THE MILITARY SYSTEM OF THE MARATHAS
The 18th Century Indian politics were gunpowder military states ruled by the feudal elites which replaced the Mughal nobility in many parts of the Indian sub-continent. The Maratha state with imperial ambitions was also essentially a military organization supported by its civil administrative apparatus. It is no secret that the military and civil aspects of the Maratha state in the 17th and 18th Century were two sides of the same coin; military force underpinned the collection of revenue and the capacity for revenue collection shored up the military strength of the Maratha state. Since every state is an organic unit, even a cursory examination of its character demands an inquiry into the nature of its component parts. S.N. Sen researched both the component parts of the Maratha state, military and civil, to produce his famous classic works. This was never an easy task given the paucity of theoretical and philosophical material on their military craft left behind by the Marathas. The Marathi bakhars, for instance, are descriptions of events and processes which tell us precious little about the strategic thinking of the Maratha commanders. The Marathas did not develop military institutions like those developed by European rulers like Fredrick of Prussia during the 18th Century even though they modernised their armies with the aid of European expertise after the disaster at Panipat (1761). The sources consciously produced by the military institutions in some countries during the early modern period of European history are qualitatively different from the military literature produced by the Indian politics of the 18th Century. These handicaps did not deter Sen who wrote a fine history of the military system of the Marathas several tenets of which have stood the test of time. Besides Marathi records, the Sen went through contemporary English, Portuguese, French and Dutch records to write a masterly account of the Maratha military system with its strengths and weaknesses. The Military System of the Marathas retains a premier position in Maratha historiography despite the numerous valuable advances made in the subject since it was published for the first time. – Anirudh Deshpande, Professor of History, University of Delhi.
For many years, Surendra Nath Sen taught at the University of Calcutta. From 1939 to 1949 he worked in the Imperial Department of Documents, which later became the National Archives. In 1949 he resigned from that post and became a Professor at the University of Delhi. He is well known for a number of books on Indian history but is particularly famous as one of the most competent and prolific historians of the Marathas. No modern critical history of the Marathas can be written without reference to his prodigious research on the subject.