Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, came to power in 1526. Aurangzeb, the last Mughal ruler (not counting later Mughals), died in 1707.

The Portuguese came to India in 1498 and by 1510 they had captured Goa. The Dutch came in 1605, the English in 1607, and the French in 1668. One can even count the Danish — who came in the 1660s.

So, why do we study Mughals as part of the medieval period and European conquest as modern India?

  • 6
    Because a term is only 13 weeks long and decisions must be made as to what to teach when. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 9 '20 at 16:40
  • 2
    A guess: because the Mughals were yet another local empire coming from nearby countries and nearby cultures and religions, conceptually in continuity with ancient and medieval issues - while European possessions mean India become entangled on European expansion, navigation, global trade and colonialism, i.e., the so called Early Modern Age? Such conceptual changes happened on Europe first, and it makes sense to treat the europeans in India under this framework – Luiz Jul 9 '20 at 17:18
  • 3
    I upvoted this is a perfectly legitimate question, but it would be a much better one with added sources of examples. – Brian Z Jul 9 '20 at 17:21
  • 4
    Who is "we"? Are you assuming that everyone studies the same way? – KillingTime Jul 9 '20 at 17:22
  • 3
    Depends entirely on who establishes your curriculum; apparently in your institution they've chosen to group the Mughals into the medieval period. Why that was chosen isn't really a question that can be answered by anyone outside the curriculum design team. On the other hand, I think the argument you put forth is pretty compelling and I wonder what the curriculum design team would say in response. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 9 '20 at 17:31

It would help to have specific examples of textbooks or courses that associate the Mughals with the medieval period, but the article "Early Modern India and World History" (Richards, 1992) argues that the Mughals should in fact be seen as part of the early modern period:

For South Asian history I believe it makes a good deal of sense to use the term early modern instead of Mughal India, or late medieval India, or late precolonial India for the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. To do so would lessen the extent to which India is seen as exceptional, unique, exotic, and somehow detached from world history. I am convinced that we must contextualize South Asian culture, civilization, and society in this way to better understand the more specific unfolding of Indian history in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.

It goes on to outline that larger context in terms of "six distinct but complementary large-scale processes define the early modern world.":

  1. "the creation of global sea passages that came to link all of humanity with a transportation network of increasing capacity and efficiency.
  2. "the rise of a truly global world economy in which long-distance commerce, growing rapidly, connected expanding economies on every continent.
  3. the growth, around the world, of states and other large-scale complex organizations that attained size, stability, capacity, efficiency, and territorial reach not seen since antiquity, if then. Early modern states displayed impressive new abilities to mobilize resources and deploy overwhelming force.
  4. "the doubling of world population during the early modern centuries."
  5. "the intensified use of land to expand production in numerous episodes of settler frontiers."
  6. "the diffusion of several new technologies: cultivation of New World crops, gunpowder, and printing and organizational responses to them throughout the early modern world."
  • thank you so much for your detailed response. I'm grateful for your time and efforts. I learned so many other valuable points. Thank you so very much, Brian. – Varun Singh Jul 14 '20 at 2:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.