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“Intirely the Kings Vassalls”: East India Company Gifting Practices and Anglo-Mughal Political Exchange (c. 1670–1720)

In: Diplomatica
Author:
Guido van MeersbergenUniversity of Warwick, Coventry, England, G.van-Meersbergen@warwick.ac.uk

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Abstract

This article examines the role of gift exchanges in political relations between the East India Company and the Mughal imperial administration. Focusing on the period 1670–1720, it discusses the items selected for presentation, the occasions at which they changed hands, and the hierarchical relationships expressed and acknowledged through these transactions. It argues that in exchanges both with the central court and with provincial authorities, transfers of valuables in cash and kind between English and Indian actors were embedded in a wider imperial discourse regarding sovereignty and service. By acknowledging the continuum running from courtly engagements to everyday political interactions at local sites of power, a notion of Company diplomacy comes into view that straddled the boundaries between inter-polity relations and intra-imperial solicitation. As such, the case study invites us to rethink our notion of diplomacy as it pertained to relations between the English Company and Mughal state.

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