Indian Muslim perceptions of the West during the eighteenth century
The present thesis, entitled "Indian Muslim Perceptions of the West during the Eighteenth century", deals with Muslim images of the West at the turn of the eighteenth century as they were formulated in the minds of Indian Muslim intellectuals. It examines the modalities of experience and categories of knowledge of the West as they were perceived by Muslim scholars who had come into contact with the contemporary West. The main purpose of the present enquiry is to analyze the origins and the nature of such perceptions as were articulated in their writings. With the expansion of British political power in the sub-continent in the late eighteenth century Britain came to be identified with Europe as a whole in the minds of our intellectuals. The Indian intelligentsia's experience of the contemporary Western civilization became in fact its experience of the British society and culture. Extensive quotations from the writings of the authors under consideration are often used to illustrate the principal arguments in this essay. The thesis is based on relatively unexplored source-material which comprises Persian manuscripts in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the British Library in London. Our writers' perceptions of the Western civilization concentrate on various aspects of European and, particularly, British culture such as social life, religion, political ideas and institutions and scientific and technological developments. The present study also attempts to assess the impact of an alien culture on various socio-economic levels in Indian society, especially since Muslims had largely lost a centralised political control over India. The declining Muslim intelligentsia accepted uncritically the impact of the new and powerful culture but the new knowledge presented in their writings was not significantly implemented in their society; rather, the indigenous society was overwhelmed by the new culture that was imposed upon it and gave in to it and its attraction.