06 August, 2021

William Jones, 1746-1794

Enlightenment Mughal

Photo by Alamy
William Jones, 1746-1794

On September 25, 1783, a frigate named the Crocodile sailed up the Hooghly river in Bengal and docked at Calcutta’s Chandpal Ghat. On board was a 36-year-old Welsh scholar and barrister, bearing essentials for what he expected to be a six-year stint in India. These included two large sheep and an intrepid young wife whom he had married just four days before embarking from England. Awaiting him in Calcutta was an East India Company judgeship with a salary far greater than he had ever known. His hope was to incorporate Hindu and Muslim laws into his own rulings, so that the British could govern Indians according to Indians’ own “manners and sentiments”. During the leisurely journey from England, he put to paper an exhaustive list of topics he needed to study: “The Laws of the Hindus and Mohammedans; The History of the Ancient World;...Modern Politics and Geography of Hindustan; Best Mode of Governing Bengal; Arithmetic and Geometry and the mixed Sciences of the Asiatics; Medicine, Chemistry, Surgery, and Anatomy of the Indians;...The Poetry,...

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