The Mughal Empire was the largest manufacturing and economic power in the world at the end of the 17th century. The famous Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, is a prime example of the Mughal wealth.
The British were so impressed by the wealth and power of the Mughal emperors, that the slightly changed word “mughal” entered the English language. The term “mogul” describes an all-powerful ruler of industry such as the music or finance industry.
The rulers of the Mughal Empire owned many of the world’s biggest diamonds, including the famous Koh-i-Noor. Originally weighing 186 carats (37.2 g), the diamond was later re-cut and is now part of the British crown jewels.
The throne of Mughal Emperors, called the Peacock throne, is the best illustration of the prosperity of the Mughal Empire. Made of over 1 tonne of gold (1150 kg) and 230 kg of gems it would be worth over one billion US dollars today.
The famous gemstones such as the Koh-i-Noor (186 carats), the Akbar Shah (95 carats), the Shah (88.77 carats), the Jehangir (83 carats), and the Timur ruby (283 carats) decorated the Peacock throne.
A brief history of the Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire, known also as the Mogul Empire, ruled most of today’s Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Mughal rulers were Mongols by ethnicity and Muslims by religion. Most of their subjects were Hindus.
The first Mughal Emperor, Babur, was a descendant of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. They had the wish for conquest in their DNA.
The third Mughal Emperor, Akbar, was one of the best rulers in human history.
Akbar expanded the size of the empire, allowed the freedom of religion, improved human rights, and the education system. The Hindus could get senior positions in the government and military. He also implemented reforms that led to the economic prosperity and stability of the Mughal Empire.
The empire reached its peak under the emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled from 1658 to 1707. The following story shows the importance of the Mughal Empire on a global scale:
When the English pirate Henry Every looted a convoy of Mughal ships, returning from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, furious emperor Aurangzeb triggered the first global manhunt in the human history to get his revenge.
The Aurangzeb’s descendants were weak rulers who were mere puppets to the British. The British East India Company defeated and exiled the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1858.
The wealth of the Mughal Empire
Around 1700, the GDP of the Mughal Empire had risen to 24% of the world economy surpassing both China and entire Western Europe. The Mughal Empire became the world’s dominant power.
The wealth of the Mughal Empire around the year 1700 would translate to a staggering $21 trillion today.
The Mughals were the world’s leaders in manufacturing at the end of the 17th century, producing 25% of the world’s industrial output.
The Europeans connected the world through sea lanes and the Mughal Empire became integrated into international trade. Through trade, silver from the Spanish Americas poured into the empire. Spices from the Far East traveled through the empire to Europe. The most traded spice, the black pepper, originated from India.
Europe wanted Mughal products, especially cotton and silk textiles. The high-quality cotton fabric from India was much more comfortable to wear than wool or linen. Actually, the English word for the “pyjamas” originated from the Hindi word “pajama”, meaning the “loose trousers”.
Half of the manufacturing power of the Mughal Empire came from the province of Bengal Subah. The province encompassed much of modern Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal and it accounted for 12% of the world’s GDP. Today’s equivalent would be the combined GDPs of Italy, the UK, France, Brazil, and Canada.
Contemporary scholars described the province as a “Paradise of nations”. The people of Bengal Subah had the world’s highest living standards and wages.
The living standards in the Bengal Subah were better than those in Great Britain, which had the highest living standards in Europe.
The plunder of Bengal Subah contributed to the Industrial Revolution in Britain during the 18th century. The money looted from the Bengal was used for industrial investments and vastly increased British wealth.
After the decline of the Mughal Empire and a century of the British oppression and exploitation, India lost much of its global power. However, today India is one of the emerging superpowers of the world and has the world’s fastest-growing economy.