Sovereignty and Service Relationships in the Timurid Corporate Dynasty under Babur: The Continuing Legacy of the Chingis Khanid Political System

Author: 
Hanson, Paul Lavern
Year: 
1985

     Descended through his father from Timur and through his mother from Chingis Khan, Babur's own political options and actions were shaped by key aspects of the political system which the latter had created and the former had adopted. One important element of this political system was the concept of a closed corporate dynasty in which there were inherent tensions between the ruler, who in theory claimed universal sovereignty, and the other members of the dynasty, who were believed to have rights to share in that sovereignty and its benefits. A second element was the expanded use of service relationships to enlarge the numbers and enhance the loyalty of a prince's military followers, thus broadening his support beyond the ties of tribal and kinship affinity. Babur's failure to preserve Timurid political power in Central Asia and his success in establishing his dynasty in India can both be better understood in light of the operation of these key aspects of the Chingis Khanid/Timurid political system.
     After examining the origins of this system under Chingis Khan and Timur's attempts to link himself and his family with Chingis Khanid legitimacy, the resultant ambiguity in relationship between the two dynasties is then discussed. This ambiguity contributed to Babur's difficulty in mobilizing adequate numbers of reliable service retainers among the Mughuls of Central Asia. That problem, along with the intradynastic conflict with his brothers and cousins for political supremacy in the region, resulted in his expulsion from Transoxiana. It was only after those agnatic rivals had been removed and his service relationships had been reorganized, especially by expansion of his personal household, that Babur was able to be much more successful in Afghanistan and India.

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