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ADMINISTRATION AND NOBILITY

The imperial organization that sustained the empire through the years it flourished was the outcome of a long process of historical evolution. The roots of this evolution lay in the West and Central Asian Turko-Mongol traditions that the Mughals brought with them to India, as well as in the political organization in India under their predecessors. Babur introduced some Central Asian institutions. Humayun made a classification of the nobility and attempted to gain the favor of local chiefs. Under Akbar an imperial principle evolved that organized the ruling class and coordinated the interests of the state with local, powerful Hindu merchants.

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The Mughal ruling class was complex and varied, although integrated into a single imperial service. At higher levels this noble class comprised mainly Central Asians, Persians, Afghans, Indian Muslims, and Rajputs. No single ethnic or religious group, however, was large enough to challenge the supreme authority of the emperor. The key officials in the central government and the provinces were all appointed by imperial orders and were accountable directly to the emperor. The emperor was thus placed in a position of supreme power, which in turn was sustained by elaborate laws of court etiquette and royal prerogative.

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A system of honorific ranks (mansabs) organized the nobility and institutionalized the emperorís relations with his officials. Each official held a rank that defined his position and the order of precedence in the official hierarchy and determined his status, pay, obligations, and army contingents. The Mughal tax system depended largely on the support these ranking officials secured from the local Hindu landed gentry (zamindars), who collected revenue from the peasants and paid it to the treasury, keeping part for themselves in return for their services and as a hereditary right over the land. The Hindu zamindars, spread all over the empire, emerged as one of the most important classes of intermediaries.

The tax demand in each region was stated in cash, its magnitude depended on the quality of soil and the level of cultivation. The peasants duly entered the market economy and tried cultivating high-value crops. The system encouraged a cash nexus, bustling bazaars, and an increase in the number of towns. All this coincided with Indiaís expanding commerce with the outside world, in the wake of the establishment of European and non-European trading companies during this period.

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