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


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A profound and ground-breaking approach to one of the most important encounters in the history of colonialism: the British arrival in India in the early seventeenth century.

Traditional interpretations to the British Empire’s emerging success and expansion has long overshadowed the deep uncertainty that marked its initial entanglement with India. In September 1615, Thomas Roe—Britain’s first ambassador to the Mughal Empire—made landfall on the western coast of India. Roe entered the court of Jahangir, “conqueror of the world,” one of immense wealth, power, and culture that looked askance at the representative of a precarious and distant island nation.

Though London was at the height of the Renaissance—the era of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Donne—financial strife and fragile powerbases presented risk and uncertainty at every turn. What followed in India was a turning-point in history, a story of palace intrigue, scandal, and mutual incomprehension that unfolds as global trade begins to stretch from Russia to Virginia, from West Africa to the Spice Islands of Indonesia.

Using an incisive blend of Indian and British records, and exploring the art, literature, sights, and sounds of Elizabethan London and Imperial India, Das portrays the nuances of cultural and national collision on an individual and human level. The result is a rich and radical challenge to our understanding of Britain and its early empire—and a cogent reminder of the dangers of distortion in the history books of the victors.