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Warriors and the State in Early Modern India

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This essay argues for reconsideration and greater scholarly attention to the insights of Prof. Dirk Kolff as expressed in his 1989 book, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy and in later writings. Kolff described a fluid, pervasive military labor market in late Mughal and early colonial North India that made vast numbers of armed, largely peasant soldiers available to military contractors, rulers, and rebels alike. His formulation permits us to see that armed Indian peasants in this period had considerable agency and independence within a society that was riven with con flict. Such a reconsideration underscores the magnitude of the changes wrought in Indian society by violent British conquest, pacification and disarmament in rural society — especially after the failed 1857 revolt. L'article plaide pour une reconsidération et une réévaluation des idées du professeur Dirk Kolff, telles qu'elles sont présentées dans son ouvrage paru en 1989, Naukar, Rajput et Sepoy, et dans ses publications ultérieures. Kolff décrit un marché du travail militaire flexible et omniprésent en Inde Mogole et en Inde Septentrionale au début de l'ère coloniale, et qui a rendu disponible aux courtiers militaires, aux dirigeants et aux rebelles un grand nombre de soldats d'origine paysanne. Son exposé nous permet de voir comment, pendant cette période, les paysans indiens armés avaient une importance et une indépendance considérables dans une société fendue par les con flits armés. Une telle reconsidération souligne l'importance des changements dans la société indienne, déclenchés par la soumission violente, la paci fication et le désarmement par les Anglais — surtout après l'échec de la révolte de 1857.


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