History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2009: Q.7 (a)

Q.7 (a) Identify the main factors that sustained the expansion of urban economy in the Delhi Sultanate. [2009, 30m]


The archaeological and numismatic evidence corroborate the literary evidence of growth of towns and expansion of urban economy in the Sultanate period. Some of the major towns mentioned in the contemporary sources are Delhi, Multan, Anhilwara, Cambay, Kara, Lakhnauti, Daulatabad, Lahore etc.

The main factors that sustained the expansion of urban economy in the Delhi Sultanate:

1)  The Sultanate ruling class remained city-centered and spent the enormous possessions it appropriated in the form of land revenue mainly in cities, either on buying services or procuring manufacturers. While the nobility created demand for high-priced skill intensive luxury items, its hangers-on in all likelihood created a mass market for ordinary artisanal product.

2) Manufacturing

The urban manufacturering which helped in the expansion of urban economy was helped by the introduction of a number of technological devices that reached India with the invaders. In the luxury sector, silk weaving expanded and carpet-weaving came from Persia. The other notable urban manufacture was paper creation.

3) Construction industry

A major sector of urban employment was construction sector. The Turkish sultans were great builders. They introduced new style of arch, the dome and the vault, and a new mortar, the lime mortar for cementing. They built cities, forts and palaces, the remains of many of which are still visible. Barani says that Alauddin Khalji employed 70,000 craftsmen for his structures.

4) Inland trade

Big flourishing cities as well as numerous townships throughout the 13-14th centuries naturally needed to be fed and supplied raw material for craft manufacture. At the similar time, there was rising practice of land revenue realization in cash. Through the time of Alauddin Khalji, the cash-nexus came to be well organised and the ruling class tended to claim approximately the whole peasant surplus through attempting to reduce the share of rural intermediaries.
Both these factors were conducive to the development of inland trade which helped in sustaining the expansion of urban economy. To pay the land revenue in cash, the peasantry was forced to sell its surplus produce while merchants had a market in newly appeared cities for agricultural products. This trade resulting from the compulsions of land revenue organization is termed as ‘induced trade’.

5) Overseas trade

Urban economy of coastal cities were also sustained by foreign trade. The Broach coin- hoards containing the coins of the Delhi Sultans beside with the gold and silver coins of Egypt, Syria, Yeman, Persia, Genoa, Armenia and Venice further testifies to large-scale overseas trade.
European traveler Tome Pires says: “Malacca cannot live without Cambay, nor Cambay without Malacca, if they are to be very rich and very wealthy. If Cambay were cut-off from trading with Malacca, it could not live, for it would have no outlet for its merchandise.”
The port cities of Bengal had trading dealings with China, Malacca, and Distant East. Textiles, sugar, and silk fabrics were the mainly significant commodities exported from Bengal. Bengal imported salt from Hormuz and sea-shells from the Maldive islands. The latter were used as coins in Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar.
Sindh’s well-recognized port was Daibul. This region had urbanized secure commercial dealings with the Persian Gulf ports more than the Red Sea zone. Sindh exported special cloths and dairy products.

6) Overland trade

City like Multan flourished as it was the major trading centre for overland trade. India was connected both Central Asia, Afghanistan and Persia through Multan-Quetta route.

7) Coastal Trade

It was natural for the coastal trade to flourish right from Sindh to Bengal, touching Gujarat, Malabar and Coromandel coasts in flanked by. This provided an opportunity for swap of local products beside the coastal row separate from inland inter-local trade. This helped urban economy of coastal towns.

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