Ethnography and Encounter

The Dutch and English in Seventeenth-Century South Asia


The global operations of the East India Companies were profoundly shaped by European perceptions of foreign lands. Providing a cultural perspective absent from existing economic and institutional histories, Ethnography and Encounter is the first book to systematically explore how Company agents’ understandings of and attitudes towards Asian peoples and societies informed institutional approaches to trade, diplomacy, and colonial governance. Its fine-grained comparisons of Dutch and English activities in seventeenth-century South Asia show how corporate ethnography was produced, how it underpinned given modes of conduct, and how it illuminates connections across space and time. Ethnography and Encounter identifies deep commonalities between Dutch and English discourses and practices, their indebtedness to pan-European ethnographic traditions, and their centrality to wider histories of European expansion.

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Guido van Meersbergen, Ph.D. (2015), UCL, is Assistant Professor in Early Modern Global History at the University of Warwick. He has published on the Dutch and English East India Companies, travel writing, and cross-cultural diplomacy in the early modern world.
General Series Editor’s Preface
List of Maps and Illustrations

 1 Ethnography and Encounter
 2 Company Writing
 3 The East India Companies in Seventeenth-Century South Asia
 4 Plan of the Book

PART 1: Corporate Ethnography

1 Company Writing and Early Modern Ethnography
 1 Ethnography on Early Expeditions
 2 Instructions: Cordiality and Caution
 3 Civility and Barbarism
 4 Despotism
 5 Character and Complexion
 6 “Moors” and “Gentiles”

2 Writing Routines and the Making of Company Discourse
 1 ‘Continuall and True Iournalls’
 2 The VOC’s Memoir for the Writing of Reports
 3 The Logic of Company Writing

PART 2: Accommodation and Conflict

3 Trade Relations and Representations: The EIC and VOC in Gujarat
 1 ‘The Only Key to Open All the Rich and Best Trades’
 2 Brokerage and Trust

4 ‘No Thing but Feare Keepes a Moore in Awe’: Local Conflict and Quotidian Exchange
 1 Raids and Retaliations
 2 Mutual Accommodations and Quotidian Exchange

PART 3: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange

5 Ceremonies of Submission: Diplomacy in a Mughal Register
 1 Diplomacy and Mughal Court Culture
 2 The Companies and Khilʾat
 3 Diplomatic Communication and Self-Representation

6 Gratifying Mughal Tastes: Company Gift-Giving Strategies
 1 Local Tastes and Global Gifts
 2 Gifts and Interaction Ritual
 3 Gift-Giving and Ethnographic Discourse

PART 4: The Birth of Company Settlements

7 ‘Safe Habitations’: Colonial Settlement in Ceylon and Madras
 1 ‘Under Your Owne Command’: The Settling of Madras
 2 ‘A Permanent Colony’: Establishing Dutch Power on Ceylon

8 Governing Pluriform Populations: Company Rule in an Asian Setting
 1 The Eic and Mestization
 2 Cultures of Governance: The Case of Madras
 3 Governing “Others”: Voc Rule on Ceylon

Researchers and post-graduate students in History and English; scholars of early modern Asia, empire, trade, diplomacy, colonialism, cultural encounters, ethnography, travel writing.
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