General Survey
Economic Context of Early Medieval Society Medieval social
environments developed over the centuries in the context of two long-term
economic trends: sedentary farmers improved the productivity of land with
specialised labour and technology, and nomadic groups expanded
transportation and communication by land and sea from South Asia to
Central Asia, China and the Mediterranean. By the seventh century itself,
extensive routes of human mobility, running across Eurasia, were connected
to regional routes in South Asia and to local passageways running through
expanding areas of agricultural production. Majority of the new dynasties that
rose in the first millennium, developed in places where long trade routes
intersected fertile valleys and deltas. In Punjab, they dotted the foothills.
They proliferated along the river courses of Ganga, Narmada, Tapti,
Sabarmati, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, Pennar, Kaveri and Vaigai. In the
peninsula, they flourished most of all, where rivers joined the sea.
Role of Dynasties in Building Medieval Societies Any map of medieval
India that portrays the details of political geography appears kaleidoscopic,
because the extent of dynastic territories changed often. But the social
environments that evolved in medieval realms were based in relatively stable
economic areas, and major dynasties had an average lifespan of more than
300 years, compared to 135 and 230 years, respectively, for the Mauryas and
Guptas. The secret of their success lay in the vital role that dynasties played
in building social systems to organise physical and spiritual power. Dynasties
facilitated the organisation of creative interactions among people involved in
mobile and sedentary ways of life, in places where local elites dominated
villages and towns that also served travelling merchants, warriors, craftsmen,
and pilgrims. Consequently, dynasties turned out to be symbols of tradition in
cultural territories that laid the foundation of many modern social identities.
New forms and groups of social identity came into being during the long
period of historical innovation. The originality of the early medieval period
was concentrated in small areas of dynastic authority where kings aligned
with local elites to guide the course of social change.
Emergence of New Highly Complex and Stratified Societies During the