In the early 1780s, a middle-aged Persian in Calcutta, Ghulam Husain Khan Tabatabai, completed a substantial historical work, Siyar-al Muta’akhkhirin, “the history of modern times.” Ghulam Husain’s forbears had migrated to India generations previously to serve the Mughal Empire. His father had been a successful official in the Mughal bureaucracy. The son enjoyed less success as he was caught up in the internal politics of the Mughal state, which was under increasing pressure from the British East India Company. Siyar-al Muta’akhkhirin presented the history of Mughal India from the rule of the emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1707, ruled 1658-1707) until 1781. Ghulam Husain, whose family history made him acutely sensitive to the rise and fall of empires, included a brief but perceptive analysis of the ongoing American Revolution in his history. The upheavals in North America assumed a unique character in the eyes of a writer embedded in the civilization of South Asia. Ghulam Husain noted that recent conflicts between the Dutch and British in India originated in the American conflict, which “arose from this event: the king of the English maintained these five or six years past, a contest with the people of America (a word that signifies a new world), on account of the [East India] Company’s concerns.” After briefly summarizing the British settlement of the New World, Ghulam Husain gave this brief account of the Revolution:
They [the colonists] paid such tributes as had been established after the English pattern, and matters remained on that footing until the [Americans] having increased so greatly in population . . . the king by the advice of his ministers and principal men, imposed upon them a new sum of money, over and above that which they had been accustomed to pay. This happened about six or seven years ago. The [Americans] displeased with the new imposition, refused to obey the king’s commands; and the latter having ordered
his governors and officers, then in that land, to enforce obedience to his edicts, the inhabitants joined together in opposing those officers; and having seized most of them, revolted from their authority and set up for themselves, spreading full open the standard of rebellion and defiance, and preparing every thing for a vigorous defence. As these people are of the same blood with the English, and of course equal to them in military talents, in courage, and every thing that pertains to war; and they were as much skilled as themselves in the art of managing their flint-locks and their artillery; and as over and above those advantages they had had plenty of necessaries, they made no difficulty of encountering the king’s troops and generals, to which they gave several defeats, so as at last to destroy or ruin his army.