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Between Ethnography and Realpolitik: Le Gouz de la Boullaye in Mughal India and Beyond

Lecture-cum-visual presentation by Sanjay Subrahmanyam, (CISA and History, UCLA)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The history of French Orientalism in the later eighteenth century, and its relationship to the crystallizing European image of India, is relatively well-known. Figures such as Anquetil Duperron, Claude Martin and Antoine Polier are thus familiar enough to students of Euro-Indian interactions in the phase of consolidation of the British empire. In the previous – and allegedly more innocent -- century, one thinks above all of two French travelers in Mughal domains, the savant François Bernier (with his potent and effective links to the erudite circle of Gassendi), and the deceptively simple jewel-merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Relatively little has thus been made of the traveler whose published account in fact preceded all these others, and enjoyed a brief moment of celebrity: this was the “gentilhomme angevin” François le Gouz de la Boullaye (1623-68), who under the assumed name of Ibrahim Beg traversed the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal domains in the 1640s, comparing these areas to his other travels in Ireland, Denmark, and the Baltic. The object of this presentation is his richly illustrated text, Les voyages et observations du Sieur de la Boullaye-le Gouz, first published without illustrations in 1653, and then in its full glory in 1657. The recent rediscovery in the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome of one of the principal manuscripts, showing the hand of various Indian artists in the production of the original illustrations, will be a secondary aspect of the discussion.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam is Professor and Doshi Chair of Indian History at UCLA and Director of the Center for India and South Asia. He is the author, most recently, of Explorations in Connected History (2 volumes, Oxford University Press, 2005), and (with Muzaffar Alam) of Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries, 1400-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2007, forthcoming).

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Jyoti Gulati310-206-2654

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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