Inchbald and the Moguls

Inchbald and the Moguls

A Mogul Emperor, Shah Allum, meeting with some men of the East India Company.

A cold and cloudy day -worked and wrote to Mr. Cardiff....thought and talked of going to India.

-Elizabeth Inchbald 



Engraving of Ms. Inchbald made after a portrait of  hers. 

Born in 1753, Elizabeth Simpson was the daughter of John and Mary Simpson. After her marriage she became Elizabeth Inchbald a successful actress and writer. Some of her works include a Simple Story, Such Things Are, and The Mogul Tale. (Jenkins 7) The latter is a farce set in Mogul India. Although the quote above indicates that Inchbald thinks about going to India she never actually does. How then is she able to write an entire play in which a major character is a Mogul. Why does she choose to write about an empire miles away? It may have to do with the fact that the Mogul Empire was very much talked about. Mogul India in the 18th century was very much part of England's popular culture, this began with the death of the last Mogul and all the events that preceded. This popularity could be one of the reasons why Inchbald chose to write about the Moguls. 

About This Exhibit


Ashley Abraham


This exhibition will explore some of the possible reasons why Elizabeth Inchbald may have chosen to write about Indian Moguls in The Mogul Tale. It will discuss the East India Company, Warren Hastings, and the last Mogul emperor and how these people and events may have influenced Inchbald’s play.

Sir Charles Bunbury he walked with me and I asked him about India.



it must be Limbo, or Greenland. Doctor what say you, it is Greenland, is it not?---



The Fall of the Last Mogul

The Mogul Empire was a vast one set miles away from Inchbald, so how then did she find out about them? Well one reason could be that the Moguls's were getting a lot of attention in the 18th century. In fact the fall of the last emperor was a big help for England. The last Mogul emperor was named Aurangzeb. He came into power in 1656 by deposing his father emperor Cha-Jaham. He also had his brother killed to ensure that he had no competition to the throne. He was a strong ruler, and the emperor that inherited the most money that the empire ever had. He fought many wars and expanded his empire to its greatest lengths. However all the wars lead to an exhausted army and a depleted treasury. (Manucci  314-15) The death of Aurangzeb was the end of the Mogul Empire. His death left the door wide open for England to have an uncontested hold on India. Especially one East India Company. The vast and powerful Mogul empire had fallen, and was within England's reach. As you can imagine, this was the talk of the nation. Inchbald was a woman who always liked to keep up with the news. In fact Jenkins even writes, that Inchbald was always reading newspapers and periodicals to keep up to date on the news. With the Moguls being the talk of the town it is no wonder why she knew about them and chose to write about such a hot topic. 

Emperor Aurangzeb 

India had in late years become so much the subject of public attention, that almost every one
had gained a competent knowledge of the history, manners, and politics of that
country. (Flood 47)

East India Company 

Yet another reason that could have inspired Inchbald to write of the Moguls could have been the East India company and all the publicity that it was receiving nationwide. The East India Company was able to completely conquer India. The death of the emperor gave the company a chance to launch its attack. In addition to having a better army and better weapons the company had another advantage. They had Indians fighting on their side! Imagine the inside information and the knowledge of the land that the natives were able to give to the company. Many of these Indians where disgruntled civilians or local kings or rajahs that thought they would benefit from the fall of the empire. (Oak & Swamy 352) The company coming in and taking over India meant that there would not be another Mogul Emperor coming to the throne. 

Shortly after the Mogul empire had fallen and been taken over, the East India company was going through some reforms.  

"The year 1783-1784 was the beginning of the the period in which the government began to restructure and reform the East India Company, and much of the dialogue and many of the situations comment on the present situations and the contest over who would control the company. (Jenkins 161)"

As you can imagine, this was another big topic heard all around the country. Elizabeth Inchbald who constantly read papers and periodicals was very much intrigued. Her inspiration for the Mogul Tale and Such Things Are could have most likely came around this time. 



The Warren Hastings Trial

According to Jenkins, next to the king becoming ill, the Warren Hasting's trial was the next biggest issue that happened in the 18th century. Yet again, this trial centered around India, and as one could imagine Inchbald knew about it. This could have been another source of inspiration for her.

Warren Hastings was the first Governor-General of Bengal. He was also fluent in Urdu and Persian and encouraged and financially supported  scholars attempting to transcribe Indian texts. Upon his return to England though his administration in India was questioned. He was accused of corruption and sent to trial. " The trial, which centred on charges of embezzlement, extortion and the coercion of native Indian rulers, was instigated by the political philosopher Edmund Burke." (Flood 48-49) This trial received a massive amount of attention nationwide and ran from 1788 to 1795. Inchbald was actually given tickets to this trial but attended only one day of it. "Now in 1788 Sir Charles gave Inchbald tickets to the trial..." (Jenkins 256) Inchbald only went to one day of the trial and never went back. 

This trial, like the Gordon riots, marked an important phase for the British government: in this case, in the end the East India Company came more directly under the control of the king and Parliment, and thus India took on supreme importance for the expansion of the empire. (Jenkins 256-7)

Hastings was finally acquitted of all charges in 1795. 

East India Company Coin



These coins, sank along with its ship 176 years ago. It was bound for India as payment for the workers there. It was found in 1986.

East India Company

The East India company was the first company to have a logo to identify its products. This logo was placed on crates that contained items that were being sold by the East India Company.

Seal of the East India Company

Her constant attention to the newspapers and her interest in her own world rather than the world of the past helped to make her first several plays memorable. (Jenkins 153)


Trial of Warren Hastings


The conclusion

Inchbald was very much interested in India. In fact she wrote in her diaries that she wanted to go to India. She was surrounded by it. Between the break up of the great Mogul empire, The East India Company, and the Warren Hastings trial, India was all over the news. As a woman who is constantly keeping up with the news, Inchbald was always up to date on the latest new. Perhaps it was all this media attention on India that caused her to write some of her plays about India. It would be a brilliant way to attract the audiences. To write about something so current and popular would have attracted people to her plays. Had India not been in the current events so much Inchbald probably would not have chosen write about them. Had the East India Company and especially the Warren Hastings trial not made such public news, Inchbald may have not been inspired to write about them. Although there is no statement from Inchbald herself stating that these are the events that caused her to write about the Moguls, it may be safe to assume that these events had something to do with it. 

Works Cited 

Flood, Finbarr  Barry. "Correct Delineations And Promiscuous Outlines: Envisioning India At The Trial Of Warren Hastings." Art History 29.1 (2006): 47-78. Academic Search Premier. Web.
Image: Art History, Feb2006, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p47-78, 32p, 2 Black and White Photographs, 5 Illustrations, 1 Chart
Black and White Photograph; found on p48
Inchbald, Elizabeth. The Mogul Tale; or, The Descent of the Balloon. Dublin,1788. Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections. Seton Hall University. 
Jenkins, Annibel. I'll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 2003. 147,153,161,166, 256-257. Print.
Lawrence, Thomas, Sir. Engraving of Mrs Inchbald after a portrait. Digital image. Austenonly. N.p., n.d. Web. 
Logo or Merchant Mark of the East India Company. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.
Magni Mogolis Imperium. By Henricus Hondius.
Manucci, Niccolao. The general history of the Mogol empire, from it's foundation by Tamerlane, to the late emperor Orangzeb. Extracted from the memoirs of M. Manouchi, A Venetian, and Chief Physitian to Orangzeb for above Forty Years. By F. F. Catrou. London,  1709. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Seton Hall University. 

Oak, Mandar, and Anand V. Swamy. "Myopia Or Strategic Behavior? Indian Regimes And The East India Company In Late Eighteenth Century India." Explorations In Economic History 49.3 (2012): 352-366. Academic Search Premier. Web. 
Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2nd February-22nd April 2012, Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin, Andrew Topsfield.
Seal of the East India Company. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. (Coins)

Seal of the East India Company. London. By J. Rapkin.
Shah Alam II, Mughal Emperor of India, reviewing the East India Company's troops, 1781 (1894). An illustration from A Short History of the English People, by John Richard Green, illustrated edition, Volume IV, Macmillan and Co, London, New York, 1894.