by Ahmed Khan, Founder, The Rahnuma Daily
(RAHNUMA) Renowned for his lavish lifestyle and patronage of the arts, India’s Mughal Emperor Akbar controlled around 25% of the world’s GDP during his time. That would translate to a staggering net worth of Akbar at $21 trillion USD today.
Indians during the Mughal Empire were among the wealthiest in the world, which likely explains why they did not topple the Mughals, nor revolt in large numbers against them like they eventually did with the British Raj.
In fact, the British Raj was known for its racism against Indians, inspired by its misinterpretations of Christianity.
Even Winston Churchill often made disparaging comments about Indians, particularly in private conversation according to historians. At one point, Churchill explicitly told his Secretary of State for India, that he “hated Indians” and considered them “a beastly people with a beastly religion”.
However, unlike the British, twelve out of the seventeen Mughal Emperors were born to Hindu mothers.
By the late 17th century, the Mughal Empire was at its peak and had expanded to include almost 90 percent of the Indian subcontinent. It enforced a uniform customs and tax-administration system.
In 1700, the royal exchequer of Emperor Aurangzeb reported annual revenue of more than £100 million, or $450 million, more than ten times that of his contemporary Louis XIV of France, while controlling just 7 times the population.
By 1700, Mughal India had become the world’s largest economy, ahead of Qing China and Western Europe, containing approximately 24.2% of the World’s population, and producing about a quarter of world output.
Mughal India produced about 25% of global industrial output into the early 18th century.
India’s GDP growth increased under the Mughal Empire, exceeding growth in the prior 1,500 years.
The Mughals were responsible for building an extensive road system, creating a uniform currency, and the unification of the country. The Mughals adopted and standardized the rupee currency introduced by Sur Emperor Sher Shah Suri.
The Mughals minted tens of millions of coins, with the purity of at least 96%, without debasement until the 1720s.
The empire met global demand for Indian agricultural and industrial products.
Cities and towns also boomed under the Mughal Empire, which had a relatively high degree of urbanization (15% of its population lived in urban centers), more urban than Europe at the time and British India in the 19th century.
Multiple cities had a population between a quarter-million and half-million people, while some including Agra (in Agra Subah) hosted up to 800,000 people and Dhaka (in Bengal Subah) with over 1 million. 64% of the workforce were in the primary sector (including agriculture), while 36% were in the secondary and tertiary sectors.
The workforce had a higher percentage in non-primary sectors than Europe at the time; in 1700, 65–90% of Europe’s workforce were in agriculture, and in 1750, 65–75% were in agriculture.
According to British economist Angus Maddison, India’s share of the world economy went from 24.4% in 1700 to 4.2% in 1950.
Ahmed Khan is the Founder of The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online global English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper established in 1921. More than 81.1 million Indians identify Urdu as their language, and as per the annual INA (Indian Newspapers Association) report, ReDD ranks among the top 5 most widely circulated and read Urdu daily print newspapers throughout India. Ahmed resides in Hyderabad at his maternal ancestral home and can be contacted at, email@example.com