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Ahmed, "An Unlimited Intercourse": Historical Contradictions and Imperial Romance in the Early Nineteenth Century

With parliament's 1813 decision simultaneously to end the East India Company's monopoly by opening the colonies to British free merchants and to permit British evangelicals to establish missions there, the nature of the empire in India began to change: the British public now had an opportunity to play an economic and spiritual role in the empire. Now, the economic and moral aspects of the empire, superintended by the British nation, separated from the political aspect, which remained in the hands of the EIC. The former staked the claims of "modernity" and the civilizing mission; the latter rationalized its openly despotic politics by insisting that it was concerned to preserve native "traditions." Sydney Owenson's early-nineteenth-century historical novel The Missionary: an Indian Tale was the first novel to represent the problem of colonial India in terms of a conflict between modernity and tradition, rather than between the principles of the nation-state and the politics of empire. In order to produce this new vision of the colonial encounter, The Missionary needed to produce a new narrative form that effaced a fact eighteenth-century writers rarely could: in the colonies, Indian "traditions" were a mask constructed by the colonial regime to conceal its violations of the fundamental principles of civil society.
November 2000

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No. X: Sunset and Night

November, 2003

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November, 2003

"TAPROBANE was the ancient name of Ceylon among the Greeks and Romans. This has, indeed, been controverted; and the name of Taprobane has been assigned to Sumatra. Ancient coins, however, found in Ceylon, prove it to have been one of the Roman marts of commerce.

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November, 2003

Spirit of the Cape: The Cape of Good Hope, located at the junction of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on the southern tip of Africa. The Cape of Good Hope was a stop on Jewsbury's trip from England to India by a route that also included stops in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Spain.

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November, 2003

Sindbad. In "The History of Sindbad the Sailor," one of the tales of the Arabian Nights, Sindbad recounts the many voyages he took to amass his fortune. On his first voyage to India by way of the Persian Gulf, Sindbad's ship was becalmed near a small green island which turns out to be sea monster.

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November, 2003

Ophir: Biblical region from which the trade ships of Solomon and Hiram imported gold and other precious commodities. Actual region remains uncertain, with scholars suggesting India, Africa, and Arabia as the most likely possibilities.

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