Daniel Pipes reports:

Koenraad Elst , the german historian writes in "Negation in India"

..Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate)..

A previous version of the wikipedia article "Prosecution of Hindus" claimed:

Between the years 1000 AD and 1500 AD the population of the Indian subcontinent decreased by 80 million.


The current version claims:

Historian K. S. Lal has estimated that, between the years 1000 AD and 1500 AD, the population of the Indian subcontinent decreased by 30 million.

Bill Warner PhD, wrote in his website:

Koenard Elst in Negationism in India gives an estimate of 80 million Hindus killed in the total jihad against India. [Koenard Elst, Negationism in India, Voice of India, New Delhi, 2002, pg. 34.] The country of India today is only half the size of ancient India, due to jihad. The mountains near India are called the Hindu Kush, meaning the “funeral pyre of the Hindus.” 80 million Hindus

It also appears in Americanthinker.com and Hindu website quoting the same source.

Now, my questions are:

  1. Did India's population decrease "by 80 million between 1000 and 1525" CE?
  2. If not, did India's population decrease by 30 million between 1000 and 1500?
  3. If not, did India's population decrease or increase during this period?

Edit: I am looking for a detailed canonical answer.

  • I'm wary of quoting old revisions of Wikipedia. By itself, that is poor evidence of notability. (The other examples are better.)
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 14, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    @MohammadSakibArifin I deleted my answer, but I suggest that the first step in answering is to determine whether or not Koenraad Elst's book is actually quoted accurately in the first quote.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 14, 2016 at 14:54
  • Seems that you have two separate questions here. 1) Number of people killed in Muslim invasion; and 2) Total population change in the period. So for instance that many people might have been killed in the invasion, but the total population still increased due to births in uninvaded areas.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 14, 2016 at 17:30
  • 2
    That period of history also includes the 2nd great outbreak of the black death.
    – Joe L.
    Oct 14, 2016 at 22:46
  • The original source of the claim is likely to be K.S. Lal's book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973). The Wikipedia article quotes it as saying about 60 to 80 million people died in India between 1000 and 1525 as a result of the Islamic invasion of Indian subcontinent, but that the population of Indian subcontinent in 1000 was about 200 million and in 1500 was about 170 million, though also saying "any study of the population of the pre-census times can be based only on estimates, and estimates by their very nature tend to be tentative."
    – Henry
    Oct 16, 2016 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, the original source of this claim is K. S. Lal, Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (Delhi: Research Publications in Social Sciences, 1973).

He claims a population of 200 million in AD 1000, based on an analysis of Jatindra Mohamed Datta's article "Proportion of Muhammadans in India Through Centuries" (Modern Review, Calcutta, January 1948). Datta cites Firishta, a 17th century historian who supposedly gave the population for 1000 as 600 million, but Lal was unable to find this number in Firishta's text himself. Datta also uses W. H. Moreland's India at the Death of Akbar (London: Macmillan, 1920) as an outside estimate of something over 100 million. However, as one might guess, Datta chose the figure of 200 million not from a strict mathematical balance between Firishta and Moreland, but to represent a thesis he already believed:

[T]he population was very much greater [on the eve of Turkish invasions] than at the death of Akbar. During centuries of invasions, constant oppression and misrule, the wholesale massacres during the Pathan period, the population of India dwindled ... This broad fact emerged from the two estimates [Ferishtah's and Moreland's], however erroneous or full of fallacies they may be. (Datta 1948 p. 32, quoted in Lal 1973 p. 32)

Firishta's number, if indeed it was Firishta's and was not invented from whole cloth by Datta, was clearly off the top of his head. Both Lal and Datta admitted that Moreland's estimate is similarly speculative, and both quoted a demographer named Carl Saunders acknowledging this: "Moreland's figure has been quoted with favour in the census reports of India and no better estimate is available, but its factual basis is of the most slender kind." (Saunders, World Population, quoted in Datta, quoted in Lal p. 21).

Lal critiques two estimates found in Colin Clark, Population and Land Use (New York: Macmillan, 1967) and by Pran Nath, Study in the Economic Condition of Ancient India (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1929) which give the population in AD 1000 as 70 million and 140 million, respectively. Lal does not like either estimate because both writers claim that the population was unchanged between 300 BC and AD 1000, which Lal considers ignorant of the effects of agricultural technology on sustainable population. (Lal, 26n, 28) However, Lal did like Nath's study enough to use his figure of 140 million for 300 BC as a starting point.

Another estimate by Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History (Penguin, 1978), gives 30 million in AD 1000. Maddison Angus, in the OECD report The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective (2001), gives 5 additional recent estimates for AD 1000 ranging from 40 to 77 million and comments, "India does not have statistical records of the same sort as Western Europe, China or Japan, and there is consequently a wide range of views."

The population of India according to Lal was 150 million in 1650, 172.5m in 1750, and 170m in 1800 (Lal, 201). These later estimates may be praiseworthy, as Wikipedia insinuates, but Lal's figure for AD 1000 is based almost entirely on his assumption that massacres caused millions of deaths, so writers who use the raw numbers as evidence for a massacre are committing the fallacy of circular logic. Estimates by writers quoted above range between 30 million and 600 million, which indicates a lack of certainty.

Lal does provide evidence of massacres in his book, but I am not an expert on medieval India so I will not investigate those claims here. Nothing in this source makes it totally evident to me that we know whether the population really did increase or decrease. In fact Lal admits that premodern primary sources such as Arab travelers are extremely unreliable with numbers.

  • Is this cherry picking rather than circular logic?
    – sashkello
    Oct 17, 2016 at 5:36
  • I can't judge whether it is cherry picking, but when you Google the Koenraad Elst quote it's being used exclusively as evidence of a massacre, and that's circular logic.
    – Avery
    Oct 17, 2016 at 5:41
  • Ah, I see what you mean, yes, makes sense, he uses each of the assertions to support another...
    – sashkello
    Oct 17, 2016 at 5:43
  • @Avery I found this post that shows many estimates. Could you check their reliability and add some more info to the answer? Oct 18, 2016 at 5:30
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    @MohammadSakibArifin the estimates in this table don't seem to have a specific methodology for India that I can look at, but I added a link to the book that summarizes them.
    – Avery
    Oct 18, 2016 at 5:34

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