Q. 84.5( 6 Votes )
Discuss the extent to which Bernier’s account enables historians to reconstruct contemporary rural society.
Bernier gave two very different rather contradictory account of the rural society:
1. In his FIRST ACCOUNT he drew a very poor picture of the peasantry.
a. Vast tracts of the countryside was little more than sand, barren mountains, badly cultivated and highly populated.
b. A considerable portion of land remains untilled for want of labour.
c. The land lords are greedy and exploiting the peasants, when the peasants are unable to pay the revenue, their children are taken away as slaves. Thus the peasants are abandoning the countryside.
2. In his SECOND ACCOUNT Bernier wrote.
a. Vast tract of the countryside is extremely fertile, population is sufficiently abundant and the land is well tilled.
b. The kingdom of Bengal surpasses Egypt not only in the productions of rice and corn; but also in the production of commercial crops like silk cotton and Indigo.
c. Artisans are although lazy but are employed in the manufacturing of carpets, brocades and like and cotton cloth.
4. He also added that gold and silver from every part of the world is coming to India.
Thus, from the above two contradictory accounts, it is very difficult for historians to construct the rural history.
Bernier, actually belonged to a different intellectual tradition he was far more preoccupied with comparing India with the west and generally emphasizing on the superiority of the latter.
Not only this, Bernier was also participating in a debate in Europe between two economic systems ; Capitalism vs. socialism and his description of Mughal India (where peasantry was poor as the king was the sole owner of the land) was meant to serve as a warning to those who do not recognize the merits of private property.
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A warning for europe
Berinier warned that if European kings followed the Mughal model:
Their kingdoms would be very from being well-ciltivated and peopled, so well built, so rich, so polite and flourishing as we see them. Our kings are otherwise rich and powerful; and we must avow that they are much better and more royally served. They would soon be kings of deserts and solitudes, of beggars and barbarians such as those whom I have been representing(Mughals). We should find the great cities and great Borroughs (boroughs) rendered uninhabitable because of ill air; and to fall to ruine (ruin) without any bodies (anybody) taking care of repairing them; the hillocks abondon’d and field overspread with bushes or fill’d with pestilential marishes (marshes), as hath been already intimidated.
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