Courting India by Nandini Das Book Review

Courting India by Nandini Das Book Review

Nandini Das delves into the captivating Mughal period in India, a time that significantly shaped both Indian and British history. The history unfolds through the intriguing diary entries of the twenty-three-year-old British Ambassador to India, Thomas Roe. The book draws from the personal accounts of many other influential figures of the time, including the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, adding a layer of depth and intrigue to the historical narrative.

Roe chronicles daily interactions between Jahangir and his family, including his relationship with his wives, particularly his favourite wife, Nur Jahan. Nur played a significant role in building and defining the relationship between Britain and India during this time. Roe was surprised and afraid of the power that this woman held. Roe wrote that he was scared of Nur Jahan and her power and influence over Jahangir. Roe saw her powerful presence and the decisions she was making as a threat. We can see from his diary entries that Roe struggled, not only with the people he was meeting but also with the culture and how different it was from his own. He found gifting very difficult; Roe regularly compares his gifts to those of other countries like Portugal and Spain. From his diary entries, we can see that Roe struggles to feel qualified for his job. Das describes how British Ambassador Roe wears his sense of Protestant English superiority like armour. 

While writing about the history of India and England, Das shows glimpses of Shakespeare's plays connected to the real historical merchants' monopoly of that era, for example, The Merchant of Venice. I really enjoyed seeing the connections between this era and Shakespeare's plays. The author makes clear connections that are easy to understand. Das does a good job of interweaving British and Indian history and showing how the commercial pursuits of the East India Company have shaped both countries today.

I recommend this book as a good reference point for anyone interested in this time period. It examines British history under James I and Mughal India. This book is easy to follow and enjoyable to read for those interested in the subject.

 

Reviewed by Yildiz Kernchen (Visitor Operations Assistant)

 

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