The State in Indian History

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLS2HS0024

Semester and Year Offered: First Semester, Monsoon Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Prof. Sanjay Sharma and Dr. Yogesh Snehi

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

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The course is centered around some staple debates in history around the emergence of state and its role on social formation. Through a longue durée of historical change from ancient to modern India, the course helps students grasp varied debates and processes of state formation. It also encourages them to historically explore concepts like kingship, legitimacy, sovereignty, authority, legality in pre-colonial and colonial India.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Appreciate the centrality of State in modern historiography.
  • Understand the evolution of theoretical debates on the making of states in India.
  • Comprehend crucial debates on surplus, sovereignty, ideology, lineages, etc. that also have a significant bearing on contemporary debates on state.
  • Familiarise and acquaint students with a long trajectory of states formation from ancient to modern.
  • Learn some recent tools of historical method through the lens of a state formation.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  • Why study the state? Reflections on sources: archaeological, textual, and archival. Distinguishing between official and non-official sources. State formation as a study of power and its exercise through ideology and cultural representations. Introducing concepts like lineage, class, surplus, hegemony and claims of dominance on the basis of gender, caste, race, region, religion, ritual superiority, military strength, law, etc.
  • The emergence of early forms of state control in India: from pastoralism to revenue yielding agrarian settlements, the early republics, and the Mauryan state.
  • The early medieval polities: Northern India: Rajputs, Sultanate; Southern India: Cholas, Vijayanagar empire. Debates on medieval Indian society and political formations: Asiatic Mode of Production, Orientalism Despotism, Feudalism, the concept of the Segmentary State.
  • The Mughal State: the notion of the Mughal Empire, centralization, ‘collapse’ or decentralization in the eighteenth century?
  • The Colonial State: from Company rule to British Raj: structures and ideologies of governance, law, army, nationalism and decolonization.
  • The nation state after independence and partition: legacy of colonialism, elements of continuity and change in the exercise of political power.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Two Take Home Assignments (30% each)
  • End Semester Exam (40%)

Reading List:

  • Henri J. M. Claessen, ‘Before The Early State and After: An Introduction,’ Social Evolution & History, 7 (1), 2008: 4–18.
  • Henri J.M. Claessen and Peter Skalnik, The Early State, The Hague: Mouton Publishers.
  • Hermann Kulke (ed), The State in India 1000-1700 (New Delhi, OUP, 1995).
  • Iqtidar Alam Khan, ‘State in the Mughal India: Re-Examining the Myths of a Counter-Vision,’ Social Scientist, 29 (1/2), 2001: 16-45.
  • J. F. Richards (ed.), Kingship and Authority in South Asia (Delhi, OUP, 1998).
  • Romila Thapar, ‘State formation in Early India,’ International Social Science Journal, XXXII (4), 1980: 655-669.
  • Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, The Colonial State: Theory and Practice (Delhi, Primus Books, 2016).
  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam, ‘The Mughal state—Structure or process? Reflections on recent western historiography,’ Indian Economic Social History Review, 29 (3), 1992: 291-321.
  • Sumit Sarkar, Modern Times: India 1880s-1950s (Ranikhet, Permanent Black, 2014).
  • T.J. Byres and Harbans Mukhia, Feudalism and non-European Societies, London; Frank Cass.
  • Thomas R. Metcalf, The New Cambridge History of India: III.5, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, CUP, Indian edition, 1998).