Climate, Conflict and State Capacity- Mitigating the 17th Century Crisis in Mughal India

safya morshed, London School of Economics

Geoffrey Parker (2013) has argued that the Little Ice-Age which occurred during the 17th century, caused states and empires across the globe to face large amount of political upheaval in response to economic shocks. However, Parker also has claimed the Mughal empire (1555-1707) did not seem to be affected by the climate shift, where the state developed its fiscal capacity during periods of worsening climate. In this paper, I use a newly constructed conflict database on Mughal South Asia to see if there is a discernible relationship between political instability, famine and climate events. The paper explores how the climate crisis affected political stability, and to what extent government response was successful in overcoming instability. The evidence indicates that peasant rebellions were larger and more frequent in times of famine. However, this does not hold true of all types of rebellions, especially local elite rebellions, which the state was more concerned about. Secondly, although there is an increase in peasant rebellion during decades where there are more recorded famines, the rebellions do not seem to occur in the same locations as the famines. Instead, rebellion is a consequence of migration to wealthier regions. Thirdly, evidence suggests that wars and Vassal State conflicts did not cause many famines, although they might have exacerbated them. Finally, I find indications that regions proximate to external states and with higher incidence of taxation were more likely to have rebellions. Collectively, the analysis indicates the Little Ice-Age strengthened local intermediary groups that increasingly limited the state’s ability to collect taxes. [Note: this paper is a work in progress and preliminary findings might change]

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 9. Climate and Ecology in World History