Posting after a while, as this topic is very BP and I managed to write a rather long Twitter thread on it. So just compiling it all here in a neater format. May revisit and clean it up further later.
A short piece on why the Islamo-Turkic colonialism in India is not the same as the experience of the English who were colonized at roughly the same time by the Francophone Normans. Note Mahmud Ghaznavi died in 1030 / William Duc de Normandie was born in 1028.
A common reason given for it is commonality of religion, i.e. the Anglo-Saxons were Christian like the Normans. Ergo the kind of in/out-group dynamic didn’t play out in the same manner. This I think true only in a very marginal sense, as opposed to being the primary reason.
Why? Because the level of confessional identity was not as strong across Christendom as people like to believe. 15-21c Europeans were far more aware of their Christianity, but that didn’t stop the numerous religious wars and bloody ethnic conflict (down to today).
Similarly body count of Muslim on Muslim conflict (again, down to today) will disabuse anyone of strength of confessional identity over tribal / ethnic / linguistic bonds. Religion, esp medieval religion, should be understood as one of many differences as opposed to *the* difference
So we come to details of what’s special about the Norman-English case:
a) Firstly, unlike India, Anglo-French nobility actively tried to nativise into the Saxon state. Eg William Ætheling, was the grandson of William the conqueror and direct descendant of Alfred the Great.
He was heir apparent precisely to legitimise the Norman bloodline within existing (West) Saxon tradition. It is just chance that he drowned (ironically crossing the English Channel) resulting in the Anarchy and rise of the Angevin Plantagenets.
Moghals too had a policy of matrimonial alliances with the Rajputs, but no Moghal heir apparent (irrespective of who his mum was) was given the official title of rāja /kumāra etc to signify descent unlike say the Ætheling.
Moghal relation with the Rajputs was always a transactional exchange of women (receptacles of honour, and treated as high-value chattel) and services in lieu of patronage and portion of rents. This remained the model until the last Moghal.
b) Saxon state was one of the best organised states of Europe from Alfred’s time. So while the feudals changed, the organisation persisted.
This is a feature of central importance because what Alfred and his successors achieved was unprecedented in post-Roman Europe, namely a near total abstraction away of the state organisation from the person of the king. So kings became almost like appointees of the state (except with some form of genetic succession).
This trend became more and more explicit with the evo of the English state, ultimately leading to Parliamentary sovereignty in the long 17c – a fascinating topic in itself.
c) An important but remarkably under-appreciated aspect of the Normans was how relatively reformist they were in social terms compared to Anglo-Saxons.
Saxon England had significant continuity of Norse social & political influence until 11c and was seen as a legitimate part of the Norse cultural world. Eg Saxon Harold defeated Harald of Norway in the Danelaw days before his tired army lost to William. And this influence meant that the practice of keeping and taking slaves was commonplace.
Roughly 10-30% of the population of Anglo-Saxon England were slaves. The incoming William immediately banned the practice and where he harried the North, and spilt a lot of blood, he also liberated slaves! The change was so quick that Britons were no longer slaves by mid 12c. Lawrence of Durham wrote in 1130s:
“After England began to have Norman lords, the English no longer suffered from outsiders that which they had suffered at their own hands. In this respect they found that foreigners treated them better than they had treated themselves”
Compare this to the Indian case where slavery was rampant under the Delhi Sultanate and Moghals later perfected the trade of selling Indian slaves for Central Asian horses. This continued until the Marathas and finally (and aptly!) the British themselves discontinued the practice.
d) Plantagenet successors of the Normans (after the Anarchy) became the first true solely English royal house as they lost their lands in Northern France. And continued the process of devolution of powers with Baron’s Wars (and the signing of Magna Carta)
There was no such devolution to be seen under the Moghals who routinely murdered their brothers in succession wars that bookended the change of power from each Moghal monarch to his successor. For the institution of monarchy was in the person of the king, not abstracted away.
e) There was also a lot of continuation of the Saxon cultural heritage in important documents – the Anglo-Saxon chronicle continued to be updated from Alfred’s time right down to 12c. This added to a sense of historical continuity in spite of wars and political turmoil.
f) Finally, the Normans were ruling a much smaller territory and were able to decisively control and shape (and audit, cf. the Domesday Book) all of it. Whereas the Moghals were never in complete control over a much larger territory. Aurangzeb, who ruled over territorially the largest empire of all Moghals, died on campaign against the Marathas. The people who begged to differ with the Moghals outlasted them.