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Between Market and Court: The Careers of two Courtier-Merchants in the Twelfth-Century Deccan

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Relations between royal courts and merchant groups have been a frequently discussed but narrowly circumscribed topic in early Indian history—with analyses confined to mutual gains acquired through interactions. Using the careers of two merchant families active at the Hoysala court in south India at the end of the twelfth century as a starting point, this essay explores the existence of “shared” worlds between court and market, and focuses particularly on the development of distinctively “courtly” codes and sensibilities among merchant groups. It postulates the existence of a commensurable, and to a certain extent, composite culture between the realms of court and market which allowed ambitious men to move between both worlds.

Les relations entre les régimes dynastiques et les groupes de marchands a fait l’objet bien défini de discussions nombreuses dans l’historiographie de l’Inde ancienne tandis que les approches se limitaient aux profits réalisés des deux côtés par ces interactions. Fondé sur l’étude des carrières de deux familles de commerçants qui furent actives à la cour des souverains Hoysala dans le Sud de l’Inde à la fin du douzième siècle, cet essai explore l’existence de ces mondes “partagés” entre la cour et le marché, et se focalise en particulier sur le développement de codes spécifiquement “courtois” et les sensibilités entre les groupes de marchands. Cela demande l’existence d’une culture analogue et dans un certain sens composite entre le domaine de la cour et celui du marché qui permettait aux ambitieux de les fréquenter tous les deux.


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