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The Travels of Dean Mahomet An Eighteenth-Century Journey through India

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This republication of an eighteenth-century travel narrative and autobiography by Dean Mahomet (Deen Mahomed) presents a native Indian view of the history of the British conquest of India. Mahomet (1759-1851) was associated with the English East India Company as a camp-follower, servant, and subaltern officer in the Bengal Army (1769-84). His depiction of the Muslim and Hindu society, rituals, and religious beliefs provides a unique ethnography of South Asia; he also includes descriptions of its urban life, flora, and fauna. Originally published in 1794, Mahomet's work was the first book written and published by an Indian in English. He drew upon the epistolary travel narrative genre to create his own representation of Asia and Asians for his Irish and British audience. The editor, Michael H. Fisher, contextualizes Dean Mahomet's life and work an informative biography. Fisher traces Mahomet's life in India and then as an early Asian immigrant to Britain and convert from Islam to Christianity. After emigrating from India to Cork, Ireland, in 1784, Mahomet soon married an Anglo-Irish woman. Early in the nineteenth century, he moved to London, where he worked briefly for a Scottish nobleman as a therapeutic masseur ("shampooer"). In 1809 Dean Mahomet opened one of the first Indian restaurants in London, which he called the Hindustani Coffee House; it featured hookas (tobacco water-pipes) and curries. In 1814 he moved again, to the resort of Brighton (on the south coast of England), where he made himself a successful entrepreneur and doctor, providing "Oriental medicine" (therapeutic massage and herbal steam baths) to the British public. He became a professional "Shampooing Surgeon," with appointments to King George IV and King William IV, and practiced his healing arts within the Brighton Pavilion and his own establishment, Mahomed's Bath House. Dean Mahomet's writings and life demonstrate that the colonial process was not a unilateral assertion of European imperialism over a passive East; rather, they reveal the ways that Asians represented the Orient to the British public directly, and negotiated their complex relationships with Britons both in colonial India and in Britain itself.