India in the Seventeenth Century

During the seventeenth century India was more peaceful and prosperous, and presented a more impressive face to the world than had been the case for a thousand years and was to be for more than a hundred years to come. For the first time since the coming of the Muslims the imperial idea meant something more than the domination of one community over the other. It was accepted by both parties: India became all-India minded. Europeans visited the country in increasing numbers and all returned more or less impressed with what they saw. Despite disapproval of Hindu "heathenism" and traditional dislike of Islam, there was a general recognition that a great power existed in India embracing a developed civilization with great attainments in letters and the arts, with polished manners and a complicated social life. India occupied in the mind of seventeenth-century Europe something of the place taken in the eighteenth century by China. The picture of India derived from classical sources was at last replaced by a contemporary one. India was the land of the Great Mogul.

Our sources for this period are more copious and varied than for any previous age. They are in fact an extension of those available for Akbar's reign. For government and administration we have Abu'l Fazl's monumental Ain-i-Akbari or Acts of Akbar. This is really a political, administrative, and cultural encyclopedia of India, providing a detailed account of the whole Mughal administration. Then come a number of Muslim histories, which are both more detailed and more politically minded than the histories prior to Akbar's reign. Some of these are of high quality, like that of Khafi Khan, who could be fair to the Marathas, whom he detested, in their struggle against Aurangzeb. There are personal documents like Aurangzeb's letters, official correspondence, and reports. Besides these local sources we have a volume of evidence from European sources. A succession of travelers visited India and often resided for long periods; some settled down altogether. Some of them were men of great ability


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India: A Modern History
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