Organized Panel Session
As historians of early modern India have shown, the seventeenth-century heyday of the Mughal empire (1526-1858) was a period of economic expansion and the rapid commercialization of agriculture, manufacturing, and credit. By the eighteenth century, political power too became commercialized, as revenue rights and government offices were routinely bought, sold, and leased, creating new pressures on Mughal imperial governance and new political opportunities for Indian commercial interests and European trading companies. Taking these observations as a point of departure, this panel asks how early modern commercialization impacted the specific structures of a wide range of domestic economies in eighteenth and nineteenth-century South Asia; how it reshaped power relations within elite and non-elite households; and how it reconfigured political, economic, and conceptual relationships between households and “the state.” Beginning in late-Mughal North India, Murari Jha considers shifts in the wider domestic economy as commodity production and Gangetic trade were rerouted towards new nodes of capital and credit. Nick Abbott examines the influence of commercialization on intra-dynastic finance and conceptions of statehood in the Mughal successor regime of Awadh (1722-1856). Rochisha Narayan explores the long-term transformation of cash pensioning as a commercially inflected political practice into a powerful mode of colonial control. Finally, Elizabeth Lhost uses early twentieth-century cases of marriage, divorce, and abandonment to examine the law’s assessment of household accounting. Taken together, the papers illustrate the manifold ways commercialization and colonial expansion remade domestic economies, household politics, and the experience of state power in South Asia.