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SOAS South Asia Institute

Hobson-Jobson: the trading lexicon

Kate Teltscher

Kate Teltscher

Dr Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton)

Date: 15 January 2014Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 15 January 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: G51

Type of Event: Seminar

Series: SSAI Seminar Programme


Hobson-Jobson (1886) is a unique work of maverick scholarship; 'the legendary dictionary of British India', according to Salman Rushdie.  In 1872 A. C. Burnell and Henry Yule set themselves the immense task of compiling a lexicon of words and phrases that had entered English from Arabic, Persian, Indian and Chinese sources (and vice versa).  The glossary encompasses aspects of the culture, history, trade, customs, peoples, flora, fauna, products, diseases, geographical features, cities and provinces of South Asia.  It manages to be simultaneously encyclopaedic, authoritative, playful and digressive. In tracing the etymologies of words, Burnell and Yule fashion a history of the cultural interaction between Asia and Europe.  The complex and multi-layered structure of the text allows us access to a richly textured and sometimes contradictory account of British involvement in India.  With its pursuit of language around the globe, Hobson-Jobson allows us to consider both the impact of Asian words and goods on Britain, and the cultural and trading connections between colonies.

Speaker's Biography

Kate Teltscher is Reader in English Literature at the University of Roehampton, London.  Her research focuses on the history of cultural contact between Britain and Asia in the colonial period.  She has worked on the literature of travel, particularly on texts concerned with India and Tibet. She is the author of India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600-1800 (Oxford University Press, 1995) and The High Road to China: George Bogle, The Panchen Lama and the First British Expedition to Tibet (Bloomsbury, 2006), which was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography.  She recently published the first scholarly edition of Yule and Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson (1886), the encyclopaedic glossary of British India (Oxford World’s Classics, 2013).

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