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Economic Systems in Medieval India

By Globus Press


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The people in medieval India pursued diverse range of economic activities to earn their basic livelihood. The sphere of their works varied from agricultural to artisanal production, trade and commerce and associated commercial and financial services. These activities underwent various changes through out the course of this period. The state mobilized its resources through collection of different types of taxes for its survival and expansion. Agricultural production constituted the bulk of production during medieval period. The income from agriculture was the main source of state revenue. Extent of cultivation may be understood in terms of actual area under the plough in relation to the total available cultivable land. It is to be noted that there was a favourable ratio of land to man i.e., availability of land in surplus than the actual land cultivated by peasants. In such a situation an increase in production was sought through expansion of agriculture i.e., bringing newer areas under cultivation. We are informed, for instance, by the contemporary sources that large tracts of land in even such fertile regions as the Ganga-Yamuna Doab were covered by forests and grasslands during the Sultanate period. Land continued to exist in a favourable ratio to man during the Mughal period as well. The rulers of this era, therefore, harped on the policy of expansion of agriculture to such areas which were hitherto not under cultivation. Agriculture was introduced to tribal, backward, and outlying areas. Forests were cleared and agricultural wastelands were converted into cultivable lands. Extent of agriculture expanded in good proportions from the Sultanate to Mughal period. By the Mughal period, agriculture was practiced in almost all parts of the empire, yet land still existed in huge surplus than the actual requirement of the Mughal agricultural population. The extent of cultivation significantly increased during the reign of Aurangzeb in comparison to the Akbar’s reign. The expansion of cultivation in Bihar, Awadh and parts of Bengal is ascribed to clearance of forest, whereas in Punjab and Sind, to the spread of canal network. The medieval Indian peasants produced a variety of food crops, cash crops, vegetables and spices. This book has been written in an easy language and a lucid style. This book would serve as a reference book for readers and a semi-textbook for students.

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