An earlier generation of Mughal scholars used the British-Indian Empire of the late Imperial period (c. 1875–1914) as its model for interpreting the Mughal state. The highly structured military, judicial, and administrative systems of the British Raj provided the perspective from which they viewed the material on the Mughal state contained in the Persian sources. Unfortunately, the assumptions implicit in this approach caused both a misreading of the Persian texts and a misunderstanding of the Mughal state. This essay argues that the patrimonial bureaucratic empire, a model developed by Max Weber, better captures the true character of the Mughal polity. A close analysis of the major Persian text on Mughal government, the A'in-i Akbari of Abu al-Fazl, demonstrates the superiority and appropriateness of the patrimonial-bureaucratic empire as a model for understanding the Mughal state.

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