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The Wonders of Vilayet
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The Wonders of Vilayet
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About The Book

This is the first book-length account of the West by an Indian. Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin, a munsi who had served the East India Company before becoming a Mughal courtier, was entrusted by Emperor Shah Alam II with a diplomatic mission to the British Court. He set sail in January 1766, and though the mission was aborted, the journey of nearly three years resulted in a remarkable memoir. Written in Persian, ’Shigurf Nama-e-Vilayet’ or ‘Wonderful Tales about Europe’ is a unique historical document and a vastly entertaining travel narrative. Though never published I the original, an abridged and flawed English translation appeared in 1827. This book is the first complete English version.

The Mirza was enchanted by Britain, but he was not a colonial subject. A highly educated and curious observer of alien cultures, he wrote about his visits to the theater, the circus, freak shows, the ‘madrasssah of Oxford’, the Scottish Highlands and at a more serious level the factors that had led to India’s decline and Europe’s ascendancy, and the socio-political system of Britain.

 

About The Translator

Kaiser Haq was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and educated at the University of Dhaka and Warwick, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. He has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar and Vilas Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at SOAS, London University. He is a professor of English at Dhaka University, where he has been teaching since 1975. He has published six volume of poetry, most recently Published in the Streets of Dhaka: Collection Poems 1996-2006. His translations include Selected Poems of Shamsur Rahman and Quartet (Rabindranath Tagore’s Chaturanga). He lives in Dhaka with his wife and daughter.

 

Translator’s Introduction

This is the first complete English version of one of the earliest accounts of the modern West by a non-Westerner. I say ‘modern’ in contradistinction to the medieval West, which had come under the observation of Arab writers. All accounts of ‘Otherness’ are significant, but ‘modern’ ones naturally possess an added relevance for us. This being the age of Western expansion and dominance the later are mostly Western works about the non-Western world. But the literature about the West by non-Western is by no means negligible, though, like the present work,

As often happens with out-of-the-way literature my introduction to this work occurred quite fortuitously, when in the course of a meandering conversation an old schoolmate declared that an ancestor of his had been the first Indian to visit Britain. The claim, I was to discover, was not to be taken literally. The earliest Indians to reach Europe were probably lascars, but they didn’t count being illiterate and hence unable to leave literary traces of their extraordinary lives. It is generally believed that the first Indian to visit Britain and write about it was the great social reformer Raja Mohun Roy, who spent the last two years of his life (1831-33) there, but my friend’s great-great-great-great-granduncle, Mirza Sheikh I’ tesamuddin, preceded him by over half a century.

In 1765, after granting the revenue rights of Bengal in perpetuity to the East India Company, the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam II, beleaguered as he was by tenacious enemies, implored the protection of His Britannic Majesty’s Troops. Since it was not in Robert Clive’s power to place British soldiers in the service of a foreign court it was agreed that a letter containing the request would be dispatched, together with a present of 100,00 rupee from the Emperor to his British counterpart. The mission was entrusted to Captain Archibald Swinton and at the Emperor’s suggestion that an Indian well-versed in Persian should be there so that the letter’s contents could be properly explicated and interpreed, Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin was chosen to accompany him.

Thus began an extraordinary adventure for the Mirza that lasted nearly three years and provide material for a fascinating memoir, though nothing came of the mission. After three weeks at sea the Mirza learned from Captain Swinton that Clive had back the letter, saying that there was no point in sending it with them as the present intended to accompany it hadn’t yet arrived from the Emperor. Clive had promised Captain Swinton that he would himself follow with both the letter and the money and catch up with them in England. But in England the Mirza came to believe that Clive had suppressed the latter and presented the money on his own behalf. The reason for such duplicity was that Clive felt, with good reason, that it was in the Company’s interest to prevent any direct contact between the English King and the Moghul Emperor.

 

Contents

 

     
  Translator's Introduction ix
1 Background, Personal and Historical 3
2 On the Sea and Sailing 16
3 Mauritius and Other Places 28
4 Rounding the Cape 37
5 Vilayet at Last 46
6 London 54
7 London Entertainments 65
8 The Madrassah of Oxford 75
9 Scotland 82
10 The Highlands 89
11 On History and Religion 94
12 More on Religion 107
13 The English Polity 119
14 Education and Code of Life 140
15 Vilayeti Miscellanea 154
16 The Return 165
  Index 177

Sample Pages









The Wonders of Vilayet

Item Code:
NAH593
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2008
ISBN:
9788180280320
Language:
English
Size:
7.5 inch x 5.0 inch
Pages:
208
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 280 gms
Price:
$27.00
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About The Book

This is the first book-length account of the West by an Indian. Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin, a munsi who had served the East India Company before becoming a Mughal courtier, was entrusted by Emperor Shah Alam II with a diplomatic mission to the British Court. He set sail in January 1766, and though the mission was aborted, the journey of nearly three years resulted in a remarkable memoir. Written in Persian, ’Shigurf Nama-e-Vilayet’ or ‘Wonderful Tales about Europe’ is a unique historical document and a vastly entertaining travel narrative. Though never published I the original, an abridged and flawed English translation appeared in 1827. This book is the first complete English version.

The Mirza was enchanted by Britain, but he was not a colonial subject. A highly educated and curious observer of alien cultures, he wrote about his visits to the theater, the circus, freak shows, the ‘madrasssah of Oxford’, the Scottish Highlands and at a more serious level the factors that had led to India’s decline and Europe’s ascendancy, and the socio-political system of Britain.

 

About The Translator

Kaiser Haq was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and educated at the University of Dhaka and Warwick, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. He has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar and Vilas Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at SOAS, London University. He is a professor of English at Dhaka University, where he has been teaching since 1975. He has published six volume of poetry, most recently Published in the Streets of Dhaka: Collection Poems 1996-2006. His translations include Selected Poems of Shamsur Rahman and Quartet (Rabindranath Tagore’s Chaturanga). He lives in Dhaka with his wife and daughter.

 

Translator’s Introduction

This is the first complete English version of one of the earliest accounts of the modern West by a non-Westerner. I say ‘modern’ in contradistinction to the medieval West, which had come under the observation of Arab writers. All accounts of ‘Otherness’ are significant, but ‘modern’ ones naturally possess an added relevance for us. This being the age of Western expansion and dominance the later are mostly Western works about the non-Western world. But the literature about the West by non-Western is by no means negligible, though, like the present work,

As often happens with out-of-the-way literature my introduction to this work occurred quite fortuitously, when in the course of a meandering conversation an old schoolmate declared that an ancestor of his had been the first Indian to visit Britain. The claim, I was to discover, was not to be taken literally. The earliest Indians to reach Europe were probably lascars, but they didn’t count being illiterate and hence unable to leave literary traces of their extraordinary lives. It is generally believed that the first Indian to visit Britain and write about it was the great social reformer Raja Mohun Roy, who spent the last two years of his life (1831-33) there, but my friend’s great-great-great-great-granduncle, Mirza Sheikh I’ tesamuddin, preceded him by over half a century.

In 1765, after granting the revenue rights of Bengal in perpetuity to the East India Company, the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam II, beleaguered as he was by tenacious enemies, implored the protection of His Britannic Majesty’s Troops. Since it was not in Robert Clive’s power to place British soldiers in the service of a foreign court it was agreed that a letter containing the request would be dispatched, together with a present of 100,00 rupee from the Emperor to his British counterpart. The mission was entrusted to Captain Archibald Swinton and at the Emperor’s suggestion that an Indian well-versed in Persian should be there so that the letter’s contents could be properly explicated and interpreed, Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin was chosen to accompany him.

Thus began an extraordinary adventure for the Mirza that lasted nearly three years and provide material for a fascinating memoir, though nothing came of the mission. After three weeks at sea the Mirza learned from Captain Swinton that Clive had back the letter, saying that there was no point in sending it with them as the present intended to accompany it hadn’t yet arrived from the Emperor. Clive had promised Captain Swinton that he would himself follow with both the letter and the money and catch up with them in England. But in England the Mirza came to believe that Clive had suppressed the latter and presented the money on his own behalf. The reason for such duplicity was that Clive felt, with good reason, that it was in the Company’s interest to prevent any direct contact between the English King and the Moghul Emperor.

 

Contents

 

     
  Translator's Introduction ix
1 Background, Personal and Historical 3
2 On the Sea and Sailing 16
3 Mauritius and Other Places 28
4 Rounding the Cape 37
5 Vilayet at Last 46
6 London 54
7 London Entertainments 65
8 The Madrassah of Oxford 75
9 Scotland 82
10 The Highlands 89
11 On History and Religion 94
12 More on Religion 107
13 The English Polity 119
14 Education and Code of Life 140
15 Vilayeti Miscellanea 154
16 The Return 165
  Index 177

Sample Pages









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