Some of the acknowledged elements of early medieval society, such as feudalisation, decentralisation, decline of trade and village self-sufficiency, have become virtual axioms of historic and economic texts. The keystone in this structure has been, and remains, the broadly-based perception of the under-monetisation of early medieval society and the relapse of its economy into the exchange of goods and services by barter. This model has been encouraged by the relative silence of Indian numismatists on the subject of post-classical, pre-Sultanate coinage. This contrasts sharply with the wealth of information and analysis on Mauryan, or Gupta, Sultanate or Mughal coinage. Economic historians, taking cues from the numismatic literature, have conjured up a dismal picture of money, and hence exchange, in the period AD 750-1200.
The decline of the ruling Pratihara Empire during the tenth century left a political void in which a number of former feudatories contested for supremacy. After a period of rapidly changing fortunes, the Chalukya line gained control of Gujarat and its extensive sea coast. From the late-tenth to the late-thirteenth century, this region enjoyed a sustained period of relative stability in the political sphere, which fostered dynamic economic activity. The vitality of the Gujarati economy in this period has been remarked by many writers. There was a surplus of the major agricultural products above and beyond local consumption requirements. The gentle contours of the landscape facilitated transportation by wheeled vehicles, and the ox-cart became the common means of moving bulk goods from upcountry to the sea ports. There were some local industries too, which used the country's natural products as raw materials. Primary amongst these were textiles, tanning and metal fabrication.
Further, the economic history of early medieval India also states that the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the commercial products were conducted by an active commercial class. The Gujarati merchants became renowned for their business insightfulness. In addition to marketing their own products, they participated in a coastal sea trade with South India, and the ports of Gujarat became prominent transhipment points for the products of other regions. The hinterland kingdoms of Mewar and Malwa were dependent on Gujarat's ports for their import and export trade, and more than one war was fought over their possession The Gujarati traders, prospering from their key position organized risk ventures for sea trade with the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia. The greater proportion of Indian Ocean commerce would seem to have been in the hands of Arab merchants, who had sizeable communities settled in Gujarat's coastal cities. This was made possible by the acceptance of the Chalukya kings, who extended their help to the Arab traders.
Moreover, anecdotal evidence testifies to a pervasive atmosphere of equity and fairness in commercial dealings in Gujarat. The different trades were organised into guilds, which formulated and enforced rules of behaviour for their members. The government ensured peace and public order; arranged the maintenance of roads; maintained the harbours and provided pilots; and generally supervised commerce. Monetary history ideally is both an evidential and interpretive source for the wider realm of the economic history. Certain types of hoard analysis and coin analysis offer greater resources for the monetary history.
(Last Updated on : 02-08-2014)
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