Part of the International conference on Maharashtra in September 2021 -Roy S. Fischel, SOAS, University of London
The study of western Maharashtra in the early modern period presents a special challenge to modern-day historians. More than anywhere else in India, even in the poorly documented Deccan, historical writing in Maharashtra has been meagre and at best patchy. Particularly problematic is the first half of the seventeenth century, a period during which no official historiography has been produced. This substantial lacuna is closely linked to the sociopolitical processes that took part in shaping the region, highlighting the connections between historical processes and historiographical practices. This paper aims at exploring the practice of history writing in the western Desh around the crisis of the early seventeenth century. I suggest to examine it in relation to three interlinked sociopolitical issues. First is the continuous predominance of Persian chronicles (tārīkh) as the major genre of self-conscious history writing. Second is the association of writing in Persian, and in the tārīkh genre, with the circulation of migratory elites. Third is the role of royal patronage in both history writing and circulation. With these three elements, I argue that the practice of history writing depended on certain sociopolitical conditions, whose persistence necessitated the association with networks of circulation and production. Once those were disrupted, historical writing itself has ceased, leaving us with a daunting void.