Ques-Briefly describe the successor states of the Mughal Empire that emerged in the first half of 18th century.
(Answer to this question is substantially based on the last chapter of 7th class History NCERT. The message is that the NCERTs should be incorporated into mains preparation.)
Answer: With the rapid decline of Mughal Empire in the wake of death of Aurangzeb, many new regional political powers emerged. Broadly speaking the states of the eighteenth century can be divided into three overlapping groups: (1) States that were old Mughal provinces like Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad. Although extremely powerful and quite independent, the rulers of these states did not break their formal ties with the Mughal emperor. (2) States that had enjoyed considerable independence under the Mughals as watan jagirs. These included several Rajput principalities. (3) The last group included states under the control of Marathas, Sikhs and others like the Jats.
This is not a part of the solution, but a mere illustration.
- We can detect three common features amongst the successor states of Mughal Empire.
- Though many of the larger states were established by erstwhile Mughal nobles they were highly suspicious of some of the administrative systems that they had inherited, in particular the Jagirdari system.
- Their method of tax collection differed. Rather than relying upon the officers of the state, all three regimes contracted with revenue-farmers. The practice of ijaradari, thoroughly disapproved of by the Mughals, spread all over India in the 18th century. Their impact on the countryside differed considerably.
- All these regional states had emerging relationship with rich bankers and merchants aka portfolio capitalists. These people lent money to revenue farmers, received land as security and collected taxes from these lands through their own agents. Throughout India the richest merchants and bankers were gaining a stake in the new political order.
Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah, the founder of Hyderabad state, was one of the most powerful members of the court of Farrukh Siyar. He had enjoyed a very high Mansab during the reign of Aurangzeb as well. As the Mughal governor of Deccan provinces, during 1720-22 Asaf Jah had already gained control over its political and financial administration. Unable to implement his reforms due to the competition amongst the nobility, he carved out his own dominion.
Asaf Jah brought skilled administrators from northern India who welcomed the new opportunities in the south. The Mughal emperor merely confirmed the decisions already taken by the Nizam.Gradually, Hyderabad developed its own brand of administration. The Hyderabad was constantly engaged in a struggle against the Marathas to the west and with independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) of the plateau. Immediately after his death, succession struggle for the Hyderabad state was a factor behind second Carnatic war.
Awadh: Burhan-ul-Mulk Sa‘adat Khan was appointed subadar of Awadh in 1722. Eventually, he combined the offices of subadari, diwani and faujdari. He had also held a high mansab under Aurangzeb.He tried to decrease Mughal influence by reducing the number of centrally appointed Jagirdars. He also reduced the size of jagirs and appointed his own loyalists. The accounts of Jagirdars were checked to prevent cheating and the revenues of all districts were reassessed by his officials. The state depended on local bankers and mahajans for loans. It auctioned the right to collect tax. These “revenue farmers” (ijaradars) agreed to pay a fixed sum of money. Local bankers guaranteed the payment of this contracted amount to the state. In turn, the revenue-farmers were given considerable freedom in the assessment and collection of taxes.
These developments allowed new social groups, like moneylenders and bankers, to influence state’s revenue system. Awadh was a prosperous region, controlling the rich alluvial Ganga plain and the main trade route between north India and Bengal. The penetration of European companies into the hinterland certainly added to prosperity and created a new interest group.
Bengal gradually broke away from Mughal control under Murshid Quli Khan who was appointed as the naib subehdar. He was effectively in charge of Bengal since 1703 when Auraganzeb had sent him to Bengal to shore up revenue collection which he did admirably. He quickly seized all the power. In an effort to reduce Mughal influence in Bengal he transferred all Mughal Jagirdars to Orissa and ordered a major reassessment of the revenues of Bengal.
Revenue was collected in cash with great strictness from all zamindars. As a result, many zamindars had to borrow money from bankers and moneylenders. Those unable to pay were forced to sell their lands to larger zamindars. The formation of a regional state in 18th century Bengal therefore led to considerable change amongst the zamindars.
The close connection between the state and bankers was evident in Bengal. The house of Jagat Seth became extremely prosperous due to this.
Thus, the successor states of Mughal Empire were never- theoretically speaking – sovereign. But, they effectively broke away and built a dynamic administration of their own. However, once the British company came knocking, they fell one by one.