Arguably the most influential account of South and Southeast Asia published in Britain before the mid-eighteenth century, Alexander Hamilton's New Account of the East-Indies (1727) has been ignored or marginalized by recent historians of the British East India Company. Hamilton spent thirty-five years in the East Indies as an independent trader, spoke several Asian languages, and offers the only eyewitness account in many cases of critical episodes of British interactions with merchants, officials, and rulers from Arabia to China. This essay examines Hamilton's account of the end of the Mughal War (1686–89) in which the East India Company suffered a humiliating defeat—one that is marginalized or unconvincingly explained away in the EIC's official correspondence. In contrasting Hamilton's narrative to the special pleading of Josiah Child, the director of the company during the war, and John Ovington, a company employee, this essay explores the transcultural complexities of trade and civility in South Asia at the end of the seventeenth century.

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