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Review

Author(s): Muzaffar Alam


Review by: Muzaffar Alam
Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4 (1989), pp. 825-829
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/312573
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where the Portuguese were able to muster any force), to differing local
reactions to the presence of European intruders, or the inspiration, character
and influence of Portuguese missionary and religious policies. He gives a
masterly analysis of the scope and nature of private country trades and of the
society and economy of Goa. He looks dispassionately at the decline of the
State of India as Brazil came to count for so much more in the politics and
economy of the mother country, and as dwindling resources faced ever-
growing commitments. The book is rounded off with a useful survey of the
history of Goa-virtually all that remained of the one-time Estadoda India-
until present times and with a lengthy critical bibliography.
There are few subjects on which Pearson has not something fresh and
stimulating to say, whether on the interaction of cultures, seen from a less lofty
and recondite standpoint than that usually favoured, or on the role of the
Catholic church in social integration. He takes a more cautious view than
many of his predecessors on the importance of technological and economic
factors in Portugal's expansion, and he gives the first systematic analysis of the
remarkablephenomenon of the large-scale settlement of Portuguese, or those
of alleged Portuguese descent, far beyond the bounds of any Portuguese
authority. And in discussing what little is known of Goa from the eighteenth to
the twentieth centuries he gives a persuasive explanation of the ubiquity of its
citizens in so much of the economy of society of the East.
Not all will agree with some of his conclusions-that, for example, the
Portuguese in their pioneering years were more brutal than their con-
temporaries;that the bizarre messianism of the mother country was a reaction
to the ravages inflicted by plague; that guns, as Carlo Cipolla, and more
recently Geoffrey Parker have argued, enabled the Portuguese to establish
themselves in the East. But this is a tribute to the stimulus of Pearson's ideas
and writing. Whatever the much-analysed problems of other fields of histori-
cal study, the history of India and its neighbouring seas is clearly flourishing.
PembrokeCollege, Cambridge G. V. SCAMM E LL

LandandSovereignty
in India:AgrarianSocietyandPoliticsundertheEighteenthCentury
Maratha Svarajya. By ANDRE WINK. Cambridge University Press: Cam-
bridge, 1986. Pp. xviii, 417.
Dr Andre Wink's concern in this book is to examine and explain, in the first
place, the factors that went into the making of the Maratha power in the
eighteenth century over a large area, extended within the domain of the
'universal' Mughal political sovereignty. His second major concern is to show
the relationships among and between the different constituents of this power,
which in his assessment formed part of a positive political process. On both
these issues the book is admirably rich in details, collected from the vast
Maratha archives and analysed in an assiduously developed theoretical
framework.
The book is divided into four parts besides a brief introduction and the
epilogue. The first part of the book, which covers over one-third of it and sums

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up its argument, opens with a review of the concept of sovereignty in its pre-
modern South Asian context. The fulcrum upon which the discussion rests is
the question whether the imperial unification in pre-British times of the Indian
subcontinent prefiguredmodern territorialsovereignty or whether it should be
interpreted as a realization of 'universal dominion' in accordance with the
dharma.And, since Wink's principal concern is a detailed study of the
eighteenth-century Deccan which by then had long been in contact with
Muslims with a strong Islamic impress on its polity, he adds a discussion on
the universal caliphate and the evolution of mulk in Islam. He makes an
interesting survey of the conditions of change from the universal caliphate to
territorial Muslim kingdoms and shows how a gap between the ideal and the
real in Islamic polity has been there right from the beginning.
The importance of such a background for an appreciation of medieval
Indian history has been emphasized by several South Asianists earlier. Wink,
however, is not content with giving merely a background. Interpreting Ibn
Khaldun's concept offitnahe builds a theory eventually to explain the history
of not only the Marathas but also the entire South Asia and Islamic East. The
termfitnain Wink's opinion means not merely disruption, mischief or sedition.
These are its pejorative and negative connotations and because of our
emphasis on these narrow literal meanings of the word, many an important
dimension of Islamic history has escaped our notice. In the Islamic worldfitna
implied 'forgingof alliances' not necessarily 'determined by the use of military
power' and was 'the normal mechanism of state-formation'.
Fitnain this sense, Wink contends, provides the most appropriate paradigm
for any appreciation of pre-modern Indian political systems. Again, in India
political power rarely implied direct territorial control. Conquest was not a
military venture, but a process of which 'civil act' or 'the settlement of the land
revenue' was a part, not following upon the military conquest of an area but
together with it. This civil act signified the institutionalization of the con-
querer's intervention in 'the conflict-ridden structure of the vested gentry
rights', for acquiring a legitimate claim to sovereignty. Through fitna or
intrigue and machination emerged the situation in which the conquerer tried
to buttress his claim by ensuring a kind of balance between the conflicting
interests.
It is difficult to agree in full with Wink's paradigm as well as with his reading
of Ibn Khaldfin. To Ibn Khaldfn 'asabiyah,based on 'clan-colision and the
support of followers (mawdli)as well as political alliance (hilf)', seems to have
been central in the formation of mulk.Ibn Khaldfn used the expressionfitnato
describe the conditions that followed, as 'asabiyahthreatened and finally
destroyed the early Islamic political ideal embodied in 'the khilafat-i-rashidah'
(pious caliphate) and laid the foundation of mulk. Ibn Khaldun projects
himself as a spokesman of'the pious caliphate'; to him mulkwas afitna. Later,
the official and the semi-official historians of the subsequent dynasties and
monarchs presented their patrons, in a measure, as true successors of 'the
pious caliphs', while all the challenges against them were described asfitna.
Fitna in Islamic literature thus has been used in the sense of disruption only
and thereforeoften interchangeably with its Arabic and Persian synonyms like

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'fasad','sharr','baghya','tughydn','shorish'and 'hangama'.Fitna by itself was not


the mechanism of state-formation. Afitna not supported for long by 'asabiyah
remained only afitna or disruption, not only for the sovereign but also for the
fitna-raisers.Further, even in the course of what Wink prefers to callfitna, the
military superiority of the conqueror has been the prerequisite for his entry
into 'the circle of kings' in, at least, Mughal India.
In the second and third sections of this part Wink discusses the coming of
the Mughals in the Deccan and traces the expansion of the Maratha svarajya,
laying bare simultaneously the internal dynamics of this expansion. The rise of
the brahmin Peshwas, the emergence of a new class of Maratha sarddrsand the
intricate and delicately balanced relationships between differentpower groups
have all been brought out skilfully.
The rise of the Marathas in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries represen-
ted more a consummation of the 'Muslim' empire than a mere revolt against it.
The Mughal system was one of continually shifting rivalries and alliances,
differing only in dimension at different phases of its history. In the process, it
incorporated in itself the local gentry groups and the nobility of indigenous
and foreign extraction, which, in turn, also implied the Mughal imperial
agents' participation in the local and regional systems. The powerful dynamic
of the Mughal system thus led to its localization and 'generification' together
with its expansion. The eighteenth-century condition far from representing
'decline and destruction' was a vigorous manifestation of this dynamic.
Significantly, the Marathas were in the forefront of those who preserved the
political ideological leverage of the universal empire of the Mughals. The
Maratha king remained a 'zaminddr',never openly claiming that the cessation
of a district to him was subsequent to its conquest by his MarStha sarddrs.In
the Maratha chronicles the Mughal emperor was his 'lord' and the Delhi
court, 'the centre of earth'.
Wink's narrative here and also in the second part of the book follows on
convincingly C. A. Bayly's excellent study of early modern northern India,
reinforcing the recent critique of the so-called Aligarh School views of the
'crisis' and the rise of the Marathas and the other 'disturbers'of the eighteenth
century. Wink introduces, however, some difficulty in his excellent analysis
when he sets out to explain it in terms of his conception offitna.Contrary to his
contention, his details clearly show that the Marathas followed 'the double-
trackof subservience and sovereignty' simply because they, in the face of many
other competitors who followed the same track, were unable to destroy the
Mughal king. None of them had enough strength to dislodge the Mughal
'asabiyah.
Wink rightly emphasizes that svardjyadenoted Maratha political and fiscal
claims anywhere in India, irrespective of their location and that it was not a
term for only the 'Maratha homeland' in the western Deccan. Svardjyadid not
necessarily imply direct administration nor was it exclusively territorially
circumscribed dominion. The expression Maharashtra rdjyareferred to an
area, but even here the sense of political power had precedence over a
territorial connotation. The attempt of the Marathas to bring under control
the sacred Hindu cities of Mathura, Prayag, Banaras and Gaya, not by

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conquering them but by demanding them injagir from the Mughal emperor,
was thus not inconsistent with their claim of being the 'upholders of Hindu
Dharma'.
There is ample evidence in the eighteenth-century condition for Wink's
contention about 'the open-endedness' of the state and its organization around
conflict. The adventurers in the period encroached upon the territories of the
others and were, in turn, prepared to adjust with control by still others over
their own domains. Sanctity of territory in pre-modern Indian politics,
however, cannot be ruled out altogether. Even in the bazaar parlance, as the
famous sarcastic proverbial 'hukumat-i Shdh-i'Alamaz Dihltd Pdlam'(the rule
of the king of the world [extends] from Delhi to Palam!) indicates, political
power was measured in terms of territorial control.
The second part of the book provides an insight into the nature of the
relationship between the centre and the province, even if Wink prefers
generally to write in a difficult and heavy style. The problem has been
discussed at length by the other historians of Mughal India. But their writings
are 'dominated by the conception of the unitary, despotic ... state ...
superimposed on ... a gentry ... who by themselves were incapable of creating
an empire'. In Wink's assessment 'the entire fabric of vested gentry rights' was
but an extension of sovereign power. Highlighting the role of watan and
zaminddrhe suggests that since the historians have relied more on the centre-
oriented sources, the full significance of these institutions has not been
appreciated. In an exaggerated emphasis on king-centred sources also lay, in a
way, the wrong notion, propagated by the British centralists, that all 'prop-
erty' in land concentrated in the king's hands and that aristocracy, wherever
noticed, was purely 'prebendal'. The local chiefs were not simply zaminddrs
under the suzerain or mere intermediaries in the service of the king; they were
the king's sharers, each in possession of a sansthanor a royal abode of his own,
deriving his strength from hisjathd.
Wink supports his point furtherin the third part of the book from the details
he brings out to show that in the Deccan the so-called standard official
measurement or tankharate and later in the 175os and I76os even the kamal
rate superseded little the village customary or riwdjrate. He thus also disputes
the impression that the kamal rate anticipated the ryotwari survey of Sir
Thomas Munro. Considering the method of revenue assessment and collec-
tion he concludes that the king, despite his universalist claim, 'was in the last
resort a co-sharer in the revenue among the other hereditary holders of
concurrent vested rights'. Strength of the local social groups in the Maratha
political system is further illustrated from the discussion in the last part of the
book on the continued control of the 'brahman bureaucracy' over the land
revenue machinery. Distribution of surplus intermeshed with the creation and
maintenance of these groups and their military organization.
The centre, however, also occupied a significant place. The Maratha
subhedarwho also held the revenue authority over his subha,a division of the
Maratha kingdom generally much smaller than the Mughal suba, was
accountable for the collection of a portion of the total revenue of the area under
his control. Independent of him, there were a number of assignees 'whose
separate interests operated as reciprocal checks', adding to the strength of the

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centre. Often in a single village there were numerous amaldars.Rivalries and
threatened conflict in the locality thus reinforcedthe centre's ability to manage
a 'union'.
In the last two sections, Wink considers the significance of monetization and
revenue farming for the eighteenth-century Maratha society and economy.
The influence of the financier-merchants, a considerable amount of their
direct political power and their patronage of religious institutions are
illustrated through some interesting examples. But Wink prefers to remain
non-committal about their role in politics. Wink presents revenue farming as
an organized means of agricultural restoration. He argues that it 'cleared the
field of the heavy undergrowth of the established zamznddrirights' and was
'zulm' or oppression from the viewpoint of the centre only as it implied
relaxation in its control.
Andre Wink's conclusions are supported by the recent researches on the
period for the different parts of the subcontinent. His book is sure to provoke
many of its readers to look again at some of the established notions about the
social and political relationships in late medieval and early modern South
Asia. He would have to provide, however, much more evidence to satisfy them
about the feasibility of hisfitna paradigm. Further, no seriots historian would
dispute the plea that the intricate mechanism of the political process at various
levels in the locality is to be looked into carefully, drawing on the sources from
the locality itself. It must, however, be added here that even for Wink's
subject, it is difficult to ignore the vast Persian material with no less bearing on
the local social politics. Wink quotes directly from earlier Arabic and Persian
authorities to build his theory offitna. I see no reason why he decides to cite
from the incomplete and often incorrect translations of the Persian sources
when it comes to his own period.
Centrefor Historical Studies, MUZAFFAR ALAM
JawaharlalNehruUniversity,
New Delhi

Ai Ssu-ch'i's Contributionto the Developmentof Chinese Marxism. By JOSHUA A.


FOGEL.Harvard Contemporary China Series: 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts,
1987.
Until his death in 1966, Ai Siqi was a major figure in the Chinese Communist
ideological establishment. In the late 1930s, he achieved sufficient distinction
as a Marxist philosopher to be included among the small group of intellectuals
that Raymond Wylie has described cogently as Mao's 'think-tank.' He
retained his prominence after I949 to serve as vice-president of the Party
school, as well as editor of the Party's theoretical journal. He died in Spring
1966,just in time to escape the fate that the Cultural Revolution would visit on
the older generation of Marxist intellectuals.
Ai Ssu-ch'i's Contribution
totheDevelopment of ChineseMarxismtraces Ai's career
from his youth and early education, through his rise to prominence in the
thirties, his involvement with Mao Zedong and the ideological campaigns of

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