On October 31, Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das was named the winner of the 11th British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. She will be awarded a cash prize of £25,000, while each shortlisted author will receive £1,000.
In Courting India, Nandini Das – Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the English faculty at the University of Oxford – presents an important new perspective on the origins of empire through the story of the arrival of the first English ambassador in India, Sir Thomas Roe, in the early 17th century. The book recasts the story of Britain and India, moving beyond a Eurocentric telling with an even-handed, entertaining tale of the encounter of two cultures and the ambitions, misunderstandings and prejudices that came to the fore.
The chair of the jury, Professor Charles Tripp said, “Nandini Das has written the true origin story of Britain and India...She grants us a privileged vantage point from which we can appreciate how a measure of mutual understanding did begin to emerge, even though it was vulnerable to the ups and downs of Mughal politics and to the restless ambitions of the British...The judging panel was drawn to the contrast between an impoverished, insecure Britain and the flourishing, confident Mughal Empire and the often-amusing, sometimes querulous exchanges between their various representatives. Moreover, we were reminded through this story of the first ambassadorial mission of the value of international diplomacy, but also of the cultural minefields that surround it in ways that still have resonance today.”
Courting India was chosen from a shortlist of six books:
- Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution, Tania Branigan
- The Violence of Colonial Photography, Daniel Foliard
- Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation, Kris Manjapra
- Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World, Irene Vallejo, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Whittle
- Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living, Dimitris Xygalatas