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Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World by C. A. Bayly

By C. A. Bayly

During this outstanding and impressive survey Dr Bayly reports the increase, apogee and decline of what has become referred to as `the moment British Empire' -- the good growth of British dominion in another country (particularly in Asia and the center East) throughout the French progressive and Napoleonic period that, coming among the lack of the US and the next partition of Africa, constitutes the imperative part of British imperial history.

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Extra resources for Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830

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Large areas of the country were controlled by local chieftains and access to land rights was determined by complex matters of caste status and hierarchies of honour. All the same, historians working in many parts of India have recently come to discern trends which run parallel in some ways to what has been seen in the Ottoman empire. First, there is clear evidence, especially in the eighteenth century, of the decline of prebendal holdings (temporary holdings for service) and the rise of patrimonial ones (more equivalent to direct ownership).

These grants, called jagirs in India (Habib 1963) and timarsamong the Ottomans (Shaw and Shaw 1977; cf Savory, 1980), were payments for military and civil office; they were not 'landholdings' in the direct sense, and careful rulers kept moving their servants from one region to the next. Far from being absolute and rigidly centralised, imperial rule allowed very great discretion to local leaders, tribal heads and great men of merchant corporations, although these had no formal standing in Islamic law.

THE MUSLIM EMPIRES: CONTRASTS AND COMPARISONS Some important distinctions between the empires, however, help 21 Imperial Meridian us to explain their differing fates as all three entered the era of 'so-called decline' (Owen 1981: 5) and ultimate abasement before European power. In the first place, the centralised bureaucratic machinery of the Ottoman empire was different in intricate detail and also more highly developed than that of the Safavids or Mughals. The imperial levy and training school in Istanbul (the devshirme)brought generation after generation of young men from the Christian lands to the north and the Arab and African lands to the south to be trained as the sultan's personal servants.

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