Courting India: Seventeenth-Century England, Mughal India, and the Origins of Empire

Pegasus. Apr. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781639363223. $35. HIST
The exploits of English explorers in North America, such as Walter Raleigh (1552–1618) and John Smith (1580–1631), are well-known. Less familiar is the journey of one of their contemporaries, Thomas Roe (1581–1644), who traveled to India to establish a trade agreement with the Mughal Empire, considered to be one of the richest states in the world at that time. Das (early modern literature and culture, Oxford Univ.; Keywords of Identity, Race, and Human Mobility in Early Modern England) shines light on this early episode of colonialism by providing an in-depth description of Roe’s mission. King James I, who ruled England from 1603 to 1625, sent Roe to represent England at the court of Mughal Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27) in 1615. Roe remained there for three years, and during that time, he had the task of representing the interests of the English crown and the East India Company, which were not always in lockstep and were often unfamiliar with Mughal’s court system, politics, culture, and language. This work provides a fascinating glimpse into political life in early 17th-century England and India, which will likely engage both experts and novices alike.
VERDICT Essential for those interested in the history of colonialism, specifically the relationship depicted in this book.
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