Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire

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Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire

Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire

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Courting India, by Nandini Das, is a brilliant and insightful study of Thomas Roe's embassy at the Mughal court. India was a huge continental empire, England a minor maritime kingdom on the fringe of Europe; but with their itchy feet the English were pushing to expand global trade. Things began to go awry almost as soon as the squadron of ships bearing Thomas Roe, the first English ambassador to the Mughal Empire, sighted India’s western shores in September 1615. Courting India is ostensibly a study of Sir Thomas Roe's time as the East India Company's representative to the Mughal court from 1615 to 1619, but it is so much more than that .

Meanwhile, the court he entered in India was wealthy and cultured, its dominion widely considered to be one of the greatest and richest empires of the world.

It is a story of palace intrigue and scandal, lotteries and wagers that unfolds as global trade begins to stretch from Russia to Virginia, from West Africa to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. On behalf of the British Academy, it is my honour to congratulate Nandini Das on this exceptional work.

as well as Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and, particularly, Mughal sources, to present Roe's four years in the round . The book recasts the story of Britain and India, moving us beyond a Eurocentric telling with an even-handed, entertaining tale of the encounter of two cultures and the ambitions, misunderstandings and prejudices that came to the fore. Although a micro history, this book shines a clear light on the wider times including on the mores and politics of the leaders the Mughal Court, including Shah Jahan, who would go on later to commission the Taj Mahal. Brought up in India, she was educated at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata, before moving to England for further study.

Das] is the rare scholar who combines a sensitivity to the literature of Jacobean England with a sympathetic and nuanced understanding of the Mughal empire .

In Das’s telling, Roe was not a herald of the Company Raj to come as much as a product of 17th-century England, an island nation whose commercial ambitions were beginning to overshadow its royal court. Roe seemed more interested in his own pride than in really learning about the Mughal culture, for example, refusing to learn the local language. It also highlights the complex relationships and power structures at Jahangir’s court, and the open way he conducted much government business, as well as sharing court gossip and intrigue. Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das is today named as the winner of the 11th British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding.Conflicts over precedence did nothing to advance his mission of securing trade rights, which was the real reason Roe had been sent across the Indian Ocean.

There he found challenges aplenty - the lack of cooperation of the employees of the fledgling East India Company, the sometimes direct challenge from other European powers seeking to develop their commercial interests there, and the lack of any real interest shown by the Mughal court in granting the trading privileges Roe sought.In this genuinely ground-breaking work, Indian-raised Das challenges our understanding of this pivotal pre-colonial period. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice.

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