The Mughal Empire: Economy, Technology & Trade

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  • 0:04 The Mughal Empire
  • 0:40 Economy
  • 1:34 Trade
  • 2:46 Technology
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason McCollom
From the 15th through the 18th centuries, the Mughal Empire sustained a powerful agricultural and trade-based economy with impressive military technology. Learn about these aspects of the Mughal Empire in this lesson.

The Mughal Empire

Are you reading this at night? If so, you might be wearing pajamas. 'Pajama' is a Hindi word from India during the reign of the Islamic Mughal Empire, which ruled from the 15th through 18th centuries. The Mughals produced a high-quality, lightweight, cotton fabric, which, as Europeans found out, was more comfortable to wear in the summer than wool or linen. Cotton was one of the many lucrative trade goods that, along with agricultural production, made the Mughal economy boom. However, the Mughal Empire came under the control of the British by the end of the 18th century.


As a predominately rural empire, agricultural production was at the center of the Mughal economy. Mughal administrators made their way to rural areas, and along with local leaders, urged villagers to clear forests for farming and harvesting various goods for market. Soon Mughal farmers were growing and exporting large quantities of highly valued agricultural commodities, such as tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, pepper, ginger, indigo, opium, and even silk.

The Mughal rulers made sure to bring in revenue by taxing these agricultural goods. Scholars and bureaucrats studied many years of production in order to calculate uniform tax rates. Farmers and villages paid taxes on their goods with silver or copper coins. As agricultural lands expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries, Mughal economic growth boomed, and the economy came to be worth hundreds of millions of rupees per year.


The Mughal economy supplemented agricultural output with international trade. India had for centuries been the center of Indian Ocean trade. But by the 16th century, with Europeans connecting the world through sea lanes, India became integrated into the global network. For instance, back to those pajamas. Indian cotton textiles were highly in demand in Europe for summer wear and underwear. Calico, cotton textiles from Calicut, were especially popular. Mughal merchants took these and other goods as far as Russia, as well as to Indian Ocean ports. Through this trade, silver from Spanish America and global foodstuffs poured into the Mughal Empire.

Happy to have trade come to them, the Mughals welcomed the establishment of European trading forts along the coast. The Portuguese were the first to do this in 1510 at the port of Goa, and other nations followed suit. Soon the English, Dutch, and French had trading interests in coastal India. Because European maritime and military prowess and technology was outdoing that of the Mughals, France and, more notably, England came to dominate the Indian Ocean trade routes. This caused money to siphon from the Mughal economy.

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