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A Note on the Trade in Eunuchs in Mughal Bengal

Gavin Hambly
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 94, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1974), pp. 125-130
DOI: 10.2307/599739
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/599739
Page Count: 6
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A Note on the Trade in Eunuchs in Mughal Bengal
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Abstract

The history of slavery and slave-trading in the Indian sub-continent has hitherto received scant attention from the historians. It seems probable, however, that at all periods prior to the 19th century India contained a very substantial population of slaves of one kind or another, mainly in some form of domestic servitude. The following paper brings together the fragmentary evidence for one highly specialized form of slave-trading peculiar to Bengal. Eunuchs were ubiquitous in the polygamous societies of the subcontinent, whether Hindu or Muslim, but they were always comparatively few in numbers and so the demand remained constant and the price paid for them consistently high. There must have been some feeling of dislike for the practice-the Mughul Padshāh, Jahāngīr, is a case in point-but eunuchs remained a feature of court and harem life as long as there were courts and harems to require their services.

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