How does one write the history of a region, a time, or a process in the shadow of an apolitical formation like the Mughal empire? This is a question that confronts most early modern historians of South Asia. As a historian of Kashmir and the Mughal Empire, I look at the changes in this period from the vantage point of the region, weaving together themes from political, legal, urban and intellectual history.
Often described as early modernity in India, the centuries from the fifteenth to the eighteenth saw significant developments in the political and economic structures, social formations, and cultural forms. As the pre-eminent political formation, the Mughal state has dominated over the history writing on this period. However, the history of the period opens up in different ways when we move our discussion away from the imperial centre. My research on Kashmir explores the history of the region over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I study the structures and processes of state formation, construction of roads and gardens, changing urban landscapes, and intellectual debates. Through these, I look at changes in conceptions and articulations of kingship and authority in the region, as it engages with the powerful institutions of the Mughal empire.