About the book
Bengal Under Akbar and Jahangir based on a doctoral dissertation written twenty years ago, was first published in 1953 and has long been out of print. The text of the original edition, reproduced here without any changes, belongs to the early phase in the development of the new school of historical writing in India which broke away from the older preoccupation with the chronicling of surface events and attempts to explain and interrelate rather than merely describe what happened in the past. Concerned with a particular region during a significant period in its history, the present volume is an essay in identification of the characteristic features of a past society, of the mutual impact of activities in various fields and of the mechanism of such change as was possible under relatively static conditions. The composite picture of a society in action over a half century of slow change is built up from bits of information scattered through a wide range of source material,-Bengali literary works, Persian chronicles, account of European travellers, religious texts in Sanskrit and Bengali and Raghunandana's Smriti which guided the ritual and, in some respects, the secular conduct of the Bengali Hindu. Admittedly, it is an inadequate reconstruction, for many of the important pieces in the jigsaw puzzle are missing. As an exercise in understanding social and cultural phenomena in a by-gone age, the present volume is intuitive in its approach. A long introductory note appended to the new impression, based on the methods and findings of social anthropology, attempts to rectify the limitations of mere intuition. The data presented in the original work are reappraised unravel the social structure, the norms, the systems of values and beliefs, the political and economic organisation, the processes of transmission and transformation of tradition, selectively, some of the source material on which study was based, are scrutinised afresh, and they have yielded a wide range of significant information in response to the queries. Despite the limitations of data, the new introduction projects a coherent picture of social organization and its processes of change quite unlike the fragmentary silhouette derived from the intuitive approach. This exercise in applying the methods of social anthropology to medieval Indian history suggests the possibility of similar investigations in relation to other regions and other periods as steps towards a systematized statement of India's social evolution.