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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Integration Under Expanding Inner Asian Influence, II


South Asia as a whole exhibited some of the same developmental features as individual Southeast Asian and European polities, Japan, and China. In familiar, if somewhat languid fashion, intervals between hegemonic polities contracted, the territorial writ of successive polities expanded, while fiscal and military organization grew more efficient. The southward diffusion first of Sanskritic and then of Perso-Islamic culture, the northward movement of “Hindu” devotionalism, and the continuous expansion of agrarian cores encouraged a genuine, if modest, degree of cultural integration across the Indian subcontinent. Political patterns also followed a familiar chronology, including a surge in state formation c. 900 to 1300 and c. 1550 to 1800. As an unprecedentedly powerful state that cohered after an era of fragmentation and that benefited from economic intensification, firearms, new cultural syntheses, and cumulative expertise, the Mughal empire (heyday c. 1560–1707) bears comparison to such contemporaneous realms as Toungoo Burma, Late Ayudhya Siam, Muscovy, Bourbon France, and Tokugawa Japan.

But chronology and geography also set South Asia apart from the protected zone. Most obvious, the North Indian plain, like the North China plain, engendered a charter civilization considerably earlier than more isolated sectors of Eurasia, to which, in the case of Southeast Asia, Tibet, and South India itself, North India served as cultural donor.

Moreover, as this chapter title indicates, postcharter political patterns placed South Asia in a position intermediate between China, on the one hand, and Europe and Southeast Asia, on the other.

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