Mughals, Mongols, and Mongrels: Revisiting the Tensions among the Military Elite of the Early Mughal Polity

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM
Belmont Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Ali Anooshahr, University of California, Davis
Modern scholarship generally views the Central Asian connections of the the first two Mughal Emperors (Babur and Humayun) as unproblematic and perceives the early difficulties of the dynasty with its military elite to be a result of disagreement over policy (for instance settlement in India vs. raiding it during Babur’s reign or over-centralization during Humayun’s), or “corporate sovereignty” common to the steppe tradition of kingship. The present paper will however draw on contemporary evidence that suggests the Mongol nobility that joined the Timurids in Kabul and India looked down upon the genealogy of their new sovereigns. Moreover, the collapse of the social order in inner Asia accompanying the rise of the new tribal power of the Uzbeks meant the breakdown of some older hierarchies among the refugees in Kabuland this further led to tensions among the military elite of the Mughals. There are indeed cases of a Mongol emir serving under men who were subservient to his family back in Inner Asia. Thus, the cultural-essentialist arguments that attribute the divisions within the early Mughal state to fractiousness inherent to “Turco-Mongol” polities should be abandoned in favor of those more sensitive to the particular conditions of the kingdom of Kabul itself.
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