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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: History

HIST46230: Sources of political power in South Asia, 1400 - 1800

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To gain insights into a multi-sided political history of early modern South Asia that takes into account transregional and local perspectives.
  • To study political actors and their different community building exercises from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
  • To explore a wide range of primary source materials in translation, from chronicles and prosopographical works, to hagiographies, travel accounts, advice literature, newsletters, as well as visual and material cultures.
  • To critically discuss a diverse historiography and recent scholarship that has started to investigate spheres of the political beyond the early modern state.


  • This module investigates spheres of the political and political protagonists in early modern South Asia. Building on recent advances in the field of political culture in the subcontinent we will study the sources of power that ambitious people needed to tap into to formulate, build and consolidate political rule, to challenge it and to overthrow it. From warrior gangs to warrior queens, former slaves to imperial princes, renegades and rebels to prophets and saints, we will study what constituted political power in early modern South Asia and how it changed, who was able to articulate it and how. A particular focus will be on the transregional histories of political power and traditions that connected the subcontinent with western and Central Asia as well as the Red Sea region. Global and locally sensitive approaches to history will complement each other to gain a multi-layered insight into the historical trajectory of political formations of the period.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of different modes and discourses of the political in early modern South Asia and its global linkages.
  • Insights into a variety of political actors, a history of the state, religious movements, challenges to the state and forms of local political formation.
  • Knowledge of the crucial historiographical debates on political culture in South Asia from a subcontinental and global perspective and skills to critique and elaborate on them.
  • An overview of the political history of South Asia from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.
Subject-specific Skills:
    Key Skills:

      Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

      • Seminars will evolve around case studies of different political actors and formations from early modern South Asia. We will explore the relevant historical contexts and study political protagonists through a diverse corpus of primary sources to discuss critically what made them political, how their community building exercises shaped the political landscape and what the social and cultural sources of political power were that they could tap into. Seminars will involve a good amount of preparatory reading and the exploration of a rich historiography on the political history of the subcontinent.

      Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

      Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
      Seminars 10 Weekly in term 2 hours 20
      Preparation and Reading 280
      Total 300

      Summative Assessment

      Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
      Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
      Essay 5000 words 100%

      Formative Assessment:

      Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. [ For modules with exams: The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination.]

      Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University