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Class 12 History Chapter 8 Peasants, Zamindars and the State Agrarian Society and the Mughal Empire

NCERT Solutions for Class 12 History Chapter 8 Questions and Answers

The Name “Peasants, Zamindars and the State Agrarian Society and the Mughal Empire” of class 12 History chapter 8 gives students enhances the understanding of agrarian history. This chapter was the first choice of examiner for your class’s 12th board exam in the past year questions where many questions came from this chapter. Memorysclub history team of teachers provides the most suitable exam-oriented for class 12 history peasants, zamindars, and the state agrarian society and the Mughal empire.

1. What are the problems in using the Ain as a source for reconstructing agrarian history? How do historians deal with this situation?

Answer 1 

The Ain-i Akbari, written by Abu’l Fazl in 1598, contains valuable information for reconstructing the agrarian history of the Mughal Empire. However, historians have identified several problems and limitations when using the Ain as a source:

  • Errors in Totaling: Some minor errors in totalling have been detected in the Ain-i Akbari. While these errors do not significantly affect the overall quantitative accuracy of the document, they highlight the need for caution when relying solely on the numerical data presented.
  • Skewed Data: The data collected in the Ain-i Akbari was not uniform across all provinces. For example, Abu’l Fazl did not provide any description regarding the caste composition of the zamindars (landowners) in Bengal and Orissa (Odisha). This imbalance in data coverage can limit the understanding of agrarian practices and social dynamics in certain regions.
  • Incomplete Parameters: Although Ain provides detailed fiscal data, some important parameters such as wages and prices have not been adequately incorporated. The absence of such crucial economic indicators limits the comprehensive analysis of agrarian history.
  • Limited Regional Relevance: The detailed list of prices and wages found in the Ain-i Akbari predominantly pertains to the capital Agra and its surrounding regions. Therefore, its value for understanding agrarian conditions and economic activities in other parts of the Mughal Empire is limited.

To address these limitations and enhance the understanding of agrarian history, historians have taken several approaches:

  • Supplementing with Provincial Records: Historians have supplemented the Ain-i Akbari’s account by incorporating information obtained from other sources, such as detailed revenue records from provinces like Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. These additional records provide insights into local agrarian practices, landholding patterns, and economic dynamics.
  • Utilizing East India Company Records: The records of the East India Company, which interacted with various regions of the Mughal Empire, offer valuable information regarding agricultural production, land revenue systems, and economic conditions. Historians have utilized these records to complement and expand upon the insights provided by the Ain.

By combining the information from the Ain-i Akbari with supplementary sources, historians have attempted to overcome the limitations and gaps in the original text, enabling a more comprehensive and nuanced reconstruction of agrarian history during the Mughal period.


What are some limitations of using the Ain-i Akbari as a source for the agrarian history of the Mughal Empire?

  1. A) Errors in Totalling
  2. B) Skewed data
  3. C) Incomplete parameters
  4. D) All of the above
  5. E) None of the above

Answer –  D) All of the above

How have historians addressed the limitations of the Ain-i Akbari when studying agrarian history?

  1. A) Supplementing with provincial records
  2. B) Utilizing East India Company records
  3. C) Ignoring the limitations and solely relying on the Ain-i Akbari
  4. D) A and B only
  5. E) None of the above

Answer –  D) A and B only

Ain - e - Akbari book and Class 12 History Chapter 8​
2. To what extent is it possible to characterise agricultural production in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries as subsistence agriculture? Give reasons for your answer.

Answer 2

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, agriculture in India experienced constant expansion due to the abundance of land, available labour, and the mobility of peasants. While the primary purpose of agriculture was to feed the population, the cultivation of basic staples such as rice, wheat, and millet did not mean that agriculture was solely for subsistence. Several factors indicate the coexistence of subsistence and commercial aspects in agricultural practices during this period:

Jins-i Kamil or Perfect Crops: The Mughal state encouraged peasants to cultivate crops that brought in more revenue, such as cotton and sugarcane. Cotton was grown over a large territory in Central India and the Deccan plateau, while Bengal was renowned for its sugar production. These cash crops represented the commercial aspect of agriculture, aimed at generating income beyond subsistence needs.

Cash Crops: In addition to cotton and sugarcane, various other cash crops were cultivated. This included different types of oilseeds (such as mustard) and lentils. The cultivation of these crops provided economic benefits to peasants and contributed to commercial agricultural practices.

Introduction of New Crops: During the seventeenth century, new crops like maize (Makka) reached India via Africa and Spain. It became one of the major crops in western India. Vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and chillies were introduced from the New World, while new fruits like pineapple and papaya also reached India. Peasants played a crucial role in growing these crops, further illustrating the mixed nature of subsistence and commercial agriculture.

Overall, the agriculture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in India was not solely focused on subsistence. While the cultivation of staple crops aimed to meet the basic food needs of the population, the presence of cash crops, the introduction of new crops, and the expansion of agricultural practices beyond subsistence requirements highlight the intertwined nature of subsistence and commercial agriculture in an average peasant’s holding.


What were some of the cash crops cultivated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in India?

  1. a) Rice and wheat
  2. b) Cotton and sugarcane
  3. c) Maize and lentils
  4. d) Tomatoes and potatoes

Answer: b) Cotton and sugarcane

What contributed to the expansion of agriculture beyond subsistence needs during this period?

  1. a) Abundance of land and available labour
  2. b) Introduction of new crops from the New World
  3. c) Cultivation of cash crops for economic benefits
  4. d) All of the above

Answer: d) All of the above

3. Describe the role played by women in agricultural production.

Answer 3

Women played a significant role in agricultural production during the historical period being discussed. Here are the key points regarding the role of women in agricultural activities:

Women in agricultural production played an essential role alongside men. They worked together in the fields, with men tilling and ploughing, while women engaged in activities such as sowing, weeding, threshing, and winnowing the harvest.

Women’s labour was crucial for artisanal tasks such as spinning yarn, sifting and kneading clay for pottery, and embroidery. The more commercialized the product, the greater the demand for women’s labour in its production. Peasant and artisan women not only worked in the fields but also went to the houses of their employers or to the markets if necessary.

Women in some regions, such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, sent petitions to village panchayats seeking redress and justice. They protested against their husbands’ infidelity or the neglect of the wife and children by the male head of the household. While male infidelity was not always punished, the state and higher caste groups intervened to ensure the family’s adequate provision.

 Hindu and Muslim women inherited zamindaris (landed estates) that they were free to sell or mortgage. Women zamindars were known in eighteenth-century Bengal, with notable examples like the Rajshahi zamindari being led by a woman.

In summary, women played a vital role in agricultural production in medieval India. They worked alongside men in various tasks, both in the fields and in artisanal activities. 


What were some of the tasks performed by women in agricultural production during the historical period?

  1. a) Tilling and ploughing
  2. b) Sowing and weeding
  3. c) Spinning yarn and pottery making
  4. d) All of the above

Answer: d) All of the above

In which regions did women in medieval India send petitions to seek redress and justice?

  1. a) Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra
  2. b) Bengal and Odisha
  3. c) Punjab and Haryana
  4. d) Tamil Nadu and Kerala

Answer: a) Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra

4. Discuss, with examples, the significance of monetary transactions during the period under consideration.

Answer 4

During the period under consideration, monetary transactions held great significance and had various impacts on the economy. Here are some examples that highlight the importance of monetary transactions:

Expansion of Trade Relations: The political stability provided by the Mughal Empire enabled harmonious trade relations with empires such as Ming China, Safavid Iran, and Ottoman Turkey. This facilitated an increase in overseas trade, leading to a surge in trade routes from China to the Mediterranean Sea. The establishment of these trade networks brought in a flow of goods and increased monetary transactions.

Silver Influx: The discovery of new lands and sea routes, particularly by European powers, had a profound impact on Asia’s trade with Europe. As a result, a significant amount of silver entered India as payment for goods purchased from India. This influx of silver boosted the availability of precious metal reserves within India, allowing for increased monetary transactions.

Exchange of Cash and Goods: Travelers like Jovanni Karari, an Italian traveller who visited India in 1690, noted the extensive exchange of cash and goods in the region during the 17th century. His accounts shed light on how silver reached India from different parts of the world, further contributing to monetary transactions and trade.

Villages and Monetary Market: Monetary transactions also had an impact on village economies. As villagers established connections with urban markets, there was a significant increase in monetary transactions within rural areas. Villages became integral parts of the monetary market, participating in trade and contributing to the circulation of currency.

Daily Wages and Coinage: With the rise of monetary transactions, it became easier to pay daily wages to labourers in cash instead of kind. This shift resulted in a substantial expansion of coin minting and the circulation of money. The availability of currency allowed the Mughal state to extract taxes and revenues in cash, contributing to economic stability and administrative efficiency.

In summary, monetary transactions played a crucial role in the economy during the period under consideration. The expansion of trade relations, an influx of silver, the exchange of cash and goods, the integration of villages into the monetary market, and the widespread use of coins for daily transactions all contributed to the significance of monetary transactions. These developments facilitated economic growth, trade expansion, and administrative efficiency within the Mughal Empire.


What impact did the influx of silver have on the economy during the period under consideration?

  1. a) Increased availability of precious metals
  2. b) Boosted trade relations with Europe
  3. c) Facilitated monetary transactions
  4. d) All of the above

Answer: d) All of the above

How did monetary transactions affect village economies during this period?

  1. a) Villages became integral parts of the monetary market
  2. b) Increased circulation of currency within rural areas
  3. c) Facilitated trade and exchange of goods
  4. d) All of the above

Answer: d) All of the above

5. Examine the evidence that suggests that land revenue was important for the Mughal fiscal system.

The evidence suggests that land revenue was a vital component of the Mughal fiscal system, and several administrative measures were in place to ensure control over agricultural production and the collection of revenue.

Administrative Apparatus: The Mughal Empire had a well-defined administrative apparatus to oversee the fiscal system. The diwan, or the finance minister, held the responsibility of supervising the revenue administration. This position played a crucial role in managing the empire’s economic affairs, including the collection of land revenue.

Assessment of Land Revenue: The Mughal administration conducted assessments to determine the amount of land revenue to be levied. Information about agricultural lands, including their extent and productivity, was collected to aid in fixing the taxes imposed on the people. This assessment process aimed to evaluate the agricultural potential of the land and determine its revenue-generating capacity.

Collection of Land Revenue: The collection of land revenue occurred in two stages: assessment and collection. The revenue collector, known as the amil-guzar, was responsible for collecting the land revenue from the cultivators. The Mughal authorities provided a choice to the cultivators to pay their taxes in cash or kind, with cash payment being preferred. This facilitated the state’s financial needs and allowed for a more standardized revenue collection system.

Maximizing Revenue Claims: The state officials involved in land revenue assessment sought to maximize the claims of the Mughal Empire. They aimed to extract a fair and substantial amount of revenue from the cultivators based on the productivity and classification of the land. The assessment process took into account factors such as the quality of the land, its fertility, and potential yields to determine the appropriate revenue to be paid.

Classification and Fixation of Revenue: The Ain, a comprehensive administrative document, compiled the data on cultivated and cultivable lands. Under Emperor Akbar’s reign, a classification system was implemented, and specific land revenue was fixed for each category. This categorization enabled a more standardized approach to land revenue collection based on the land’s classification and potential productivity.

In conclusion, the administrative apparatus of the Mughal Empire played a crucial role in ensuring control over agricultural production and the collection of land revenue. The assessment and collection processes, along with the role of the diwan and revenue collectors, aimed to maximize revenue claims while providing some flexibility to the cultivators. The classification and fixation of land revenue further streamlined the collection process and contributed to the economic stability of the Mughal Empire.


Who was responsible for overseeing the fiscal system and collection of land revenue in the Mughal Empire?

  1. a) Diwan
  2. b) Amil-guzar
  3. c) Emperor
  4. d) Zamindar

Answer: a) Diwan

What factors were considered in determining the appropriate revenue to be paid by cultivators?

  1. a) Quality of the land
  2. b) Fertility of the land
  3. c) Potential yields
  4. d) All of the above

Answer: d) All of the above

6. To what extent do you think caste was a factor in influencing social and economic relations in agrarian society?

Answer 6

Caste played a significant role in influencing social and economic relations in agrarian society during the period from the 16th to the 17th century. The following points highlight the extent to which caste influenced these relations:

Caste-based Division among Cultivators: Cultivators were divided based on their caste and caste-like distinctions. This division led to the existence of different groups within the agricultural community, including agricultural labourers and menials. These groups, often from lower castes, were assigned menial tasks and lacked resources, resulting in their poverty and marginalized status.

Permeation of Caste Distinctions: Caste distinctions extended beyond the traditional caste system and began to permeate other communities as well. In Muslim communities, for example, there were divisions such as halkhoron (scavengers) who held a low social status. This demonstrates how caste-based distinctions influenced social and economic relations across different religious communities.

Caste Hierarchy among Peasant Groups: Within the peasant community, caste distinctions also affected social hierarchies. In the case of Marwar Rajputs, they were equated with jats and given an inferior status in the caste hierarchy. This suggests that even among the peasant groups, caste-based divisions and hierarchies influenced social and economic relations.

Changing Status of Certain Castes: The status of certain castes varied across regions. Some castes, such as Ahirs, Gujjars, and Malis, attained an elevated status in the eastern regions. This implies that caste status could change based on geographical location and local social dynamics, impacting social and economic relations within agrarian society.

Upward Mobility of Pastoral and Fishing Castes: In some instances, pastoral and fishing castes experienced upward mobility and acquired the status of peasants. Castes like the Sadgops and Kaivatas transitioned from their traditional occupations to become part of the agricultural community. This highlights the dynamic nature of caste-based social and economic relations.

Overall, caste distinctions had a significant influence on social and economic relations in agrarian society. They determined the social status and economic opportunities of individuals and communities, creating hierarchies, marginalization, and upward mobility within the agricultural context. Caste-based poverty and social status were closely intertwined, affecting the distribution of resources, opportunities, and power within agrarian communities.


What role did caste play in influencing social and economic relations in agrarian society during the 16th and 17th centuries?

  1. a) Caste-determined land ownership among cultivators.
  2. b) Caste influenced the division of tasks among agricultural labourers.
  3. c) Caste dictated the pricing of agricultural products.
  4. d) Caste had no impact on social and economic relations.

Answer: b) Caste influenced the division of tasks among agricultural labourers.

How did caste-based distinctions extend beyond the traditional caste system in agrarian society?

  1. a) Caste distinctions were limited to Hindu communities.
  2. b) Caste distinctions influenced social hierarchies among religious communities.
  3. c) Caste distinctions only affected menial tasks within the agricultural community.
  4. d) Caste distinctions had no impact outside of the traditional caste system.

Answer: b) Caste distinctions influenced social hierarchies among religious communities.

7. How were the lives of forest dwellers transformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? (or) Describe the lives of forest-dwellers in the 16-17th centuries.

Answer 7

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the lives of forest dwellers, also known as Jangli, went through significant transformations. The following points highlight the key aspects of their lives during this period:

Occupation and Mobility: Forest dwellers engaged in activities such as hunting, gathering forest produce, and practising shifting cultivation. Their occupations varied based on specific reasons and seasons in different regions. For example, the Bhils fished in summer and collected forest produce in spring. Their mobile lifestyle was a defining characteristic.

State Demand for Resources: The state required elephants for its army, leading to the imposition of peskesh (tribute) on forest dwellers. They were expected to supply elephants to the ruling power.

Commercial Agriculture: Forest products such as honey, beeswax, gum, and lac were in high demand. The trade of these products contributed to the spread of commercial agriculture. Gum and lac, in particular, became major export items, earning valuable foreign exchange for the region.

Elephant Capture and Trade: Forest dwellers were involved in the capture and trade of elephants, meeting the demand for these animals in various contexts, including military purposes, royal processions, and trade.

Overland and Internal Trade: Some forest tribes, like the Punjab Lohanis, engaged in overland trade with Afghanistan and internal trade in Punjab. They played a role in the economic exchanges and commercial activities of the region.

Social Transformation: Social factors played a significant role in transforming the lives of forest dwellers. Many tribal chiefs rose to become zamindars (landlords) and even kings. They recruited people from their own tribes into their armies. For example, the Ahom Kings in Assam relied on tribal people who rendered military services in exchange for land.

Transition to Monarchial Systems: The transition from tribal to monarchial systems had taken place by the sixteenth century. Ain-i Akbari, a detailed account of the Mughal Empire, mentions the existence of tribal kingdoms in northeastern India. It also highlights the conquests of these kings over various tribes. The influence of new cultures, including the spread of Islam through Sufi saints, was observed in forested areas.

It is important to note that the experiences of forest dwellers varied across different regions and their interactions with external forces shaped their lives.


What occupation were forest dwellers primarily engaged in during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

  1. a) Agriculture
  2. b) Hunting and gathering
  3. c) Fishing
  4. d) Trading forest products

Answer: b) Hunting and gathering

What was the demand of the state from forest dwellers during this period?

  1. a) Supply of honey and beeswax
  2. b) Collection of forest produce
  3. c) Tribute in the form of elephants
  4. d) Provision of military services

Answer: c) Tribute in the form of elephants

8. Examine the role played by zamindars in Mughal India.

Answer 8

During the Mughal period, zamindars held a significant position in society despite not directly participating in agricultural production. Here are the key points about the role and status of zamindars in Mughal India:

Landownership and Control: Zamindars considered the land under their possession as their property (milkiyat). They had the authority to sell, mortgage, or give away their land. This ownership and control over land gave them economic power and influence.

Social and Economic Privileges: Zamindars enjoyed high social and economic privileges due to their superior status in society. They belonged to the upper castes, which added to their exalted position. Their social status often granted them respect and authority in local communities.

Service to the State: Zamindars rendered services (khidmat) to the Mughal state, which further elevated their position. They provided various services, such as maintaining law and order, collecting revenue on behalf of the state, and contributing military resources. In return, they received financial compensation and attained higher positions in the state hierarchy.

Revenue Collection: One of the significant roles of zamindars was the collection of revenue on behalf of the state. They had the right to collect taxes from peasants and other landholders. The revenue collected by the zamindars served as a source of income for the state and themselves.

Control over Military Resources: Zamindars maintained control over military resources in their territories. They had fortified strongholds and well-organized armed units comprising cavalry, artillery, and infantry. This control over military power added to their influence and helped them maintain their authority.

Development of Agricultural Land: Zamindars played a vital role in developing agricultural land. They assisted in the settlement of farmers by providing them with loans, agricultural tools, and other resources. This support resulted in increased agricultural productivity and facilitated the sale and purchase of land by the zamindars. Some zamindars also held bazaars where farmers could sell their crops.

High Social Status: Zamindars occupied the highest position in the social hierarchy of Mughal society. They were seen as the elite class and enjoyed privileges and respect from the local communities. Their position at the top of the social pyramid gave them significant influence and authority.

Exploitation and Relations with Peasants: While some zamindars exploited the people under their authority, their relationship with farmers depended on mutual dependence and hereditary ties. In times of revolt against the state, zamindars were often able to align themselves with the peasants due to shared interests and connections.

It is important to note that the role and behaviour of zamindars varied across regions and individual zamindars. While some were oppressive and exploitative, others acted as benevolent patrons and contributed positively to the socioeconomic development of 

their territories.


What was one of the significant roles of zamindars in Mughal India?

  1. a) Direct participation in agricultural production
  2. b) Collection of revenue on behalf of the state
  3. c) Providing military services to the Mughal Empire
  4. d) Engaging in trade and commerce

Answer: b) Collection of revenue on behalf of the state

What contributed to the high social status of zamindars in Mughal society?

  1. a) Their ownership of agricultural land
  2. b) Their involvement in trade and commerce
  3. c) Their caste affiliation
  4. d) Their participation in religious ceremonies

Answer: a) Their ownership of agricultural land

9. Discuss the ways in which panchayat and village headmen regulated rural society.(or)Explain the role of Panchayats in the Mughal rural Indian society during the 16th-17th centuries.

The panchayat in Mughal rural Indian society during the 16th and 17th centuries held significant importance and had various functions. Here is the information compiled from the provided content and my knowledge:

The panchayat, meaning assembly of elders,” was a representative body that consisted of elders from different castes and communities within the village, excluding the menial class. The composition of the panchayat was usually heterogeneous, reflecting the diversity of the village population.

The village panchayat was headed by the Muqaddam or Mandal, who was elected with the consensus of the village elders. The Muqaddam held the office as long as he enjoyed the confidence of the village elders. One of his primary functions was to prepare the village accounts with the assistance of the patwari, who was responsible for record-keeping and administrative tasks.

The main function of the panchayat was to uphold caste boundaries and ensure that the social norms and customs within the village were maintained. It had the authority to levy fines and taxes on the villagers and could also impose punishments such as expulsion from the community.

Each Jati or caste in the village had its own Jati panchayat, which wielded considerable power in society. The Jati panchayats arbitrated civil disputes between members of different castes, mediated land disputes, and determined whether marriages adhered to caste norms. The decisions taken by the Jati panchayats were often respected by the state.

The panchayats also served as a court of appeal and were responsible for ensuring that the state fulfilled its moral responsibilities. They played a crucial role in seeking justice and addressing grievances. When the elites made what was perceived as morally illegitimate demands, petitions were collectively made to the panchayat by groups or castes or communities. The panchayat often suggested compromises in cases of excessive revenue demands. If no resolution was reached, peasants sometimes resorted to drastic measures such as deserting the village.

Overall, the panchayats played a significant role in regulating rural society, maintaining social order, resolving disputes, and upholding caste boundaries. They were important institutions that represented the interests of the villagers and ensured justice within the community.


What was the primary function of the panchayat in Mughal rural Indian society?

  1. a) Collecting taxes and fines from villagers
  2. b) Electing the Muqaddam or Mandal
  3. c) Maintaining social norms and customs within the village
  4. d) Overseeing record-keeping and administrative tasks

Answer: c) Maintaining social norms and customs within the village

Which of the following statements about the panchayat is true?

  1. a) The panchayat was composed solely of elders from the menial class.
  2. b) The Muqaddam or Mandal held the office for a fixed term.
  3. c) The Jati panchayats had limited power in society.
  4. d) The panchayats served as a court of appeal and addressed grievances.

Answer: d) The panchayats served as a court of appeal and addressed grievances.

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