18th Century Debate

5557 Words Nov 19th, 2014 23 Pages
18th Century Debates
Dark Age or a Period of Continuity and Change?
Types of Questions
1. 2003- Recent writing (revisionists) on the 18th century have considerably altered our understanding of the period. Elaborate.
2. 2005- In what ways have recent historical writings challenged the view that the 18th century was a “Dark age”?
3. 2010-Can the 18th century can be characterized as a “Dark Age”? Discuss with reference to some of the recent writings.
The political, economic and social transitions witnessed in 18th century India have been subject to great historical debate. Most historians view this century as marked by two important transitions – (i) in the first half of the 18th century the decline of the Mughal empire and the
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Satish Chandra revised his argument and put an economic spin on it. He like Ali held that jagirs became few and infertile. Yet he linked this to an economic argument that, few and infertile jagirs led to an increasing discrepancy in estimated revenue (jama) and actual revenue (hasil) which led to a decreased ability of state officials to collect revenue regularly, thus fuelling a fiscal crisis. Amongst the economic decline arguments Irfan Habib’s view is one of the strongest within the “Dark Century” conceptualization. Habib says that Mughal Empire was highly centralization, from Akbar’s time onwards. This centralization was seen in the universal land tax, systematic revenue assessment and collection, with a share going to zamidars (local claimants) that operated, as well as highly uniform revenue assignment tenures and revenue collections from far away territories of the empire. Thus Habib says the administration was a dominant factor in the economy. Looking at the 18th century, Habib argues for economic decline. He says from the late 17th century as Francois Bernier observed there was a process of economic decay in India, due to unrestricted authority of the jagirdars who were assigned lands for unpredictably short tenures by the emperor. Accepting this view Habib argued there was an increased pressure for revenue by jagirdars, which led to a flight
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