Thesis Overview

My dissertation studies the effect of conflict on long-term state development in Mughal South Asia, bringing together new literature on state capacity development with traditional literature on the Mughal state (1556-1707). By leveraging contemporary state histories, I have constructed a new Mughal conflict database that allows us to measure fiscal state development.  By comparing the Mughal state building experience with that of other states like Qing China, the Ottoman empire and Europe, my dissertation shows that internal cost-structures related to intermediary powers incentivised the state to adopt unique institutions. In this way, my research indicates that in Asia state-intermediary relationships can be an important factor in influencing long term state development. 

Working Papers/Chapters

Merciful Tyrants? Explaining Rebel Forgiveness and State Capacity in Mughal South Asia (1556-1707)

This paper attempts to explain why the Mughal empire, a powerful and militaristic state, kept forgiving rebellious intermediaries. The paper argues that forgiveness was a tool for maximising revenue in an environment where the cost of collecting and monitoring revenue were very high. It highlights the institutional constraints faced by the Mughal state in the pre-colonial era which made intermediaries with high administrative capacity indispensable to the state. It argues that specific local requirements of administration made local individuals costly to replace, as they had the ability to administer more efficiently. The paper also makes comparisons between Asian empires, noting the differences in policy choices of the Mughal state and to other dynasties like that of Qing China. 

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Conflict, Climate and State Capacity: Conflict Causes and State Response in Mughal South Asia

This paper presents a reassessment of the relationship between the peasantry and the state in Mughal South Asia, specifically with reference to the very large peasant rebellions which occurred in the seventeenth century. By comparing peasant-state relationships with other precolonial developing states, the paper reconsiders state perceptions of the peasantry with regards to cost of accessing them. Leveraging new data from the Mughal Conflict database and paleo-climate literature from climate historians, the paper presents evidence which indicates peasant rebellions and mass peasant participation in rebellions specifically can be associated with famines and adverse climate. It then outlines the implications of these findings to state capacity, showing that resource scarcity and economic hardship had the effect of strengthening Mughal rivals and increasing the cost of revenue collection by leading peasants to join these groups for security.

Tigers, Dragons and other Leviathans: The Role of Intermediaries in the Fiscal Development of Qing China and Mughal India

Historically two of the world's largest economies in the early modern period faced large and populous rebellions. Yet whilst the Qing state has been seen to have a adopted a lower rate of taxation, the Mughal state is argued to have adopted very high rates of taxation. This paper explores the causes of different fiscal developments within these premodern empires by comparing the role of intermediaries in affecting the state's ability to collect taxes. 

Evolutionary Empire: Demystifying state development in Mughal South Asia

This chapter of my thesis looks at the cost of conflict and how that has changed over the course of the empire. Importantly, it looks at the different effects of internal and external conflict on state development.

The Mughal Conflict Database: Sources, Methods and Overview

This paper provides an in-depth explanation of how the Mughal Conflict Database was compiled, including the sources used to develop it, the methodology for compiling it and a summary of overview statistics. The chapter is designed so that in the future, researchers should be able to use the database with full knowledge and complete transparency of how it was compiled.