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The Social Dynamics of the Mughal Empire: A Brief Introduction

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

It is only recently that the study of Indian history since the Muslim conquest, especially the Mughal period (1526-1857), has seen a fundamental change. No longer is this period viewed in the static terms of 'oriental society,' the perennial 'village community' and the unchangeable rigidities of caste and community. Instead full attention is now given to the dynamics of Indian society. Dirk Kolff's work has significantly contributed to this change of perspective. Focussing attention on India's 'armed peasantry' in its various guises of both sedentary 'ryots' and itinerant warriors, Kolff brings out the flexibility and dynamics of the Mughal world that was known to its European contemporaries as the 'flourishing Indies.' Even though traces may still be found in modern India, the price of modernity has been the loss of the flexible dynamics of the ancien régime . Ce n'est que récemment que l'étude de l'histoire de l'Inde depuis la conquête musulmane et particulièrement durant la période de l'empire moghol (1526-1857) a été essentiellement transformée. Au lieu d'utiliser des expressions qui suggèrent des conditions inchangées comme la "société orientale", la sempiternelle "communauté de village," et l'immuable "système des castes", la recherche examine actuellement les aspects dynamiques de la société indienne. A ce changement M. Dirk Kolff a de manière incisive contribué. Focalisant son attention sur la "paysannerie armée", il met en évidence le dynamisme de l'Inde moghole que les contemporains occidentaux appelaient "les Indes florissantes". On en trouve encore des traces dans l'Inde moderne, mais le prix de la modernité a été la perte irréparable de la dynamique flexible de l' ancien régime .


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