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The 'White Mughals': Myth or Reality?

Dalrymple’s 2002 book [36], subtitled ‘Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India’, has been a bestseller and serves as a point of entry to the wider discussion of race and society in the early period of the British empire in India. It is worth taking note of Dalrymple’s Introduction in particular and the kinds of sources and critical apparatus he employs. How typical is this case? Does Dalrymple sentimentalize empire and race relations and is he using this case to try to critique Said’s Orientalism (1978) [15] and to reconfigure the understanding of empire more generally?

But it is possible to go beyond Dalrymple’s work to look at other accounts of early colonial race relations. Other sources include the works by Collingham [33], Ghosh [43] and Marshall [60] listed in the bibliography. Spear’s Nabobs (first published in 1932) [78] provides an older version of the Dalrymple story.

You might also consult Jasanoff’s Edge of Empire [49] and Robb [74].

A related set of questions here and in the following topic concerns ‘poor Europeans’ (orphans, vagrants, prostitutes etc) and their place in the social/racial hierarchy: on this see the articles by Arnold [23, 24] and Fischer-Tiné [39, 40].

Dalrymple’s book also raises the question of the relationship between race, gender and empire, a topic on which there is now an extensive and important literature [28, 29, 32, 47, 57, 62, 76, 77].