Writing Travels: Royal Letters and the Mercantile Encounter

in Indian Ink

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780226620411
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226620428 | DOI:
Writing Travels: Royal Letters and the Mercantile Encounter

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  • Colonialism and Imperialism


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In March 1608, shortly before he sailed in the Ascension, a bundle of documents in different hands and distinct styles, on diverse kinds of paper and parchment, and appended with various seals and signatures, was delivered to Alexander Sharpeigh by the committees of the English East India Company. Carrying this set of writings was vital to the success of the trading venture he was leading, the Company's fourth voyage, to the Red Sea, India, and the Indonesian archipelago. It included Sharpeigh's commissions from king and Company, a dozen letters from James I to “Princes in the Indies,” sailing directions, an invoice for his cargo, and a list of weights and scales. The chapter argues that interpreting how these writings were made, carried, and exchanged can illuminate the forms of power, representation, and negotiation involved in the earliest encounters between the English company and the Asian rulers with whom it needed to deal.

Keywords: Alexander Sharpeigh; English East India Company; India; Indonesian archipelago; James I; writings; power; representation; negotiation

Chapter.  18328 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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