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Teaching Persian in Colonial Calcutta

When Oct 19, 2017
from 05:15 PM to 06:45 PM
Where Rooms 8 & 9
Contact Name
Contact Phone 01223 765038
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Middle Eastern Studies Seminar given by Dr Arthur Dudney, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge

From the 1780s, the East India Company took an active interest in teaching Persian to its employees. Persian was the language of most record-keeping, formal correspondence, and courts of law in northern India at the time, and it was a crucial skill for young officers to master. At first, Indians and Europeans used the same curriculum anchored in the same manuscript tradition, but eventually some enterprising Europeans found that they could make money by printing editions of Persian pedagogical texts, often under Company patronage. These were distinguished from the manuscripts by their higher price but also by having been "corrected" by European intervention (sometimes with additional commentaries or translations provided). This talk uses a list of book prices from 1816 found in a manuscript in the British Library to show how printed and manuscript pedagogical materials co-existed in colonial Calcutta.

Arthur Dudney is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University, from August 2015 until August 2018. His three-year research project aims to write a history of Persian literary education, focussing on places like India where Persian was culturally important but not the local language of everyday life. Before joining Cambridge, he was a TORCH Early Career Fellow (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford), pursuing new research on the history of philology in South Asia.

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Welcome to AMES

Cambridge has a long and distinctive tradition in the study of the Middle East and Asia. This Faculty prides itself on exploring these fields through the local languages and encourages students to learn through real world engagement. If you are interested in these world regions and want to discover their languages, cultures, histories, religions, and politics, then this is the home for you. 

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