'Caste' is today almost universally perceived as an ancient and unchanging Hindu institution preserved solely by a deep-seated religious ideology. Yet the word itself is an importation from sixteenth-century Europe. This book tracks the long history of the practices amalgamated under this label and shows their connection to changing patterns of social and political power down to the present. It frames caste as an involuted and complex form of ethnicity and explains why it persisted under non-Hindu rulers and in non-Hindu communities across South Asia.
This article seeks to reopen the argument regarding the economic structure of the Mughal Empire. The field saw vigorous debate in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by a stalemate. I seek to move beyond this impasse, first by studying British efforts at implementing a neo-Mughal tax system. This retrospective exhibits the practical difficulties that make it unlikely that the Mughals ever fully implemented their program. I then deploy underused Marathi sources to see what well-informed contemporaries guessed about the real working of the empire and analyze the effects of regimes of power in the creation and survival of the information that constitutes our evidence. I end by connecting key aspects of my structural analysis with the expansion of international trade and with India’s political economy in the transition to British rule.