Examining the patterns of evolution of interstate systems in Asia, this article argues that the relationship of state-builders to nomads stood in much of continental Asia stood in sharp contrast to the relationships between rulers and mercantile-financial elites in Europe. Due to the productivity of wet-rice economies, continental Asian rulers were not dependent on merchants and bankers to raise armies to wage war or suppress rebellions unlike their European counterparts. Hence they had no need to grant bankers and merchants concessions, especially monopolies which is how large volumes of capital are accumulated. Geographic conditions however meant that while the lack of internal frontiers meant that large continental-sized states could be created in China, this was not possible in the Indian subcontinent where a more chequered equilibrium where nomads enjoyed a military advantage in arid and semi-arid tracts meant that trans-subcontinental polities enjoyed only a fleeting existence. In mainland southeast Asia, where dense forests and a difficult terrain insulated the region from nomadic conquests, a third variant of interstate relations emerged.
Asian Review of World Histories – Brill
Published: Jun 29, 2013