text 8 rise and fall

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The Rise and Fall of the Mughal Empire in India
While monarchs in Europe struggled to consolidate their authority during the seventeenth century, powerful rulers rose in the Asian states. These emperors would become strong enough to rival the Western powers and control relations with European traders. The Asian leaders had a proud history. During the sixteenth century, the Mughals (Moguls), a fierce Islamic Turkish tribe, had swept into the Indian subcontinent and established a flourishing realm ruled by able emperors such as Babur (1483–1530) and Akbar (1542–1605).
In 1605, the 38-year-old Jahangir succeeded the great Mughal leader Akbar and assumed the title of “the world-subduing emperor. ” In his memoir, he described the lavish ceremonies accompanying his crowning. During the festivities, the high officials of the empire, “covered from head to foot in gold and jewels, and shoulder to shoulder, stood round in brilliant array, also waiting for the commands of their sovereign.”
By that time, the Portuguese had already established a flourishing trading base on the west Indian coast. As the seventeenth century unfolded, the Mughals also allowed the English, French, and Dutch to establish trading bases in India, but without power to be of any concern. The Mughals themselves paid little attention to foreign trade but welcomed the revenues from the commerce into their treasuries.
Though Jahangir wielded power arbitrarily, he also felt compelled to follow certain traditions and laws. In his view, to bring “prompt punishment to the man who violates the laws of his country is an alternative with which no person entrusted with the reins of power is authorized to dispense. ” Jahangir also struggled to bring unruly sections of his empire more firmly under his control, at one time ordering a bloody campaign against rebellious Afghans. The Mughal emperor recorded how prisoners from one battle were paraded before him “yoked together, with the heads of the seventeen thousand slain in the battle suspended from their necks.” Reflecting on the burdens of office, Jahangir lamented, “There is no pain or anxiety equal to that which attends the possession of sovereign power, for to the possessor there is not in this world a moment’s rest. ” Nevertheless, the emperor gave his wife, Nur Jahan, a major role in running the government. He also managed to find time to support and enjoy sports, literature, and art as well as to smoke opium regularly. He completed his Memoirs before his death in 1627.
An eventual successor, Aurangzeb, became Mughal emperor in 1658 and held power for almost fifty years. One of his chroniclers, Bakhta’war Khan, claimed it was “a great object with this Emperor that all Muslims should follow the principles of the religion. ” The biographer also boasted that his emperor “has learned the Qur’an by heart.” But Aurangzeb’s reign marked both the apex of Mughal power and the beginning of its end. By the time of his death in 1707, reckless spending, endless military campaigns, and persecution of Hindus and Sikhs had weakened the regime. Widespread rebellions broke out, which Aurangzeb’s weaker successors failed to overcome. In the l720s, one observer, Khafi Khan, reported that many townships “have been so far ruined and devastated that they have become forests infested by tigers and lions, and the villages are so utterly ruined and desolate that there is no sign of habitation on the routes.”
As the Mughal empire disintegrated, rivals quickly took power. European traders also gained influence—especially the British and French, who were competing for the Indian trade in textiles, spices, and sugar. By the mid-eighteenth century, the land controlled by Aurangzeb’s successors had dwindled to Delhi. Meanwhile, the British and French forged strategic political alliances with Indian states and jockeyed for a dominant position on the subcontinent.
Making ConnectionsWhat were the similarities between the European and Mughal monarchs, particularly Louis XIV of France and Aurangzeb of India?
What policies weakened their respective states?
Sherman, The West in the World, 408.

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