Will is a historian who works on South India in the early modern period. Once the Portuguese opened the sea route to India at the end of the 15th century, European knowledge of Indian society and culture was advanced by a stream of letters and books written by travellers, missionaries, merchants, soldiers and colonial officials.
Will’s work examines both the sources of their knowledge of India and the use their works were put to in debates among scholars in Europe in the period leading up to the Enlightenment. He has a particular interest in Indian religion, and how Europeans put what they knew of Hinduism and Buddhism to use in polemics between Catholics, Protestants, deists, atheists and freethinkers in Europe.
His recent work has examined European collections of Indian manuscripts—especially the Vedas, India’s oldest sacred text. He is currently writing a book on the devadasis, the Indian temple dancers who have fascinated Europeans since Marco Polo visited India on his way back from China.
This lecture will be followed with light refreshments, tea, coffee & juice.