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Slavery and South Asian History

Edited by Indrani Chatterjee and Richard M. Eaton

Publication Year: 2006

"[W]ill be welcomed by students of comparative slavery.... [It] makes us reconsider the significance of slavery in the subcontinent." -- Edward A. Alpers, UCLA

Despite its pervasive presence in the South Asian past, slavery is largely overlooked in the region's historiography, in part because the forms of bondage in question did not always fit models based on plantation slavery in the Atlantic world. This important volume will contribute to a rethinking of slavery in world history, and even the category of slavery itself. Most slaves in South Asia were not agricultural laborers, but military or domestic workers, and the latter were overwhelmingly women and children. Individuals might become slaves at birth or through capture, sale by relatives, indenture, or as a result of accusations of criminality or inappropriate sexual behavior. For centuries, trade in slaves linked South Asia with Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The contributors to this collection of original essays describe a wide range of sites and contexts covering more than a thousand years, foregrounding the life stories of individual slaves wherever possible.

Contributors are Daud Ali, Indrani Chatterjee, Richard M. Eaton, Michael H. Fisher, Sumit Guha, Peter Jackson, Sunil Kumar, Avril A. Powell, Ramya Sreenivasan, Sylvia Vatuk, and Timothy Walker.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

List of Maps

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pp. ix

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Despite its pervasive presence in the South Asian past, slavery has been marginal to the historiography of South Asia. This marginality is itself the product of political, cultural, and intellectual currents of the last fifty years. From the late 1950s and until the ’70s, the development of the civil rights movements in the United States paralleled the burgeoning of the historiography ...

Note on Translation and Transliteration

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pp. xiv

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pp. 1-16

One of the aims of this volume is to document the remarkable range of types of slavery that appeared across a thousand years of South Asian history. Some of these types appeared at isolated moments, some spanned large swaths of time and space, some occurred simultaneously with others. Thus in the seventeenth century, enslaved female performers circulated among ...

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1.Renewed and Connected Histories: Slavery and the Historiography of South Asia

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pp. 17-43

This volume is conceived as an attempt to reconnect the histories of South Asian slavery with the new revisionist scholarship of slave holding that is appearing elsewhere.We hope to enable South Asianist scholars of all shades and disciplinary training to rethink some of their formulations about power, culture, identity, voice, and memory in temporally and spatially sensitized ...

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2. War, Servitude, and the Imperial Household: A Study of Palace Women in the Chola Empire

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pp. 44-62

The nature and history of the forms of servitude and slavery in early medieval India are still not clearly understood. This lack of understanding is only partly due to the sources, which are fragmentary, episodic, and often obscure.More often, formulaic theories of society and colonial definitions of productive work have weighted down the interpretation of available sources. ...

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3. Turkish Slaves on Islam’s Indian Frontier

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pp. 63-82

In his Ta'rikh-i Firuz Shahi, written in 1357, the Delhi historian Ziya al-Din Barani scathingly contrasts men of illustrious birth with those “bought for money.”1He was referring to amirs (commanders) who had been purchased as slaves, though for him they were just one category of the low-born among many. Elsewhere in this work—as in the Fatawa-yi Jahandari, a “Mirror for ...

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4. Service, Status, and Military Slavery in the Delhi Sultanate:Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

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pp. 83-114

Fakhr-i Mudabbir, a Persian scholar searching for patronage in early thirteenth- century Lahore, included these comments in a text dedicated to Qutb al-Din Aybak, a Turkish slave of the Shansabanid monarch, Sultan Mu'izz al-Din Ghuri (1173–1206). The author tried to explain why Turkish slaves, bandagan (singular banda), were so important and valuable to Mu'izz ...

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5. The Rise and Fall of Military Slavery in the Deccan, 1450–1650

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pp. 115-135

Between the mid-fifteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, streams of Ethiopians— known in the Arab world as “Habshis”1—turned up in slave markets in the Middle East. From there they entered elite households as servants, or they were reexported to India’s Deccan plateau to meet that region’s insatiable demand for military labor. The appearance of these slaves in western ...

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6. Drudges, Dancing Girls, Concubines: Female Slaves in Rajput Polity, 1500–1850

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pp. 136-161

This essay explores the forms of female slavery and servitude among the Rajput ruling clans of Rajasthan between the sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The twenty-first-century historian seeking to recover such a history faces the obstacle of sparse information, given the nature of the archive. Uneven record-keeping practices were compounded by norms of “respectability” that proscribed the ...

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7. Slavery, Society, and the State in Western India, 1700–1800

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pp. 162-186

In the 1970s Miers and Kopytoff sought to remedy deficiencies in the comparative data on slavery as well as the social sciences’ lack of general theory of that institution with a path-breaking volume on the African continent. Its editorial introduction warned against taking Atlantic plantation ideologies of slavery and freedom as the norm against which other societies ...

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8. Bound for Britain: Changing Conditions of Servitude, 1600–1857

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pp. 187-209

Indian servants and slaves formed a substantial component of the extensive movement to Britain by Indians (totaling in the tens of thousands by the mid-nineteenth century). The living and working conditions of Indians in various forms of servitude in Britain shifted with the expansion of colonialism, and differed significantly from those they endured in India.Many endured great ...

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9. Bharattee’s Death: Domestic Slave-Women in Nineteenth-Century Madras

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pp. 210-233

On the 28th of January, 1828, a Muslim noblewoman, a close relative of the nawab of the Karnataka,1 was charged with having beaten to death—with the help of three young slave-girls—another of her slaves, a somewhat older woman named Bharattee (Bharati).2 The three girls—Nekqadam, Nargis, and Gulshabs—were immediately taken into custody, while their mistress ...

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10. Slaves or Soldiers? African Conscripts in Portuguese India, 1857–1860

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pp. 234-261

The Portuguese colonial reaction to the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 is bound up with the question of illegal slave trafficking into Portuguese India from Africa. In Goa, the colonial government’s intended use of conscripted African troops in response to the Indian uprising was hindered by existing restrictions on the slave trade in the Indian Ocean. This essay argues that older ...

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11. Indian Muslim Modernists and the Issue of Slavery in Islam

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pp. 262-286

By the end of the nineteenth century some Indian Muslim men, broadly categorized as “modernist,” rejected, inter alia, the legitimacy of slavery in Islam; these had begun to influence thinking “far beyond the boundaries of Indian Islam.”3 Slavery was one of a cluster of issues with which any scholar concerned to present an agenda for social change would be obliged to deal, ...

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12. Slavery, Semantics, and the Sound of Silence

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pp. 287-315

Despite the considerable advances in conceptualizing slavery in global histories, studies of the same phenomenon in South Asian pasts cause profound unease among modern scholars.Avril Powell suggests a history of this sensibility. This essay provides another history for contemporary ambivalence by analyzing imperial censorship of local terms for “slavery.” ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 317-318


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pp. 319-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780253116710
E-ISBN-10: 0253116716
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348104

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 4 maps
Publication Year: 2006