EHI 05 Solved Assignment 2020
E.H.I.-5 India: From mid-18th Century to mid-19th Century
EHI 05 Solved Assignment 2020 Hindi /English MEDIUM
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Q. 1. Was the 18th century in India a ‘Dark Age’? Discuss
Ans. With the decline of Mughal empire, a number of regional powers emerged. They can be distinguished among three groups–the successor states like Hyderabad, Awadh and Bengal; the new states–creation of Marathas, Sikhs, Jats and Afghans, and the third being independent kingdom of Mysore; the Rajputs and Kerala. Besides an
important happening was the transition of the East India Company from a trading enterprise to a political power.
18TH CENTURY: A DARK AGE
Till recently, the 18th century was described as ‘Dark Age’–an age when chaos and anarchy ruled. The Mughal empire collapsed, regional powers failed to establish empires and stability returned only with the spread of British supremacy in the late 18th century. But there are obvious problems with this view. The Mughal empire’s influence was not as widespread or deep as was believed, hence Mughal decline cannot serve as an adequate theme for discussing changes taking place all over India. Moreover, scholars have recently agreed that the establishment of regional politics was perhaps the dominant feature of the 18th century. Satish Chandra, a leading historian of medieval India, has presented 18th century as a distinct chronological whole, rather than split into two halves–pre-British and British. Thus, it suited the British writers and their Indian counterparts like Jadunath Sarkar to paint the 18th century as black, so that British rule would appear as a blessing in comparison.
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DECLINE OF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE
The first half of the 18th century witnessed the decline of the Mughal empire on account of several reasons,
which are as follows:
Internal Weaknesses: Struggle for Power
Aurangzeb’s misguided policies had weakened the stable Mughal polity. Wars of succession and weak rulers plagued Delhi from 1707 to 1719. It was due to Mohammed Shah’s incompetence that in his reign Nizam-ul-Mulk set up independent state of Hyderabad in 1724, followed by Awadh and Punjab, splitting the empire into successor states.
The Persian monarch, Nadir Shah attacked in 1738-39, conquered Lahore, defeated Mughal army at Karnal, and captured Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. He took to crores from official treasury and safes or rich nobles along with Peacock throne and Kohinoor diamond. (Mir and Sauda, famous poet, have lamented the devastation of Delhi.) Thus, Nadir Shah gained strategically crucial Mughal territory to the west of river Indus including Kabul making India at once more vulnerable to attacks from the north-west.
Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah’s commander and ruler of Afghanistan, after the death of Nadir Shah invaded north India many times between 1748 and 1767. Abdali’s famous victory was over Marathas in 1781 which is also known as third battle of Panipat.
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Decline: Some interpretations
The traditional view regarding decline of Mughal rule has been presented by Irving, Sarkar etc. who have highlighted personal failures of emperors and nobles, their immorality and overindulgence in luxury. They portrayed Mughal rule as Muslim rule, and Maratha, Sikh and Bundela uprisings as Hindu reaction to Islamic onslaught.
As opposed to this view, Satish Chandra has pointed to the Jagirdari crisis. The shortage of jagirs and abundance of Jagirdars, as the basic reason for downfall. Irfan Habib has shown agrarian system becoming more exploitative as pressure on limited resources grew, sparking off peasant revolts which ruined imperial stability.
The new Cambridge History of India sees the Mughal decline as the result of success of Mughal system, rather than its failure. It is argued, for example, that the zamindars who rebelled were rich and not poor farmers backed by wealthy merchants. This now however needs to be established.
Continuity of Mughal Traditions
Even after the decline of Mughal empire, the prestige of emperor remained so considerate that even rebel chiefs like Sikhs (who made offerings to Delhi Court in 1773 despite their guru having been killed by them) and Maratha leader Sahu visited Aurangzeb’s tomb in 1714. The British and Maratha fought over possession of the
person of emperor hoping to gain legitimacy for their claims to inherit the imperial mantle. Shah Alam II is a case in
point. Besides, Mughal administrative practice were adopted by regional powers, successor states and even states like Maratha (which began as popular reaction against imperial rule), who copied Mughal methods of administration.
Many officers schooled in Mughal practice found employment in numerous local kingdoms.
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