India before the British - The Mughal Empire and its Rivals, 1526-1857 (HIH1407)

StaffDr Nandini Chatterjee - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Various types of textual and visual evidence, in several languages (translated to English as required) will be used in order to evaluate the nature of the Mughal state and polity, early modern South Asian economy and society, and the reasons for transition to British rule in the 18th century.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the nature of the Mughal state and Indian society under Mughal rule.
  • 2. Explain to the waxing and waning of Mughal imperial power and its eventual substitution by British rule.
  • 3. Appreciate and engage with relevant historiographical debates based on the analysis of sources from Mughal India.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Critically assess, evaluate and utilise a range of documentary and visual sources produced in a pre-modern non-European context and from a variety of standpoints.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely, making appropriate use of historical evidence.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Form informed, critical and balanced opinions about culturally unfamiliar contexts.
  • 8. Undertake self-directed investigative learning.
  • 9. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 10. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.

Syllabus plan

This module will examine a variety of textual and visual sources in order to assess their validity and varying uses for the study state-formation and decline, politics, social structures, and cultural patterns in early modern South Asia under Mughal rule. The following is a tentative list of themes to be discussed within the module:


1.     Gunpowder empires of Central Asia

2.     Political alliances and the shaping of a multi-ethnic aristocracy

3.     The structure of the Mughal state

4.     Trade and fiscal policy

5.     Indian religions, religious specialists and Mughal religious policies

6.     Music, literature, art, and royal patronage

7.     Households, gender and sexuality

8.     Europeans in Mughal India

9.     The rebel states – case-study: Marathas

10.  The breakaway provinces – case-study: Bengal

11.  1857: The last gasp

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 Seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Marks and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500 word essay1500 word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Afzar Moin, A. The millennial sovereign: sacred kingship and sainthood in Islam (New York, 2012).

Alam, M. and S. Subrahmanyam, The Mughal state: 1526-1750 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Alam, M. The crisis of empire in Mughal north India: Awadh and Punjab, 1707-48 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Bayly, C. A. Rulers, townsmen and bazaars: north Indian society in the age of British expansion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Dalrymple, William. The last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty, Delhi, 1857 (London: Bloomsbury, 2006).

Faruqui, Munis D. The princes of the Mughal empire, 1504-1719 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Gordon, Stewart. Marathas, marauders and state-formation in eighteenth-century India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Habib, Irfan. The agrarian system of the Mughal empire, 1556-1707 (London: Asia Publishing House, 1963).

Lal, Ruby. Domesticity and power in the early Mughal world (Cambridge, 2005).

Marshall, Peter. Bengal: the British bridgehead (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Moura Carvalho, Pedro. Mirat al-quds: a life of Christ for emperor Akbar (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Richards, J. F., ed. The imperial monetary system of Mughal India (Delhi, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Richards, J. F. The Mughal empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Schimmel, Annemarie. The empire of the Great Mughals: history, art and culture (London, 2006).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Internet Archive:

Babur nama (Memoirs of Babar) translated A. S. Beveridge

Gulbadan Banu Begam, Humayun nama, translated A. S. Beveridge (1909)

Abul Fazl Allami, Ain-i Akbari translated Henry Blochmann and H.S. Jarrett (1873)

The history of India as told by its own historians translated and ed. H. M. Elliot and John Dawson (8 vols, 1867-77)

Fracois Bernier, Travels in the Mughal empire, 1656-1668 (English translation, 1916)

Ghulam Hussain Tabatabai, Seir Mutaqherin, or, review of modern times translated Nota Manus (3 vols., Calcutta, 1902)

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Printed sources:

The Baburnama: memoirs of Babur, prince and emperor, translated and ed. W.M. Thackston(New York, 2002)

Michael Fischer, Visions of Mughal India: an anthology of European travel writing (London, 2007)

Saqi Mustad Khan, Maasir-i Alamgiri (translated and ed.) Jadunath Sarkar (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1947)

Khvand Mir, Qanun-i Humayuni (translated and ed.) M. Hidayat Hosain (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1940)

Online visual sources:

Illustrations from the Padshahnama (The Royal Collection, for images)

Leaf from the Razmnama in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

‘Worlds within worlds’ at the Freer/Sackler Gallery


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

India, Mughal Empire, British Empire, Islam, Early Modern