Medieval India- II (Economy and Society)

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1HS4064

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester 2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Yogesh Snehi

Email of course coordinator: yogesh[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course offers a significant insight into the nature of agrarian and urban economy and, society in medieval India. The course is conceptualised on some significant debates on the notion of ‘medieval’ in India and therefore follows a thematic rather than a chronological approach that traverses along the debates on the idea of ‘medieval’. Broadly, the course has been divided into four phases; Early Medieval, Sultanate, Mughal and Early Modern – indicating towards a broader framework of chronology rather than empires or dynasties. Rather than the popular relegation of period as an era of decline and doom, this course, on the contrary, focuses on some very significant developments in its agrarian and urban economy, emergence of new classes in rural and urban settings, evolution of structures of authority, newer genres of music and literature and development of Islamicate forms of art and architecture even in such strong regional kingdoms like Vijayanagara. The course also focuses on the emergence of Bhakti and Sufi movements that lead to evolution of a milieu of contestations and dialogue, affecting both the policies of the state and people at large, besides also influencing regional social formations particularly in Punjab, Bengal, Deccan and South India. This course, while enlarging the historiography of medieval social and economic formations, also presents a critique of communal perspectives on the history of medieval India.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Understand the evolution and historiography of the term medieval in South Asia.
  2. Study of the making of chronology of and in the medieval.
  3. A broader understanding of social and economic processes of medieval India.
  4. Learning to read and interpret medieval sources; state chronicles, malfuzat, masnavi, qissa, etc.
  5. Appreciate cultural formation of medieval India; understanding genres, styles and rhythms.
  6. Finding connects to several political debates of contemporary India with the medieval.
  7. Familiarising students with intersection between religious and cultural developments.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. The idea of the ‘medieval’ in Indian history
  2. Characterization of Early Medieval Economy and Society
  3. State and Economy in the Sultanate and Mughal India: Agrarian Structures, Urban Economy
  4. Regions and the Empire in Medieval India
  5. Technology, Crafts and Non-Agricultural Production
  6. Trade and Commerce: Routes, Merchants and Manufacturers
  7. Urban and the Rural: Caste, Class and Gender
  8. Art and Architecture: Innovation and Assimilation
  9. Religious Movements: Bhakti and Sufi Milieu
  10. Language, Literature and the Evolution of Music

Assessment Details with weights:

  • A review of Daud Ali’s reading of ‘medieval’: take-home, 20 percent.
  • Thought piece- 1 (part of overall 10 percent for class participation.
  • Second take home assessment, 30 per cent
  • Thought piece- 2 (part of overall 10 percent for class participation)
  • In-class end-semester examination, 40 per cent.

Reading List:

  • “Nainsukh,”
  • A study of Mughal and Rajput select miniatures from Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Library collections.
  • Ali, Daud. “The idea of the medieval in the writing of South Asian history: contexts, methods and politics.” Social History 39 (3), 2014: 382-407.
  • Asher, Catherine B. and Cynthia Talbot. India Before Europe. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Behl, Aditya. "Presence and Absence in Bhakti: An Afterword." International Journal of Hindu Studies Vol. 11 (3), 2007: 319-24.
  • Bharat Ek Khoj: Episode 21 (Bhakti) and Episode 27 (Synthesis); available in AUD library.
  • Burton-Page, John. Indian Islamic Architecture: Forms and Typologies, Sites and Monuments. London: Brill.
  • Chandra, Satish. History of Medieval India (800-1700). New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2007.
  • Excerpts from original sources: Alauddin Khalji’s Revenue Decree; Ghiyasuddin’s Agrarian Policy; Firuz Shah’s Second Regulation; W.H. Moreland’s Agrarian System of Moslem India; Ain-i-Akbari’s regulation on Land Revenue.
  • Habib, Irfan. Technology in Medieval India, 650-1750. New Delhi: Tulika Books.
  • Hardy, P. “The "oratio recta" of Baranī's "Ta'rīkh-i-Fīrūz Shāhī"--Fact or Fiction?” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 20 (1/3), 1957: 315-321.
  • Hawley, John Stratton. Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in their Time and Ours. New Delhi: OUP, 2005, pp. 70-86.
  • IGNOU readings on Sultanate India- Unit 27- Vijayanagara Empire; Sultanate India: Unit 19- State and Economy; Unit 20- Agrarian Structures; Mughal India: Unit 16- Mughal Land Revenue System; Unit 17- Agrarian Relations; Unit 34- Painting and fine arts; Unit 18- Land Revenue System: Marathas, Deccan and South India.
  • Neuman, Daniel M. “Indian Music as a Cultural System.” Asian Music, Vol. 17 (1), 1985: 98-113.
  • Saeed, Yousuf (Director). Basant- A documentary film about the spring festival of the Sufis in north India. 13 mins., 1997.
  • Selected verses Amir Khusrau, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Makadevi Akka.
  • Sharma, Sunil. “Amir Khusraw and the Genre of Historical Narratives in Verse.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. XXII (1&2), 2002: 112-1
  • Singh, Upinder. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Delhi: Pearson, 2009.


  • Alam, Muzaffar. “The Pursuit of Persian: Language in Mughal Politics.” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 32 (2), 1998: 317-349.
  • Habib, Irfan, “The Peasant in Indian History.” Social Scientist, Vol. 11 (3), 1983: 21-64.
  • Nizami, Khaliq Ahmad. “Some Aspects of Khānqah Life in Medieval India.” Studia Islamica, No. 8, 1957: 51-69.
  • Qaisar, A. Jan. “The Miftah-ul Fuzala’: A Study of an Illustrated Persian Lexicon.” In A. Jan Qaisar Som P. Verma (eds), Art and Culture: Painting and Perspective, Vol. II, New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 2002, pp. 17-43.