Friday, August 22, 2014

Indian Territory

Despite the trouble I get into when I venture there, I continue to be fascinated by the remarkable history of India. Although Indian civilization is one of the oldest and most creative in the world, its very wealth, combined with its proximity to central Asia, have made it a repeated target for conquerors. Despite living under foreign and culturally alien invaders for most of the last 1100 years, it has managed remarkably well at preserving an independent, vibrant and exceptionally resilient civilization. I doubt that this can be said of any other nation.

John Darwin considers the subject in his book After Tamerlane. One of the successor conquerors was Akbar, grandson of Babur. Here is one number that amazed me.

Akbar’s ministers were able to apply their revenue system – collecting in cash perhaps one-half of the value of agricultural production86 – with remarkable uniformity across his territories.87 This great revenue stream was the real foundation of Mughal imperial power.

It paid for the army as well as a cultural programme that drew on the practice of Timurid Samarkand.

Darwin, John (2010-08-08). After Tamerlane (p. 85). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Kindle Edition.

It seems astounding that a government could extract that much wealth from a pre-industrial agricultural economy without starving all the subjects to death.