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A European Experience of the Mughal Orient: The I'jaz-i Arsalani (Persian Letters, 1773-1779) of Antoine-Louis Henri Polier

Muzaffar Alam (Author)
Synopsis The complex network of cultural interaction between Europeans and Indians in the eighteenth century generated a range of literature in both European as well as Indian languages, including Persian, which had long been the language of the political and cultural elite in India. While some of the European texts have been linked to larger issues of knowledge generation and the establishment of European rule, the Persian literature has remained relatively unintegrated. This has left the debate on the orientalist constructions of India skewed, if not incomplete. This volume will go a long way in correcting this imbalance. It offers a free English translation of the first volume of one such Persian text, a set of letters—between a Franco-Swiss military officer in the service of the English East India Company, Major Polier and a range of Indians, from the emperor and the nobles at court to ordinary trade agents and artisans in the bazaar—written in the wake of critical transitions in north India. Also included in the volume are his personal letters written to his Indian wives, children and domestic servants, as well as letters to European and Company officials stationed in India. An extensive discursive introduction analyses the text and locates it in the larger social and cultural world of the period. When read along with Polier’s English letters to Warren Hastings, William Jones, Joseph Banks and other high-ranking British administrators the text adds a refreshing European perspective to the largely English colonialism-centred debate on orientalism in the Indian context. It reveals sensitivity towards the complex syncretic Indo-Persian culture which had been nurtured over two hundred years of Mughal rule and which was under threat of being torn apart on caste and religious lines by the eighteenth-century British orientalist scholar-administrators.
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About the author

Muzaffar Alam

MUZAFFAR ALAM is George V. Bobrinskoy Professor in South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India and The Languages of Political Islam in India: c. 1200–1800.

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Bibliographic information

Title A European Experience of the Mughal Orient: The I'jaz-i Arsalani (Persian Letters, 1773-1779) of Antoine-Louis Henri Polier
Author Muzaffar Alam
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2001
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 019564980x
length xvi+422 p., Maps; 23 cm.
Subjects History