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Religion, Enlightenment and Empire
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In the second half of the eighteenth century, several British East India Company servants published accounts of what they deemed to be the original and ancient religion of India. Drawing on what are recognised today as the texts and traditions of Hinduism, these works fed into a booming enlightenment interest in Eastern philosophy. At the same time, the Company's aggressive conquest of Bengal was facing a crisis of legitimacy and many of the prominent political minds of the day were turning their attention to the question of empire. In this original study, Jessica Patterson situates these Company works on the 'Hindu religion' in the twin contexts of enlightenment and empire. In doing so, she uncovers the central role of heterodox religious approaches to Indian religions for enlightenment thought, East India Company policy, and contemporary ideas of empire.

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