Loyalties and Resistance in Early Modern Eurasian Empires

AHA Session 65
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 3
World History Association 3
Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton, Fifth Floor)
Pamela Kyle Crossley, Dartmouth College
Pamela Kyle Crossley, Dartmouth College

Session Abstract

This panel examines the territorial expansion and incorporation of new groups in Eurasian empires in the early modern period. From approximately 1400-1800, autonomous polities on the Eurasian continent declined sharply as large land-based empires conquered territories and incorporated social and political actors. These early modern empires were multiethnic and culturally heterogeneous. Unlike modern nation-states that constructed identity among citizens by emphasizing ethnic particularities and unique cultural and historical traditions, these empires embraced cosmopolitanism and made grand claims to the universality of its claims, practices, and rule. While historians have examined the general trends of imperial conquest and rule among Eurasian empires, noting the political and social convergences from Bourbon France to Qing China, little work has been done on the process of incorporating different political and social actors into the orbit and rule of these imperial formations. How did empire-makers envision their territories and subject? How did they incorporate other actors into their rule? How did actors resist incorporation?

This panel explores these questions in the context of Qing China, Mughal India, and Imperial Russia. Each paper focuses on one empire and examines the processes of contesting, negotiating, and consolidating visions of empire in the early modern world. Challenging traditional understandings of the agrarian-bureaucratic empire as a monolithic political type that stymied social and economic development in the non-European world, this panel contributes to recent historiographical advances that show various Eurasian empires responding in diverse ways to similar challenges in the construction of large territorial states. Each paper takes up a specific Eurasian empire at a critical juncture in its emergence, and exposes the political and cultural contests that determined the composition and structure of the imperial political system.

In the case of early modern China, Keliher shows how the expansion of the Qing state (1636-1912) led to political contestations over who would be included and excluded from the empire; he then examines the process by which political and military outsiders were brought into the political system and made insiders. In India, Dayal looks at processes of contesting, negotiating, and consolidating Mughal ambitions in peninsular India and the resistance of actors in the Deccan region. In Imperial Russia, Monahan examines the case of a Central Asian emigre merchant to show how Siberian actors were incorporated and served the Imperial Russian state as it advanced eastward.

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