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Mughals Vs. British in India August 31, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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As a sorta follow-up to the previous post, I was a part of the conversation last week where questions along the following lines arose –

a) Take 2 anchor points in India’s history – Babar’s victory in first battle of Panipat in 1526 when the ground was laid for the Mughal empire and the British in 1757 when, after victory in the Battle of Plassey, they really looked like they were taking over). Which of these are found morally reprehensible, worthy of criticism ?

b) How does that change, if at all, looking at India in 1857 when Mughal Empire was ‘officially’ dismantled and 1947 when the British empire in India came to an end ? This is sort of hindsight view since we saw how it all ended up.

Of course, with such charged questions one can guess another’s position on the topic just by knowing his/her positions on other seemingly unrelated topics. But one of the defenses of the Mughal Empire offered was that it is less reprehensible because –

– Babar was an individual unlike Britain which was a democracy.

– Babar and his descendants stayed back in India and assimilated while the British left. Hence, the Mughals did not channel money out of India like the colonists did.

– Indian Economy grew at an average of 0.1% (!!) between late 1700s and 1947. I have no similar numbers for the Mughal era, assuming such figures are available at all.

On the other hand, it was argued that the religious excesses that Mughals are to have indulged in weren’t seen in similar number during the British. Also economic decline may have had more to do with India missing the Industrial Revolution bus much like China, which, in spite of never being directly colonized during the period, went into decline.

What other points in either’s favor can you think of ?

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