Abdul Sabur Kidwai
Britain in Indian Travelogues: A Study of English, Urdu, and Persian Accounts of the Nineteenth Century
This is with a view to understanding how the ‘intended audience’ received the texts, and to what extent this differed from contemporary reception accorded to English travelogues of the same time. Moreover, I will examine how the content of the travelogues are shaped by the contexts of the author, and how much of that depends upon where the author places himself within his society. Syed Ahmad’s travelogue, focussing as it does on modernism and social reform, tells us as much about his circumstances as Iqbalud Daulah’s unqualified panegyric of Britain does about his.
In examining these texts, I will pursue a number of lines of inquiry. What did the authors
hope to achieve by writing their experience, and how does their portrayal of Britain have a
bearing on themselves, British rulers, and their fellow Indians? How did these authors
fashion themselves in their texts as Muslims, Indians, and colonial subjects in relation to
Britain and how did they perform their ‘foreign-ness’ in Britain? How did they situate their
texts in the traditions of travel writing of the languages in which they were writing? In what
sense can we see Britain as a ‘contact zone’ in their accounts? As noted above, I will also situate their texts in the traditions of travelogue in the language in which they were writing. In doing so I will also reflect on how they communicated their experiences to their fellow countrymen at home, and how their works were received in India. Finally, I will consider what these works tell us about contemporary questions of race, belonging, belief, and coloniser-colonised relations and the changing meanings of the terms ‘Indian’, ‘Muslim’, ‘British’, and ‘Britain’ in these four decades.