Whether or not Indian society in the early medieval period was feudal has remained an important issue of animated debate in Indian historiography for nearly four decades. The hypothesis of Indian feudalism has been criticized by traditional as well as by 'radical' historians, though both categories of scholars often seem to share a neo-colonialist perception of early Indian society as static. This volume brings together a vast mass of empirical data which shows the fallacy of their arguments.
The book is divided into three parts, each devoted to an important aspect of the feudal phenomenon. The first part deals with the problem of transition from pre-feudal to feudal society and the second with the nature of state shaped largely by the growth of new classes as a result of agrarian changes, sluggish trade and the limited role of money in society. The third part explores the linkages between the socio-economic changes and the ideological trends noticeable in early medieval times. A collection of articles by eminent historians with an unquestionable grasp of the primary sources, the work underlines the heuristic value of the feudal construction for a meaningful understanding of historical processes at work in early medieval India. The editor's introduction convincingly refutes the arguments of the critics of the feudal model by drawing comparable material from European as well as Asian countries, and adds new dimension to the feudalism debate by relating it to developments in the field of religion, literature and art.
Dwijendra Narayan Jha (popularly known as D.N. Jha) was educated at the Presidency College, Calcutta and Patna University where he taught history for more than a decade. He was Professor of History, University of Delhi, until his retirement in 2005. He has authored several works including Ancient India; Revenue System in Post-Maurya and Gupta Times; The Myth of the Holy Cow; Against the Grain and Rethinking Hindu Identity, etc. His edited works include Drink of Immortality: Essays on Distillation and Alcohol Use in Ancient India. He has travelled widely, and has lectured at a number of educational institutions and universities in India and abroad including London, Kabul, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hamburg, Heidelberg and Leiden. He has also held visiting assignments at Paris and Kiel.
In 1987 I published an anthology of articles entitled Feudal Social Formation in Early India which carried an introduction by me focusing on some aspects of feudal society in pre-colonial India. Its copies sold out sooner than I had expected and the book has been out of print for quite some time. Friends and colleagues have therefore been pressing me to bring out its second edition. Some of them, who quickly jettisoned Marxist tool of historical analysis and overnight joined the postmodernist crowd with the 'collapse' of Communism, even advised me to give up my position on the question of feudalism in early medieval India, though, to their chagrin, I failed to pursuade myself to perform the acrobatic feat of academic somersault. Revisions have nevertheless been made and these are noticeable in the present collection of papers. The introduction, rewritten and substantially modified, takes into account the recent criticisms of the feudal construct and has been considerably enlarged. Several papers of the 1987 publication referred to above have been replaced by new and more recent ones. All the articles in the present work, unlike those in the earlier one, concentrate on the early medieval phase of Indian history and deal with feudal state, society and ideology. These changes are thus major ones and justify the publication of the book under a new title. The articles included here, written by different scholars, have appeared in various publications over a period of little more than two decades, except those by Vishwa Mohan Jha and Vijay Nath. Effort has therefore been made to minimize as far as possible, the diversity of spelling and documentation without interfering with the style of the individual author.
The book in its present form is largely based on the material collected by me in 1986-7 for a research project supported by the Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi. I place on record my indebtedness to them. I have benefited from the kindness of many friends and well wishers in course of the preparation of the manuscript. I would like to thank D.N. Gupta, Reader in History, Hindu College, Delhi, P.N. Sahaya, Librarian, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi and J.B. Khanna, Deputy Librarian, Delhi University Library System for making available to me books and Abl journals which I would otherwise find difficult to lay my hands on. Ashutosh and Vipul rendered bibliographical assistance. M. Rahman, Lecturer in History, Zakir Hussain Memorial College, Delhi, Chandrachur Singh, Bina Rao and Bhuvan Sinha have assisted me in various ways. Kitu, Mitu, Jasmin, Kush and Ritvik came to my rescue in moments of stress and strain and Gopal and Amarnath always created ABORT Annals ofthi a proper atmosphere for me to work. My wife, Rajrani, has always AIOC Proceedings extended silent and solid support to me in all my academic Conference endeavours.
I am thankful to the contributors who allowed me to include their articles in the present volume. Lastly, I should like to thank ARMAD Annual Repo Mr. Ramesh Jain for seeing the book through the press.
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