Integration meant selection, compilation, translation and considerable rewriting. Michael J. Franklin London, , p. Particular attention will be paid to the originality of this corpus of texts and to the colonial motivations underpinning this intellectual enterprise.
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The orientalist turn By the middle of the eighteenth century, British interest in India had taken a determinate turn, shifting its sights from trading to conquest. Major battles, such as the battle of Plassey in or the battle of Buxar in , were fought and won by the British, and the East India Company took control of large portions of territory, starting with the regions of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in Some of the servants of the East India Company, working for its civil or military branches, took an interest in oriental learning and were sometimes granted leave from the Company for the completion of their scholarly projects.
Being funded by the Company, they had to prove useful to the British interests in India, and the scholars who undertook such projects were always keen to underline this aspect. Thus, this period of intense commercial and political involvement with India also constituted a shift in orientalist learning in the sense that the new body of scholars were formed on the ground. Their activities were coordinated thanks to the creation of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta in and to the publication of the Asiatic researches.
The corpus of primary sources constituting the present enquiry, namely Indian historiographical texts written in Persian and translated into English, was part of this orientalist turn. At the time, it was generally believed that there was a lack of reliable knowledge concerning the history of India. In the third book of his Travels, Marco Polo indicated a series of Indian kingdoms he visited and took particular notice of the idolatry of the people he met and of the commerce in these regions. Apart from these two recurring descriptive elements, the traveller sup- plied no historical information.
Dr. Rahul Sapra
McCrindle ed. Quoted in McCrindle, Ancient India, p. The Hyphasis is the name given to the Beas River by ancient Greek writers. Osborne, n. India was thus imagined outside chronological frames. Its people were caught between primitivism and paganism.
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They went naked and worshipped oxen and snakes. Early- modern British travellers had read these descriptions of India and repeated them in their own narratives, by referring to the mirabilia tradition and by perpetuating the vision of an ahistorical India. Before Bernier, the few seventeenth-century travellers who were sent on diplomatic missions to the court of the Mughal emperors in Agra, such as Thomas Roe between and , brought back with them obser- vations concerning life and politics at the Mughal court, as well as information concerning the genealogical tree of Mughal emperors, concerning their political systems, and the history of their conquests and reigns.
Thus, it is fair to say that before British orientalists translated Persian manuscripts on the history of India in the second half of the eighteenth century, European historiography on ancient or modern India was very sparse. Sir William Jones warned against second-hand accounts of travellers who did not have the philological expertise Mandeville, Travels and voyages, p.
Bernier, The History of the late revolution of the empire of the Great Mogol. The second edition in English was published in We should remember, however, that this dispar- agement was written by a man who had not travelled to India yet and that it would later be mitigated in his Indian correspondence, where he talks about his links with local scholars and describes relations of trust.
The Limits of Orientalism : Seventeenth-Century Representations of India
If, in agreement with the paradigm of the contemporary degenerate state of India repeated by Jones, European scholars should avoid second-hand information, especially when imparted orally, they would be still per- mitted to resort to Indian historiography when the authors had participated in the events recounted.
Other British writers had documented the transactions and military conquests of the East India Company in India. Sir William Jones trans. Richardson, , p. Jones, History of the life of Nader Shah, p. Bulmer, However, it was clear for the translators, for their patrons, and for their readers that, by learning more about Indian history, they would facilitate the transition from Mughal rule to Company rule.
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- The limits of Orientalism : seventeenth-century representations of India.
These documents being the production of mostly Muslim historians working for Mughal rulers, it was predictable that the periods covered should extend from pre-Mughal to Mughal times. Apart from Trewman, , p. Nichols, , p. Nicholas B. Alexander Dow trans. Becket and P. In the later Sanskrit phase, which to some extent superseded the Indo-Persian one, British orientalists focused their attention on Hindu chronology and its com- patibility with Mosaic chronology, on the Hindu measurement of time and on ancient Indian history and rulers.
At the time, very few orientalists had achieved a good command of Sanskrit. In these essays, the reader found translations of Sanskrit inscriptions left on monuments and of excerpts from Sanskrit literature, used for chrono- logical and historiographical purposes. See Asiatic researches, 20 vols London, printed for J. Sewell; Vernor and Hood; J.
Cuthell; J. Walker; R. Lea Lackington, Allen, and Co. Faulder; and J. Scatcherd, Thus, the primary purpose of translating Indo- Persian historiographical texts was to garner information on the pol- itical history of Mughal rulers and their administrative records, as well as to gain a better understanding of contemporary politics. The rest of the catalogue is comprised of Sanskrit poems, tales, treatises, grammars, dictionaries, dramas and farces.
The notion that Hindus never developed an historical consciousness and thus never established proper historiographical traditions had become an orientalist topos.
Today, historians challenge this topos and stress the interactions between Hindus and Muslims in the production of historical records. Your list has reached the maximum number of items. Please create a new list with a new name; move some items to a new or existing list; or delete some items. The limits of Orientalism : seventeenth-century representations of India. Newark, Del. The limits of orientalism seventeenth-century representations of India. The limits of Orientalism : seventeenth-century representation of India.
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