The European encounter with Mughal India has been a subject of considerable scholarly attention and its archive continues to be a fascinating resource for historians of the period. Due to the considerable number of the types of source (trading companies' records, travel accounts, collections of letters, missionary texts) and contexts it would be incredibly difficult to gloss the field. There was a proliferation of writing activity by Jesuit priests, adventurers, travellers, merchants, and professionals who made their way to Mughal India’s shores. Their writings have not only been used to map out Europe’s encounter with Mughal India but also to have a different perspective on Mughal dynastic and social history. However, as Colin P. Mitchell has shown, European travel accounts can hardly be viewed as the objective lens onto Mughal politics as some historians have considered them to be.
Recently, a professor of literature and culture in early modern England, Jonathan Gil Harris, has undertaken a project about European travellers in Mughal India. He is currently working on a book project ‘Becoming Indian: The Event of Travel in the Time of Shakespeare’ which “examines the embodied/out-of-body experiences of European travelers to India in the seventeenth century” (Current Research, English Department webpage: George Washington University [8-Dec-11]). The work is significant, and like Mitchell who brought a considerable knowledge of Jacobean drama to bear on Thomas Roe's writings, Harris's expertise should provide considerable insight into ideas of authorship behind these accounts.
Related to his project he has written a series of articles in the Hindustan Times about his own experiences of embodiment during the course of his research in India, interspersing them with vivid accounts of the figures he is studying. I am linking the articles as I find them.
Part I: The Fakir of Ajmer
Part II: The Jeweller of Agra
Part III: The Marathi Poet of Goa
Part IV: The Heera-Wallah of Golcanda
Over the next couple of weeks I shall be adding a basic bibliography on the topic although I am by no means an expert on European travel accounts in Mughal India.
Mitchell, Colin P. Sir Thomas Roe and the Mughal Empire. Karachi: University of Karachi, Area Study of Europe, 2000.