“Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire”
“Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire” is a book written by Nandini Das, a professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool. The book explores the complex relationship between England and Mughal India in the early modern period, focusing on the cultural and literary exchanges that took place between these two worlds.
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The essence of the book:
In 1589, Richard Hakluyt printed a seminal collection of all the English travel writings of his times, titled The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques And Discoveries Of The English Nation. He had done so, he confessed, to counter the insulting notion in Europe that the English were inferior and laggardly naval explorers. His weighty tome and the advice he offered to trading companies galvanised seafaring activity, and, according to academic and author Nandini Das, “is the foundation on which Britain’s view of itself as a heroic seafaring nation would be established for centuries to come”.
This energising fervour was well timed, for after the excommunication of Elizabeth I by Pope Pius V in 1570, the English were struggling to trade with Catholic Europe and were desperate to discover new markets. In the trade winds of these reinventions, we find Thomas Roe in 1615, setting off on his four-year mission as English ambassador to the court of the Mughal emperor in India, Jahangir.
In her sumptuous new book, Courting India: England, Mughal India And The Origins Of Empire, Das walks us through the dark, wood-panelled rooms, gunmetal skies and corruption of Jacobean England, into the wide courtyards and light-filled spaces of Mughal India, where Roe is confronted by a world that is both familiar and deeply, unsettlingly, foreign. Roe carried with him a precious English coach, a marvel of engineering and style in Europe, as a gift for the Mughal emperor. And the fate of this coach is almost caricatural in the loaded symbolism it represents of the fears that poison the early English encounters with Mughal India.
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