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Mughals, Mongols, and Mongrels: The Challenge of Aristocracy and the Rise of the Mughal State in the Tarikh-i Rashidi

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The present article seeks to re-evaluate the problem of the Central Asian military elite that emigrated to Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent in the sixteenth century during the foundation of the Mughal Empire. By reading the Tarikh-i Rashidi, the historical composition of Mirza Haydar Dughlat (d. 1551) and the main literary source for the period, modern scholars have developed two distinct historiographical strands of scholarship. Those mainly focused on Mughal India have used the text to argue for the absence of a meaningful political culture among the Central Asian elite. Others, mostly focused on Inner Asian history, have used the text for the opposite purpose of describing a fairly static “tribal” structure of Mirza Haydar’s world. I, on the other hand, will abandon the imprecise and essentially meaningless concept of “tribe” and will rather argue that Mirza Haydar instead chronicles the perspective of “aristocratic lineages” whose world was collapsing in the sixteenth century and who had to adjust themselves to changing conditions that saw the alliance of monarchs and servants through “meritocracy” both in their homeland as well as the new regions to which they moved.

Affiliations: 1: University of CaliforniaDavis


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