Urban Histories of Rajasthan

Religion, Politics and Society (1550 –1800)

by Elizabeth M. Thelen


Format: Royal Hardback
Published: May 2022
Pages: 260
Illustrations: 4 black & white images and 3 maps
Series: Studies in the History and Culture of the Persianate World of The British Institute of Persian Studies


Descriptions in literature of premodern Indian cities have included a diversity of peoples found in the streets and markets, evoking a sense of wealth and abundance, and connection to regional and global networks of trade and production. But they also raise questions on how the residents lived together and negotiated their differences: which differences mattered, when and to whom? How did state actions and policies affect urban society and the lives of various communities? How and why did conflict occur in urban spaces?

In considering these questions, this book explores the histories of urban communities in the three cities of Ajmer, Nagaur and Pushkar in Rajasthan, between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The focus of this study is on everyday life and contextualising religious practices and conflicts by considering patterns of patronage and looking at conflict more broadly within society. Various archival documents are examined, from family and institutional records to state registers, and the findings demonstrate the complex and sometimes contradictory ways religion intersected with the political, economic and social realms. Negotiations and shared norms meant that many patronage patterns and processes persisted, albeit in altered forms, and it was the robustness of these structures that contributed to the resilience of urban spaces and society in precolonial Rajasthan.


Elizabeth M. Thelen is a postdoctoral research associate in the History Department at the University of Exeter, where she is part of the research team for the project ‘Forms of Law in the Early Modern Persianate World, c. 1700–1900’. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in History, specialising in the history of South Asia, and her PhD dissertation received the British Institute of Persian Studies Early Career Researcher Prize.