Emergence of New States: 18th Century Political Formation - History

In this blog, we will read about the emergence of new states or political groups in the subcontinent during the first half of the eighteenth century roughly from 1707 when Aurangzeb died, till the third battle of Panipat in 1761. The Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent in the time of Aurangzeb but it collapsed after his death.

The emergence of New States

With the decline in the authority of the Mughal emperors, the governors of large provinces, subadars, and the great zamindars consolidated their authority in different parts of the subcontinent. Through the eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire gradually fragmented into a number of independent, regional states.

Emergence of New States:

Broadly speaking the states of the eighteenth century can be divided into three overlapping groups:

(1) States that were old Mughal provinces like Awadh, Bengal, and Hyderabad. Although extremely powerful and quite independent, the rulers of these states did not break their formal ties with the Mughal emperor.

(2) States that had enjoyed considerable independence under the Mughals as watan jagirs. These included several Rajput principalities.

(3) The last group included states under the control of Marathas, Sikhs, and others like the Jats. These were of different sizes and had seized their independence from the Mughals after a long-drawn armed struggle.

Old Mughal Provinces

Amongst the states that were carved out of the old Mughal provinces in the eighteenth century, three stand out very prominently. These were Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad. All three states were founded by members of the high Mughal nobility who had been governors of large provinces – Sa‘adat Khan (Awadh), Murshid Quli Khan (Bengal) and Asaf Jah (Hyderabad).

All three had occupied high mansabdari positions and enjoyed the trust and confidence of the emperors. Both Asaf Jah and Murshid Quli Khan held a zat rank of 7,000 each, while Sa’adat Khan’s zat was 6,000.


The state of Hyderabad was founded by the Nizam Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724 and the Mughal emperor was unable to punish the Nizam. Nizam was confirmed as the Viceroy of the Deccan and granted the title of Asaf Jah by the Emperor in 1725.

Taking advantage of the turmoil in the Deccan and the competition amongst the court nobility, he gathered power in his hands and became the actual ruler of that region.

Asaf Jah brought skilled soldiers and administrators from northern India who welcomed the new opportunities in the south. He appointed mansabdars and granted jagirs. He did not face any interference from the Mughal emperor merely confirmed his decisions.

The state of Hyderabad was constantly engaged in a struggle against the Marathas to the west and with independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) of the plateau. The ambitions of the Nizam to control the rich textile-producing areas of the Coromandel coast in the east were checked by the British who were becoming increasingly powerful in that region.


Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk (c1722-39) was appointed as the governor of Awadh by Emperor Muhammad Shah in 1972. Later he founded an autonomous state and produced military reforms, thereby making Awadh economically and politically strong.

Awadh was a prosperous state as it controlled the Ganga plains and 55 on the trade route between Bengal and north India. Burhan-ul-Mulk also held the combined offices of political (subadari), financial (diwani) and miltary ( faujdari).

Saadat Khan tried to reduce the Mughal influence in Awadh by reducing the number of office holders (jagirdars) appointed by the Mughals. For further control he reduced the size of jagirs, and appointed his own loyal servants to vacant positions.

The accounts of jagirdars were checked to prevent any cheating and the revenues of all the districts were reassessed by officials appointed by the Nawab's court. Like Bengal, Awadh also made use of revenue farmers called (ijaradars) to assess and collect the revenue.

New social groups like moneylenders and bankers came to influence the management of the state's revenue system, because they provided guarantee of the amount to be paid by the revenue farmers, which had not happened in the past.

Saadat Khan treated Hindus and Muslims equally in the matter of employment. He was summoned to Delhi at the time of Nadir Shah's invasion.


Bengal gradually broke away from the Mughal control under Murshid Quli Khan (c 1717-27). He transferred his capital from Dacca to Murshidabad. He gradually assumed autonomy, though continuing to pay tribute to the Mughal emperor. He carried out the following reforms.

• Reorganisation of the finances by transfer of large parts of jagir lands into khalisa (crown) lands and introducing of the system of revenue farming.

• Reorganisation of administration by giving equal opportunities for employment to Muslims and Hindus. His policy of appointing local Hindu zamindars and money lenders as revenue farmers led to the rise and growth of a new landed aristocracy in Bengal.

• Expansion of trade and commerce by encouraging the Indian and foreign merchants provided security to them on roads and rivers, checked private trade by officials, prevented bungling in customs administration, and so on.

• Foreign trading companies maintaining strict control over their activities; preventing the servants of the East India Company from abusing the privileges granted to the company by the Mughal far mans of 1691 (Aurangzeb's) and 1717 (Faruk Siyar's).

• Establishment of law and order by suppressing tie rebellious zamindars. The state went under the control of the British after the Battle of Plassey.

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(3) Comments

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Good information


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