In the 1660s, the Mughal Empire controlled the Indian subcontinent and was known around the world for its strength and opulence. Yet just two decades would pass before fortunes would turn as Mughal kings and governors quickly lost influence to rival warlords and foreign powers. How could leaders of one of the most dominant early modern polities lose their grip over empire?
Sudev Sheth, a senior lecturer at the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies and in the Department of History, looks at that question in his colorful new book “Bankrolling Empire: Family Fortunes and Political Transformation in Mughal India.” In the book, Sheth traces how a family of diamond dealers deployed wealth to manipulate political leaders and survive the collapse of the Mughal Empire. The story highlights the role played by Jain and Hindu bankers in the daily affairs of Islamic, Hindu, and colonial governments on the Indian subcontinent.
Penn Today spoke with Sheth about the book, and how he used unconventional research—from Persian diaries and Gujarati poems to French trading manuals, Sanskrit hymns, and Dutch shipping records—to tell fresh tales about state power and social change in India.
PennCard holders can access the book Bankrolling Empire via a link at www.bankrollingempire.com.