[INDOLOGY] Najaf Haider at the University of Paris

Agathe Keller kellera at univ-paris-diderot.fr
Fri Nov 12 11:50:30 UTC 2021

Dear colleagues and friends,

Najaf Haider (JNU) as invited professor at the University of Paris will be giving some seminars next week in Paris, at the Grand Moulin Campus in Paris.

-15/11/2021  Center for the History of Philosophy and Science seen from Asia, Afica, And so on
14h30-16h30 Najaf Haider Thinking with numbers: Quantification and mathematical practices in early modern South Asia
(salle 631-B Kadinksy, Condorcet)

-16/11/2021 9h30 à 11h «History and Technology of Science in India 1200-1700 » (salle 146, Olympe de Gouges)

-  19/11/2021  14h à 17h Accountancy, Record Keeping and Raqam Notation in the Mughal Empire: Reading BNF Manuscript of the Khulasatu's Siyaq (Suplement Persan 303) (salle 734 A Gris, Condorcet)

Seminars will be in hybrid form and you can contact kellera at univ-paris-diderot.fr<mailto:kellera at univ-paris-diderot.fr> to obtain the link for the online conferences

with all best

A. Keller

Thinking with numbers: Quantification and mathematical practices in early modern South Asia

Dr. Najaf Haider
Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History
Centre for Historical Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

In the late sixteenth century, a series of measures were taken in the Mughal Empire (1526-1757 AD) to standardize time, units of weight and measurement and currency. The new methods and figures had implications for a large section of the society. Transiting to the new system of reckoning was difficult to many accustomed with pre-existing traditions. Two major institutions of the Mughal Empire, state and market, were directly implicated in the process. The purpose of the state was to introduce uniformity in revenue collection and monetization while the market preferred diversity. The issue of fixing exchange rates of diverse currencies often pitched the state and the money-changers cum bankers (sarrafs) against each other and introduced us to the various ways of thinking among people about money and value.

Thinking with numbers was evident also in the use statistics and in accountancy in written records. Records were kept by government offices, merchants, bankers and individual households for planning and reference that nourished learning. The professional record keepers equipped themselves with linguistic and mathematical skills, the art of notation (raqam), mnemonic devices and the ability to translate loosely defined units into precise terms and numbers. In the seventeenth century manuals were produced in Persian for the guidance of persons seeking to acquire proficiency in accountancy (siyaq), clerical work and knowledge of administrative procedures (dasturu’l amal). A work which deserves special mention is the Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl, Akbar’s official historian. The richness of its statistical material and empirical data on agricultural land, revenue rates, state expenditure, cost of minting, exchange rates of currencies, and wages and prices is unparalleled. The presentation will also look briefly at how modern historians used quantitative and serial methods to reconstruct the history of Mughal economy and society.

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