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By C. A. Bayly

During this amazing and bold survey Dr Bayly reports the increase, apogee and decline of what has end up referred to as `the moment British Empire' -- the good enlargement of British dominion abroad (particularly in Asia and the center East) in the course of the French progressive and Napoleonic period that, coming among the lack of the USA and the next partition of Africa, constitutes the crucial section of British imperial history.

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Extra resources for Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830

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26 Political and Social Change in the Muslim Empires, 1600-1800 In part, the answer must be that even in a situation of land plenty, peasants wanted to hold on to ancestral lands and remain in their villages rather than emigrate to fringes of the arable. They also needed protection from the elites. The spread of the use of money, combined with the need for capital to put in irrigation, buy animals or for subsistence in bad seasons, tended to reduce some peasant farmers to the status of virtual bondsmen.

But the long era of invasion and counter-invasion tended to increase the pool of free cavalry seeking service and wealth throughout the region. Afghan soldiers, who had long been filling the lower ranks of the Mughal military, now came into India in even greater numbers. They ranged wide over the whole sub-continent, altering the balance of power even in the far south. Marquis Maistre de La l;'our, a French soldier working in Mysore later in the century, noted of the Mughal magnate who dominated the Deccan: Nizam ul-Mulk, [ruler of what was to become the state of Hyderabad] being desirous of possessing an army, which though composed of different nations become effeminate by a long peace, should nevertheless be fit for the purposes of war, had with that intention invited into his domains a great number of Pathans or inhabitants of Kandahar, the remains of those Afghans who had conquered Persia and whom Nadir Shah after having chased them out of that fertile kingdom had pursued them even to their own mountains .

The 'licence' and debauchery of the Ottoman Selim II (1566--74; the 'Sot') or the Mughal Muhammad Shah I (1719-48; the 'colourful') was said to have undermined the military and moral superiority of the empires in a welter of nepotism and harem faction among eunuchs. There were severe Islamic scholars to echo this view. As a Persian historian of the last days of the Safavids noted: 'The subjects all at once became rich and possessed of luxuries. The glorious sultan and the pillars of the state turned aside from the canons and traditions which past sultans ...

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