Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 July 2020
This chapter analyzes how the empire of the Great Mughals worked on the ground, beginning by dismissing the widespread idea that it was more powerful than its medieval predecessors because it adopted artillery and gunpowder weapons. Cavalry and horsemanship, not artillery or infantry, remained its chief military asset. Moreover, methods of cavalry warfare were disseminated to segments of Indian society previously dominated by infantry. As a result, a culture of chivalry prevailed. This was a culture of a horse-riding nobility, both Muslim and Hindu, and of institutionalized dissidence and privilege that developed under conditions of growth and the monetization of the economy that accompanied the expansion of world trade and the influx of American and Japanese silver through the sea trade. If the constitution of the Mughal empire was thus grounded in Turko-Mongol customary law, this chapter goes on to show that the entire system of Mughal governance and the administration of justice broadly evolved within the same matrix of customary law, not the canonical or prescriptive texts of the Sharia.