State and society in Gujarat, c. 1200-1500 : the making of a region
The present work closely traces the emergence of a distinctively Gujarati political and cultural world by the fifteenth century, arguing that many of the political, administrative, cultural and religious institutions that are evident in modern Gujarat came into being when the region was unified by force and consensus under the Sultans of Gujarat. The western province of Gujarat with its extensive coastline became, from the eighth century, the hub of a vibrant network of trade that stretched from the Red Sea to Indonesia and over land to Central Asia and the borders of China. The ports and cities of Gujarat drew merchants, mercenaries, religious figures and fortune-seekers from the Arab world and neighbouring south Asian provinces. Gujarat' s general prosperity also attracted mass migrations of pastoralist groups from the north. Unlike previous studies that have tended to treat trade and politics as separate categories with distinct histories, the present research charts the evolving Gujarati political order by juxtaposing political control with networks of trade, religion and contestation over resources. Large parts of Gujarat were conquered in the late thirteenth century by the armies of the Turkic Sultans of Delhi. With the dissolution of the Delhi Sultanate in the late fourteenth century, the governor of Gujarat declared his sovereignty and inaugurated a line of independent Sultans of Gujarat who continued in power until defeated by the Mughal ruler Akbar in 1572. From the late twelfth century, Gujarat was the site of proselytising activities of various denominations of missionaries. By the fifteenth century, a wide variety of religious interests were competing for patrons, converts and resources. The highly evolved trading networks radiating out from Gujarat from the eighth century required pragmatic accommodation with successive political formations. Correspondingly, claimants to political power were heavily dependent upon merchants, traders and financiers for military supplies, and in return, offered the trading groups security and patronage. The constantly negotiated relationship between trade and politics was closely linked to the evolution of sects and castes, Hindu, Muslim and Jain. Trade and politics were increasingly organised and expressed in sectarian or community terms. In keeping with some recent literature, my studies suggest that community affiliations in this period were often negotiable and linked to changing status. The study ends in the late fifteenth century when the Portuguese arrived off the coast of Gujarat. Soon there were new alignments of identity and power as the pastoralist frontier politics of the previous period began to give way to settled Rajput courts, complete with bureaucracies, chroniclers and priests. The Sultans of Gujarat were now paramount in the region: wealthy patrons of merchants and religious figures, they were unrivalled in north India for their control of manpower, war animals and weaponry.