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War and the Non-Elite: Towards a People’s History of the Mughal Empire

Published in SAGE
Volume: 25
Issue: 1
Pages: 127 - 158

The historiography of the Mughal Empire has gone through many twists and turns since its inception. Significant shifts in terms of methodologies and arguments notwithstanding, a certain elitism has characterised this body of literature. This is manifested by the tendency of most historians to conceptualise the career of the empire primarily in terms of elite action. This elitism has kept the contributions of non-elite groups to the making of the empire fairly obscured. Problematising this lopsided historical understanding, the present article offers a people’s history of the empire by focusing on the domain of war as a case study. It explores the role of two non-elite groups in Mughal military campaigns. These are the common infantry and the logistical workforce. The article discusses their tactical importance, social basis, modes of recruitment, pay, and organisation. It argues that taking cognizance of the contributions of these groups to the processes of war-making and territorial expansion helps us challenge the view of the Mughal Empire being primarily an elite enterprise. It enables us see the broad-based, inclusive, and collaborative nature of Mughal state-formation and empire-building.

About the journal
JournalData powered by TypesetMedieval History Journal
PublisherData powered by TypesetSAGE
Open AccessNo