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Chapter 7 - William Jones, Vedānta and the ‘Permanent Settlement’

from Part II - From Scepticism to Orientalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2021

Jessica Patterson
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Chapter 7 looks at the place of the recognised orientalist William Jones in the longer history of British interpretations of Hinduism sketched out in this book. It argues that his work represents a significant turning point in the formulation and reception of British accounts of Indian philosophical religion. In the first instance his religious outlook, which it identifies as closest to the Rational Dissent of late eighteenth-century Unitarianism, preferred an account of Indian religion that posited it as mystical and sublime, and therefore more malleable to Biblical scripture. This, in turn, made it particularly attractive to those seeking to redefine Britain’s relationship with India in the wake of war with Revolutionary France as one paternalist guardianship of ancient customs and traditions. At the turn of the century, British interpretations of Indian religion were thus to be stripped of any heterodox implications, and aligned with the institutionalisation of orientalist knowledge, as a branch of imperial governance.

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Religion, Enlightenment and Empire
British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century
, pp. 263 - 308
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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