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The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamānī's Ship: Mughal Women and European Traders

Ellison B. Findly
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 108, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1988), pp. 227-238
DOI: 10.2307/603650
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/603650
Page Count: 12
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The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamānī's Ship: Mughal Women and European Traders
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Abstract

The early colonial period in India produced a rash of piracies by Europeans against indigenous trading ships. Although all attacks damaged Indian foreign trade, one attack in particular, in the autumn of 1613, precipitated an especially harsh response on the part of the Mughal government. The capture of the Raḥīmī by the Portuguese, even while she carried the necessary safe travel pass, proved especially odious to the emperor Jahāngīr (r. 1605-1627) primarily because the owner and patron of the ship was his mother, Maryam-uz-Zamānī. An investigation of the event reveals that most Mughal noblewomen of the period were unusually wealthy, and that a number of them were active in a new and highly risky business, investment in foreign trade. Moreover, these trading ships often carried pilgrims to and from Mocha, a seaport within easy reach of the religious trading center of Mecca. The capture of the Raḥīmī, then, was not only an illegal act by the Portuguese as well as an act of deliberate religious persecution, but an event which revealed the substantial involvement of women in the crucial beginnings of modern Indian foreign trade.

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