the Delhi Sultans, whose five dynastic lineages embraced a shifting collection
of subordinate rulers for three hundred years, from 1206 to 1526; and the
Mughals, whose one lineage controlled a vast military command for about
half that long, from the day of Akbar’s coronation, in 1556, to the day of
Aurangzeb’s death, in 1707.
Promotion of Physical and Social Mobility by Military
Regimes Urbanism reached new heights under military regimes that
promoted vast physical and social mobility. Armies protected trade routes
and sultans built strategic roads. The army provided the surest route to
upward mobility that always required extensive travel. Many men traveled
long distances to fight. It became standard practice for peasants to leave the
Bhojpuri region, on the border of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, after the harvest
each year, to fight as far away as the Deccan, to collect wages and booty, and
then return home to plant the next crop. Short distance seasonal military
migration became an integral feature of peasant subsistence in the Deccan.
Dynasties expanded only because warriors migrated to its periphery, where
they fought, settled, and attracted new waves of military migration. War
pushed peasants away from home by disrupting farm operations, and by
forcing villagers to feed armies. Life on the move became a common social
experience for many people: seasonal migrants, people fleeing war and
drought, army suppliers and camp followers, artisans moving to find work
and peasants looking for new land, traders, nomads, shifting cultivators,
hunters, herders and transporters. Altogether, people on the move for at least
part of each year may have comprised half the total population of major
dynastic domains in the medieval period.
Growth of Trade and Increasing Importance of Traders All this
mobility increased commerce in various ways. But the specific kind of
urbanism that characterised medieval domains came from concentrations of
goods and services and of commercial supply and demand around fortified
sites of dynastic military power. Armies at home and on the move needed
diverse goods and services, from horses to weapons to cuisine, rugs, jewellry,
art, and entertainment. Rulers accumulated cash and credit to pay troops and
buy war material. Getting cash to support war required rulers to supply
virtual military cities moving across the land for months at a time, filled with