Today in London, the British Academy announced the winner of the 11th British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding: Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das.
“Nandini Das has written the true origin story of Britain and India,” said Professor Charles Tripp, Chair of the jury, in a press release.
By using contemporary sources by Indian and by British political figures, officials and merchants she has given the story an unparalleled immediacy that brings to life these early encounters and the misunderstandings that sometimes threatened to wreck the whole endeavor. At the same time, she grants us a privileged vantage point from which we can appreciate how a measure of mutual understanding did begin to emerge, even though it was vulnerable to the ups and downs of Mughal politics and to the restless ambitions of the British.
Through her beautiful writing and exceptional research, the jury was drawn to the contrast between an impoverished, insecure Britain and the flourishing, confident Mughal Empire and the often-amusing, sometimes querulous exchanges between their various representatives. Moreover, we were reminded through this story of the first ambassadorial mission of the value of international diplomacy, but also of the cultural minefields that surround it in ways that still have resonance today.
Nandini Das will receive £25,000 for winning the prize. Each of the shortlisted writers will receive £1,000.