THE MUGHAL EMPIRE (1526–1707)
INTRODUCTION
Outline of the Great Mughal History The rise of the Mughal Empire
registers an epochal change in medieval Indian history. Like ancient Indian
imperialists, Mughals did more than conquer and dominate: they set up an
imperial society that derived its strength from many sources and continued to
expand its influence long after emperors were unable to compel submission.
The greatest medieval empire spans the wide threshold of early modern
times.
Babur was a Chagatai Turk who fled ancestral lands near Samarkand to
escape Uzbek armies. He penetrated Indian plains, where he used Uzbek-
style fast-horse phalanx cavalry equipped with muskets and canon to sweep
away the opposition. He swept across north India from Punjab to Bengal,
though opposition survived.
Fourteen years later, an Afghan soldier who had fought for the Lodis and for
Babur, and who styled himself Sher Shah Sur to demonstrate his Persian
education (at Jaunpur), declared a new dynasty in Bengal and Bihar. Sher
Shah’s armies then drove Babur’s son, Humayun, into exile.
The Sur dynasty did not survive the Shah’s death for long, though its lasting
accomplishments included several administrative innovations. Soon after
reconquering Delhi in 1555, Humayun died there by accident.
His fourteen year old son, Akbar, ascended the throne in 1556, and his
regent Bairam Khan conquered strategic cities and subjugated Malwa and
Rajasthan before he was removed as regent and assassinated. Akbar (1556–
1605) continued to conquer with his armies that surpassed all before in their
size, funding, leadership, technology and success.
His mantle was passed on to his only surviving son, Jahangir (1605–1627),
then in wars of succession, to his victorious grandson, Shah Jahan (1627–
1658), and to his great-grandson, Aurangzeb (1658–1707). The latter’s death