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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2014

6 - Expanding political and economic spheres, 1550–1650


By the time of Akbar's death in 1605, a qualitative change in the scale of political and economic activities in the Indian subcontinent had occurred. The sheer size of the empire Akbar left behind is an important factor, for an estimated 110 million people resided within its borders out of a total South Asian population of slightly less than 150 million. Akbar implemented a more systematic and centralized form of rule than had prevailed earlier, which led to greater uniformity in administrative practices over a vast territory. At the same time, Akbar's economic policies stimulated the growth of commercial activity, which interconnected the various parts of South Asia in increasingly close networks. His stipulation that land taxes be paid in cash forced peasants into the market networks where they could obtain the necessary money, while the standardization of imperial currency made the exchange of goods for money easier. Above all, the long period of relative peace ushered in by Akbar's power, and maintained by his successors throughout the seventeenth century, contributed to India's economic expansion.

The greater circulation of people, goods, and practices that characterized India in the centuries after 1550 is also found in Europe and other parts of the world in this era. After direct sea links were established between Europe, Asia, and the Americas around 1500, a global economy spanning diverse regions of the world gradually emerged.

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