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In medieval India, was there a distinction between the army and the police?

In medieval India, was there a distinction between the army and the police?


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In medieval India, who was responsible for maintaining law and order? Was it the army or was there a separate arm of the state that was responsible for law and order, something akin to a modern police force?


In medieval India, or, at least the portions ruled by Hindu empires (considered "Classical India" until the late 18th century), the functions of society were arranged differently than in modern nations or contemporaneous societies in Europe or Asia.

Most notably, the caste system played a very important part - different castes were responsible for different parts of jurisprudence. Brahmins were involved in creating and adjudicating law at a high level, where the Kṣatriya were responsible for promulgation of that law, punishing the wicked, protecting the people and adjudicating minor legal disputes - so the "warrior caste" was explicitly responsible for both war and law enforcement. In short, there was no difference between the police or army. Members of the Kṣatriya caste filled both roles.

Here's a wiki article on Classical Indian Law in Practice.


Ancient India Government

In the beginning of the Vedic age people did not have a settled life and were nomads but with development in agriculture people started to settle down in groups. The organization was mainly tribal and the head of the tribe was supposed to be the raja or the King, though the concept of King had yet not developed. With the passage of time large kingdoms started to grow and by the 6th century BC there were 16 Mahajanapadas (Kingdoms).

There were many small republics also in ancient India. These republics had some elements of democracy in their administration. The king (raja) was the supreme head of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. He was assisted in administration by a number of officials. The members of the council of minister could give advice to the king, but final decisions were left to the king. The ministers and other officials were directly appointed by the king.

During the Mauryan period there existed both civil and military officials. They were paid a salary in cash. The highest official was paid the salary of 48000 panas (Unit of money) per year. The soldiers were paid 500 panas per year. There were officials who maintained the records of population, income and expenditure of government. We find reference to officials and clerks who collected income tax and custom duties. Spy system was an important feature of Mauryan administration.

The royal agents and the spies could contact the king at any time and they reported to the king about various developments in his kingdom. The empire was divided into many provinces and each one of these provinces was governed by a governor and council of ministers. In the provinces there were local officials called rajukas, who became more powerful during the reign of Ashoka. There were certain departments which decided certain important matters of administration. There existed a standing army which was again controlled by certain committees.

Administration structure during the Gupta period was exceptionally good in spite of large empire. During the Gupta period also the administration was more or less like the Mauryas. The most important difference between the Gupta and Mauryan administration was centralization and decentralization of administration. In the Gupta administration, the governors of the provinces were more independent as compared to the Mauryans, where the administration was highly centralized.


Tatya Tope

The 1857 Revolt though not the first uprising per se against the British rule, was however the first major coordinated revolt, though primarily restricted to North and Central India. The sheer intensity of the revolt, though dismissed as a mutiny shook the British like never before. The revolt that started on the 10th of May, 1857 at Meerut, began to spread like wildfire across the great Northern plains, that threw up many a hero, Rani of Jhansi, Rao Tula Ram, Veer Kunwar Singh. In this league of heroes, belonged one man, who waged a long guerilla war against the British even after the Revolt was crushed. A man who had no formal military training, but was considered one of the finest rebel generals.

A hero born as Ramachandra Panduranga Yewalkar in a Marathi Desastha Brahmin family in the small town of Yeola near Nashik, on February 16, 1814 to Panduranga Rao Bhat, who served in the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II, and shifted to Bittoor later. The eldest of 8 children, he got his more famous name, he was nicknamed as Tatya which became his more popular name. For some time, he served in the Bengal Army, as part of the artillery regiment, but his fiercely independent, self respecting nature, could not accept serving under the British. He left the Regiment and joined the Peshwa’s court, and it’s believed he got the title of Tope here for his expertise with artillery, which accounted for his name.

When the revolt broke out in 1857 and the flames reached Kanpur, the soldiers there proclaimed Nana Saheb as the Peshwa, and their leader, while Tatya Tope began to organize the movement there. He was appointed as the military advisor by Nana Saheb. When the British, attacked Kanpur via Allahabad, under Brig General Havelock, Tatya led a spirited defense. However by July 16, 1857 the rebels were defeated, and he had to flee Kanpur. Organizing his forces he reached Bithoor, as he looked for an opportunity to attack Kanpur again. However with Havelock making a surprise raid on Bithoor, he once again had to lead the defense. Even though the rebels were defeated again, they put up a spirited resistance, that won even the praise of the British officers.

However not being disheartened by the defeat, he fled to Gwalior, where he managed to bring the famous Gwalior contingent towards his side, though Scindia was supporting the British. With a huge army he once again attacked Kanpur in November 1857, and this time the British under Major General Windal,had to face a rout and many fled the city. However the victory was short lived as Sir Colin Campbell, the commander of the British army once again defeated him on December 6, 1857. Tatya fled towards Khari and captured the town, where he got hold of the artillery and around 10 lakh rupees, that was of vital importance to the army. Around the same time, Sir Hugh Rose had laid siege to Jhansi, as Tatya rushed with a force of 20,000 to assist Lakshmibai. Tatya helped the Rani to escape the British, though Jhansi fell as they fled towards Kalpi.

A series of defeats at Kanpur, Jhansi and Konch, made Tatya realize that unless he changed course and tactics, it would well be impossible to defeat the British. Leaving Kalpi in the protection of Rani Lakshmibai, he reached Gwalior in disguise. While Sir Hugh Rose, was celebrating the victory over the rebels, Tatya pulled out a daring counter attack, as he bought over Jayaji Rao Scindia’s army to his side and captured Gwalior Fort. Along with Rani Lakshmibai, and Rao Saheb, he entered Gwalior in triumph and declared Nana Saheb as the Peshwa. This triumph lifted the spirits of the rebels, but even before Tatya could consolidate his hold, Hugh Rose once again attacked Gwalior. And on June 14, 1858, Rani Lakshmibai fell fighting the British at Phoolbagh.

Though the 1857 revolt was effectively quelled, Tatya Tope, would lead a relentless guerilla struggle against the British for close to one year. He organized a series of guerilla raids, as the British officers shaken by the sheer intensity bought in their frontline soldiers to counter him. He led the British on a wild goose chase across the ravines, valleys, deep forests of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, harassing them to no end. Repeated attempts to capture and trap him, failed as he managed to break through their encirclement always. As per British writer Slyvester.

“Even though the British chased Tatya Tope on their horse for miles together,thousands of time, they were still unable to capture him”.

Crossing the Chambal, Tatya passed through Tonk, Bundi and Bhilwara, with the aim of capturing Jaipur and later Udaipur. However Major General Roberts already had reached there, forcing Tatya to retreat when he was 40 miles away from Jaipur. When he tried to capture Udaipur, Roberts had already secured the city and sent Lt.Col Holmes to capture Tatya, which did not however happen. He had a fierce encounter with the British at Kankroli near Bhilwara, in which he had to face defeat again.

Tatya fled towards the east, trying to cross the Chambal, however the river was in full spate in the month of August. With the British in hot pursuit, however Tatya had no option, but to cross the flooded river, and reach Jhalarpatan, the capital of the princely state of Jhalawar. He overcame it’s pro-British ruler,capturing 30 cannons and extorting close to a lakh rupees from the treasury. His intention was to reach Indore, gather the rebels there, and proceed further down South. He felt that once the Narmada was crossed and he could reach Maharashtra, it would be possible to keep the freedom struggle going and even drive the British out of India.

By early September 1857, Tatya began his journey towards Rajgarh, from where he planned to reach Indore, however the British under Major Gen Michael, surrounded him and his army. However the British forces being tired, decided to rest for the night and attack next morning. Taking advantage, Tatya along with his force, escaped the siege, and reached Byavara, where he began to set up a barricade. The British mounted an all out attack on him using cavalry and artillery, defeating him, seizing 24 cannons. Tatya moved towards the Betwa valley, where he took refuge at Sironj for some time . He reached Ishagarh, looted the treasury after capturing the town as well as securing more cannons.

His army was now divided into two parts, one marched towards Lalitpur under Rao Saheb, while he led another unit towards Chanderi. The British led by Michael, pursued him and defeated him at Magavali on October 10. Crossing the Betwa river, Tatya finally reached Lalitpur, where he met Rao Saheb. However with the British waiting on the other bank, Tatya decided to change course and cross the Narmada. Finally at the end of October 1857 Tatya crossed the Narmada with 2500 soldiers between Hoshangabad and Narsingapur at the Sarai Ghat near Fatehpur.

However the British were already alerted of his arrival, with reports of saffron flag, betel nut and betel leaf being circulated from village to village, around Chhindwara to awaken the public. The Dy Comissioner of Nagpur, immediately sent out an alert, as the British were now alarmed at Tatya’s entry into Central India, as they barricaded the entire region. The panic spread among the British in Madras, Bombay provinces too. With his army Tatya, crossed the Pachmarhi hills, and attacked Jamai village, near to Chhindwara, killing 14 soldiers of the Thana there. He travelled towards Multai and reaching there by November 7, he took a dip in the Tapti river and donated generously to the Brahmins there.

Though the Deshmukh, Deshpande familes of Multai, and some villages joined hands with Tatya, the support from the public was not what he expected really. The British completely secured Betul, closing the roads to the west and south. Tatya attacked Multai, looting the treasury there, and marched towards Khandwa in the North West direction, passing through the Satpura range in the Tapti valley. By then the British had totally cut off every route in all directions, Sir Hugh Rose blocked the advance to Khandesh, while General Roberts did the same in Gujarat. It was a tough time for Tatya with no ammunition, logistics or money. Though he asked his allies and followers to choose their own path, none of them were willing to leave him during such tough times.

Though Tatya planned to reach Asirgarh, it was heavily guarded, so he set out to Khargone, after attacking and burning down the Govt Buildings in Khandwa. Khajiya Nayak joined him at Khargone with around 6000 followers, which included the Sardar of the Bhils too. A fierce battle was fought at Rajpur with the British led by Sutherland, however Tatya once again managed to give the slip, crossing the Narmada. As he reached Indergarh via Chota Udaipur, Banswada, he was again surrounded by the British from every direction. Once again he managed to break the encirlement and fled towards Jaipur.

However back to back defeats at Dewas, Sikar forced him to take shelter in the jungles of Paron out of sheer frustration, defeated in spirit. He was finally betrayed by Raja Man Singh of Narwar, and on April 8, 1859 he was captured by the British while he was sleeping in the forest. It took a betrayal to finally capture the hero, who evaded the British, who could not be captured even after a massive man hunt. With all the members of the jury being British, the result of the trial was obvious, as he was sentenced to death, and placed in custody in the fort of Shivpuri on Apri 15, 1859. Finally on April 18, 1859, he was bought out to be hanged in public. He himself put the noose around his neck, as one more great son of Bharat gave up his life for the cause of freedom. A hero who won even the admiration of the British officers, Percy Cross claimed that Tatya Tope was the most dangerous of the rebel leaders, and had there been more like him, the British would have been driven out of India by then itself.


2 Gender Roles in Politics

In medieval times, royal and aristocratic women did own land and rise to powerful political positions, but this was usually accomplished through marriage among the noble classes. Often marriages were arranged by powerful families to form alliances, and women were treated as property that was traded. Queens and other female royalty often held leadership positions, but few women held sovereign power until the late Middle Ages, when powerful leaders including England's Elizabeth I and Spain's Queen Isabella came into power. Men were the kings and lords in the middle ages, and although highborn women had status and power, their value was assessed according to their ability to carry on the bloodline of the men.


UPSC IAS Prelims 2021: Questions on Ancient & Medieval History in 2017 Paper

Ques: Which one of the following was a very important seaport in the Kakatiya kingdom?

(c) Machilipatnam (Masulipatnam)

Explanation: Some texts suggest that Motupalli, now in the Krishna district, was an important sea-port in the kingdom of Ganpati (an important Kakatiya ruler), frequented by foreign merchants.

Ques: With reference to the difference between the culture of Rigvedic Aryans and Indus Valley people, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Rigvedic Aryans used the coat of mail and helmet in warfare whereas the people of Indus Valley Civilization did not leave any evidence of using them.
  2. Rigvedic Aryans knew gold, silver, and copper whereas Indus Valley people knew only copper and iron.
  3. Rigvedic Aryans had domesticated the horse whereas there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

Explanation: Statement 1: The Ramayana mentions chariots covered with leather. The Rig Vedic charioteers used Varma (coats of mail) and sipra/sironastra (helmets). Equipped with asi (swords), hanas (arrows) and ilhianus (bows), the Kshatriyas on the chariots went to combat.

Statement 2: The Indus valley people knew the use of copper, bronze, silver, gold but not iron. So, 2 is wrong.

Statement 3: The Rig Veda mentions horse-drawn chariots with spoked wheels.


Modern History of India :-

By the twentieth century, most such tribal (see Glossary) groups, although constituting a substantial minority within India, lived in restricted areas under severe pressure from the caste-based agricultural and trading societies pressing from the plains.

Because this evolution took place over more than forty centuries and encompassed a wide range of ecological niches and peoples, the resulting social pattern is extremely complicated and alters constantly.

India had its share of conquerors who moved in from the northwest and overran the north or central parts of the country. These migrations began with the Aryan peoples of the second millennium B.C. and culminated in the unification of the entire country for the first time in the seventeenth century under the Mughals.

Mostly these conquerors were nomadic or seminomadic people who adopted or expanded the agricultural economy and contributed new cultural forms or religions, such as Islam.

The Europeans, primarily the English, arrived in force in the early seventeenth century and by the eighteenth century had made a profound impact on India. India was forced, for the first time, into a subordinate role within a world system based on industrial production rather than agriculture.

Many of the dynamic craft or cottage industries that had long attracted foreigners to India suffered extensively under competition with new modes of mass production fostered by the British. Modern institutions, such as universities, and technologies, such as railroads and mass communication, broke with Indian intellectual traditions and served British, rather than Indian, economic interests.

A country that in the eighteenth century was a magnet for trade was, by the twentieth century, an underdeveloped and overpopulated land groaning under alien domination. Even at the end of the twentieth century, with the period of colonialism well in the past, Indians remain sensitive to foreign domination and are determined to prevent the country from coming under such domination again.

Through India’s history, religion has been the carrier and preserver of culture. One distinctive aspect of the evolution of civilization in India has been the importance of hereditary priesthoods, often Brahmans (see Glossary), who have functioned as intellectual elites. The heritage preserved by these groups had its origin in the Vedas and allied bodies of literature in the Sanskrit language, which evolved in North India during the second millennium B.C.

This tradition always accepted a wide range of paths to ultimate truth, and thus encompassed numerous rituals and forms of divinity within a polytheistic system. Generally, Brahmans supported the phenomenon known as Sanskritization, or the inclusion of local or regional traditions within Sanskrit literary models and pan-Indian cultural motifs. In this way, there has been a steady spread of North Indian cultural and linguistic forms throughout the country.

This process has not gone unopposed. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and Mahavira (founder of Jainism) in the fifth century B.C. represented alternative methods for truth-seekers they renounced the importance of priesthoods in favor of monastic orders without reference to birth.

The largest challenge came from Islam, which rests on Arabic rather than Sanskritic cultural traditions, and has served, especially since the eleventh century, as an important alternative religious path. The interaction of Brahmanical religious forms with local variations and with separate religions creates another level of complexity in Indian social life.

Closely allied with religious belief, and deeply rooted in history of India, caste remains an important feature of Indian society. Caste in many Indian languages is jati , or birth–a system of classifying and separating people from birth within thousands of different groups labeled by occupation, ritual status, social etiquette, and language.

Scholars have long debated the origins of this system, and have suggested as the origin religious concepts of reincarnation, the incorporation of many ethnic groups within agricultural systems over the millennia, or occupational stratification within emerging class societies.

What is certain is that nineteenth-century British administrators, in their drive to classify and regulate the many social groups they encountered in everyday administration, established lists or schedules of different caste groups. At that time, it seemed that the rules against intermarriage and interdining that defined caste boundaries tended to freeze these groups within unchanging little societies, a view that fit well with imperialistic models imposed on India as a whole. Experience during the twentieth century has demonstrated that the caste system is capable of radical change and adaptation.

Modernization and urbanization have led to a decline in the outward display of caste exclusiveness, so that issues of caste may never emerge directly on public transit or in the workplace. Entire castes have changed their status, claiming higher positions as they shed their traditional occupations or accumulate money and power.

In many villages, however, the segregation of castes by neighborhood and through daily behavior still exists at the end of the twentieth century. In the cities, segregation takes more subtle forms, emerging directly at times of marriage but existing more often as an undercurrent of discrimination in educational opportunities, hiring, and promotion.

The British schedules of different castes, especially those of very low or Untouchable (Dalit–see Glossary) groups, later became the basis for affirmative-action programs in independent India that allowed some members of the most oppressed caste groups access to good education and high-paying jobs.

The reservation of positions for Backward Classes (see Glossary) has remained a sore point with higher-ranked groups and has contributed to numerous political confrontations. Meanwhile, attempts by low-ranking (and desperately poor) castes to organize and agitate against discrimination have been met with violence in most Indian states and territories. Caste, therefore, is a very live issue.

Religious, caste, and regional diversity exist in India against a background of poverty. At independence in 1947, the British left India in terrible condition. The country emerged from World War II with a rudimentary scientific and industrial base and a rapidly expanding population that lived primarily in villages and was divided by gross inequalities in status and wealth.

Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister (1947-64), India addressed its economic crisis through a combination of socialist planning and free enterprise. During the 1950s and 1960s, large government investments made India as a whole into one of the most industrialized nations in the world. Considerable expenditure on irrigation facilities and fertilizer plants, combined with the introduction of high-yield variety seeds in the 1960s, allowed the Green Revolution to banish famine.

The abolition of princely states and large land holdings, combined with (mostly ineffective) land redistribution schemes, also eliminated some of the most glaring inequalities in the countryside and in some areas, such as Punjab, stimulated the growth of middle-sized entrepreneurial farms.

Building on the education system bequeathed by the British, India established an infrastructure of universities, basic research institutes, and applied research facilities that trained one of the world’s largest scientific and technical establishments.

The socialist model of development remained dominant in India through the 1970s, under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter. Government-owned firms controlled iron and steel, mining, electronics, cement, chemicals, and other major industries. Telecommunications media, railroads, and eventually the banking industry were nationalized.

Import-substitution policies, designed to encourage Indian firms and push out multinational corporations, included strict and time-consuming procedures for obtaining licenses and laws that prohibited firms from operating in India without majority ownership by Indian citizens or corporations. These rules were instrumental, for example, in driving IBM from India in the 1970s, leading to the growth of an indigenous Indian computer industry.

By the late 1980s, however, after Mrs. Gandhi’s 1984 assassination, the disadvantages of the centrally planned economy began to outweigh its benefits. Inefficiency in public-sector firms, lack of entrepreneurial innovation, excessive bureaucracy, and the inability of the Indian scientific and technical apparatus to transfer technology to marketable goods kept many Indian firms from being competitive in international markets.

Under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his successors, the national and state-level (states, union territories, and the national capital territory) governments liberalized licensing requirements and eventually rescinded rules on foreign ownership, while taking steps to scale down government market share in a number of high-technology markets.

Multinational firms began to reenter India in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, as the government encouraged private enterprise and international sales in its search for foreign exchange. India began to open its economy to the world.

Indian-style socialism was probably necessary in the years after independence to protect the nation from foreign economic domination, but its biggest problem was that it did not eliminate poverty. The vast majority of India’s population continued to live in small agricultural villages with few public amenities. A significant minority of the population in the 1990s live below the Indian definition of the poverty line, surviving at subsistence level, unemployed or underemployed, with little education or opportunity for training, and suffering from a variety of curable health problems.

There are also some 200 million people who live above the official poverty line, but whose lives remain precariously balanced on the border of destitution. The per capita income of India as a whole remains among the lowest in the world. One of the biggest issues facing India as its economy has changed direction is that free-market capitalism offers little help for this large mass of people, who lack the skills or opportunity to participate in the new economy.

The big social story of India in the 1980s and the 1990s is the emergence of the middle class. This group includes members of prosperous farming families, as well as the primarily urban-based professional, administrative, and business elites who benefited from forty years of government protection and training.

By the mid-1990s, the drive toward modernization had transformed 26.1 percent of the country into urban areas, where, amid masses of impoverished citizens, a sizable class of consumers has arisen. The members of this increasingly vocal middle class chafe under the older, regulated economy and demand a loosening of economic controls to make consumer goods available on the free market.

They want education for their children that prepares them for technical and professional careers, increasingly in the private sector instead of the traditional sinecures in government offices. They build their well-appointed brick houses in exclusive suburban neighborhoods or surround their lots with high walls amid urban squalor, driving their scooters or automobiles to work while their children attend private schools.

The result of these processes over the course of fifty years is a dynamic, modernizing India with major class cleavages. The upper 1 or 2 percent of the population includes some of the wealthiest people in the world, who can be seen at the racetrack in the latest fashions from Paris or Tokyo, who travel extensively outside India for business, pleasure, or advanced medical care, and whose children attend the most exclusive English-language schools within India and abroad.

For the middle class, which makes up between 15 and 25 percent of the population, the end of the twentieth century is a time of relative prosperity: incomes generally keep pace with inflation and jobs may still be obtained through family connections. The increase in consumer goods, such as washing machines and electric kitchen appliances, makes life easier and reduces dependence on lower-class (and low-caste) servants.

For the industrial working class, the 1990s are a period of transition as dynamic new industries grow, mostly in the private sector, while many large government-sponsored plants are in jeopardy. The trade union movement, closely connected in some states with communist parties, finds itself under considerable pressure during a period of structural change in the economy.

For large numbers of peasants and dwellers in urban slums, a way out of poverty remains as elusive as it had seemed for their grandparents at independence.

The political system responsible for these gigantic successes and failures has been democratic India has called itself “the world’s largest democracy.” Paradoxically, it was the autocratic rule of the British that gave birth to the rule of the people. Democratization started when a group of concerned British citizens in India and well-to-do Indian professionals gathered in Bombay in 1885 to form a political debating society, the Indian National Congress (Congress–see Glossary). Originally conceived as a lobbying group, the Congress after 1900 became radicalized and took the forefront in a drive for home rule that encompassed elected assemblies and parliamentary procedure.

In the face of British intransigence, the Congress soon became the leading organization within a broad-based freedom struggle that finally forced the British out in 1947. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the Mahatma or Great Soul) was a central figure in this struggle because he was able to turn the Congress from an elite pressure group into a mass movement that mobilized hundreds of millions of people against the immorality of a foreign, nondemocratic system.

Gandhi perfected nonviolent techniques for general strikes and civil disobedience, and coordinated demonstrations with mass publicity the techniques that he popularized have played a part in later Indian and world politics (including the United States civil rights movement).

He evolved a philosophy of political involvement as sacrifice for the good of the world and played the role of a holy man who was also a cagey politician–an image that remained important for Indian political figures after independence.

In a move to undercut British industrial superiority, Gandhi encouraged a return to a communal, rustic life and village handicrafts as the most humane way of life

Finally, he railed against the segregation of the caste system and religious bigotry that reduced large minorities within India to second-class citizenship. Gandhi was thus able to unite European humanistic and democratic ideas with Indian concepts of an interdependent, responsible community to create a unique political philosophy complete with action plan.

In the last years before his assassination in 1948, Gandhi’s idiosyncratic program fell out of step with the modernization paradigm of Nehru and the leadership of an independent India, and his ideas became a background theme within Indian political economy. On a regular basis, however, Indian leaders continue to hearken back to his message and employ his organizational and media tactics on the independent Indian political scene.

The Congress remained the most important political organization in India after independence. Except for brief periods in the late 1970s and late 1980s and until the mid-1990s, the Congress always controlled Parliament and chose the prime minister. The political dynasty of Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-64), his daughter Indira Gandhi (1965-77, 1980-84), and her son Rajiv Gandhi (1984-89) was crucial in keeping the Congress in power and also providing continuity in leadership for the country.

The party was able to appeal to a wide segment of the poor (including low castes and Muslims) through its ideology of social equality and welfare programs, while appealing to the more prosperous voters–usually from upper castes–by preserving private property and supporting village community leadership.

Because it stayed in power so long, the Congress was able to dispense government benefits to a wide range of constituencies, which prompted charges of corruption and led to Congress reversals in the late 1980s. Because it affected a type of socialist policy, the Congress diffused or incorporated left-wing political rhetoric and prevented the growth of a communist-led insurrection that might have been expected under the difficult social conditions existing in India.

Although a vibrant communist movement remains a force in Indian politics, it manifests itself at the state level of government rather than in national political power or large-scale revolutionary turmoil. Challenges from the right were small as well until the early 1990s, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP–Indian People’s Party) emerged as a serious contender for national leadership.

The BJP advocated a blend of Hindu nationalism that inserted religious issues into the heart of national political debates, unlike the secular ideology that officially dominated Indian political thought after independence. In the early 1990s, however, the Congress, after having entered its second century of dominance over the Indian political landscape, continued to hold on to power with a middle-of-the-road message and smaller majorities.

The federal structure of India, embodied in the constitution of 1951, attempts to strike a balance between a strong central government and the autonomous governments of the nation-sized states, each with a distinct culture and deep historical roots, that make up the union. A formidable array of powers at the center makes it possible for the central government to intervene in state issues these powers include control over the military, the presence of an appointed governor to monitor affairs within each state, and the ability of the president to suspend state-level legislatures in times of internal disorder and declare direct President’s Rule.

In theory, these powers should come into play rarely because the regular administration of the states resides with elected assemblies and chief ministers appointed through parliamentary procedures. State governments have extensive powers over almost all of their internal affairs. The framers of the national constitution constructed a series of checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches at the center, and between the center and the states, designed to provide national security while allowing a maximum of state autonomy within the diversified union.

The Indian political system has proven to be flexible and durable, but major internal conflicts have threatened the constitution. In practice, the elected office of the nation’s president has gravitated toward the formal and ritual aspects of executive power, while the office of the prime minister, backed up by a majority in Parliament, the cabinet, national security forces, and the bureaucracy of the Indian Administrative Service, has wielded the actual power.

The national Parliament has not developed an independent committee structure and critical tradition that could stand against the force of the executive branch. The judiciary, while remaining independent and at times crucial in determining national policy, has stayed in the background and is subject to future change through constitutional amendments. The constitution itself has been subject to numerous amendments since its adoption in 1950. By August 1996, the constitution had been amended eighty times.

National politics have become contests to set up the appointment of the prime minister, who then has considerable power to interfere directly or through a cooperative president in all aspects of national life. The most drastic example of this power occurred in 1975, when Indira Gandhi implemented the constitutional provision for a declaration of Emergency, suspending civil rights for eighteen months, using Parliament as a tool for eliminating opposition, and ruling with the aid of a small circle of advisers.

The more common form of executive interference has been the suspension of state legislatures under a variety of pretexts and the implementation of President’s Rule. This typically has occurred when opposition parties have captured state legislatures and set in motion policies unfavorable to the prime minister’s party. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, her successors engaged in such overt acts of interference less often.

The main opposition to the national executive comes from the states, in a variety of legal and extralegal struggles for regional autonomy. Most of the states have developed specific political identities based on forms of ethnicity that claim a long historical past. The most common identifying characteristic is language.

Agitation in what became the state of Andhra Pradesh led the way in the 1950s, resulting in the reorganization of state boundaries along linguistic lines. Agitations in the state of Tamil Nadu in the 1960s resulted in domination of the state by parties dedicated officially to Tamil nationalism.

In the northeast, regional struggles have coalesced around tribal identities, leading to the formation of a number of small states based on dominant tribal groupings. Farther south, in Kerala and West Bengal, communist parties have upheld the banner of regionalism by capturing state assemblies and implementing radical socialist programs against the wishes of the central government.

The regional movements most threatening to national integration have occurred in the northwest. The state of Punjab was divided by the Indian government twice after independence–Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were sliced off–before it achieved a Sikh majority population in what remained of Punjab. That majority allowed the Sikh-led Akali Dal (Eternal Party) to capture the state assembly in the early 1980s. By then radical separatist elements were determined to fight for an independent Sikh Punjab.

The result was an army attack on Sikh militants occupying the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards, both in 1984, and a ten-year internal security struggle that has killed thousands. In India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir (often referred to as Kashmir), where Muslims constitute the majority of the population, regional struggle takes a different religious form and has created intense security problems that keep bilateral relations with Pakistan, which also lays claim to Kashmir, in a tense mode.

The central government usually has been able to defuse regional agitations by agreeing to redefinition of state boundaries or by guaranteeing differing degrees of regional autonomy, including acquiescence in the control of the state government by regional political parties. This strategy defused the original linguistic agitations through the 1970s, and led to the resolution of the destructive political and ethnic crises in Assam in the mid-1980s. When national security interests came into play, however, as in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, the central government did not hesitate to use force.

In the mid-1990s, India remains a strong unified nation, with a long history of constitutional government and democracy, but at any moment there are half a dozen regional political agitations underway and a dozen guerrilla movements in different parts of the country advocating various types of official recognition or outright independence based on ethnic affiliation.

The unity of the country as a whole has never been seriously threatened by these movements. Because the benefits of union within India have outweighed the advantages of independence for most people within each state, there have always been moderate elements within the states willing to make deals with the central government, and security forces have proven capable of repressing any armed struggle at the regional level.

In addition, state-level opposition, whether in the legislatures or in the streets, has been an effective means of preventing massive interference from New Delhi in the day-to-day lives of citizens, and thus has provided a crucial check that has preserved the democratic system and the constitution.

One of the most serious challenges to India’s internal security and democratic traditions has come from so-called communal disorders, or riots, based on ethnic cleavages. The most typical form is a religious riot, mostly between Hindus and Muslims, although some of these disturbances also occur between different castes or linguistic groups.

Most of these struggles start with neighborhood squabbles of little significance, but rapidly escalate into mob looting and burning, street fighting, and violent intervention by the police or paramilitary forces.

Religious ideology has played only a small part in these events. Instead, the pressures of urban life in overcrowded, poorer neighborhoods, combined with competition for limited economic opportunities, create an environment in which ethnic differences become convenient labels for defining enemies, and criminal behavior becomes commonplace. Whether ignited by a street accident or a major political event, passions in these areas may be directed into mob action.

However, after the catastrophe of independence (when hundreds of thousands in North India died during the partition of India and Pakistan and at least 12 million became refugees), and because the pattern of rioting has continued annually in various cities, a culture of distrust has grown up among a sizable minority of Hindus and Muslims.

This distrust has manifested itself in the nationwide agitations fomented by elements of the BJP and communal Hindu parties in the early 1990s. It reached a peak in December 1992 with the dramatic destruction of the Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh), and communal riots and bombings in major cities throughout India in early 1993. In this manner, the frictions of daily life in an overcrowded, poor nation have had a major impact on the national political agenda.

The internal conflict between Hindus and Muslims has received some of its stimulus since 1947 from the international conflict between India and Pakistan. One of the great tragedies of the freedom struggle was the relentless polarization of opinion between the Congress, which came to represent mostly Hindus, and the All-India Muslim League (Muslim League–see Glossary), which eventually stood behind a demand for a separate homeland for a Muslim majority.

This division, encouraged under British rule by provisions for separate electorates for Muslims, led to the partition of Pakistan from India and the outbreak of hostilities over Kashmir. Warfare between India and Pakistan occurred in 1947, 1965, and 1971 the last conflict led to the independence of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) and a major strategic victory by India.

The perception of Pakistan as an enemy nation has overshadowed all other Indian foreign policy considerations because neither country has relinquished claims over Kashmir, and a series of border irritations continue to bedevil attempts at rapprochement. In the late 1980s, tensions over large-scale military maneuvers almost led to war, and regular fighting over glacial wastelands in Kashmir continues to keep the pressure high.

An added dimension emerged in 1987 when Pakistan publicly admitted that it possessed nuclear weapons capability, matching Indian nuclear capabilities demonstrated in 1974. In the mid-1990s, both nations continue to devote a large percentage of their military budgets to developing or to purchasing advanced weaponry, which is mostly aimed at each other–a serious drain of resources needed for economic growth.

Nehru and the early leadership of independent India had envisioned a nation at peace with the rest of the world, in keeping with Gandhian ideals and socialist goals. Under Nehru’s guidance, India distanced itself from Cold War politics and played a major part in the Nonaligned Movement (see Glossary). Until the early 1960s, India spent relatively little on national defense and enjoyed an excellent relationship with the United States, a relationship that peaked in John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

India’s strategic position changed after China defeated the Indian army in the border war of 1962 and war with Pakistan occurred in 1965. During this period, the situation became more precarious because India had opponents on two fronts. In addition, Pakistan began to receive substantial amounts of military assistance from the United States, ostensibly to support anticommunism, but it was no secret that most of the weapons purchased with United States aid were a deterrent projected against India. Under these circumstances, India began to move closer to the Soviet Union, purchasing outright large amounts of military hardware or making agreements to produce it indigenously.

Relations between the United States and India reached a low point in 1971 during the Bangladesh war of independence, when a United States naval force entered the Bay of Bengal to show support for Pakistan although doing nothing to forestall its defeat. This display of force, which could not be opposed by India or the Soviet Union, served only to strain the relationship between India and the United States and heightened Cold War tensions in South Asia.

During the 1970s, as the United States and China improved relations and China became closer in turn to Pakistan, India’s strategic position became more entwined with Cold War issues, and the Soviet connection became even more important. These international postures contrasted dramatically with the increasing importance to India of American scientific and economic links, which were strengthened by the increasing emigration of Indian citizens to North America. The overall result, however, was India’s weaker international situation in the view of some Americans.

During the 1980s, then, India was still officially a nonaligned nation but in fact found itself deeply embedded in Cold War strategy. India’s reaction to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was a disquieting feature of Indian foreign policy, in that India decried the Soviet military presence but did nothing against it. Continued United States support for Pakistan, plus the buildup of United States strike forces on the small island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, heightened tensions.

It was no coincidence, therefore, that the 1980s witnessed a major expansion of Indian naval forces, with the addition of two aircraft carriers, a submarine fleet, and major surface ships, including transport craft. But although the Indian buildup made the United States unhappy, India’s technological capacities remained inferior to those of the United States Navy, and the Indian navy was never a large threat to United States interests. Instead, the growth of the Indian navy had major implications for the regional balance of power within South Asia. The Indian navy could potentially create a second front against Pakistan should major hostilities recur.

India’s military buildup allowed it to intervene in low-intensity conflicts throughout South Asia. From 1987 to 1990, the Indian Peace Keeping Force of more than 60,000 personnel was active in Sri Lanka and became embroiled in a fruitless war against Tamil separatist guerrillas. And, in 1988 Indian forces briefly intervened in Maldives to prevent a coup.

Regular border problems with Bangladesh after 1971, the Indian annexation of Sikkim in 1975, and the 1989 closure of the border with Nepal over economic disagreements all added up to the picture of a big country bullying its smaller neighbors, a vision Indian leaders took great pains to dispel. Thus, even though the country officially remained at peace during the 1980s, India’s growing military power and the intersecting problems of regional dominance and Cold War ambivalence drove an ambitious foreign policy.

The Indian strategic position changed dramatically in the early 1990s. The end of the Cold War, and then the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself, deprived India of a great ally but also put a stop to many of the worldwide tensions that had relentlessly pulled India into global alignments.

When the United States cut off military aid to Pakistan in 1990, it defused one of the most intractable barriers to good relations with India. Then, in 1992, the Persian Gulf War against Iraq brought India grudgingly into an alignment with both Pakistan and the United States, a connection strengthened in 1994 when troops from all three nations cooperated in Somalia under the aegis of the United Nations.

The possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India immersed them in a familiar scenario of mutually assured destruction and made it more problematic for India, despite its military superiority, to overrun Pakistan. Thus, in the mid-1990s, despite continuing hostility over Kashmir, which intensified as the internal situation there disintegrated in the 1990s, the long-term possibilities for official peace between the two countries remained good.

Threats from other South Asian nations were negligible. Issues with China were unresolved but not very significant. No other country in the world presented a strategic threat. As budgetary problems beset the government in the mid-1990s, therefore, the Indian military began cutbacks. The military also expanded contacts with a variety of other nations, including Russia and the United States. India hence has entered a period of relative security and multilateral contacts quite different from its twenty-five-year Cold War immersion.

India is a complex geographic, historical, religious, social, economic, and political entity. India is one of the oldest human civilizations and yet displays no cultural features common to all its members. It is one of the richest nations in history, but most of its people are among the poorest in the world. Its ideology rests on some of the most sublime concepts of humanism and nonviolence, but deep-seated discrimination and violent responses are daily news. It has one of the world’s most stable political structures, but that structure is constantly in crisis. The nation is seeking a type of great power status, but no one is sure what that involves. India, in the end, defies easy analysis.

The most notable event that occurred in the history of India after the manuscript for this book was completed in the summer of 1995 was the nationwide general elections for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, held in April and May 1996. The elections were held in the wake of a US$18 million bribery scandal and resignations involving seven cabinet members and numerous others. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, leader of the ruling Congress (I), was accused of accepting substantial bribes. Lal Krishna Advani, head of the BJP, the leading opposition party, was arrested for his alleged acceptance of bribes. For many voters, this scandal was the culmination of scandals and corruption associated for years with old-guard politicians.

The world’s largest democracy went to the polls, except in Jammu and Kashmir, over three days between April 27 and May 7 with nearly 14,700 candidates from 522 parties running for 543 of the 545 Lok Sabha seats (the other two seats are filled with Anglo-Indians appointed by the president). Some 16,900 others vied for 914 seats in six state and union territory assembly elections. The candidates were as diverse as ever, with a plethora of Backward Class candidates rising to challenge high-caste hopefuls. Prominent among them was Janata Dal Party candidate Laloo Prasad Yadev, the chief minister of Bihar, who ran on an anti-Brahman caste platform. Phoolan Devi, a former convicted outlaw, who became world-famous as India’s “Bandit Queen,” also successfully ran for office. One highly favored potential candidate who decided not to run was Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, and granddaughter-in-law of Jawaharlal Nehru. She resisted the honor amidst tensions between herself and Rao and, in the minds of some observers, ended the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty while sealing the fate of the Congress (I).

Some 60 percent of India’s 590 million voters turned out, but failed to elect a majority government. The BJP, which had tried to tone down its Hindu nationalist rhetoric, won with its allies 194, or 37 percent, of the seats announced on May 10. The Congress (I) won 136, or 25 percent, of the seats. The National Front-Left Front won 110 seats (21 percent), with the remaining ninety-four seats (17 percent) going to unaligned regional parties, independents, and others. The Congress, which had held national power for all but four years since 1947, received the lowest votes ever as many of its traditional Muslim and low-caste constituents defected to other parties and high-caste voters sided with the BJP.

After thirteen days in office as the head of a BJP minority government, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned on May 28, three days before a vote of no confidence would have brought down his government. He was succeeded as India’s eleventh prime minister by the chief minister of Karnataka, the Janata Dal’s Haradanahalli (H.D.) Deve Gowda, who headed a minority coalition with thirteen parties–the United Front–made up of some members of the National Front, the Left Front, and regional parties. Deve Gowda, a sixty-three-year-old civil engineer of middle-class, lower-caste farmer background, proclaimed the United Front as representative of India’s great diversity and reaffirmed his commitment to modern India’s secular heritage.

Although the Congress is not part of the left-center coalition, the United Front is dependent on it for survival. The United Front sought Congress and bipartisan support by declaring that the economic reforms started by the Congress were “irreversible” and committing itself to continued reforms and attracting foreign investment. Despite the Congress’s electoral debacle, the party continued to be an important behind-the-scenes force in the new government. Former Prime Minister Rao’s legal problems led him to resign as president of the Congress in September 1996. His successor, Sitaram Kesri, pledged to continue backing the coalition.

Because of continuing unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, long-awaited special elections for six Lok Sabha seats were held under tight security between May 7 and 30. The central government’s Election Commission proclaimed that the elections were “relatively free and fair” despite the efforts of militants and separatists to sabotage them. There were widespread reports, however, that Indian security forces had coerced people into voting. In September state-level elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time in nine years. Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference party won the violence-prone contest.

In foreign affairs, India and Pakistan continued to seek ways to reduce tensions between the two nations. Deve Gowda offered conciliatory signs to Benazir Bhutto, his counterpart in Islamabad, as the two sides moved toward high-level talks. Despite the opposition of the United States and the withdrawal of technical support from Russia, in April 1996 India completed its own design of a 7.5-ton cryogenic engine capable of launching rockets with 2,500-kilogram payloads. Such a development was a major technological advance for Indian science and gave India the potential to move into the company of the other space-exploring nations. India continued to maintain its stand in regard to nuclear weapons proliferation and in August 1996 refused to ratify the United Nations-sponsored Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty unless the treaty required the destruction of the world’s existing nuclear weapons within a prescribed period. To concur with the treaty as it stood, some Indian observers felt, would limit the country’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, several senior active-duty and retired military and foreign servicers proposed that India should formally declare itself a nuclear-weapons state and give a “no-first-use” assurance.

October 1, 1996
James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden. Data as of September 95-96


A new royal government

Indian cavalry at the coronation of George VI in 1936 © After the rebellion had been put down, the new royal government of India that replaced that of the East India Company promised that it had no intention of imposing 'our convictions on any of our subjects'. It distanced itself further from the Christian missionaries. A stop was put to the deposing of princes, and greater care was shown to the rights of landlords. The major part of the army was in future to be drawn from so-called 'martial races'. The huge parades, or durbars, at which the new empress of India received the allegiance of the hierarchies of traditional India through her viceroy, seemed to symbolise the new conservatism of the regime.

To be a soldier in the Bengal army had become an occupation to which high status was attached.

Yet beneath the trappings of conservatism, Indian society changed much more rapidly in the second half of the 19th century than it had done in the first. The British had much more to offer Indians. Imports of Western technology had been limited before the 1850s. Thereafter a great railway system was constructed - 28,000 miles of track being laid by 1904 - and major canal schemes were instituted that more than doubled the area under irrigation in the last 20 years of the century. The railways, the vastly increased capacity of steamships, and the opening of the Suez Canal linked Indian farmers with world markets to a much greater degree. A small, but significant, minority of them could profit from such opportunities to sell surplus crops and acquire additional land. Some industries developed, notably Indian-owned textile manufacturing in western India. The horrific scale of the famines of the 1880s and 1890s showed how limited any economic growth had been, but the stagnation of the early 19th century had been broken.

Universities, colleges and schools proliferated in the towns and cities, most of them opened by Indian initiative. They did not produce replica English men and women, as Macaulay had hoped, but Indians who were able to use English in addition to their own languages, to master imported technologies and methods of organisation and who were willing to adopt what they found attractive in British culture. The dominant intellectual movements cannot be called Westernisation. They were revival or reform movements in Hinduism and Islam, and were the development of cultures that found expression in Indian languages.

Within the constraints of a colonial order, a modern India was emerging by the end of the 19th century. British rule of course had an important role in this process, but the country that was emerging fulfilled the aspirations of Indians, rather than colonial designs of what a modern India ought to be.


The 15th century

The 15th century was a period of steady consolidation rather than great innovation in the history of parliament.

The assembly was becoming more and more embedded into the fabric of political life in late medieval England.

The assembly itself was no longer seen as the superior court of the king, but as the high court of the realm.

Moreover, there was a growing awareness of the distinctive qualities it lent to the English political system. The great political writer of the 15th century, Sir John Fortescue, was able to muse on the differences between the English and French monarchies, stating that whereas the king of France could rule his people by such laws as he made himself and set upon them taxes without their assent, the king of England by contrast could not rule his people 'by laws other than those the people had assented to'.

Parliamentary legislation was no longer enacted in the name of the king and council, but by 'authority of parliament', and the assembly itself was no longer seen as the superior court of the king, but as the 'high court of the realm'.

The development of this terminology highlighted that the great legacy of the later Middle Ages, besides the emergence of parliament itself, was the deeply ingrained belief that the assembly existed as much to serve the interests of the king's subjects as it did the king himself.


Military Slaves: A Uniquely Muslim Phenomenon

Written for the conference on "The Arming of Slaves from the Ancient World to the American Civil War" at Yale University, November 16-18, 2000, this offers a summary account of Daniel Pipes's book Slave Soldiers and Islam, with an emphasis on the slavery component, not the Islamic one.

The conference proceedings appeared as Christopher Leslie Brown and Philip D. Morgan, Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).

Even a cursory glance at the history of Muslim peoples reveals the extraordinary role played by men of slave origins in the armed forces. They served both as soldiers and as officers, then often acquired preeminent roles in administration, politics, and all aspects of public affairs.

As this conference makes clear, slaves have been used as soldiers in many places around the world but I shall argue that there was something unique about their use in the Muslim countries. Among Muslims, this use of slaves acquired a systematic quality that permitted slaves to take on central military functions and to rise in the hierarchy of the state, sometimes even taking it over. I believe that the systematic use of slaves as soldiers constituted the single most distinctive feature of Muslim public life in premodern times.

To begin with, some terminology. Slave as used here means "a person of slave origins" regardless of his subsequent status. The term does not indicate whether he is later free in law, in fact, or both. This special usage corresponds to the use of slave in Muslim vernaculars. A military slave is a person of slave origins who undergoes acquisition in a systematic manner, followed by training and employment as a soldier. This term does not apply to all slaves who fight in wars, but only to those whose lives revolve around military service. The military slave keeps this appellation even after he attains legal or real freedom. Military slavery is the system which acquires, prepares, and employs military slaves.

For a full millennium, from the early ninth century until the early nineteenth century, Muslims regularly and deliberately employed slaves as soldiers. This occurred through nearly the whole of the Muslim world, from Central Africa to Central Asia, from Spain to Bengal, and perhaps beyond. Few dynasties within this longtime-span and broad area had no military slaves.

Dynasties. Precisely because of its prominence and wide extent, military slavery in the Muslim world defies brief description slaves filled too many positions, served too many functions. Thus, comprehensive documentation of their incidence and activities cannot be given here, only some indication of their distribution. Selected examples demonstrate the importance, widespread occurrence, and frequency of military slavery.

The premier dynasties of the Muslim world nearly all depended on military slaves. These are the governments which governed the greatest areas, lasted the longest, and most influenced the development of Muslim institutions. I have selected seventeen preeminent dynasties of them, it appears that all but one relied on military slaves. The exception, the Umayyad dynasty, preceded the existence of a military slave system yet even it employed the unfree in a manner which foreshadowed military slavery. A brief characterization of slave soldiers in these dynasties follows:

  • Umayyads (661-750). The Umayyad government, headquartered in Damascus, relied on mawlas, unfree men who resembled military slaves the institution of military slavery did not exist before the ninth century, but the Umayyad went as far as they could in the direction of using the same kind of soldiers.
  • Abbasids (749-1258). Slave soldiers dominated the Abbasid army and government of Baghdad by the mid-ninth century. Then, much later, when the Abbasids revived in the thirteenth century, slaves again acquired a major military role.
  • Spanish Umayyads (756-1031). The Umayyads in Spain also developed a slave system in the early ninth century slaves played a consistently great role throughout the life of the dynasty. At its dissolution in 1031, several dynasties with rulers of slave origins emerged.
  • Buyids (932-1062). Although tribal soldiers from the Daylami mountains in Iran brought them to power, the Buyids rapidly recruited Turkish slave soldiers. This change also signaled a shift from infantry to cavalry warfare.
  • Fatimids (909-1171). Like the Buyids, from an initial tribal army, the Fatimids (initially of Tunis, then of Cairo) quickly depended on military slaves, though they employed slaves of diverse origins, including Turks, Berbers, Blacks, and Slavs.
  • Ghaznavids (977-1186). Founded by a military slave who broke away from the Samanids, the Ghaznavids of eastern Iran drew on slaves for their armies primarily from Central Asia, secondly from India.
  • Seljuks (1038-1194).The Seljuks established the dynasty that was most influential for Muslim institutions. They came to power as the leaders of tribes of steppe warriors but soon, in Iran, made abundant use of military slaves. By the time of the Seljuk demise, slaves had almost taken control of the dynasty.
  • Almoravids (1056-1147). The first major dynasty based in North Africa, the Almoravids began as a religious movement but gradually came to rely moderately on slaves in their armies.
  • Almohads (1130-1269). They were similar to the Almoravids in locale, religious origins, and moderate use of military slaves.
  • Ayyubids (1171-1250 in Egypt: until later elsewhere in the Levant). Beginning with free Kurdish and Turkish troops, the Ayyubids came to depend largely on military slaves from Central Asia. Supplies from there were greatly increased by the turmoil resulting from the Mongol invasions. The Ayyubid dynasty came to an end when its military slaves usurped the throne.
  • Delhi sultanate (1206-1555). The Delhi sultanate was in reality six distinct dynasties, all of which made use of military slaves. The first of them, the Mu'izzis, were founded by a slave soldier who broke away from his Ghurid masters several later Mu'izzi and other rulers were also of slave origins, and slaves played a prominent military role throughout.
  • Hafsids (1228-1574). The Hafsid rulers of Tunis employed a black African bodyguard of slaves, but it is unclear whether the Turks they employed came as freemen or as slaves. In either case, slave soldiers had only a minor role.
  • Mamluks (1250-1517). The military slave dynasty par excellence not only did almost all the soldiers begin their careers as slaves, but they formed the government in Cairo and passed the rule on to other slaves. The Mamluks maintained a self-perpetuating slave oligarchy for centuries, recruiting mostly in Central Asia and the Black Sea region.
  • Ottomans (1281-1924). Along with the Mamluks, this Istanbul-based dynasty had the best-known system of military slavery. Slave soldiers were introduced sometime in the fourteenth century and their last vestiges were only abolished in 1826. Besides supplying the army with foot-soldiers (the Janissaries), slaves took on many burdens of the central administration.
  • Safavids (1501-1732). Slaves counterbalanced the tribal troops which had brought the Safavids to power in Iran. The slaves came mostly from the Caucasus region and lasted to the end of the dynasty.
  • Sharifs of Morocco (Sa'di and Filali, 1511-). The Sa'di use of slaves in the army remained secondary, but the Filalis depended very heavily on them, especially in the eighteenth century. The slaves were black Africans.
  • Mughals (1566-1858). While the central government in Delhi used slaves as soldiers only erratically, the mansabdars recruited them extensively. The central government found its soldiers in many places, usually free.

In short, all the most influential Muslim dynasties relied militarily on slaves in many, these soldiers played important roles. The visible, prevalent role of slave soldiers in the major dynasties attests to their central military and political importance. Looking beyond these key dynasties, it is clear that slave soldiers fought across the width and breadth of the Muslim world. Perhaps four-fifths of all Muslim dynasties made regular use of them. A few cases from the corners of the Muslim world (particularly those areas not represented by the major dynasties listed above) may help to illustrate this:

Sub-Saharan African Muslim dynasties probably made the greatest use of slave soldiers, a fact which reflects the especially important place of slaves in their economies and social lives. Slaves had ubiquitous military and political roles in many dynasties some of the better-studied include Dar Fur, the Sudanese Mahdiya, Bornu, the Fulani emirates, and the Ton-Dyon.

Military slavery existed in most parts of the Arabian peninsula, but particularly in the region with the most highly developed political institutions-the Yemen. For example, a eleventh century dynasty there, the Najahids, emerged from a military slave corps. One of the very last incidents of slave soldiery was reported in Mecca at the beginning of the century now drawing to a close.

In India, military slaves in the north came mostly from Central Asia, while those in the south and east derived from Africa. For example, Malik Ambar, who ruled a sizable part of the Deccan in the years 1601-26, was a slave of African origin. It is not clear whether military slavery in its full form existed east of Bengal but it does appear likely.

The Egyptian case. Concentration on the use of military slaves in a single region or time period may convey the intensity of their usage. While nearly any area of the Muslim world would do, Egypt has the double advantage of being clear to observe and well studied.

The first large-scale expedition of slave soldiers in history was probably that of al-Mu'tasim in 828, which consisted of 4,000 Turks sent to Egypt for two years. As military slaves came to form a large part of the Abbasid army in the following decades, they gained a greater role in Egypt as well, culminating in 868 when the son of a Turkish military slave, Ahmad b. Tulun, became governor of the province and then independent ruler, relying in large part on an armed force made up of slaves.

Al-Mu'tasim is not forgotten a street sign in Amman, Jordan.

By the time the Abbasids won back control of the country in 905, slave soldiers had a major role in the military structure. Under the next dynasty, the Ikhshidids, "many freed slaves carried arms and entered the military organization, some of them reaching high positions in it." Kefir, a black slave eunuch with military experience, took over the Ikhshidid government in 946 (becoming its official head in 966) and ruled until just before the Fatimid conquest of Egypt in 969.

With the advent of Fatimid rule, military slaves acquired new importance perhaps most characteristically soldiers of diverse origins fought under the Shi'i leadership, which led to constant turmoil in the armed forces. From the time the Ayyubids took over in 1169, slaves of Central Asian origins predominated. In time, their hold over the army and the government increased, until in 1250 they took over the rule, too, keeping it for over two and half centuries. Even after the Ottoman conquest in 1517, military slaves and their descendants continued to dominate Egyptian politics. They lost to Napoleon in 1798 and were massacred by Muhammad 'Ali in 1811, which ended their hold over Egyptian public life. Some of their descendants, dubbed Turco-Egyptians, retained important positions until the overthrow of King Faruq by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952.

Was there a system? We know many facts about military slaves but almost nothing about military slavery. Although military slaves appeared in nearly every premodern Muslim dynasty between Spain and Bengal, the system that prepared and employed them is known to exist in only a few cases, This curious state of knowledge reflects information in the contemporary sources though highly aware of the military slaves as individuals, the writers seem not to notice that a system made military slavery operate. In the substantial and varied corpus of premodern Muslim literature, only a handful of writers-most notably Nizam al-Mulk and Ibn Khaldun - recognized this system and described it.

Despite the unawareness of contemporaries, a system to acquire, train, and employ military slaves did exist painstaking reconstructions from scattered evidence have established this system in several dynasties, most notably for several in the thirteenth century and later. The Mamluk and Ottoman organizations are by far the best known, but we also have some idea of the systems in other areas of the Muslim world. However different in detail one is from the other, a comparative reading shows that they all shared these crucial features: systematic acquisition, organized training, and employment of slaves as professional soldiers.

In brief, the system went like this: Born a non-Muslim in some region not under Muslim control, the military slave was acquired by a Muslim ruling figure as a youth who is old enough to undergo training but still young enough to be molded by it. Brought to an Islamic country as a slave, he converted to Islam and entered a military training program, emerging some five to eight years later as an adult soldier. If he had special abilities, he could rise to any heights in the army or (sometimes) in the government while most military slaves spent their adults lives in the ruler's army, they were not just soldiers but a key element of the ruling elite in most Muslim dynasties.

The blindness of contemporaries to the system of military slavery constitutes the foremost difficulty confronting a modern historian who wishes to study it but although nothing can remedy gaps in the sources, extensive reading and careful hypothesis can bring this elusive institution back to life. Information on military slavery before the thirteenth century is meager David Ayalon, the foremost scholar of this institution, gave up on those times: "Our information is severely limited in what concerns the mamluk system from its origins to 1250. It is doubtful that the sources we must know can be used to throw much light on that long period." My research into the first two Islamic centuries confirms Ayalon's conclusion: the sources do not provide enough evidence even to posit the existence of a system, much less to recreate it.

Assumptions. In order to study the system, therefore, one starts by postulating its existence the following two assumptions can serve as the basis for doing this:

1. Whenever soldiers of slave origins become a dominant military force, a system must exist to acquire, train, and employ them. Slaves can take on support, auxiliary, or emergency roles for an army in an unorganized way, but to become a major independent power they must be used systematically. This is not a theory but an assumption slaves attained predominant power in many Muslim dynasties for which we have hardly a trace of a system. Yet this assumption finds some confirmation in a comparative reading of slave systems. In particular, two facts support it: when a training program is known to exist, slaves often acquire overwhelming importance (for example, the Abbasids under al-Mu'tadid, the Seljuks, Mamluks, Ottomans, Tunisia under the Beys, and Dar Fur) outside the Muslim world, where no system is known to have existed, slaves never acquired such predominance.

2. A system of military slavery must exist at least thirty years before military slaves assert power. Thirty years marks the approximate length of time between the training of slaves in a corps (at about age fifteen) and their rise to prominence (at about age forty-five). It might also take slaves much longer to acquire power, or they may never do so, but their advancing to an important military and political role in less than thirty years appears highly unlikely.

In combination, these two assumptions permit me to postulate the existence of a military slave system at least thirty years before slaves come to dominate a dynasty. For example, the Ayyubids lost power to their military slaves in 1250 this implies that a system existed by at least 1220.

The system itself. From the moment a ruler or other notable decides to acquire military slaves, he lavishes exceptional care on selecting recruits. Specifically, the prospective owner seeks two qualities: military potential and malleability. A preference for youths of noble origins and the high prices paid for outstanding recruits reflect the master's interest in finding the most highly qualified prospects as military slaves. In one well-known case, al-Mansur Qala'un al-Alfi, a Mamluk sultan (r. 1280-90), is said to have received the last part of his name (alf, Arabic for "thousand") from his considerable purchase price, 1,000 dinars. Selection criteria also determine geographical sources of military slaves, for some regions are known to produce better soldiers than others. So, while Indian slaves do not often fight, Central Asian male slaves almost invariably do.

Besides high quality, a master seeks potential loyalty in his military slaves. A master ensures strong relations by acquiring slaves both young and foreign. Ordinary slaves can be coerced into doing their jobs (even including some military assignments), but military slaves have to be convinced. Since these men nearly always assume great responsibilities and acquire considerable freedom of action, personal bonds between the master and his slave matter greatly. Children being far more impressionable than adults, the master spares no effort in acquiring youthful recruits. He accepts boys as old as seventeen but prefers them about twelve at that age they are still highly amenable to training but are already skilled in the martial arts of their own peoples. The transferal of these skills to the master's army constitutes one of the main benefits of military slavery. Of the numerous qualities desired in a military slave, youth is unquestionably the most important. Noble origins, high potential, and being foreign all help, but youth matters most, because this quality alone suffices to ensure the success of the next stage, the training program.

A slave owner recruits aliens because their foreign origin also increases their susceptibility to being molded the owner can isolate a foreigner by eliminating any ties outside his immediate household and by forcing him to depend entirely on the small world of the master and his fellow slaves. To complete this isolation, most military slaves arrive on the scene ignorant of the language of the country in which they will serve.

The military slave's special status becomes even more pronounced during his first years in bondage. On arrival in his new country, he faces a number of experiences intended to prepare him for a military career. Clearly, for the slave to be used most effectively, he cannot be enrolled directly in the army but has to learn its ways and form new loyalties. The transition period serves to change him from a self-willed, alien boy into a skilled and loyal soldier. His capabilities, youth, and isolation combined with the thoroughness of the training program work to assure this change. At the time when ordinary slaves are being exploited for their labor, military slaves are being trained and educated. These long years of schooling and reorientation sharpen still further the contrast between them.

The training program is the core of military slavery. To understand the achievements of these soldiers, we must study their training, for this experience shapes their entire adult life. Whereas untrained slaves provide dubious skills and loyalty, only suitable for limited military functions, trained slaves fill every position of skill and responsibility. The program lasts about five to eight years and has a twofold purpose: to develop skills and to imbue loyalty. Skills are imparted through an intensive program of physical and spiritual instruction, with rather more emphasis placed on the former. Through games, contests, hunts, and the like, recruits exercise continuously in the martial arts. The product is a superbly trained and highly disciplined soldier. Or, if assessed as intellectually promising, a slave may be further educated and prepared for governmental work.

Training has another purpose too: to transform the identity of the recruit. He begins as a pagan foreigner with loyalty only to his own people by the end of the transition period he is a Muslim, conversant in the manners of his new country and intensely loyal to his master and fellow slaves. As a result, military slaves habitually prove themselves to be their master's most solid and loyal troops.

Upon completing training, military slaves join the army. No support, auxiliary, or emergency roles here: they enroll as full-time professional soldiers. Their master gives them direct financial support, so they have no competing interests to distract them from military service. Military slaves perform key military duties and carry heavy burdens they serve all year round, form elite corps, supply many officers, and rise quickly in the military hierarchy. No complete listing of their activities can be given here in differing circumstances, they undertake every conceivable military duty.

The rhythm. A new dynasty usually does not depend on slave soldiers at the time when it comes to power these usually turn up two or three generations later, as a ruler casts about to replace unreliable soldiers with ones from new sources whom he can better control. Typically, the pattern goes like this: Military slaves first serve the ruler as royal body-guards, then move to other parts of his entourage, and from there to the army, government, and even into the provincial administration. As the ruler increasingly relies on military slaves, they acquire independent power bases and sometimes take matters into their own hands, either controlling the ruler or even usurping his position. Not always, however: in many cases, when judiciously used, military slaves render competent and faithful service to their masters for long: periods of time.

Differences from Other Slaves

In contrast to all other slaves, the military slave devotes his life to military service. His characteristic features derive from the fact that he works as a soldier. From the time he is acquired until his retirement, he lives differently from other slaves, for he participates in a lifelong system with its own rules and rationale. Specifically, he differs from two other kinds of slaves: ordinary slaves who happen to fight and government slaves.

Ordinary slaves in warfare. Ordinary slaves are all those not in the army or government. They come to mind when one thinks of slavery in its usual form: domestic service or labor at some economically productive task. Such slaves do happen to fight occasionally, but they are entirely different from military slaves. For the sake of comparison with ordinary slaves, the life of a military slave may be divided into three parts: acquisition, transition, and employment at each stage his life-pattern differs dramatically from that of the ordinary slave.

The differences begin with ownership, for the possession of a military slave is much more limited than that of ordinary slaves. While even a poor person can own an ordinary slave, only leading political figures-the ruler, his officials, provincial leaders-can own military slaves, for they represent military power. Most military slaves, in fact, belong to the ruler and the central government. This exclusive ownership means that military slaves always breathe rarefied air and keep company with the powerful.

Further, while the decision to purchase an ordinary slave comes down primarily to a question of economics (can the master afford his domestic services or does he gain from a slave's economic activities?), acquisition of a military slave depends on military considerations it also depends on the availability of slaves deemed suitable for this sort of work. The master insists on greater capabilities than those required of ordinary slaves while any misfit can carry water or dig for salt, a future soldier has to bear graver responsibilities. As a result, the trade in military slaves has a drive and rhythm of its own. A master seeks ordinary slaves among young adults, when they are at the peak of their economic productivity military slaves he prefers much younger, so he can mould them.

Unlike ordinary slaves, they habitually become the mainstay of the armies they serve. And whereas ordinary slaves belong to private individuals, military slaves belong to leaders so the former tend to fight alongside their masters, while the latter form large corps and fight in separate slave units.

By virtue of their military strength, the lives of these men differ remarkably from those of ordinary slaves. Far from being lowly domestics or servile laborers, they enjoy the respect and the power of soldiers. Although slaves, they are part of the ruling elite they bear arms, have access to the ruler, fill important positions, and enjoy the amenities of wealth and power. Indeed, they enjoy many advantages which most free men cannot attain and, as a result, their slave status carries with it no stigma. On the contrary, it becomes a badge of distinction slavery, in an extraordinary reversal, gives access to power and social superiority which free birth might deny. Far from considering it a humiliation, free men covet this status and slaves jealously guard it. None of this, of course, holds true for ordinary slaves.

The power held by military slaves enables them to gain control over their own destinies. Ordinary slaves become free only when their master decides to manumit them. They can flee or revolt, but these efforts usually fail slave revolts can cause great upheavals and bring governments down, but they do not place slaves in power for long. How different the situation with military slaves! They commonly free themselves through a gradual shift in relations with their master. With time, they evolve from being his subordinates into being an independent military force. This opportunity of acquiring power from within is completely closed to ordinary slaves.

Government slaves. A ruler may use his household slaves as political agents they then share the high standing of military slaves but are not soldiers. Government slaves acquire political power if a ruler needs trusted agents, for as his domestic slaves they are totally under his control and serve him with great loyalty. Lacking any power base other than his favor, such men are ideal tools for their master and should he wish to retire to pleasanter pursuits, they can take over the responsibilities of state without threatening his position as ruler.

Government slaves are found all over the world. In Europe, the servi Caesaris in the Roman Empire are the most renowned and the best studied but they are far from unique. One finds government slaves, for example, in the East Gothic, Vandal, and Burgundian kingdoms they were called ministeriales in medieval Germany and in Muscovy, they dominated both the central and provincial governments for several centuries until about 1550. Outside Europe, the early Ch'ing use of servile administrators is perhaps the best-known example their presence in Ethiopia may have been due to imitation of Muslim models.

Despite the high standing and power which government slaves share with military slaves, the two groups are fundamentally different. Whereas government slaves are chosen from among

the ruler's servants, military slaves are soldiers. Government slaves cannot build up a power base of their own and almost never threaten their master military slaves, however, can develop such a base from within their own corps and use it to stand up to the ruler. The difference here is explained by origins, not functions, for government slaves can take on military duties and military slaves often receive administrative appointments Yet, even when they have military command, government slaves remain merely the agents of their master military slaves in administrative or political positions, however, retain their military base and can build up independent political power from it. Their military connections, group solidarity, and close ties to the ruler propel them into a wide variety of positions-as personal counselors, top administrators, provincial governors, special agents, confidential agents, and so on. In case after case they enter the ruler's entourage, go on to dominate the court, then the central government, and sometimes even take over the realm itself. These many opportunities are uniquely open to military slaves.

Two brief conclusions. First, why did military slavery have such a key role in the Muslim world? The systematic enslavement of soldiers is certainly not an Islamic precept nor was it a Middle Eastern trait rather, I believe it resulted from the rulers' non-implementation of Islamic precepts and ideals in public life, the resulting withdrawal from public life by the great majority of the Muslim population, and the rulers' need to go out and find trustworthy replacements. When Muslim peoples perceived that their public order did not correspond to those goals, they withdrew from their own armies, compelling the rulers to look for soldiers elsewhere, which in turn led to the development of military slavery as a solution. In this sense, the system symbolizes the historic impossibility of Muslim peoples attaining the political and military goals prescribed by their religion.

Second, this Muslim use of slaves as soldiers is unique. Unlike the institutionalized use of slaves as soldiers in the Muslim world, slaves elsewhere fought as emergency forces, personal retainers, auxiliaries, or cannon fodder. No where else were they used in large numbers on a regular basis as professional soldiers, much less as a nearly universal tool of statecraft. Also, in bears noting that the few systematic examples of non-Muslims using slaves date only from the sixteenth century, long after the establishment and proliferation of the Muslim system. Except for these unusual cases, Muslims alone chose to recruit soldiers through enslavement.

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Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages

The middle ages (5th &ndash 15th Centuries AD), often termed The Dark Ages, were actually a time of great discovery and invention. The Middle ages also saw major advances in technologies that already existed, and the adoption of many Eastern technologies in the West. This is a list of the ten greatest inventions of the Middle Ages (excluding military inventions).

1. The Heavy Plough 5th Century AD

In the basic mouldboard plough the depth of the cut is adjusted by lifting against the runner in the furrow, which limited the weight of the plough to what the ploughman could easily lift. These ploughs were fairly fragile, and were unsuitable for breaking up the heavier soils of northern Europe. The introduction of wheels to replace the runner allowed the weight of the plough to increase, and in turn allowed the use of a much larger mouldboard that was faced with metal. These heavy ploughs led to greater food production and eventually a significant population increase around 600 AD.

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2. Tidal Mills 7th Century AD

A tide mill is a specialist type of water mill driven by tidal rise and fall. A dam with a sluice is created across a suitable tidal inlet, or a section of river estuary is made into a reservoir. As the tide comes in, it enters the mill pond through a one way gate, and this gate closes automatically when the tide begins to fall. When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel. The earliest excavated tide mill, dating from 787, is the Nendrum Monastery mill on an island in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. Its millstones are 830mm in diameter and the horizontal wheel is estimated to have developed 7/8HP at its peak. Remains of an earlier mill dated at 619 were also found.

3. The Hourglass 9th Century AD

Since the hourglass was one of the few reliable methods of measuring time at sea, it has been speculated that it was in use as far back as the 11th century, where it would have complemented the magnetic compass as an aid to navigation. However, it is not until the 14th century that evidence of their existence was found, appearing in a painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1328. The earliest written records come from the same period and appear in lists of ships stores. From the 15th century onwards they were being used in a wide range of applications at sea, in the church, in industry and in cookery. They were the first dependable, reusable and reasonably accurate measure of time. During the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan around the globe, his vessels kept 18 hourglasses per ship. It was the job of a ship&rsquos page to turn the hourglasses and thus provide the times for the ship&rsquos log. Noon was the reference time for navigation, which did not depend on the glass, as the sun would be at its zenith.

4. Blast Furnace 12th Century AD

The oldest known blast furnaces in the West were built in Dürstel in Switzerland, the Märkische Sauerland in Germany, and Sweden at Lapphyttan where the complex was active between 1150 and 1350. At Noraskog in the Swedish county of Järnboås there have also been found traces of blast furnaces dated even earlier, possibly to around 1100. Knowledge of certain technological advances was transmitted as a result of the General Chapter of the Cistercian monks, including the blast furnace, as the Cistercians are known to have been skilled metallurgists. According to Jean Gimpel, their high level of industrial technology facilitated the diffusion of new techniques: &ldquoEvery monastery had a model factory, often as large as the church and only several feet away, and waterpower drove the machinery of the various industries located on its floor.&rdquo Iron ore deposits were often donated to the monks along with forges to extract the iron, and within time surpluses were being offered for sale. The Cistercians became the leading iron producers in Champagne, France, from the mid-13th century to the 17th century, also using the phosphate-rich slag from their furnaces as an agricultural fertilizer.

The first evidence of true distillation comes from Babylonia and dates from the fourth millennium BC. Specially shaped clay pots were used to extract small amounts of distilled alcohol through natural cooling for use in perfumes, however it is unlikely this device ever played a meaningful role in the history of the development of the still. Freeze distillation, the &ldquoMongolian still&rdquo, are known to have been in use in Central Asia as early as the 7th century AD. The first method involves freezing the alcoholic beverage and removing water crystals. The development of the still with cooled collector&mdashnecessary for the efficient distillation of spirits without freezing&mdashwas an invention of Muslim alchemists in the 8th or 9th centuries. In particular, Geber (Jabir Ibn Hayyan, 721&ndash815) invented the alembic still he observed that heated wine from this still released a flammable vapor, which he described as &ldquoof little use, but of great importance to science&rdquo

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6. Eyeglasses 13th Century

In 1268 Roger Bacon made the earliest recorded comment on the use of lenses for optical purposes, but magnifying lenses inserted in frames were used for reading both in Europe and China at this time, and it is a matter of controversy whether the West learned from the East or vice versa. In Europe eyeglasses first appeared in Italy, their introduction being attributed to Alessandro di Spina of Florence. The first portrait to show eyeglasses is that of Hugh of Provence by Tommaso da Modena, painted in 1352. In 1480 Domenico Ghirlandaio painted St. Jerome at a desk from which dangled eyeglasses as a result, St. Jerome became the patron saint of the spectacle-makers&rsquo guild. The earliest glasses had convex lenses to aid farsightedness. A concave lens for myopia, or nearsightedness, is first evident in the portrait of Pope Leo X painted by Raphael in 1517.

7. The Mechanical Clock 13th Century AD

The origin of the all-mechanical escapement clock is unknown the first such devices may have been invented and used in monasteries to toll a bell that called the monks to prayers. The first mechanical clocks to which clear references exist were large, weight-driven machines fitted into towers and known today as turret clocks. These early devices struck only the hours and did not have hands or a dial. The oldest surviving clock in England is that at Salisbury Cathedral, which dates from 1386. A clock erected at Rouen, France, in 1389 is still extant (photo above), and one built for Wells Cathedral in England is preserved in the Science Museum in London.


8. Spinning Wheel 13th Century AD

The spinning wheel was probably invented in India, though its origins are obscure. It reached Europe via the Middle East in the European Middle Ages. It replaced the earlier method of hand spinning, in which the individual fibres were drawn out of a mass of wool held on a stick, or distaff, twisted together to form a continuous strand, and wound on a second stick, or spindle. The first stage in mechanizing the process was to mount the spindle horizontally in bearings so that it could be rotated by a cord encircling a large, hand-driven wheel. The distaff, carrying the mass of fibre, was held in the left hand, and the wheel slowly turned with the right. Holding the fibre at an angle to the spindle produced the necessary twist.

9. Quarantine 14th Century AD

In the 14th century the growth of maritime trade and the recognition that plague was introduced by ships returning from the Levant led to the adoption of quarantine in Venice. It was decreed that ships were to be isolated for a limited period to allow for the manifestation of the disease and to dissipate the infection brought by persons and goods. Originally the period was 30 days, trentina, but this was later extended to 40 days, quarantina. The choice of this period is said to be based on the period that Christ and Moses spent in isolation in the desert. In 1423 Venice set up its first lazaretto, or quarantine station, on an island near the city. The Venetian system became the model for other European countries and the basis for widespread quarantine control for several centuries.

10. The Printing Press of Gutenberg 15th Century AD

Although movable type, as well as paper, first appeared in China, it was in Europe that printing first became mechanized. The earliest mention of a printing press is in a lawsuit in Strasbourg in 1439 revealing construction of a press for Johannes Gutenberg and his associates. (Scant evidence exists to support claims of Laurens Janszoon Coster as the inventor of printing.) The invention of the printing press itself obviously owed much to the medieval paper press, in turn modeled after the ancient wine-and-olive press of the Mediterranean area. A long handle was used to turn a heavy wooden screw, exerting downward pressure against the paper, which was laid over the type mounted on a wooden platen. In its essentials, the wooden press reigned supreme for more than 300 years, with a hardly varying rate of 250 sheets per hour printed on one side.

Notable Omissions: The Wheelbarrow, The Treadwheel Crane
Sources: Wikipedia, Britannica


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