed them to set up hospices in
various parts of the subcontinent. As a result the teachings, practices and organisation of the
Chishtis as well as the fame of the Shaikh spread rapidly. This in turn drew pilgrims to his shrine,
and also to the shrines of his spiritual ancestors.

Chishti devotionalism: ziyarat and qawwali

 Pilgrimage, called ziyarat, to tombs of sufi saints is prevalent all over the Muslim world. This
practice is an occasion for seeking the sufi’s spiritual grace (barakat).

 For more than seven centuries people of various creeds, classes and social backgrounds have
expressed their devotion at the dargahs of the five great Chishti saints. Amongst these, the most
revered shrine is that of Khwaja Muinuddin, popularly known as “Gharib Nawaz” (comforter of
the poor).

 The earliest textual references to Khwaja Muinuddin’s dargah date to the fourteenth century. It
was evidently popular because of the austerity and piety of its Shaikh, the greatness of his
spiritual successors, and the patronage of royal visitors.

 Muhammad bin Tughlaq (ruled, 1324-51) was the first Sultan to visit the shrine, but the earliest
construction to house the tomb was funded in the late fifteenth century by Sultan Ghiyasuddin
Khalji of Malwa. Since the shrine was located on the trade route linking Delhi and Gujarat, it
attracted a lot of travellers.

 By the sixteenth century the shrine had become very popular; in fact it was the spirited singing of
pilgrims bound for Ajmer that inspired Akbar to visit the tomb. Each of his visits was celebrated
by generous gifts, which were recorded in imperial documents. For example, in 1568 he offered a
huge cauldron (degh) to facilitate cooking for pilgrims. He also had a mosque constructed within
the compound of the dargah.

 Also part of ziyarat is the use of music and dance including mystical chants performed by
specially trained musicians or qawwals to evoke divine ecstasy.

 The sufis remember God either by reciting the zikr (the Divine Names) or evoking His Presence
through sama‘ (literally, “audition”) or performance of mystical music. Sama‘ was integral to the
Chishtis, and exemplified interaction with indigenous devotional traditions.
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Languages and communication

 It was not just in sama‘ that the Chishtis adopted local languages. In Delhi, those associated with
the Chishti silsila conversed in Hindavi, the language of the people.

 Other sufis such as Baba Farid composed verses in the local language, which were incorporated
in the Guru Granth Sahib.

 Yet others composed long poems or masnavis to express ideas of divine love using human love as
an allegory. For example, the prem-akhyan (love story) Padmavat composed by Malik
Muhammad Jayasi revolved around the romance of Padmini and Ratansen, the king of Chittor.
Their trials were symbolic of the soul’s journey to the divine.

 Such poetic compositions were often recited in hospices, usually during sama‘.

 A different genre of sufi poetry was composed in and around the town of Bijapur, Karnataka.
These were short poems in Dakhani (a variant of Urdu) attributed to Chishti sufis who lived in
this region during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

 These poems were probably sung by women while performing household chores like grinding
grain and spinning. Other compositions were in the form of lurinama or lullabies and shadinama
or wedding songs.

 It is likely that the sufis of this region were inspired by the pre-existing bhakti tradition of the
Kannada vachanas of the Lingayats and the Marathi abhangs of the sants of Pandharpur. It is
through this medium that Islam gradually gained a place in the villages of the Deccan.

Sufis and the state

 A major feature of the Chishti tradition was austerity, including maintaining a distance from
worldly power. However, this was by no means a situation of absolute isolation from political

 The sufis accepted unsolicited grants and donations from the political elites. The Sultans in turn
set up charitable trusts (auqaf ) as endowments for hospices and granted tax-free land (inam).

 The Chishtis accepted donations in cash and kind. Rather than accumulate donations, they
preferred to use these fully on immediate requirements such as food, clothes, living quarters and
ritual necessities (such as sama‘).

 All this enhanced the moral authority of the shaikhs, which in turn attracted people from all walks
of life. Further, their piety and scholarship, and people’s belief in their miraculous powers made
sufis popular among the masses, whose support kings wished to secure.
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 Kings did not simply need to demonstrate their association with sufis; they also required
legitimation from them.

 When the Turks set up the Delhi Sultanate, they resisted the insistence of the ulama on imposing
shari‘a as state law because they anticipated opposition from their subjects, the majority of whom
were non-Muslims. The Sultans then sought out the sufis – who derived their authority directly
from God – and did not depend on jurists to interpret the shari‘a.

 Besides, it was believed that the auliya could intercede with God in order to improve the material
and spiritual conditions of ordinary human beings. This explains why kings often wanted their
tombs to be in the vicinity of sufi shrines and hospices.

 However, there were instances of conflict between the Sultans and the sufis. To assert their
authority, both expected that certain rituals be performed such as prostration and kissing of the

 Occasionally the sufi shaikh was addressed with high-sounding titles. For example, the disciples
of Nizamuddin Auliya addressed him as sultan-ul-mashaikh (literally, Sultan amongst shaikhs).

New Devotional Paths: Dialogue And Dissent In Northern India

 Many poet-saints engaged in explicit and implicit dialogue with these new social situations, ideas
and institutions.

Weaving a divine fabric: Kabir

 Kabir (c. fourteenth-fifteenth centuries) is perhaps one of the most outstanding examples of a
poet-saint who emerged within this context.

 Verses ascribed to Kabir have been compiled in three distinct but overlapping traditions.
1. The Kabir Bijak is preserved by the Kabirpanth (the path or sect of Kabir) in Varanasi
and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh;
2. The Kabir Granthavali is associated with the Dadupanth in Rajasthan, and
3. Many of his compositions are found in the Adi Granth Sahib.

 All these manuscript compilations were made long after the death of Kabir. By the nineteenth
century, anthologies of verses attributed to him circulated in print in regions as far apart as
Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

 Kabir’s poems have survived in several languages and dialects; and some are composed in the
special language of nirguna poets, the sant bhasha. Others, known as ulatbansi (upside-down
sayings), are written in a form in which everyday meanings are inverted.
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 These hint at the difficulties of capturing the nature of the Ultimate Reality in words: expressions
such as “the lotus which blooms without flower” or the “fire raging in the ocean” convey a sense
of Kabir’s mystical experiences.

 Also striking is the range of traditions Kabir drew on to describe the Ultimate Reality. These
include Islam: he described the Ultimate Reality as Allah, Khuda, Hazrat and Pir.

 He also used terms drawn from Vedantic traditions, alakh (the unseen), nirakar (formless),
Brahman, Atman, etc. Other terms with mystical connotations such as shabda (sound) or shunya
(emptiness) were drawn from yogic traditions.

 Diverse and sometimes conflicting ideas are expressed in these poems. Some poems draw on
Islamic ideas and use monotheism and iconoclasm to attack Hindu polytheism and idol worship;
others use the sufi concept of zikr and ishq (love) to express the Hindu practice of nam-simaran
(remembrance of God’s name).

 What this rich corpus of verses also signifies is that Kabir was and is to the present a source of
inspiration for those who questioned entrenched religious and social institutions, ideas and
practices in their search for the Divine.

 Hagiographies within the Vaishnava tradition attempted to suggest that he was born a Hindu,
Kabirdas (Kabir itself is an Arabic word meaning “great”), but was raised by a poor Muslim
family belonging to the community of weavers or julahas, who were relatively recent converts to
Islam. They also suggested that he was initiated into bhakti by a guru, perhaps Ramananda.

 However, the verses attributed to Kabir use the words guru and satguru, but do not mention the
name of any specific preceptor. Historians have pointed out that it is very difficult to establish
that Ramananda and Kabir were contemporaries, without assigning improbably long lives to
either or both.

Baba Guru Nanak and the Sacred Word

 Baba Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was born in a Hindu merchant family in a village called Nankana
Sahib near the river Ravi in the predominantly Muslim Punjab. He trained to be an accountant
and studied Persian. He was married at a young age but he spent most of his time among sufis and
bhaktas. He also travelled widely.

 The message of Baba Guru Nanak is spelt out in his hymns and teachings. These suggest that he
advocated a form of nirguna bhakti.

 He firmly repudiated the external practices of the religions he saw around him. He rejected
sacrifices, ritual baths, image worship, austerities and the scriptures of both Hindus and Muslims.
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 For Baba Guru Nanak, the Absolute or “rab” had no gender or form. He proposed a simple way to
connect to the Divine by remembering and repeating the Divine Name, expressing his ideas
through hymns called “shabad” in Punjabi, the language of the region.

 Baba Guru Nanak would sing these compositions in various ragas while his attendant Mardana
played the rabab. Baba Guru Nanak organised his followers into a community. He set up rules for
congregational worship (sangat) involving collective recitation.

 He appointed one of his disciples, Angad, to succeed him as the preceptor (guru), and this
practice was followed for nearly 200 years.

 It appears that Baba Guru Nanak did not wish to establish a new religion, but after his death his
followers consolidated their own practices and distinguished themselves from both Hindus and

 The fifth preceptor, Guru Arjan, compiled Baba Guru Nanak’s hymns along with those of his four
successors and other religious poets like Baba Farid, Ravidas (also known as Raidas) and Kabir in
the Adi Granth Sahib. These hymns, called “gurbani”, are composed in various languages.

 In the late seventeenth century the tenth preceptor, Guru Gobind Singh, included the
compositions of the ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and this scripture was called the Guru
Granth Sahib.

 Guru Gobind Singh also laid the foundation of the Khalsa Panth (army of the pure) and defined
its five symbols: uncut hair, a dagger, a pair of shorts, a comb and a steel bangle. Under him the
community got consolidated as a socio-religious and military force.

Mirabai, the devotee princess

 Mirabai (c. fifteenth-sixteenth centuries) is perhaps the best-known woman poet within the bhakti
tradition. Biographies have been reconstructed primarily from the bhajans attributed to her, which
were transmitted orally for centuries.

 According to these, she was a Rajput princess from Merta in Marwar who was married against
her wishes to a prince of the Sisodia clan of Mewar, Rajasthan.

 She defied her husband and did not submit to the traditional role of wife and mother, instead
recognising Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu, as her lover. Her in-laws tried to poison her, but she
escaped from the palace to live as a wandering saint composing songs that are characterised by
intense expressions of emotion.

 According to some traditions, her preceptor was Raidas, a leather worker. This would indicate her
defiance of the norms of caste society. After rejecting the comforts of her husband’s palace, she is
supposed to have donned the white robes of a widow or the saffron robe of the renouncer.
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 Although Mirabai did not attract a sect or group of followers, she has been recognised as a source
of inspiration for centuries. Her songs continue to be sung by women and men, especially those
who are poor and considered “low caste” in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Reconstructing histories of religious traditions

 Historians draw on a variety of sources to reconstruct histories of religious traditions – these
include sculpture, architecture, stories about religious preceptors, compositions attributed to
women and men engaged in the quest of understanding the nature of the Divine.

 Sculpture and architecture can only be understood if we have a grasp of the context – the ideas,
beliefs and practices of those who produced and used these images and buildings.
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Chapter 3: An Imperial Capital- Vijayanagara

 Vijayanagara or “city of victory” was the name of both a city and an empire. The empire was
founded in the fourteenth century. In its heyday it stretched from the river Krishna in the north to
the extreme south of the peninsula.

 In 1565 the city was sacked and subsequently deserted. Although it fell into ruin in the
seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, it lived on in the memories of people living in the Krishna-
Tungabhadra doab.

 People remembered it as Hampi, a name derived from that of the local mother goddess,
Pampadevi. These oral traditions combined with archaeological finds, monuments and
inscriptions and other records helped scholars to rediscover the Vijayanagara Empire

The Discovery Of Hampi

 The ruins at Hampi were brought to light in 1800 by an engineer and antiquarian named Colonel
Colin Mackenzie. Much of the initial information he received was based on the memories of
priests of the Virupaksha temple and the shrine of Pampadevi.

 In an effort to reconstruct the history of the city and the empire, historians collated information
from inscriptions with accounts of foreign travellers and other literature written in Telugu,
Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit

Rayas, Nayakas and Sultans

 According to tradition and epigraphic evidence two brothers, Harihara and Bukka, founded the
Vijayanagara Empire in 1336.

 On their northern frontier, the Vijayanagara kings competed with contemporary rulers – including
the Sultans of the Deccan and the Gajapati rulers of Orissa – for control of the fertile river valleys
and the resources generated by lucrative overseas trade.

 At the same time, interaction between these states led to sharing of ideas, especially in the field of

 Some of the areas that were incorporated within the empire had witnessed the development of
powerful states such as those of the Cholas in Tamil Nadu and the Hoysalas in Karnataka.

 Ruling elites in these areas had extended patronage to elaborate temples such as the Brihadishvara
temple at Thanjavur and the Chennakeshava temple at Belur.

 The rulers of Vijayanagara, who called themselves rayas, built on these traditions and carried
them, as we will see, literally to new heights.
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Kings and traders

 As warfare during these times depended upon effective cavalry, the import of horses from Arabia
and Central Asia was very important for rival kingdoms. This trade was initially controlled by
Arab traders. Local communities of merchants known as kudirai chettis or horse merchants also
participated in these exchanges.

 From 1498 other actors appeared on the scene. These were the Portuguese, who arrived on the
west coast of the subcontinent and attempted to establish trading and military stations. Their
superior military technology, especially the use of muskets, enabled them to become important
players in the tangled politics of the period.

 In fact, Vijayanagara was also noted for its markets dealing in spices, textiles and precious stones.
Trade was often regarded as a status symbol for such cities, which boasted of a wealthy
population that demanded high-value exotic goods, especially precious stones and jewellery. The
revenue derived from trade in turn contributed significantly to the prosperity of the state.

The apogee and decline of the empire

 Within the polity, claimants to power included members of the ruling lineage as well as military
commanders. The first dynasty, known as the Sangama dynasty, exercised control till 1485. They
were supplanted by the Saluvas, military commanders, who remained in power till 1503 when
they were replaced by the Tuluvas. Krishnadeva Raya belonged to the Tuluva dynasty.

 Krishnadeva Raya’s rule:

 It was characterised by expansion and consolidation.
 This was the time when the land between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers (the
Raichur doab) was acquired (1512), the rulers of Orissa were subdued (1514) and severe
defeats were inflicted on the Sultan of Bijapur (1520).
 Although the kingdom remained in a constant state of military preparedness, it flourished
under conditions of unparalleled peace and prosperity.
 Krishnadeva Raya is credited with building some fine temples and adding impressive
gopurams to many important south Indian temples.
 He also founded a suburban township near Vijayanagara called Nagalapuram after his

 After Krishnadeva Raya’s death in 1529 his successors were troubled by rebellious nayakas or
military chiefs.

 By 1542 control at the centre had shifted to another ruling lineage, that of the Aravidu, which
remained in power till the end of the seventeenth century. During this period, as indeed earlier,
the military ambitions of the rulers of Vijayanagara as well as those of the Deccan Sultanates
resulted in shifting alignments.
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 Eventually this led to an alliance of the Sultanates against Vijayanagara. In 1565 Rama Raya, the
chief minister of Vijayanagara, led the army into battle at Rakshasi-Tangadi (also known as
Talikota), where his forces were routed by the combined armies of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and
Golconda. Now the focus of the empire shifted to the east where the Aravidu dynasty ruled from
Penukonda and later from Chandragiri (near Tirupati).

 Although the armies of the Sultans were responsible for the destruction of the city of
Vijayanagara, relations between the Sultans and the rayas were not always or inevitably hostile,
in spite of religious differences.

 Krishnadeva Raya, for example, supported some claimants to power in the Sultanates and took
pride in the title “establisher of the Yavana kingdom”.

 Similarly, the Sultan of Bijapur intervened to resolve succession disputes in Vijayanagara

following the death of Krishnadeva Raya. In fact the Vijayanagara kings were keen to ensure the
stability of the Sultanates and vice versa.

 It was the adventurous policy of Rama Raya who tried to play off one Sultan against another that
led the Sultans to combine together and decisively defeat him.

The rayas and the nayakas

 Among those who exercised power in the empire were military chiefs who usually controlled
forts and had armed supporters. These chiefs were known as nayakas and they usually spoke
Telugu or Kannada.

 Many nayakas submitted to the authority of the kings of Vijayanagara but they often rebelled and
had to be subdued by military action.

 The amara-nayaka system was a major political innovation of the Vijayanagara Empire. It
is likely that many features of this system were derived from the iqta system of the Delhi

 The amara-nayakas were military commanders who were given territories to govern by the raya.
They collected taxes and other dues from peasants, crafts-persons and traders in the area. They
retained part of the revenue for personal use and for maintaining a stipulated contingent of horses
and elephants. Some of the revenue was also used for the maintenance of temples and irrigation

 The amara-nayakas sent tribute to the king annually and personally appeared in the royal court
with gifts to express their loyalty. Kings occasionally asserted their control over them by
transferring them from one place to another. However, during the course of the seventeenth
century, many of these nayakas established independent kingdoms. This hastened the collapse of
the central imperial structure.
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Vijayanagara – The Capital And Its Environs

Like most capitals, Vijayanagara, was characterised by a distinctive physical layout and building style.

Water resources
 The most striking feature about the location of Vijayanagara is the natural basin formed by the
river Tungabhadra which flows in a north-easterly direction. The surrounding landscape is
characterised by stunning granite hills that seem to form a girdle around the city.

 A number of streams flow down to the river from these rocky outcrops. In almost all cases
embankments were built along these streams to create reservoirs of varying sizes.

 As this is one of the most arid zones of the peninsula, elaborate arrangements had to be made to
store rainwater and conduct it to the city.

 The most important such tank was built in the early years of the fifteenth century and is now
called Kamalapuram tank. Water from this tank not only irrigated fields nearby but was also
conducted through a channel to the “royal centre”.

 One of the most prominent waterworks to be seen among the ruins is the Hiriya canal. This canal
drew water from a dam across the Tungabhadra and irrigated the cultivated valley that separated
the “sacred centre” from the “urban core”. This was apparently built by kings of the Sangama

Fortifications and roads

 Abdur Razzaq, an ambassador sent by the ruler of Persia to Calicut (present-day Kozhikode) in
the fifteenth century, was greatly impressed by the fortifications, and mentioned seven lines of
forts. These encircled not only the city but also its agricultural hinterland and forests.

 The outermost wall linked the hills surrounding the city. The massive masonry construction was
slightly tapered. No mortar or cementing agent was employed anywhere in the construction.

 What was most significant about this fortification is that it enclosed agricultural tracts. Present-
day archaeologists, who have also found evidence of an agricultural tract between the sacred
centre and the urban core. This tract was serviced by an elaborate canal system drawing water
from the Tungabhadra.

 Often, the objective of medieval sieges was to starve the defenders into submission. These sieges
could last for several months and sometimes even years. Normally rulers tried to be prepared for
such situations by building large granaries within fortified areas.
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 The rulers of Vijayanagara adopted a more expensive and elaborate strategy of protecting the
agricultural belt itself. A second line of fortification went round the inner core of the urban
complex, and a third line surrounded the royal centre, within which each set of major buildings
was surrounded by its own high walls.

 The arch on the gateway leading into the fortified settlement as well as the dome over the gate are
regarded as typical features of the architecture introduced by the Turkish Sultans. Art historians
refer to this style as Indo-Islamic, as it grew continually through interaction with local building
practices in different regions.

 Archaeologists have studied roads within the city and those leading out from it. These have been
identified by tracing paths through gateways, as well as by finds of pavements. \

 Roads generally wound around through the valleys, avoiding rocky terrain. Some of the most
important roads extended from temple gateways, and were lined by bazaars.

The urban core

 Archaeologists have found fine Chinese porcelain in some areas, including in the north-eastern
corner of the urban core and suggest that these areas may have been occupied by rich traders.

 Tombs and mosques located here have distinctive functions, yet their architecture resembles that
of the mandapas found in the temples of Hampi.

 Field surveys indicate that the entire area was dotted with numerous shrines and small temples,
pointing to the prevalence of a variety of cults, perhaps supported by different communities.

 The surveys also indicate that wells, rainwater tanks as well as temple tanks may have served as
sources of water to the ordinary town dwellers.

The Royal Centre

 The royal centre located in the south-western part of the settlement included over 60 temples.
Clearly, the patronage of temples and cults was important for rulers who were trying to establish
and legitimise their authority through association with the divinities housed in the shrines.

 About thirty building complexes have been identified as palaces. These are relatively large
structures that do not seem to have been associated with ritual functions.

 One difference between these structures and temples is that the latter were constructed entirely of
masonry, while the superstructure of the secular buildings was made of perishable materials.
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The mahanavami dibba

 Some of the more distinctive structures in the area have been assigned names based on the form
of the buildings as well as their functions.

 The “king’s palace” is the largest of the enclosures but has not yielded definitive evidence of
being a royal residence. It has two of the most impressive platforms, usually called the “audience
hall” and the “mahanavami dibba”.

 Located on one of the highest points in the city, the “mahanavami dibba” is a massive platform
rising from a base of about 11,000 sq. ft to a height of 40 ft. There is evidence that it supported a
wooden structure. Rituals associated with the structure probably coincided with Mahanavami.

 The Vijayanagara kings displayed their prestige, power and suzerainty on this occasion. The
ceremonies performed on the occasion included worship of the image, worship of the state horse,
and the sacrifice of buffaloes and other animals.

 On the last day of the festival the king inspected his army and the armies of the nayakas in a
grand ceremony in an open field. On this occasion the nayakas brought rich gifts for the king as
well as the stipulated tribute.

Other buildings in the royal centre

 One of the most beautiful buildings in the royal centre is the Lotus Mahal, so named by British
travellers in the nineteenth century. While the name is certainly romantic, historians are not quite
sure what the building was used for.

 While most temples were located in the sacred centre, there were several in the royal centre as
well. One of the most spectacular of these is one known as the Hazara Rama temple. This was
probably meant to be used only by the king and his family.

 The images in the central shrine are missing; however, sculpted panels on the walls survive.
These include scenes from the Ramayana sculpted on the inner walls of the shrine.

 While many of the structures at Vijayanagara were destroyed when the city was sacked, traditions
of building palatial structures were continued by the nayakas. Many of these buildings have

The Sacred Centre: Choosing a capital

 We now move to the rocky northern end of the city on the banks of the Tungabhadra. According
to local tradition, these hills sheltered the monkey kingdom of Vali and Sugriva mentioned in the
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 Other traditions suggest that Pampadevi, the local mother goddess, did penance in these hills in
order to marry Virupaksha, the guardian deity of the kingdom, also recognised as a form of Shiva.

 Among these hills are found Jaina temples of the pre-Vijayanagara period as well. Temple
building in the region had a long history, going back to dynasties such as the Pallavas, Chalukyas,
Hoysalas and Cholas.

 Rulers very often encouraged temple building as a means of associating themselves with the
divine – often, the deity was explicitly or implicitly identified with the king.

 Temples also functioned as centres of learning. Besides, rulers and others often granted land and
other resources for the maintenance of temples.

 Consequently, temples developed as significant religious, social, cultural and economic centres.
From the point of view of the rulers, constructing, repairing and maintaining temples were
important means of winning support and recognition for their power, wealth and piety.

 It is likely that the very choice of the site of Vijayanagara was inspired by the existence of the
shrines of Virupaksha and Pampadevi. In fact the Vijayanagara kings claimed to rule on behalf of
the god Virupaksha. All royal orders were signed “Shri Virupaksha”, usually in the Kannada

 Rulers also indicated their close links with the gods by using the title “Hindu Suratrana”. This
was a Sanskritisation of the Arabic term Sultan, meaning king, so it literally meant Hindu Sultan.

 Even as they drew on earlier traditions, the rulers of Vijayanagara innovated and developed these.
Royal portrait sculpture was now displayed in temples, and the king’s visits to temples were
treated as important state occasions on which he was accompanied by the important nayakas of
the empire.

Gopurams and mandapas

 In terms of temple architecture, by this period certain new features were in evidence. These
included structures of immense scale that must have been a mark of imperial authority, best
exemplified by the raya gopurams or royal gateways that often dwarfed the towers on the central
shrines, and signalled the presence of the temple from a great distance.

 They were also probably meant as reminders of the power of kings, able to command the
resources, techniques and skills needed to construct these towering gateways.

 Other distinctive features include mandapas or pavilions and long, pillared corridors that often ran
around the shrines within the temple complex.
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 The Virupaksha temple was built over centuries. While inscriptions suggest that the earliest
shrine dated to the ninth-tenth centuries, it was substantially enlarged with the establishment of
the Vijayanagara Empire.

 The hall in front of the main shrine was built by Krishnadeva Raya to mark his accession. This
was decorated with delicately carved pillars. He is also credited with the construction of the
eastern gopuram.

 The halls in the temple were used for a variety of purposes. Some were spaces in which the
images of gods were placed to witness special programmes of music, dance, drama, etc. Others
were used to celebrate the marriages of deities, and yet others were meant for the deities to swing

 Another shrine, the Vitthala temple, is also interesting. Here, the principal deity was Vitthala, a
form of Vishnu generally worshipped in Maharashtra. The introduction of the worship of the
deity in Karnataka is another indication of the ways in which the rulers of Vijayanagara drew on
different traditions to create an imperial culture.

 As in the case of other temples, Vitthala temple too has several halls and a unique shrine designed
as a chariot. A characteristic feature of the temple complexes is the chariot streets that extended
from the temple gopuram in a straight line.

 Just as the nayakas continued with and elaborated on traditions of fortification, so they did with
traditions of temple building. In fact, some of the most spectacular gopurams were also built by
the local nayakas.
 painted, perhaps brightly.” Although wooden structures are lost, and only stone structures
survive, the descriptions left by travellers allow us to reconstruct some aspects of the vibrant life
of the times.

Questions In Search Of Answers

 Buildings that survive tell us about the way spaces were organised and used, how they were built,
with what materials and techniques. For example, we can assess the defence requirements and
military preparedness of a city by studying its fortifications.

 Buildings also tell us about the spread of ideas and cultural influences if we compare them with
buildings in other places. They convey ideas which the builders or their patrons wished to project.

 Investigations of architectural features do not tell us what ordinary men, women and children,
comprising the vast majority of the people who lived in the city and its outskirts, thought about
these impressive buildings.
 Would they have had access to any of the areas within the royal centre or the sacred centre?
Would they hurry past the sculpture, or would they pause to see, reflect and try and understand its
complicated symbolism? And what did the people who worked on these colossal construction
projects think of the enterprises to which they had contributed their labour?
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Chapter 4: Peasants, Zamindars, And The State

 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries about 85 per cent of the population of India lived
in its villages.

 Both peasants and landed elites were involved in agricultural production and claimed rights to a
share of the produce. This created relationships of cooperation, competition and conflict among
them. The sum of these agrarian relationships made up rural society.

 At the same time agencies from outside also entered into the rural world. Most important among
these was the Mughal state, which derived the bulk of its income from agricultural production.

 Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors, record keepers – sought to control rural
society so as to ensure that cultivation took place and the state got its regular share of taxes from
the produce.

 Since many crops were grown for sale, trade, money and markets entered the villages and linked
the agricultural areas with the towns.

Peasants and agricultural production

 The basic unit of agricultural society was the village, inhabited by peasants who performed the
manifold seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production throughout the year – tilling the soil,
sowing seeds, harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they contributed their labour to the
production of agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.

 But rural India was not characterised by settled peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas
such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were not cultivable in the same way as the more
fertile expanses of land.

 In addition, forest areas made up a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep this varied
topography in mind when discussing agrarian society.

Looking for sources

 Our major source for the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries are
chronicles and documents from the Mughal court. One of the most important chronicles was the
Ain-i Akbari authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl.

 This text meticulously recorded the arrangements made by the state to ensure cultivation, to
enable the collection of revenue by the agencies of the state and to regulate the relationship
between the state and rural magnates, the zamindars.
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 The central purpose of the Ain was to present a vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony
was provided by a strong ruling class.

 Any revolt or assertion of autonomous power against the Mughal state was, in the eyes of the
author of the Ain, predestined to fail. In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about
peasants remains a view from the top.

 Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can be supplemented by descriptions contained in
sources emanating from regions away from the Mughal capital. These include detailed revenue
records from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth

 Further, the extensive records of the East India Company provide us with useful descriptions of
agrarian relations in eastern India.

 All these sources record instances of conflicts between peasants, zamindars and the state. In the
process they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of and their expectations of fairness from
the state.

Peasants and their lands

 The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal period most frequently used to denote a
peasant was raiyat (plural, riaya) or muzarian. In addition, we also encounter the terms kisan or

 Sources of the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta.
The former were residents of the village in which they held their lands. The latter were non-
resident cultivators who belonged to some other village, but cultivated lands elsewhere on a
contractual basis.

 People became pahi-kashta either out of choice – for example, when terms of revenue in a distant
village were more favourable – or out of compulsion – for example, forced by economic distress
after a famine.

 Seldom did the average peasant of north India possess more than a pair of bullocks and two
ploughs; most possessed even less.

 In Gujarat peasants possessing about six acres of land were considered to be affluent; in Bengal,
on the other hand, five acres was the upper limit of an average peasant farm; 10 acres would
make one a rich asami.

 Cultivation was based on the principle of individual ownership. Peasant lands were bought and
sold in the same way as the lands of other property owners.
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 This nineteenth-century description of peasant holdings in the Delhi-Agra region would apply
equally to the seventeenth century: The cultivating peasants (asamis), who plough up the fields,
mark the limits of each field, for identification and demarcation, with borders of (raised) earth,
brick and thorn so that thousands of such fields may be counted in a village

Irrigation and technology

 The abundance of land, available labour and the mobility of peasants were three factors that
accounted for the constant expansion of agriculture.

 Since the primary purpose of agriculture is to feed people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or
millets were the most frequently cultivated crops. Areas which received 40 inches or more of
rainfall a year were generally rice-producing zones, followed by wheat and millets, corresponding
to a descending scale of precipitation.

 Monsoons remained the backbone of Indian agriculture, as they are even today. But there were
crops which required additional water. Artificial systems of irrigation had to be devised for this.

 Irrigation projects received state support as well. For example, in northern India the state
undertook digging of new canals (nahr, nala) and also repaired old ones like the shahnahr in the
Punjab during Shah Jahan’s reign.

 Though agriculture was labour intensive, peasants did use technologies that often harnessed cattle
energy. One example was the wooden plough, which was light and easily assembled with an iron
tip or coulter. It therefore did not make deep furrows, which preserved the moisture better during
the intensely hot months.

 A drill, pulled by a pair of giant oxen, was used to plant seeds, but broadcasting of seed was the
most prevalent method. Hoeing and weeding were done simultaneously using a narrow iron blade
with a small wooden handle.

An abundance of crops
 Agriculture was organised around two major seasonal cycles, the kharif (autumn) and the rabi
(spring). This would mean that most regions, except those terrains that were the most arid or
inhospitable, produced a minimum of two crops a year (do-fasla), whereas some, where rainfall
or irrigation assured a continuous supply of water, even gave three crops. This ensured an
enormous variety of produce.

 However, the focus on the cultivation of basic staples did not mean that agriculture in medieval
India was only for subsistence. We often come across the term jins-i kamil (literally, perfect
crops) in our sources. The Mughal state also encouraged peasants to cultivate such crops as they
brought in more revenue.
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 Crops such as cotton and sugarcane were jins-i kamil par excellence. Cotton was grown over a
great swathe of territory spread over central India and the Deccan plateau, whereas Bengal was
famous for its sugar.

 Such cash crops would also include various sorts of oilseeds (for example, mustard) and lentils.
This shows how subsistence and commercial production were closely intertwined in an average
peasant’s holding.

 During the seventeenth century several new crops from different parts of the world reached the
Indian subcontinent. Maize (makka), for example, was introduced into India via Africa and Spain
and by the seventeenth century it was being listed as one of the major crops of western India.

 Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and chillies were introduced from the New World at this time,
as were fruits like the pineapple and the papaya.

The village community

 The above account makes it clear that agricultural production involved the intensive participation
and initiative of the peasantry. How did this affect the structure of agrarian relations in Mughal

 We have seen that peasants held their lands in individual ownership. At the same time they
belonged to a collective village community as far as many aspects of their social existence were
concerned. There were three constituents of this community – the cultivators, the panchayat, and
the village headman (muqaddam or mandal).

Caste And The Rural Milieu

 Deep inequities on the basis of caste and other caste-like distinctions meant that the cultivators
were a highly heterogeneous group. Among those who tilled the land, there was a sizeable
number who worked as menials or agricultural labourers (majur).

 Despite the abundance of cultivable land, certain caste groups were assigned menial tasks and
thus relegated to poverty.

 Though there was no census at that time, the little data that we have suggest that such groups
comprised a large section of the village population, had the least resources and were constrained
by their position in the caste hierarchy, much like the Dalits of modern India. Such distinctions
had begun permeating into other communities too.

 In Muslim communities menials like the halalkhoran (scavengers) were housed outside the
boundaries of the village; similarly the mallahzadas (literally, sons of boatmen) in Bihar were
comparable to slaves.
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 There was a direct correlation between caste, poverty and social status at the lower strata of
society. Such correlations were not so marked at intermediate levels.

 In a manual from seventeenth century Marwar, Rajputs are mentioned as peasants, sharing the
same space with Jats, who were accorded a lower status in the caste hierarchy.

 The Gauravas, who cultivated land around Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh), sought Rajput status in the
seventeenth century.

 Castes such as the Ahirs, Gujars and Malis rose in the hierarchy because of the profitability of
cattle rearing and horticulture.

 In the eastern regions, intermediate pastoral and fishing castes like the Sadgops and Kaivartas
acquired the status of peasants.

Panchayats and headmen

 The village panchayat was an assembly of elders, usually important people of the village with
hereditary rights over their property. In mixed-caste villages, the panchayat was usually a
heterogeneous body.

 An oligarchy, the panchayat represented various castes and communities in the village, though
the village menial-cum-agricultural worker was unlikely to be represented there. The decisions
made by these panchayats were binding on the members.

 The panchayat was headed by a headman known as muqaddam or mandal. Some sources suggest
that the headman was chosen through the consensus of the village elders, and that this choice had
to be ratified by the zamindar.

 Headmen held office as long as they enjoyed the confidence of the village elders, failing which
they could be dismissed by them.

 The chief function of the headman was to supervise the preparation of village accounts, assisted
by the accountant or patwari of the panchayat.

 The panchayat derived its funds from contributions made by individuals to a common financial
pool. These funds were used for defraying the costs of entertaining revenue officials who visited
the village from time to time.

 Expenses for community welfare activities such as tiding overnatural calamities (like floods),
were also met from these funds. Often these funds were also deployed in construction of a bund
or digging a canal which peasants usually could not afford to do on their own.
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 One important function of the panchayat was to ensure that caste boundaries among the various
communities inhabiting the village were upheld. In eastern India all marriages were held in the
presence of the mandal.

 In other words one of the duties of the village headman was to oversee the conduct of the
members of the village community “chiefly to prevent any offence against their caste”.

 Panchayats also had the authority to levy fines and inflict more serious forms of punishment like
expulsion from the community. It meant that a person forced to leave the village became an
outcaste and lost his right to practise his profession.

 In addition to the village panchayat each caste or jati in the village had its own jati panchayat.
These panchayats wielded considerable power in rural society.

 In Rajasthan jati panchayats arbitrated civil disputes between members of different castes. They
mediated in contested claims on land, decided whether marriages were performed according to
the norms laid down by a particular caste group, determined who had ritual precedence in village
functions, and so on.

 In most cases, except in matters of criminal justice, the state respected the decisions of jati
panchayats. Archival records from western India – notably Rajasthan and Maharashtra – contain
petitions presented to the panchayat complaining about extortionate taxation or the demand for
unpaid labour (begar) imposed by the “superior” castes or officials of the state.

 Often petitions were made collectively as well, by a caste group or a community protesting
against what they considered were morally illegitimate demands on the part of elite groups. These
included excessive tax demands which, especially in times of drought or other disasters,
endangered the peasants’ subsistence.

 In the eyes of the petitioners the right to the basic minimum for survival was sanctioned by
custom. They regarded the village panchayat as the court of appeal that would ensure that the
state carried out its moral obligations and guaranteed justice.

 The decision of the panchayat in conflicts between “lower-caste” peasants and state officials or
the local zamindar could vary from case to case. In cases of excessive revenue demands, the
panchayat often suggested compromise.

 In cases where reconciliation failed, peasants took recourse to more drastic forms of resistance,
such as deserting the village. The relatively easy availability of uncultivated land and the
competition over labour resources made this an effective weapon in the hands of cultivators.
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Village artisans
 Another interesting aspect of the village was the elaborate relationship of exchange between
different producers.

 Marathi documents and village surveys made in the early years of British rule have revealed the
existence of substantial numbers of artisans, sometimes as high as 25 per cent of the total
households in the villages.

 At times, however, the distinction between artisans and peasants in village society was a fluid
one, as many groups performed the tasks of both. Cultivators and their families would also
participate in craft production – such as dyeing, textile printing, baking and firing of pottery,
making and repairing agricultural implements.

 Phases in the agricultural calendar when there was a relative lull in activity, as between sowing
and weeding or between weeding and harvesting, were a time when cultivators could engage in
artisanal production.

 Village artisans – potters, blacksmiths, carpenters, barbers, even goldsmiths – provided

specialised services in return for which they were compensated by villagers by a variety of

 The most common way of doing so was by giving them a share of the harvest, or an allotment of
land, perhaps cultivable wastes, which was likely to be decided by the panchayat. In Maharashtra
such lands became the artisans’ miras or watan – their hereditary holding.

 Another variant of this was a system where artisans and individual peasant households entered
into a mutually negotiated system of remuneration, most of the time goods for services.

 For example, eighteenth-century records tell us of zamindars in Bengal who remunerated

blacksmiths, carpenters, even goldsmiths for their work by paying them “a small daily allowance
and diet money”. This later came to be described as the jajmani system, though the term was not
in vogue in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

 Such evidence is interesting because it indicates the intricate ways in which exchange networks
operated at the micro-level of the village. Cash remuneration was not entirely unknown either.

A “little republic”?
 Some British officials in the nineteenth century saw the village as a “little republic” made up of
fraternal partners sharing resources and labour in a collective. However, this was not a sign of
rural egalitarianism.
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 There was individual ownership of assets and deep inequities based on caste and gender
distinctions. A group of powerful individuals decided the affairs of the village, exploited the
weaker sections and had the authority to dispense justice.

 More importantly, a cash nexus had already developed through trade between villages and towns.

 In the Mughal heartland too, revenue was assessed and collected in cash. Artisans producing for
the export market (for example, weavers) received their advances or wages in cash, as did
producers of commercial products like cotton, silk or indigo.

Women In Agrarian Society

 The production process often involves men and women performing certain specified roles. Men
tilled and ploughed, while women sowed, weeded, threshed and winnowed the harvest.

 With the growth of nucleated villages and expansion in individuated peasant farming, which
characterised medieval Indian agriculture, the basis of production was the labour and resources of
the entire household.

 Naturally, a gendered segregation between the home (for women) and the world (for men) was
not possible in this context.

 Nonetheless biases related to women’s biological functions did continue. Menstruating women,
for instance, were not allowed to touch the plough or the potter’s wheel in western India, or enter
the groves where betel-leaves (paan) were grown in Bengal.

 Artisanal tasks such as spinning yarn, sifting and kneading clay for pottery, and embroidery were
among the many aspects of production dependent on female labour. The more commercialised the
product, the greater the demand on women’s labour to produce it.

 In fact, peasant and artisan women worked not only in the fields, but even went to the houses of
their employers or to the markets if necessary.

 Women were considered an important resource in agrarian society also because they were child
bearers in a society dependent on labour.

 At the same time, high mortality rates among women – owing to malnutrition, frequent
pregnancies, death during childbirth – often meant a shortage of wives. This led to the emergence
of social customs in peasant and artisan communities that were distinct from those prevalent
among elite groups.

 Marriages in many rural communities required the payment of bride-price rather than dowry to
the bride’s family.
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 Remarriage was considered legitimate both among divorced and widowed women. The
importance attached to women as a reproductive force also meant that the fear of losing control
over them was great.

 According to established social norms, the household was headed by a male. Thus women were
kept under strict control by the male members of the family and the community. They could
inflict draconian punishments if they suspected infidelity on the part of women.

 Documents from Western India – Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra – record petitions sent by
women to the village panchayat, seeking redress and justice. Wives protested against the
infidelity of their husbands or the neglect of the wife and children by the male head of the
household, the grihasthi.

 While male infidelity was not always punished, the state and “superior” caste groups did
intervene when it came to ensuring that the family was adequately provided for. In most cases
when women petitioned to the panchayat, their names were excluded from the record: the
petitioner was referred to as the mother, sister or wife of the male head of the household.

 Amongst the landed gentry, women had the right to inherit property. Instances from the Punjab
show that women, including widows, actively participated in the rural land market as sellers of
property inherited by them.

 Hindu and Muslim women inherited zamindaris which they were free to sell or mortgage.
Women zamindars were known in eighteenth-century Bengal. In fact, one of the biggest and most
famous of the eighteenth-century zamindaris, that of Rajshahi, had a woman at the helm.

Forests And Tribes-Beyond Settled Villages

 There was more to rural India than sedentary agriculture. Apart from the intensively cultivated
provinces in northern and north-western India, huge swathes of forests – dense forest (jangal) or
scrubland (kharbandi) – existed all over India.

 Forest dwellers were termed jangli in contemporary texts. The term described those whose
livelihood came from the gathering of forest produce, hunting and shifting agriculture.

 Among the Bhils, spring was reserved for collecting forest produce, summer for fishing, the
monsoon months for cultivation, and autumn and winter for hunting. Such a sequence presumed
and perpetuated mobility, which was a distinctive feature of tribes inhabiting these forests.

 For the state, the forest was a subversive place – a place of refuge (mawas) for troublemakers.
Once again, we turn to Babur who says that jungles provided a good defence “behind which the
people of the pargana become stubbornly rebellious and pay no taxes”.
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Inroads Into Forests

 External forces entered the forest in different ways. For instance, the state required elephants for
the army. So the peshkash levied from forest people often included a supply of elephants.

 In the Mughal political ideology, the hunt symbolised the overwhelming concern of the state to
ensure justice to all its subjects, rich and poor.

 Regular hunting expeditions enabled the emperor to travel across the extensive territories of his
empire and personally attend to the grievances of its inhabitants.

 The hunt was a subject frequently painted by court artists. The painter resorted to the device of
inserting a small scene somewhere in the picture that functioned as a symbol of a harmonious

 The spread of commercial agriculture was an important external factor that impinged on the lives
of those who lived in the forests.

 Forest products – like honey, beeswax and gum lac – were in great demand. Some, such as gum
lac, became major items of overseas export from India in the seventeenth century. Elephants were
also captured and sold.

 Trade involved an exchange of commodities through barter as well. Some tribes, like the Lohanis
in the Punjab, were engaged in overland trade, between India and Afghanistan, and in the town-
country trade in the Punjab itself.

 Social factors too wrought changes in the lives of forest dwellers. Many tribal chiefs had become
zamindars, some even became kings. They recruited people from their lineage groups or
demanded that their fraternity provide military service.

 In Assam, the Ahom kings had their paiks, people who were obliged to render military service in
exchange for land. The capture of wild elephants was declared a royal monopoly by the Ahom

 Though the transition from a tribal to a monarchical system had started much earlier, the process
seems to have become fully developed only by the sixteenth century. This can be seen from the
Ain’s observations on the existence of tribal kingdoms in the north-east.

 War was a common occurrence. For instance, the Koch kings fought and subjugated a number of
neighbouring tribes in a long sequence of wars through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

 New cultural influences also began to penetrate into forested zones. Some historians have indeed
suggested that sufi saints (pirs) played a major role in the slow acceptance of Islam among
agricultural communities emerging in newly colonised places
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The Zamindars
 A class of people in the countryside lived off agriculture but did not participate directly in the
processes of agricultural production. These were the zamindars who were landed proprietors who
also enjoyed certain social and economic privileges by virtue of their superior status in rural

 Caste was one factor that accounted for the elevated status of zamindars; another factor was that
they performed certain services (khidmat) for the state.

 The zamindars held extensive personal lands termed milkiyat, meaning property. Milkiyat lands
were cultivated for the private use of zamindars, often with the help of hired or servile labour.
The zamindars could sell, bequeath or mortgage these lands at will.

 Zamindars also derived their power from the fact that they could often collect revenue on behalf
of the state, a service for which they were compensated financially. Control over military
resources was another source of power.

 Most zamindars had fortresses (qilachas) as well as an armed contingent comprising units of
cavalry, artillery and infantry. Thus if we visualise social relations in the Mughal countryside as a
pyramid, zamindars clearly constituted its very narrow apex.

 Abu’l Fazl’s account indicates that an “upper -caste”, Brahmana-Rajput combine had already
established firm control over rural society. It also reflects a fairly large representation from the
so-called intermediate castes, as we saw earlier, as well as a liberal sprinkling of Muslim

 Contemporary documents give an impression that conquest may have been the source of the
origin of some zamindaris. The dispossession of weaker people by a powerful military chieftain
was quite often a way of expanding a zamindari.

 More important were the slow processes of zamindari consolidation, which are also documented
in sources. These involved colonisation of new lands, by transfer of rights, by order of the state
and by purchase.

 These were the processes which perhaps permitted people belonging to the relatively “lower”
castes to enter the rank of zamindars as zamindaris were bought and sold quite briskly in this

 A combination of factors also allowed the consolidation of clan- or lineage-based zamindaris. For
example, the Rajputs and Jats adopted these strategies to consolidate their control over vast
swathes of territory in northern India.
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 Likewise, peasant-pastoralists (like the Sadgops) carved out powerful zamindaris in areas of
central and southwestern Bengal. Zamindars spearheaded the colonisation of agricultural land,
and helped in settling cultivators by providing them with the means of cultivation, including cash

 The buying and selling of zamindaris accelerated the process of monetisation in the countryside.
In addition, zamindars sold the produce from their milkiyat lands.

 There is evidence to show that zamindars often established markets (haats) to which peasants also
came to sell their produce.

 Although there can be little doubt that zamindars were an exploitative class, their relationship
with the peasantry had an element of reciprocity, paternalism and patronage. Two aspects
reinforce this view:
1. First, the bhakti saints, who eloquently condemned caste-based and other forms of
oppression, did not portray the zamindars (or, interestingly, the moneylender) as
exploiters or oppressors of the peasantry. Usually it was the revenue official of the state
who was the object of their ire.
2. Second, in a large number of agrarian uprisings which erupted in north India in the
seventeenth century, zamindars often received the support of the peasantry in their
struggle against the state.

Land Revenue System

 Revenue from the land was the economic mainstay of the Mughal Empire. It was therefore vital
for the state to create an administrative apparatus to ensure control over agricultural production,
and to fix and collect revenue from across the length and breadth of the rapidly expanding

 The office (daftar) of the diwan was responsible for supervising the fiscal system of the empire.
Thus revenue officials and record keepers penetrated the agricultural domain and became a
decisive agent in shaping agrarian relations.

 The Mughal state tried to first acquire specific information about the extent of the agricultural
lands in the empire and what these lands produced before fixing the burden of taxes on people.

 The land revenue arrangements consisted of two stages – first, assessment and then actual
collection. The jama was the amount assessed, as opposed to hasil, the amount collected.

 In his list of duties of the amil-guzar or revenue collector, Akbar decreed that while he should
strive to make cultivators pay in cash, the option of payment in kind was also to be kept open.

 While fixing revenue, the attempt of the state was to maximise its claims. Both cultivated and
cultivable lands were measured in each province. The Ain compiled the aggregates of such lands
during Akbar’s rule.
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 Efforts to measure lands continued under subsequent emperors. For instance, in 1665, Aurangzeb
expressly instructed his revenue officials to prepare annual records of the number of cultivators in
each village. Yet not all areas were measured successfully. As we have seen, forests covered huge
areas of the subcontinent and thus remained unmeasured.

The Flow Of Silver

 The Mughal Empire was among the large territorial empires in Asia that had managed to
consolidate power and resources during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These empires
were the Ming (China), Safavid (Iran) and Ottoman (Turkey).

 The political stability achieved by all these empires helped create vibrant networks of overland
trade from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Voyages of discovery and the opening up of the New
World resulted in a massive expansion of Asia’s (particularly India’s) trade with Europe.

 An expanding trade brought in huge amounts of silver bullion into Asia to pay for goods procured
from India, and a large part of that bullion gravitated towards India. This was good for India as it
did not have natural resources of silver.

 As a result, the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries was also marked by a
remarkable stability in the availability of metal currency, particularly the silver rupya in India.

 This facilitated an unprecedented expansion of minting of coins and the circulation of money in
the economy as well as the ability of the Mughal state to extract taxes and revenue in cash.

 The testimony of an Italian traveller, Giovanni Careri, who passed through India c. 1690,
provides a graphic account about the way silver travelled across the globe to reach India. It also
gives us an idea of the phenomenal amounts of cash and commodity transactions in seventeenth-
century India.

The Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl Allami

 The Ain-i Akbari was the culmination of a large historical, administrative project of classification
undertaken by Abu’l Fazl at the order of Emperor Akbar. It was completed in 1598, the forty-
second regnal year of the emperor, after having gone through five revisions.

 The Ain was part of a larger project of history writing commissioned by Akbar. This history,
known as the Akbar Nama, comprised three books. The first two provided a historical narrative.

 The Ain-i Akbari, the third book, was organised as a compendium of imperial regulations and a
gazetteer of the empire.
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 The Ain gives detailed accounts of the organisation of the court, administration and army, the
sources of revenue and the physical layout of the provinces of Akbar’s empire and the literary,
cultural and religious traditions of the people.

 Along with a description of the various departments of Akbar’s government and elaborate
descriptions of the various provinces (subas) of the empire, the Ain gives us intricate quantitative
information of those provinces.

 The Ain is therefore a mine of information for us about the Mughal Empire during Akbar’s reign.
The Ain is made up of five books (daftars), of which the first three books describe the

1. The first book, called manzil-abadi, concerns the imperial household and its maintenance.
2. The second book, sipah-abadi, covers the military and civil administration and the
establishment of servants.
3. The third book, mulk-abadi, is the one which deals with the fiscal side of the empire and
provides rich quantitative information on revenue rates, followed by the “Account of the
Twelve Provinces”.

 After setting out details at the suba level, the Ain goes on to give a detailed picture of the sarkars
below the suba. This it does in the form of tables, which have eight columns giving the following
1. Parganat/mahal;
2. Qila (forts);
3. Arazi and zamin-i paimuda (measured area);
4. Naqdi, revenue assessed in cash;
5. Suyurghal, grants of revenue in charity;
6. Zamindars;
7. Columns 7 and 8 contain details of the castes of these zamindars, and their troops
including their horsemen (sawar), foot-soldiers (piyada) and elephants (fil).

 The fourth and fifth books (daftars) deal with the religious, literary and cultural traditions of the
people of India and also contain a collection of Akbar’s “auspicious sayings”.

 Although the Ain was officially sponsored to record detailed information to facilitate Emperor
Akbar govern his empire, it was much more than a reproduction of official papers. That the
manuscript was revised five times by the author would suggest a high degree of caution on the
part of Abu’l Fazl and a search for authenticity.

 Historians who have carefully studied the Ain point out that it is not without its problems.
Numerous errors in totalling have been detected. These are ascribed to simple slips of arithmetic
or of transcription by Abu’l Fazl’s assistants.
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 Another limitation of the Ain is the somewhat skewed nature of the quantitative data. Data were
not collected uniformly from all provinces.

 Further, while the fiscal data from the subas is remarkable for its richness, some equally vital
parameters such as prices and wages from these same areas are not as well documented.

 The detailed list of prices and wages that the Ain does provide is mainly derived from data
pertaining to areas in or around the imperial capital of Agra, and is therefore of limited relevance
for the rest of the country.
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Chapter 5: Kings And Chronicles- The Mughal Courts

 The rulers of the Mughal Empire saw themselves as appointed by Divine Will to rule over a large
and heterogeneous populace. One way of transmitting this vision was through the writing of
dynastic histories.

 The Mughal kings commissioned court historians to write accounts. These accounts recorded the
events of the emperor’s time.

 Modern historians writing in English have termed this genre of texts chronicles, as they present a
continuous chronological record of events.

 Chronicles are an indispensable source for any scholar wishing to write a history of the Mughals.
At one level they were a repository of factual information about the institutions of the Mughal
state, painstakingly collected and classified by individuals closely connected with the court. At
the same time these texts were intended as conveyors of meanings that the Mughal rulers sought
to impose on their domain.

The Mughals and Their Empire

 The name Mughal derives from Mongol. Though today the term evokes the grandeur of an
empire, it was not the name the rulers of the dynasty chose for themselves. They referred to
themselves as Timurids, as descendants of the Turkish ruler Timur on the paternal side.

 Babur, the first Mughal ruler, was related to Ghenghiz Khan from his mother’s side. He spoke
Turkish and referred derisively to the Mongols as barbaric hordes.

 During the sixteenth century, Europeans used the term Mughal to describe the Indian rulers of
this branch of the family. Over the past centuries the word has been frequently used – even the
name Mowgli, the young hero of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, is derived from it.

 The founder of the empire, Zahiruddin Babur, was driven from his Central Asian homeland,
Farghana, by the warring Uzbeks. He first established himself at Kabul and then in 1526 pushed
further into the Indian subcontinent in search of territories and resources to satisfy the needs of
the members of his clan.

 His successor, Nasiruddin Humayun (1530-40, 1555-56) expanded the frontiers of the empire, but
lost it to the Afghan leader Sher Shah Sur, who drove him into exile. Humayun took refuge in the
court of the Safavid ruler of Iran.

 Many consider Jalaluddin Akbar (1556-1605) the greatest of all the Mughal emperors. Akbar
succeeded in extending the frontiers of the empire to the Hindukush mountains, and checked the
expansionist designs of the Uzbeks of Turan (Central Asia) and the Safavids of Iran.
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 Akbar had three fairly able successors in Jahangir (1605-27), Shah Jahan (1628-58) and
Aurangzeb (1658-1707), much as their characters varied. Under them the territorial expansion
continued, though at a much reduced pace.

 The political system devised by the Mughals was based on a combination of military power and
conscious policy to accommodate the different traditions they encountered in the subcontinent.

 After 1707, following the death of Aurangzeb, the power of the dynasty diminished. In place of
the vast apparatus of empire controlled from Delhi, Agra or Lahore – the different capital cities –
regional powers acquired greater autonomy.

The Production of Chronicles

 Chronicles commissioned by the Mughal emperors are an important source for studying the
empire and its court. They were written in order to project a vision of an enlightened kingdom to
all those who came under its umbrella.

 At the same time they were meant to convey to those who resisted the rule of the Mughals that all
resistance was destined to fail. The authors of Mughal chronicles were invariably courtiers. The
histories they wrote focused on events centred on the ruler, his family, the court and nobles, wars
and administrative arrangements.

 Their titles, such as the Akbar Nama, Shahjahan Nama, Alamgir Nama, that is, the story of
Akbar, Shah Jahan and Alamgir (a title of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb), suggest that in the eyes
of their authors the history of the empire and the court was synonymous with that of the emperor.

From Turkish to Persian

 Mughal court chronicles were written in Persian. Under the Sultans of Delhi it flourished as a
language of the court and of literary writings, alongside north Indian languages, especially
Hindavi and its regional variants.

 As the Mughals were Chaghtai Turks by origin, Turkish was their mother tongue. Their first ruler
Babur wrote poetry and his memoirs in this language.

 It was Akbar who consciously set out to make Persian the leading language of the Mughal court.
Cultural and intellectual contacts with Iran, as well as a regular stream of Iranian and Central
Asian migrants seeking positions at the Mughal court, might have motivated the emperor to adopt
the language.

 Persian was elevated to a language of empire, conferring power and prestige on those who had a
command of it. Further, it became the language of administration at all levels so that accountants,
clerks and other functionaries also learnt it.
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 Even when Persian was not directly used, its vocabulary and idiom heavily influenced the
language of official records in Rajasthani and Marathi and even Tamil. Persian too became
Indianised by absorbing local idioms.

 A new language, Urdu, sprang from the interaction of Persian with Hindavi. Mughal chronicles
such as the Akbar Nama were written in Persian, others, like Babur’s memoirs, were translated
from the Turkish into the Persian Babur Nama.

 Translations of Sanskrit texts such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana into Persian were
commissioned by the Mughal emperors. The Mahabharata was translated as the Razmnama.

The Making Of Manuscripts

 All books in Mughal India were manuscripts, that is, they were handwritten. The centre of
manuscript production was the imperial kitabkhana.

 Although kitabkhana can be translated as library, it was a scriptorium, that is, a place where the
emperor’s collection of manuscripts was kept and new manuscripts were produced.

 Paper makers were needed to prepare the folios of the manuscript, scribes or calligraphers to copy
the text, gilders to illuminate the pages, painters to illustrate scenes. The finished manuscript was
seen as a precious object, a work of intellectual wealth and beauty.

 At the same time some of the people involved in the actual production of the manuscript also got
recognition in the form of titles and awards. Of these, calligraphers and painters held a high social
standing while others, such as paper makers or bookbinders, have remained anonymous artisans.

 Calligraphy, the art of handwriting, was considered a skill of great importance. It was practised
using different styles. Akbar’s favourite was the nastaliq, a fluid style with long horizontal

Painted Image
 Painters too were involved in the production of Mughal manuscripts. Chronicles narrating the
events of a Mughal emperor’s reign contained, alongside the written text, images that described
an event in visual form.

 When scenes or themes in a book were to be given visual expression, the scribe left blank spaces
on nearby pages; paintings, executed separately by artists, were inserted to accompany what was
described in words. These paintings were miniatures, and could therefore be passed around for
viewing and mounting on the pages of manuscripts.
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 Paintings served not only to enhance the beauty of a book, but were believed to possess special
powers of communicating ideas about the kingdom and the power of kings in ways that the
written medium could not.

 The historian Abu’l Fazl described painting as a “magical art”: in his view it had the power to
make inanimate objects look as if they possessed life.

 The production of paintings portraying the emperor, his court and the people who were part of it,
was a source of constant tension between rulers and representatives of the Muslim orthodoxy, the
ulama. The latter did not fail to invoke the Islamic prohibition of the portrayal of human beings
enshrined in the Qur’an as well as the hadis.

 The body of Islamic tradition was interpreted in different ways by various social groups.
Frequently each group put forward an understanding of tradition that would best suit their
political needs.

 Muslim rulers in many Asian regions during centuries of empire building regularly commissioned
artists to paint their portraits and scenes of life in their kingdoms. The Safavid kings of Iran, for
example, patronised the finest artists, who were trained in workshops set up at court.

 The names of painters – such as that of Bihzad – contributed to spreading the cultural fame of the
Safavid court far and wide. Artists from Iran also made their way to Mughal India. Some were
brought to the Mughal court, as in the case of Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad, who were made
to accompany Emperor Humayun to Delhi.

The Akbar Nama and the Badshah Nama

 Among the important illustrated Mughal chronicles the Akbar Nama and Badshah Nama (The
Chronicle of a King) are the most well known. Each manuscript contained an average of 150 full-
or double-page paintings of battles, sieges, hunts, building construction, court scenes, etc.

Akbar Nama

 The author of the Akbar Nama, Abu’l Fazl grew up in the Mughal capital of Agra. He was widely
read in Arabic, Persian, Greek philosophy and Sufism. Akbar found Abu’l Fazl ideally suited as
an adviser and a spokesperson for his policies. One major objective of the emperor was to free the
state from the control of religious orthodoxy.

 Beginning in 1589, Abu’l Fazl worked on the Akbar Nama for thirteen years, repeatedly revising
the draft.

 The chronicle is based on a range of sources, including actual records of events (waqai), official
documents and oral testimonies of knowledgeable persons.
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 The Akbar Nama is divided into three books of which the first two are chronicles. The third book
is the Ain-i Akbari. The first volume contains the history of mankind from Adam to one celestial
cycle of Akbar’s life (30 years). The second volume closes in the forty-sixth regnal year (1601) of

 The Akbar Nama was written to provide a detailed description of Akbar’s reign. In the Ain-i
Akbari the Mughal Empire is presented as having a diverse population consisting of Hindus,
Jainas, Buddhists and Muslims and a composite culture.

 Abu’l Fazl wrote in a language that was ornate and which attached importance to diction and
rhythm, as texts were often read aloud.

 This Indo-Persian style was patronised at court, and there were a large number of writers who
wanted to write like Abu’l Fazl.

Badshah Nama

 A pupil of Abu’l Fazl, Abdul Hamid Lahori is known as the author of the Badshah Nama.
Emperor Shah Jahan, hearing of his talents, commissioned him to write a history of his reign
modelled on the Akbar Nama.

 The Badshah Nama is this official history in three volumes (daftars) of ten lunar years each.
These volumes were later revised by Sadullah Khan, Shah Jahan’s wazir.

 During the colonial period, British administrators began to study Indian history and to create an
archive of knowledge about the subcontinent to help them better understand the people and the
cultures of the empire they sought to rule.

 The Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded by Sir William Jones in 1784, undertook the editing,
printing and translation of many Indian manuscripts. Edited versions of the Akbar Nama and
Badshah Nama were first published by the Asiatic Society in the nineteenth century.

 In the early twentieth century the Akbar Nama was translated into English by Henry Beveridge
after years of hard labour. Only excerpts of the Badshah Nama have been translated into English
to date; the text in its entirety still awaits translation.

The Ideal Kingdom

A divine light

 Court chroniclers drew upon many sources to show that the power of the Mughal kings came
directly from God.
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 Abu’l Fazl placed Mughal kingship as the highest station in the hierarchy of objects receiving
light emanating from God (farr-i izadi ). Here he was inspired by a famous Iranian sufi,
Shihabuddin Suhrawardi (d. 1191) who first developed this idea.

 According to Suhrawardi’s idea, there was a hierarchy in which the Divine Light was transmitted
to the king who then became the source of spiritual guidance for his subjects.

 Mughal artists, from the seventeenth century onwards, began to portray emperors wearing the
halo, which they saw on European paintings of Christ and the Virgin Mary to symbolise the light
of God.

A unifying force

 Mughal chronicles present the empire as comprising many different ethnic and religious
communities – Hindus, Jainas, Zoroastrians and Muslims. As the source of all peace and stability
the emperor stood above all religious and ethnic groups, mediated among them, and ensured that
justice and peace prevailed.

 Abu’l Fazl describes the ideal of sulh-i kul (absolute peace) as the cornerstone of enlightened
rule. In sulh-i kul all religions and schools of thought had freedom of expression but on condition
that they did not undermine the authority of the state or fight among themselves.

 The ideal of sulh-i kul was implemented through state policies – the nobility under the Mughals
was a composite one comprising Iranis, Turanis, Afghans, Rajputs, Deccanis – all of whom were
given positions and awards purely on the basis of their service and loyalty to the king.

 Further, Akbar abolished the tax on pilgrimage in 1563 and jizya in 1564 as the two were based
on religious discrimination. Instructions were sent to officers of the empire to follow the precept
of sulh-i kul in administration.

 All Mughal emperors gave grants to support the building and maintenance of places of worship.
Even when temples were destroyed during war, grants were later issued for their repair – as we
know from the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. However, during the reign of the latter, the
jizya was reimposed on non-Muslim subjects.

Just sovereignty as social contract

 Abu’l Fazl defined sovereignty as a social contract: the emperor protects the four essences of his
subjects, namely, life (jan), property (mal), honour (namus) and faith (din), and in return demands
obedience and a share of resources.

 Only just sovereigns were thought to be able to honour the contract with power and Divine
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 A number of symbols were created for visual representation of the idea of justice which came to
stand for the highest virtue of Mughal monarchy.

 One of the favourite symbols used by artists was the motif of the lion and the lamb (or goat)
peacefully nestling next to each other. This was meant to signify a realm where both the strong
and the weak could exist in harmony.

 Court scenes from the illustrated Badshah Nama place such motifs in a niche directly below the
emperor’s throne.

Capitals and Courts

Capital cities

 The capital cities of the Mughals frequently shifted during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Babur took over the Lodi capital of Agra, though during the four years of his reign the
court was frequently on the move.

 During the 1560s Akbar had the fort of Agra constructed with red sandstone quarried from the
adjoining regions. In the 1570s he decided to build a new capital, Fatehpur Sikri.

 One of the reasons prompting this may have been that Sikri was located on the direct road to
Ajmer, where the dargah of Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti had become an important pilgrimage

 The Mughal emperors entered into a close relationship with sufis of the Chishti silsila. Akbar
commissioned the construction of a white marble tomb for Shaikh Salim Chishti next to the
majestic Friday mosque at Sikri. The enormous arched gateway (Buland Darwaza) was meant to
remind visitors of the Mughal victory in Gujarat.

 In 1585 the capital was transferred to Lahore to bring the north-west under greater control and
Akbar closely watched the frontier for thirteen years. Shah Jahan pursued sound fiscal policies
and accumulated enough money to indulge his passion for building.

 Building activity in monarchical cultures was the most visible and tangible sign of dynastic
power, wealth and prestige. In the case of Muslim rulers it was also considered an act of piety.

 In 1648 the court, army and household moved from Agra to the newly completed imperial capital,
Shahjahanabad. It was a new addition to the old residential city of Delhi, with the Red Fort, the
Jama Masjid, a tree-lined esplanade with bazaars (Chandni Chowk) and spacious homes for the

 Shah Jahan’s new city was appropriate to a more formal vision of a grand monarchy.
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The Mughal court

 The physical arrangement of the court, focused on the sovereign, mirrored his status as the heart
of society. Its centrepiece was therefore the throne, the takht, which gave physical form to the
function of the sovereign as axis mundi.

 In court, status was determined by spatial proximity to the king. The place accorded to a courtier
by the ruler was a sign of his importance in the eyes of the emperor.

 The forms of salutation to the ruler indicated the person’s status in the hierarchy: deeper
prostration represented higher status. The highest form of submission was sijda or complete

 Under Shah Jahan these rituals were replaced with chahar taslim and zaminbos (kissing the

 The protocols governing diplomatic envoys at the Mughal court were equally explicit. An
ambassador presented to the Mughal emperor was expected to offer an acceptable form of
greeting – either by bowing deeply or kissing the ground, or else to follow the Persian custom of
clasping one’s hands in front of the chest.

 Thomas Roe, the English envoy of James I, simply bowed before Jahangir according to European
custom, and further shocked the court by demanding a chair.

 The emperor began his day at sunrise with personal religious devotions or prayers, and then
appeared on a small balcony, the jharoka, facing the east. Below, a crowd of people (soldiers,
merchants, craftspersons, peasants, women with sick children) waited for a view, darshan, of the

 Jharoka darshan was introduced by Akbar with the objective of broadening the acceptance of the
imperial authority as part of popular faith.

 The Mughal kings celebrated three major festivals a year: the solar and lunar birthdays of the
monarch and Nauroz, the Iranian New Year on the vernal equinox. On his birthdays, the monarch
was weighed against various commodities which were then distributed in charity.

Titles and gifts

 Grand titles were adopted by the Mughal emperors at the time of coronation or after a victory
over an enemy. Mughal coins carried the full title of the reigning emperor with regal protocol.

 A man’s ascent in the court hierarchy could be traced through the titles he held. The title Asaf
Khan for one of the highest ministers originated with Asaf, the legendary minister of the prophet
king Sulaiman (Solomon).
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 The title Mirza Raja was accorded by Aurangzeb to his two highest-ranking nobles, Jai Singh and
Jaswant Singh.

 Titles could be earned or paid for. Mir Khan offered Rs one lakh to Aurangzeb for the letter alif,
that is A, to be added to his name to make it Amir Khan.

 Other awards included the robe of honour (khilat), a garment once worn by the emperor and
imbued with his benediction. One gift, the sarapa (“head to foot”), consisted of a tunic, a turban
and a sash (patka).

 A courtier never approached the emperor empty handed: he offered either a small sum of money
(nazr) or a large amount (peshkash).

 In diplomatic relations, gifts were regarded as a sign of honour and respect. Ambassadors
performed the important function of negotiating treaties and relationships between competing
political powers. In such a context gifts had an important symbolic role.

 Thomas Roe was disappointed when a ring he had presented to Asaf Khan was returned to him
for the reason that it was worth merely 400 rupees.

The Imperial Household

 The term “harem” is frequently used to refer to the domestic world of the Mughals. It originates
in the Persian word haram, meaning a sacred place.

 The Mughal household consisted of the emperor’s wives and concubines, his near and distant
relatives (mother, step- and foster-mothers, sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, aunts, children,
etc.), and female servants and slaves.

 Polygamy was practised widely in the Indian subcontinent, especially among the ruling groups.

 Both for the Rajput clans as well as the Mughals marriage was a way of cementing political
relationships and forging alliances. The gift of territory was often accompanied by the gift of a
daughter in marriage. This ensured a continuing hierarchical relationship between ruling groups.

 It was through the link of marriage and the relationships that developed as a result that the
Mughals were able to form a vast kinship network that linked them to important groups and
helped to hold a vast empire together.

 In the Mughal household a distinction was maintained between wives who came from royal
families (begams), and other wives (aghas) who were not of noble birth. The begams, married
after receiving huge amounts of cash and valuables as dower (mahr), naturally received a higher
status and greater attention from their husbands than did aghas.
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 The concubines (aghacha or the lesser agha) occupied the lowest position in the hierarchy of
females intimately related to royalty. They all received monthly allowances in cash,
supplemented with gifts according to their status.

 The lineage-based family structure was not entirely static. The agha and the aghacha could rise to
the position of a begam depending on the husband’s will, and provided that he did not already
have four wives.

 Slave eunuchs (khwajasara) moved between the external and internal life of the household as
guards, servants, and also as agents for women dabbling in commerce.

 After Nur Jahan, Mughal queens and princesses began to control significant financial resources.
Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahanara and Roshanara enjoyed an annual income often equal to that of
high imperial mansabdars. Jahanara, in addition, received revenues from the port city of Surat,
which was a lucrative centre of overseas trade.

 Control over resources enabled important women of the Mughal household to commission
buildings and gardens.

 Jahanara participated in many architectural projects of Shah Jahan’s new capital, Shahjahanabad
(Delhi). Among these was an imposing double-storeyed caravanserai with a courtyard and
garden. The bazaar of Chandni Chowk, the throbbing centre of Shahjahanabad, was designed by

 An interesting book giving us a glimpse into the domestic world of the Mughals is the Humayun
Nama written by Gulbadan Begum. Gulbadan was the daughter of Babur, Humayun’s sister and
Akbar’s aunt. Gulbadan could write fluently in Turkish and Persian. She described in great detail
the conflicts and tensions among the princes and kings and the important mediating role elderly
women of the family played in resolving some of these conflicts.

The Imperial Officials

Recruitment and rank

 Mughal chronicles, especially the Akbar Nama, have bequeathed a vision of empire in which
agency rests almost solely with the emperor, while the rest of the kingdom has been portrayed as
following his orders.

 The nobility was recruited from diverse ethnic and religious groups. This ensured that no faction
was large enough to challenge the authority of the state.

 The officer corps of the Mughals was described as a bouquet of flowers (guldasta) held together
by loyalty to the emperor.
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 In Akbar’s imperial service, Turani and Iranian nobles were present from the earliest phase of
carving out a political dominion. Many had accompanied Humayun; others migrated later to the
Mughal court.

 Two ruling groups of Indian origin entered the imperial service from 1560 onwards: the Rajputs
and the Indian Muslims (Shaikhzadas).

 Members of Hindu castes inclined towards education and accountancy were also promoted, a
famous example being Akbar’s finance minister, Raja Todar Mal, who belonged to the Khatri

 Iranians gained high offices under Jahangir, whose politically influential queen, Nur Jahan (d.
1645), was an Iranian.

 Aurangzeb appointed Rajputs to high positions, and under him the Marathas accounted for a
sizeable number within the body of officers.

 All holders of government offices held ranks (mansabs) comprising two numerical designations:
zat which was an indicator of position in the imperial hierarchy and the salary of the official
(mansabdar), and sawar which indicated the number of horsemen he was required to maintain in

 In the seventeenth century, mansabdars of 1,000 zat or above ranked as nobles (umara, which is
the plural of amir). The nobles participated in military campaigns with their armies and also
served as officers of the empire in the provinces.

 The troopers maintained superior horses branded on the flank by the imperial mark (dagh). The
emperor personally reviewed changes in rank, titles and official postings for all except the lowest-
ranked officers.

 Akbar, who designed the mansab system, also established spiritual relationships with a select
band of his nobility by treating them as his disciples (murid).

 There were two other important ministers at the centre: the diwan-i ala (finance minister) and
sadr-us sudur (minister of grants or madad-i maash, and in charge of appointing local judges or
qazis). The three ministers occasionally came together as an advisory body, but were independent
of each other.

 Nobles stationed at the court (tainat-i rakab) were a reserve force to be deputed to a province or
military campaign. They shared the responsibility for guarding the emperor and his household
round the clock.
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Information and empire

 The mir bakhshi supervised the corps of court writers (waqia nawis) who recorded all
applications and documents presented to the court, and all imperial orders (farman).

 In addition, agents (wakil ) of nobles and regional rulers recorded the entire proceedings of the
court under the heading “News from the Exalted Court” (Akhbarat-i Darbar-i Mualla) with the
date and time of the court session (pahar).

 The akhbarat contained all kinds of information such as attendance at the court, grant of offices
and titles, diplomatic missions, presents received, or the enquiries made by the emperor about the
health of an officer. This information is valuable for writing the history of the public and private
lives of kings and nobles.

 Round-the-clock relays of foot-runners (qasid or pathmar) carried papers rolled up in bamboo

containers. The emperor received reports from even distant provincial capitals within a few days.

 Agents of nobles posted outside the capital and Rajput princes and tributary rulers all assiduously
copied these announcements and sent their contents by messenger back to their masters. The
empire was connected by a surprisingly rapid information loop for public news.

Beyond the centre: provincial administration

 The head of the provincial administration was the governor (subadar) who reported directly to the

 The sarkars, into which each suba was divided, often overlapped with the jurisdiction of faujdars
(commandants) who were deployed with contingents of heavy cavalry and musketeers in districts.

 The local administration was looked after at the level of the pargana (sub-district) by three semi-
hereditary officers, the qanungo (keeper of revenue records), the chaudhuri (in charge of revenue
collection) and the qazi.

 Persian was made the language of administration throughout, but local languages were used for
village accounts.

 The relationship between local landed magnates, the zamindars, and the representatives of the
Mughal emperor was sometimes marked by conflicts over authority and a share of the resources.
The zamindars often succeeded in mobilising peasant support against the state.

Beyond the Frontiers

 Writers of chronicles list many high-sounding titles assumed by the Mughal emperors. These
included general titles such as Shahenshah (King of Kings) or specific titles assumed by
individual kings upon ascending the throne, such as Jahangir (World-Seizer), or Shah Jahan
(King of the World).
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 The chroniclers often drew on these titles and their meanings to reiterate the claims of the Mughal
emperors to uncontested territorial and political control.

The Safavids and Qandahar

 All conquerors who sought to make their way into the Indian subcontinent had to cross the
Hindukush to have access to north India. A constant aim of Mughal policy was to ward off this
potential danger by controlling strategic outposts – notably Kabul and Qandahar.

 Qandahar was a bone of contention between the Safavids and the Mughals. In the winter of 1622
a Persian army besieged Qandahar. The ill-prepared Mughal garrison was defeated and had to
surrender the fortress and the city to the Safavids.

The Ottomans: pilgrimage and trade

 The relationship between the Mughals and the Ottomans was marked by the concern to ensure
free movement for merchants and pilgrims in the territories under Ottoman control. This was
especially true for the Hijaz, that part of Ottoman Arabia where the important pilgrim centres of
Mecca and Medina were located.

 The Mughal emperor usually combined religion and commerce by exporting valuable
merchandise to Aden and Mokha, both Red Sea ports, and distributing the proceeds of the sales in
charity to the keepers of shrines and religious men there.

 However, when Aurangzeb discovered cases of misappropriation of funds sent to Arabia, he

favoured their distribution in India which, he thought, “was as much a house of God as Mecca”.

Jesuits at the Mughal court

 Europe received knowledge of India through the accounts of Jesuit missionaries, travellers,
merchants and diplomats. The Jesuit accounts are the earliest impressions of the Mughal court
ever recorded by European writers.

 Following the discovery of a direct sea route to India at the end of the fifteenth century,
Portuguese merchants established a network of trading stations in coastal cities.

 The Portuguese king was also interested in the propagation of Christianity with the help of the
missionaries of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). The Christian missions to India during the
sixteenth century were part of this process of trade and empire building.

 Akbar was curious about Christianity and dispatched an embassy to Goa to invite Jesuit priests.
The first Jesuit mission reached the Mughal court at Fatehpur Sikri in 1580 and stayed for about
two years. The Jesuits spoke to Akbar about Christianity and debated its virtues with the ulama.
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 Two more missions were sent to the Mughal court at Lahore, in 1591 and 1595. At public
assemblies the Jesuits were assigned places in close proximity to Akbar’s throne. The Jesuit
accounts corroborate the information given in Persian chronicles about state officials and the
general conditions of life in Mughal times.

Questioning Formal Religion

 The high respect shown by Akbar towards the members of the Jesuit mission impressed them
deeply. They interpreted the emperor’s open interest in the doctrines of Christianity as a sign of
his acceptance of their faith. This can be understood in the light of the prevailing climate of
religious intolerance in Western Europe.

 Akbar’s quest for religious knowledge led to interfaith debates in the ibadat khana at Fatehpur
Sikri between learned Muslims, Hindus, Jainas, Parsis and Christians.

 Increasingly, he moved away from the orthodox Islamic ways of understanding religions towards
a self-conceived eclectic form of divine worship focused on light and the sun.

 Akbar and Abu’l Fazl created a philosophy of light and used it to shape the image of the king and
ideology of the state. In this, a divinely inspired individual has supreme sovereignty over his
people and complete control over his enemies.
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NCERT Class XII History- Themes in Indian History-III

Chapter Number Chapter Name
10. Colonialism and the Countryside
11. The Revolt of 1857 and Its Representations
12. Colonial Cities Urbanisation, Planning and Architecture
13. Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement
14. Understanding Partition
15. Framing the Constitution
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Colonialism and the Countryside Chapter 1

Bengal and the Zamindars

● Colonial rule was first established in Bengal.
● It is here that the earliest attempts were made to reorder rural society and establish a new regime
of land rights and a new revenue system.
● The Permanent Settlement had come into operation in 1793.
● The East India Company had fixed the revenue that each zamindar had to pay.
● The estates of those who failed to pay were to be auctioned to recover the revenue.
● Cornwallis was the commander of the British forces during the American War of Independence
& the Governor General of Bengal when the Permanent Settlement was introduced in 1793.

Failure of permanent settlement

● First: the initial demands were very high.

● Second: this high demand was imposed in the 1790s, a time when the prices of agricultural
produce were depressed, making it difficult for the ryots to pay their dues to the zamindar.
● Third: the revenue was invariable, regardless of the harvest, and had to be paid punctually.
● In fact, according to the Sunset Law, if payment did not come in by sunset of the specified date,
the zamindari was liable to be auctioned.
● Fourth: the Permanent Settlement initially limited the power of the zamindar to collect rent from
the ryot and manage his zamindari.

The rise of the jotedars

● Class of rich peasants known as jotedars.

● In some places they were called haoladars, elsewhere they were known as gantidars or mandals
● Controlled local trade, money lending, exercising immense power over the poorer cultivators.
● Large part of their land was cultivated via sharecroppers (adhiyars or bargadars) brought their
own ploughs, labored in the field, & handed over 1/2 the produce to the jotedars after the harvest.
● Within the villages, the power of jotedars was more effective than that of zamindars.
● They fiercely resisted efforts by zamindars to increase the jama of the village, prevented
zamindari officials from executing their duties, mobilised ryots who were dependent on them, and
deliberately delayed payments of revenue to the zamindar.

The Fifth Report

● It was the fifth of a series of reports on the administration and activities of the East India
Company in India.
● It became the basis of intense parliamentary debates on the nature of the East India Company’s
rule in India.
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Francis Buchanan

● Francis Buchanan often called Buchanan-Hamilton was a physician who came to India and served
in the Bengal Medical Service (from 1794 to 1815).
● For a few years he was surgeon to the Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley.
● During his stay in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), he organised a zoo that became the Calcutta
Alipore Zoo; he was also in charge of the Botanical Gardens for a short period.
● On the request of the Government of Bengal, he undertook detailed surveys of the areas under the
jurisdiction of the British East India Company.
● Aquatint is a picture produced by cutting into a copper sheet with acid and then printing it.

Policy of pacification

● In the 1770s the British embarked on a brutal policy of extermination, hunting the Paharias down
and killing them.
● Then, by the 1780s, Augustus Cleveland, the Collector of Bhagalpur, proposed a policy of
● Paharia chiefs were given an annual allowance and made responsible for the proper conduct of
their men.
● They were expected to maintain order in their localities and discipline their own people.
● Many Paharia chiefs refused the allowances. Those who accepted, most often lost authority
within the community.
● As the pacification campaigns continued, the Paharias withdrew deep into the mountains,
insulating themselves from hostile forces, and carrying on a war with outsiders.
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● The Santhals were given land and persuaded to settle in the foothills of Rajmahal. By 1832 a
large area of land was demarcated as Damin-i-Koh.
● This was declared to be the land of the Santhals. They were to live within it, practise plough
agriculture, and become settled peasants.
● The land grant to the Santhals stipulated that at least one-tenth of the area was to be cleared and
cultivated within the first ten years.
● It was after the Santhal Revolt (1855-56) that the Santhal Pargana was created, carving out 5,500
square miles from the districts of Bhagalpur and Birbhum.
● Peasants in various parts of India rose in revolt against moneylenders and grain dealers. One such
revolt occurred in 1875 in the Deccan

Ryotwari settlement

● The revenue system was introduced in the Bombay Deccan

● Unlike the Bengal system, the revenue was directly settled with the ryot.
● The average income from different types of soil was estimated, the revenue-paying capacity of
the ryot was assessed and a proportion of it fixed as the share of the state.
● The lands were resurveyed every 30 years and the revenue rates increased. Therefore the revenue
demand was no longer permanent.
● The first revenue settlement in the Bombay Deccan was made in the 1820s.

The Deccan Riots Commission

● When the revolt spread in the Deccan, the Government of Bombay was initially unwilling to see
it as anything serious.
● But the GOI, worried by the memory of 1857, pressurized the Government of Bombay to set up a
commission of enquiry to investigate into the causes of the riots.
● The commission produced a report that was presented to the British Parliament in 1878.
● This report, referred to as the Deccan Riots Report, provides historians with a range of sources for
the study of the riot.
● The commission held enquiries in the districts where the riots spread, recorded statements of
ryots, sahukars and eyewitnesses, compiled statistical data on revenue rates, prices and interest
rates in different regions, and collated the reports sent by district collector.
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The Revolt of 1857 and Its Representations Chapter 2

Pattern of the rebellion

● The sepoys began their action with a signal in many places it was the firing of the evening gun or
the sounding of the bugle.
● They first seized the bell of arms and plundered the treasury. They then attacked government
● There was communication between the sepoy lines of various cantonments.
● Captain Hearsey of the Awadh Military Police had been given protection by his Indian
subordinates during the mutiny.
● One of the first acts of the sepoys of Meerut was to rush to Delhi and appeal to the Mughal
emperor to accept the leadership of the revolt.
● In Kanpur, the sepoys and the people of the town gave Nana Sahib, the successor to Peshwa Baji
Rao II. In Jhansi, the rani Laxmi bai and Kunwar Singh, a local zamindar in Arrah in Bihar.
● Shah Mal mobilised the villagers of pargana Barout in Uttar Pradesh.
● Gonoo, tribal cultivator of Singhbhum in Chotanagpur, became a rebel leader of the Kol tribals of
the region.
● The rumor was bullets coated with the fat of cows and pigs and that biting those bullets would
corrupt their caste and religion.
● Sepoys were referring to the cartridges of the Enfield rifles which had just been given to them
which became immediate cause of the revolt.
● Bell of arms is a storeroom in which weapons are kept
● Resident was the designation of a representative of the Governor General who lived in a state
which was not under direct British rule.
● The British established laws to abolish customs like sati (1829) and to permit the remarriage of
Hindu widows
● The Subsidiary Alliance had been imposed on Awadh in 1801.
● By the early 1850s, all the major areas of India had been conquered: the Maratha lands, the Doab,
the Carnatic, the Punjab and Bengal.
● The takeover of Awadh in 1856 was expected to complete a process of territorial annexation
● Subsidiary Alliance was a system devised by Lord Wellesley in 1798.
● Provisions were the British would be responsible for protecting their ally from external and
internal threats to their power.
● In the territory of the ally, a British armed contingent would be stationed.
● The ally would have to provide the resources for maintaining this contingent.
● The ally could enter into agreements with other rulers or engage in warfare only with the
permission of the British.
● Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh was dethroned and exiled to Calcutta on the plea that the region
was being mis governed.
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● After annexation, the first British revenue settlement, known as the Summary Settlement of
● It was based on the assumption that the taluqdars were interlopers with no permanent stakes in
land that they had established their hold over land through force and fraud.
● The Summary Settlement proceeded to remove the taluqdars wherever possible.
● For decades the sepoys had complained of low levels of pay and the difficulty of getting leave.
● By a number of Acts, passed in May and June 1857, not only was the whole of North India put
under martial law but military officers and even ordinary Britons were given the power to try and
punish Indians suspected of rebellion.
● British began the task of suppressing the revolt. They, like the rebels, recognised the symbolic
value of Delhi.
● The British thus mounted a two-pronged attack.
● One force moved from Calcutta into North India and the other from the Punjab which was largely
peaceful to reconquer Delhi.
● “Relief of Lucknow”, painted by Thomas Jones Barker in 1859, is an example of commemorate
the British heroes who saved the English and repressed the rebels.
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Colonial Cities Urbanisation, Planning and Architecture Chapter 3

● The European commercial Companies had set up base in different places early during the Mughal
● The Portuguese in Panaji in 1510, the Dutch in Masulipatnam in 1605, the British in Madras in
1639 and the French in Pondicherry in 1673.
● Forces of international trade, mercantilism and capitalism now came to define the nature of
● Ionic was one of the three orders (organisational systems) of Ancient Greek architecture, the other
two being Doric, and Corinthian.
● One feature that distinguished each order was the style of the capital at the head of the columns.
● These forms were re-adapted in the Renaissance and Neo-classical forms of architecture
● Simla (present­day Shimla) was founded during the course of the Gurkha War (1815­16); the
Anglo­Maratha War of 1818 led to British interest in Mount Abu; and Darjeeling was wrested
from the rulers of Sikkim in 1835.
● The Company had first set up its trading activities in the well-established port of Surat on the
west coast.
● In the towns of South India such as Madurai and Kanchipuram the principal focus was the temple.
Changes in the eighteenth century
● British official feared that diseases like malaria would spread from the “Black”(native Indians)
to the “White”(British) areas.
● So, from the 1860s and 1870s, stringent administrative measures regarding sanitation were
implemented and building activity in the Indian towns was regulated
● In 1864 the Viceroy John Lawrence officially moved his council to Simla, setting seal to the
practice of shifting capitals during the hot season.
● Simla also became the official residence of the commander-in-chief of the Indian army
● Subsequently the search for textiles brought British merchants to the east coast.
Segregation, Town Planning and Architecture
● In 1639 they constructed a trading post in Madraspatam. This settlement was locally known as
● The Company had purchased the right of settlement from the local Telugu lords, the Nayaks of
Kalahasti, who were eager to support trading activity in the region.
● Rivalry (1746-63) with the French East India Company led the British to fortify Madras and give
their representatives increased political and administrative functions.
● With the defeat of the French in 1761, Madras became more secure and began to grow into an
important commercial town.
● It was here that the superiority of the British and the subordinate position of the Indian merchants
was most apparent.
● Fort St George became the nucleus of the White Town where most of the Europeans lived.
● Walls and bastions made this a distinct enclave. Colour and religion determined who was allowed
to live within the Fort.
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● Other than the English, the Dutch and Portuguese were allowed to stay here because they were
European and Christian.
● The Nawab of Arcot settled in nearby Triplicane which became the nucleus of a substantial
Muslim settlement.
● Fort St George became the nucleus of the White Town where most of the Europeans lived.
● Walls and bastions made this a distinct enclave. Colour and religion determined who was allowed
to live within the Fort.
Town planning in Calcutta
● In 1798, Lord Wellesley became the Governor General. He built a massive palace, Government
● After Wellesley’s departure the work of town planning was carried on by the Lottery Committee
(1817) with the help of the government.
● The Lottery Committee was so named because funds for town improvement were raised through
public lotteries.
● In the early decades of the 19thc raising funds for the city was still thought to be the responsibility
of public minded citizens and not exclusively that of the government.
● The Lottery Committee commissioned a new map of the city so as to get a comprehensive
picture of Calcutta.
● Among the Committee’s major activities was road building in the Indian part of the city and
clearing the river bank of “encroachments”.
● In its drive to make the Indian areas of Calcutta cleaner, the committee removed many huts and
displaced the labouring poor, who were now pushed to the outskirts of Calcutta.
● The threat of epidemics gave a further impetus to town planning in the next few decades.
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Architecture in Bombay
● By the end of the nineteenth century, half the imports and exports of India passed through
● As Bombay’s economy grew, from the mid­nineteenth century there was a need to expand
railways and shipping and develop the administrative structure.
● These buildings reflected the culture and confidence of the rulers.
● The architectural style was usually European, this importation of European styles reflected the
imperial vision in several ways.
● First, it expressed the British desire to create a familiar landscape in an alien country, and thus to
feel at home in the colony.
● Second, the British felt that European styles would best symbolise their superiority, authority and
● Third, they thought that buildings that looked European would mark out the difference and
distance between the colonial masters and their Indian subjects
● One important item of this trade was opium that the East India Company exported to China.
● San Thome with its cathedral was the centre for Roman Catholics.
● Pitched roof is a term used by architects to describe a sloping roof. By the early twentieth
century pitched roofs became less common in bungalows, although the general plan remained the
● For public buildings three broad architectural styles were used.
● Two of these were direct imports from fashions prevalent in England.
● The first was called neo-classical or the new classical.
● Its characteristics included construction of geometrical structures fronted with lofty pillars
● It was derived from a style that was originally typical of buildings in ancient Rome, and was
subsequently revived, re-adapted and made popular during the European Renaissance.
● It was considered particularly appropriate for the British Empire in India.
● The British imagined that a style that embodied the grandeur of imperial Rome could now be
made to express the glory of imperial India.
● The Mediterranean origins of this architecture were also thought to be suitable for tropical
● The Town Hall in Bombay was built in this style in 1833.
● Another group of commercial buildings, built during the cotton boom of the 1860s, was the
Elphinstone Circle.
● Subsequently named Horniman Circle after an English editor who courageously supported
Indian nationalists, this building was inspired from models in Italy.
● It made innovative use of covered arcades at ground level to shield the shopper and pedestrian
from the fierce sun and rain of Bombay
● Another style that was extensively used was the neo-Gothic, characterized by high-pitched roofs,
pointed arches and detailed decoration.
● The Gothic style had its roots in buildings, especially churches, built in northern Europe during
the medieval period.
● The neo-Gothic or new Gothic style was revived in the mid-nineteenth century in England.
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● This was the time when the government in Bombay was building its infrastructure and this style
was adapted for Bombay.
● An impressive group of buildings facing the seafront including the Secretariat, University of
Bombay and High Court were all built in this style.
● Indians gave money for some of these buildings
● Example of the neo-Gothic style is the Victoria Terminus, the station and headquarters of the
Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company.
● The British invested a lot in the design and construction of railway stations in cities, since they
were proud of having successfully built an all India railway network.
● Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a new hybrid architectural style developed which
combined the Indian with the European.
● This was called Indo-Saracenic. “Indo” was shorthand for Hindu and “Saracen” was a term
Europeans used to designate Muslim.
● The inspiration for this style was medieval buildings in India with their domes, chhatris, jalis,
● By integrating Indian and European styles in public architecture the British wanted to prove that
they were legitimate rulers of India.
● The Gateway of India, built in the traditional Gujarati style to welcome King George V and
Queen Mary to India in 1911, is the most famous example of this style.
● The industrialist Jamsetji Tata built the Taj Mahal Hotel in a similar style.

Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement chapter 4

A Leader Announces Himself

● In January 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to his homeland after two decades of
residence abroad in South Africa, where he went as a lawyer.
● It was in South Africa that Mahatma Gandhi first forged the distinctive techniques of non-violent
protest known as satyagraha,
● First promoted harmony between religions, and first alerted upper-caste Indians to their
discriminatory treatment of low castes and women.
● Gandhiji’s acknowledged political mentor Gokhale’s advice, and spent a year travelling around
British India, getting to know the land and its peoples.
● His first major public appearance was at the opening of the Banaras Hindu University
(BHU) in February 1916.
● At the annual Congress, held in Lucknow in December 1916, he was approached by a peasant
from Champaran in Bihar, who told him about the harsh treatment of peasants by British indigo

The Making and Unmaking of Noncooperation

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● Mahatma Gandhi was to spend much of 1917 in Champaran, seeking to obtain for the peasants
security of tenure as well as the freedom to cultivate the crops of their choice.
● The following year, 1918, Gandhiji was involved in two campaigns in his home state of Gujarat.
First, he intervened in a labour dispute in Ahmedabad, demanding better working conditions for
the textile mill workers.
● Then he joined peasants in Kheda in asking the state for the remission of taxes following the
failure of their harvest.

● During the Great War of 1914-18, the British had instituted censorship of the press and permitted
detention without trial.
● Now, on the recommendation of a committee chaired by Sir Sidney Rowlatt, these tough
measures were continued.
● In response, Gandhiji called for a countrywide campaign against the “Rowlatt Act”.
● The protests were particularly intense in the Punjab, Gandhiji was detained while proceeding to
the Punjab.
● The situation in the province grew progressively more tense, reaching a bloody climax in
Amritsar in April 1919, when Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on a nationalist meeting
known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
● It was the Rowlatt satyagraha that made Gandhiji a truly national leader.
● Emboldened by its success, Gandhiji called for a campaign of “non­cooperation” with British

● Indians who wished colonialism to end were asked to stop attending schools, colleges and law
courts, and not pay taxes.
● In sum, they were asked to adhere to a “renunciation of (all) voluntary association with the
(British) Government”.
● If noncooperation was effectively carried out, said Gandhiji, India would win swaraj within a
● To further broaden the struggle he had joined hands with the Khilafat Movement that sought to
restore the Caliphate, a symbol of Pan-Islamism which had recently been abolished by the
Turkish ruler Kemal Attaturk.

● The Khilafat Movement, (1919-1920) was a movement of Indian Muslims, led by Muhammad
Ali and Shaukat Ali, that demanded the following
● The Turkish Sultan or Khalifa must retain control over the Muslim sacred places in the erstwhile
Ottoman empire
● The jazirat-ul-Arab (Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Palestine) must remain under Muslim sovereignty
● The Khalifa must be left with sufficient territory to enable him to defend the Islamic faith.
● The Congress supported the movement and Mahatma Gandhi sought to conjoin it to the
Non-cooperation Movement
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Knitting a popular movement

● Students stopped going to schools and colleges run by the government. Lawyers refused to attend
court. The working class went on strike in many towns and cities
● Hill tribes in northern Andhra violated the forest laws. Farmers in Awadh did not pay taxes.
● Peasants in Kumaun refused to carry loads for colonial officials.
● Peasants, workers, and others interpreted and acted upon the call to “non­cooperate” with colonial
rule in ways that best suited their interests
● “Non­cooperation,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi’s American biographer Louis Fischer, “became the
name of an epoch in the life of India and of Gandhiji.
● Non-cooperation was negative enough to be peaceful but positive enough to be effective. It
entailed denial, renunciation, and self­discipline. It was training for self­rule.”
● As a consequence of the Non-Cooperation Movement the British Raj was shaken to its
foundations for the first time since the Revolt of 1857.
● Then, in February 1922, a group of peasants attacked and torched a police station in the hamlet of
Chauri Chaura, in the United Provinces (now, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal).
● This act of violence prompted Gandhiji to call off the movement altogether.
● Gandhiji himself was arrested in March 1922, and charged with sedition.

A people’s leader

● A series of “Praja Mandals” were established to promote the nationalist creed in the princely
● Gandhiji encouraged the communication of the nationalist message in the mother tongue, thus the
provincial committees of the Congress were based on linguistic regions.
● Mahatma Gandhi was released from prison in February 1924, and now chose to devote his
attention to the promotion of home-spun cloth (khadi), and the abolition of untouchability.

The Salt Satyagraha

● In 1928 there was an all-India campaign in opposition to the all-White Simon Commission, sent
from England to enquire into conditions in the colony.
● Gandhiji did not himself participate in this movement, although he gave it his blessings, as he
also did to a peasant satyagraha in Bardoli in the same year.
● In the end of December 1929, the Congress held its annual session in the city of Lahore.
● The meeting was significant for two things: the election of Jawaharlal Nehru as President,
signifying the passing of the baton of leadership to the younger generation.
● And the proclamation of commitment to “Purna Swaraj”, or complete independence.
● On 26 January 1930, “Independence Day” was observed, with the national flag being hoisted in
different venues, and patriotic songs being sung.
● Gandhiji himself issued precise instructions as to how the day should be observed.
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● Gandhiji suggested that the time of the meeting be advertised in the traditional way, by the
beating of drums.


● Gandhiji had given advance notice of his “Salt March” to the Viceroy Lord Irwin, Irwin failed to
grasp the significance of the action.
● On 12 March 1930, Gandhiji began walking from his ashram at Sabarmati towards the ocean.
● He reached his destination three weeks later, making a fistful of salt as he did and thereby
making himself a criminal in the eyes of the law.
● The rulers responded by detaining the dissenters. In the wake of the Salt March, nearly 60,000
Indians were arrested including Gandhi ji.


● The Salt March was notable for at least three reasons.

● First, it was this event that first brought Mahatma Gandhi to world attention.
● Second, it was the first nationalist activity in which women participated in large numbers.
● The socialist activist Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay had persuaded Gandhiji not to restrict the
protests to men alone.
● Third, and perhaps most significant, it was the Salt March which forced upon the British the
realisation that their Raj would not last forever, and that they would have to devolve some
power to the Indians.
● To that end, the British government convened a series of “Round Table Conferences” in
● The first meeting was held in November 1930, but without the pre-eminent political leader in
India, thus rendering it an exercise in futility.
● Gandhiji was released from jail in January 1931 and the following month had several long
meetings with the Viceroy.
● These culminated in what was called the “Gandhi­Irwin Pact’, by the terms of which civil
disobedience would be called off, all prisoners released, and salt manufacture allowed along the
● The pact was criticised by radical nationalists, for Gandhiji was unable to obtain from the Viceroy
a commitment to political independence for Indians; he could obtain merely an assurance of talks
towards that possible end.
● A second Round Table Conference was held in London in the latter part of 1931. Here,
Gandhiji represented the Congress.
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● The Conference in London was inconclusive, so Gandhiji returned to India and resumed civil
● The new Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, was deeply unsympathetic to the Indian leader.
● In 1935, however, a new Government of India Act promised some form of representative
government. Two years later, in an election held on the basis of a restricted franchise, the
Congress won a comprehensive victory.
● Now eight out of 11 provinces had a Congress “Prime Minister”, working under the supervision
of a British Governor.
● The offer was refused. In protest, the Congress ministries resigned in October 1939.
● Through 1940 and 1941, the Congress organised a series of individual satyagrahas to pressure the
rulers to promise freedom once the war had ended.
● Meanwhile, in March 1940, the Muslim League passed a resolution demanding a measure of
autonomy for the Muslim-majority areas of the subcontinent.
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● The political landscape was now becoming complicated: it was no longer Indians versus the
British; rather, it had become a three­way struggle between the Congress, the Muslim League,
and the British.
● In the spring of 1942, Churchill was persuaded to send one of his ministers, Sir Stafford Cripps,
to India to try and forge a compromise with Gandhiji and the Congress.
● Talks broke down, however, after the Congress insisted that if it was to help the British defend
India from the Axis powers, then the Viceroy had first to appoint an Indian as the Defence
Member of his Executive Council.
● In September 1939, two years after the Congress ministries assumed office, the Second World
War broke out.
● Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had both been strongly critical of Hitler and the Nazis.
● Accordingly, they promised Congress support to the war effort if the British, in return, promised
to grant India independence once hostilities ended.

Quit India

● After the failure of the Cripps Mission, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch his third major
movement against British rule.
● This was the “Quit India” campaign, which began in August 1942.
● Although Gandhiji was jailed at once, younger activists organised strikes and acts of sabotage all
over the country.
● Particularly active in the underground resistance were socialist members of the Congress, such as
Jayaprakash Narayan.
● In several districts, such as Satara in the west and Medinipur in the east, “independent”
governments were proclaimed.
● The British responded with much force, yet it took more than a year to suppress the rebellion.
● “Quit India” was genuinely a mass movement, bringing into its ambit hundreds of thousands of
ordinary Indians.

The Last Heroic Days

● As it happened, Mahatma Gandhi was not present at the festivities in the capital on 15 August
● He was in Calcutta, but he did not attend any function or hoist a flag there either. Gandhiji
marked the day with a 24-hour fast.
● Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated at the Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) in New Delhi on 30
January 1948.
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Understanding Partition Chapter 5

● Scholars suggest that separate electorates for Muslims, created by the colonial government in
1909 and expanded in 1919, crucially shaped the nature of communal politics.
● The Lucknow Pact of December 1916 was an understanding between the Congress and the
Muslim League (controlled by the UP­based “Young Party”) whereby the Congress accepted
separate electorates.
● The pact provided a joint political platform for the Moderates, Extremists and the Muslim
● Jinnah’s two­nation theory sowed the seeds of communalism which refers to a politics that
seeks to unify one community around a religious identity in hostile opposition to another
● It seeks to define this community identity as fundamental and fixed.
● The Muslim League: Initially floated in Dhaka in 1906, the Muslim League was quickly taken
over by the U.P.-based Muslim elite.
● The party began to make demands for autonomy for the Muslim-majority areas of the
subcontinent and/or Pakistan in the 1940s.
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● Hindu Mahasabha: Founded in 1915, the Hindu Mahasabha was a Hindu party that remained
confined to North India.
● It aimed to unite Hindu society by encouraging the Hindus to transcend the divisions of caste and
sect. It sought to define Hindu identity in opposition to Muslim identity.
● Confederation – in modern political language it refers to a union of fairly autonomous and
sovereign states with a central government with delimited powers.
● Unionist Party: A political party representing the interests of landholders – Hindu, Muslim and
Sikh – in the Punjab. The party was particularly powerful during the period 1923-47.
● Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the NWFP continued to firmly oppose
the idea of partition.
● After withdrawing its support to the Cabinet Mission plan, the Muslim League decided on “Direct
Action” for winning its Pakistan demand. It announced 16 August 1946 as “Direct Action Day”.
● On this day, riots broke out in Calcutta, lasting several days and leaving several thousand people
dead. By March 1947 violence spread to many parts of northern India.

Framing the Constitution


● The Indian Constitution, came into effect on 26 January 1950

● The Constitution of India was framed between December 1946 and December 1949.

The making of the Constituent Assembly

● The members of the Constituent Assembly were not elected on the basis of universal franchise.
● In the winter of 1945-46 provincial elections were held in India.
● The Provincial Legislatures then chose the representatives to the Constituent Assembly.
● The Constituent Assembly that came into being was dominated by one party: the Congress.
● The Congress swept the general seats in the provincial elections, and the Muslim League captured
most of the reserved Muslim seats.
● But the League chose to boycott the Constituent Assembly, pressing its demand for Pakistan with
a separate constitution.
● The Socialists too were initially unwilling to join, for they believed the Constituent Assembly was
a creation of the British, and therefore incapable of being truly autonomous.
● In effect, therefore, 82 per cent of the members of the Constituent Assembly were also members
of the Congress.

The dominant voices

● The Constituent Assembly had 300 members.
● Of these, six members played particularly important roles.
● Three were representatives of the Congress, namely, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel and
Rajendra Prasad.
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● It was Nehru who moved the crucial “Objectives Resolution”, as well as the resolution proposing
that the National Flag of India be a “horizontal tricolour of saffron, white and dark green in equal
proportion”, with a wheel in navy blue at the centre.
● Patel, on the other hand, worked mostly behind the scenes, playing a key role in the drafting of
several reports, and working to reconcile opposing points of view.
● Rajendra Prasad’s role was as President of the Assembly, where he had to steer the discussion
along constructive lines while making sure all members had a chance to speak.
● Besides this Congress trio was the lawyer and economist B.R. Ambedkar.
● During the period of British rule, Ambedkar had been a political opponent of the Congress; but,
on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, he was asked at Independence to join the Union Cabinet as
law minister.
● In this capacity, he served as Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution.
● Serving with him were two other lawyers, K.M. Munshi from Gujarat and Alladi Krishnaswamy
Aiyar from Madras, both of whom gave crucial inputs in the drafting of the Constitution.
● One was B. N. Rau, Constitutional Advisor to the Government of India, who prepared a series of
background papers based on a close study of the political systems obtaining in other countries.
● The other was the Chief Draughtsman, S. N. Mukherjee, who had the ability to put complex
proposals in clear legal language.
● Ambedkar himself had the responsibility of guiding the Draft Constitution through the
● This took three years in all, with the printed record of the discussions taking up eleven bulky

The Vision of the Constitution

● On 13 December 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the “Objectives Resolution” in the
Constituent Assembly.
● It was a momentous resolution that outlined the defining ideals of the Constitution of
Independent India, and provided the framework within which the work of constitution-making
was to proceed.
● It proclaimed India to be an “Independent Sovereign Republic”, guaranteed its citizens justice,
equality and freedom, and assured that “adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities,
backward and tribal areas, and Depressed and Other Backward Classes … ”

The will of the people

● A Communist member, Somnath Lahiri saw the dark hand of British imperialism hanging over
the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly.
● He thus urged the members and Indians in general, to fully free themselves from the influences of
imperial rule.
● Lahiri exhorted his colleagues to realise that the Constituent Assembly was British-made and
was “working the British plans as the British should like it to be worked out”.

● A number of Acts were passed (1909, 1919 and 1935), gradually enlarging the space for Indian
participation in provincial governments.
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● The executive was made partly responsible to the provincial legislature in 1919, and almost
entirely so under the Government of India Act of 1935.
● When elections were held in 1937, under the 1935 Act, the Congress came to power in eight out
of the 11 provinces.

The problem with separate electorates

● On 27 August 1947, B. Pocker Bahadur from Madras made a powerful plea for continuing
separate electorates.
● Minorities exist in all lands, argued Bahadur; they could not be wished away, they could not be
“erased out of existence”. The need was to create a political framework in which minorities could
live in harmony with others, and the differences between communities could be minimised. This
was possible only if minorites were well represented within the political system, their voices

A plea for Hindi

● In one of the earliest sessions of the Constituent Assembly, R. V. Dhulekar, a Congressman from
the United Provinces, made an aggressive plea that Hindi be used as the language of
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● On 12 September 1947, Dhulekar’s speech on the language of the nation once again
sparked off a huge storm.
● By now the Language Committee of the Constituent Assembly had produced its report
and had thought of a compromise formula to resolve the deadlock between those who
advocated Hindi as the national language and those who opposed it.
● It had decided, but not yet formally declared, that Hindi in the Devanagari script
would be the official language, but the transition to Hindi would be gradual.
● For the first fifteen years, English would continue to be used for all official purposes.
● Each province was to be allowed to choose one of the regional languages for official
work within the province.
● By referring to Hindi as the official rather that the national language, the Language
Committee of the Constituent Assembly hoped to placate ruffled emotions and arrive at
a solution that would be acceptable to all.