‘Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire’ by Nandini Das and ‘Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation’ by Kris Manjapra are on this year’s shortlist for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding – a £25,000 prize that celebrates ground-breaking, research-based works of non-fiction that have made an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of world cultures and the ways in which they interconnect.
Nandini Das is Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the English faculty at the University of Oxford. Brought up in India, she was educated at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata, before moving to England for further study. Among other books, she is co-editor of ‘The Cambridge History of Travel Writing’. A BBC New Generation Thinker, she regularly presents television and radio programmes, including ‘Tales of Tudor Travel: The Explorer's Handbook’ on BBC4.
Of her shortlisted work, the judges said: “This beautifully written book tells the story of England’s first diplomatic mission to India in the early 1600s, through a combination of biography and historical narrative, alternating microscopic details with broader panoramas.
“As we learn how the Mughals and English understood, and misunderstood, each other, we appreciate how Das's shifting perspective reveal important insights into global connections and changing power dynamics in this pivotal period of world history.”
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Kris Manjapra was born in the Caribbean of mixed African and Indian parentage. He grew up in Canada and completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard in the US. He is Stearns Trustee Professor of History and Global Studies at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, and a recipient of the Diverse magazine 2015 Emerging Scholar Award. He has held fellowships at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is the author of ‘Colonialism in Global Perspective’ and ‘Age of Entanglement’.
Of his shortlisted work, the judges said: “Written with restrained passion, this is a detailed and disturbing account of the false dawn of emancipation that accompanied the formal abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century.
“Set against the enormity of the transatlantic slave trade and the myths surrounding its ending, this book gives life and memory to the enslaved, identifies the forces that built new systems of servitude in the aftermath of slavery, and argues forcefully against the disavowal of these ghosts in our social order.”
The winner selected from six worldwide authors of the £25,000 prize will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on October 31, when each of the shortlisted writers will receive £1,000.
Authors for the prize, now in its 11th year, may be of any nationality, based anywhere in the world and working in any language provided that the nominated work is available in the English language and published in the UK.
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