History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2009: Q.5 (d)

History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2009: Q.5 (d)

Q.5 (d) Write a short essay on: “Estimates of population of Mughal India.”


Modern scholars are divided on the size of the population in Mughal India. Initially the figure of a hundred million was widely accepted. Subsequently, a re-examination of the data led to a considerable upward revision. It is now estimated that the population of the whole of India totalled between 140 to 150 millions and at around 100 million in the Mughal territory.

No census was ever conducted in Mughal Empire, so any estimate can be made only on the basis of other data. The richest source of other data is Ain-i-Akbari, by Abul Fazl.

Moreland’s estimate

Moreland made the first attempt to estimate the population with the help of the data of the Ain-i Akbari. Ain-i-Akbari gives us details of the arazi (measured area) for revenue purposes. Moreland attempted to use these statistics, first, to work out total area under cultivation at the end of 16th century, and then to estimate on this basis total population of Mughal Empire. He assumed that arazi represented the gross cropped area. On this basis, he calculated population from Multan to Monghyr as 30 to 40 million at the end of the 16th century.

For the Deccan and South India, Moreland took as the basis of his calculations the military strength of the Vijaynagar Empire and Deccan Sultanates. Taking a rather arbitrary ratio of 1:30 between the soldiers and civilian population, he estimated the population of the reign at 30 millions.

After calculating the population of other territories lying within the pre-1947 limits of India apart from two regions, he put the population of Akbar’s Empire in 1600 at 60 millions, and of India as a whole at 100 millions.

Objections to Moreland’s estimate

(a) He assumed that arazi represented the gross cropped i.e. measurement was made of the cultivated land only. But it has been shown on the basis of textual and statistical evidence that the arazi of the A’in was a measured area for revenue purposes which included, besides the cultivated area current, fallows and some cultivable and uncultivable waste. Moreover, measurement by no means was completed everywhere.

(b) His assumption that the cultivated land per capita in 1600 same as in 1900 is questionable.

(c) For Deccan and South India, the army: civilian ratio = 30 is arbitrary which was arrived by the comparison with the pre-World War I modern states.

Kingsley Davis’s estimate

Moreland has given inadequate weight to the areas outside the two regions. To make an appropriate allowance for these regions, Kingsley Davis raised Moreland’s estimate for the whole of India to 125 millions in his book ‘Population of India and Pakistan’. This modification, reasonable insofar as it goes, does not, of course, remove the more substantial objections to Moreland’s method indicated above.

Ashok Desai’s estimate

Another significant attempt to estimate population, by using different kinds of data was made by Ashok Desai who compared the purchaging power of the lowest urban wages on the basis first of prices and wages given in the A’in and then of all India average prices and wages of the early 1960’s.

Shireen Moosvi’s estimate

In spite of the various objections to the estimates of Moreland, it still remains legitimate to use the extent of cultivation to make an estimate of population. Shireen Moosvi used the improved method and gave the estimate of the population of India (pre-1947 boundaries) in the 17th century between 140 and 150 millions and the population of Akbar Empire at 100 millions. She made the assumptions that the average agricultural holding in 1600 was 107 per cent larger than in 1900.

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