Seminar by Jessica Patterson: Religion, Enlightenment and Empire

Global Intellectual History Seminar Series

Antieke Madhubani-schilderijen in Kerala, India. Foto: Raimond Klavins, via Unsplash
Ancient folk Madhubani paintings in Kerala India. Photo: Raimond Klavins, via Unsplash

On 4 October, the Global Intellectual History platform will organise the lecture ‘Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century’. Jessica Patterson will discusses eighteenth-century British interest in Hinduism from two perspectives: enlightenment and empire.

English East India Company

In the second half of the eighteenth century, several servants of the English East India Company 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.

Heterodox religious approaches

In this lecture, Jessica Patterson will situate these Company works on the ‘Hindu religion’ in the twin contexts of enlightenment and empire.

Exploring some of the themes and figures in her recent monograph, ‘Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century’ (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Patterson will offer an account of the role of heterodox religious approaches to Indian religions for enlightenment thought, East India Company policy, and contemporary ideas of empire.

Jessica Patterson

Jessica Patterson is a historian of eighteenth and nineteenth century intellectual culture and political thought, with a particular emphasis on enlightenment and empire. She took her first degree in History, at the University of Cambridge. She then completed the MA in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History, offered by Queen Mary University of London & University College London.

Following this, Patterson’s AHRC funded PhD was completed at the University of Manchester, where she was a President’s Doctoral Scholar. Prior to joining the History Faculty at Cambridge in 2020, she held posts in intellectual history, at Queen Mary, and the history of political thought, at King’s College London.

Global Intellectual History

The Global Intellectual History Seminar Series is jointly organised by the universities of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Groningen.

The Amsterdam-Utrecht Seminar Global Intellectual History is a platform for researchers from different faculties and departments at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University who are working in the field of intellectual history and related disciplines.

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Amsterdam, Bushuis, room E 1.02

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