Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 July 2020
Outside the Indus borderlands, the expansion of agriculture and settled society occurring hand in hand with population growth led to a new medieval dispensation that had little continuity with the prehistoric and ancient past. These combined processes occurred relatively late in comparison with developments in other major world regions such as the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia-Persia and are here traced region by region. Once they did take off, they showed greater potential than almost anywhere else in the world. The chapter goes on to show how in the early medieval period the expansion of agriculture and settled society began to give rise to a fragmented landscape of monarchies of varying dimensions and importance in the plains of all great river systems of India (South and Southeast Asia). This more vertical and hierarchical political order emerging in the zones of nucleated agricultural settlement of early medieval India superseded the thinly spread, mostly ritual sovereignty of the ancient empires. Typically, it was based on a condominium of Hindu kings and the Brahman priesthood and thrived in the context of a newly arising medieval Hinduism and caste order characteristic of settled society.