ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Carsten Niebuhr in Bombay and Surat

The lone surviving member of an ill-fated Danish expedition to Arabia, Carsten Niebuhr, wrote one of the earliest accounts of the two entwined trade cities—Bombay and Surat—by a western traveller.

In 1760, a band of very knowledgeable men—a botanist, a linguist, a physician, an artist and an ex-soldier—set off from Copenhagen in Denmark to discover Arabia. It was a most unusual expedition, to a part of the world hitherto unknown. Carsten Niebuhr was the sole survivor of what came to be called the Royal Danish Arabia Expedition. The expedition was doomed in several ways; a combination of several factors including unexpected illnesses, bad planning and not least, the failure and unwillingness of team members to get on with each other.

Some of Niebuhr’s writings (1792) of that voyage survive and his son, the equally illustrious German statesman and financier, Barthold Niebuhr, wrote an account of his father’s life, published in 1828. In the last century, the Danish writer and voyager, Thorkild Hansen, compiled the available details of the expedition into a book (1962), and the New York Review of Books in June 2017 brought out an English translation by James McFarlane and Kathleen McFarlane.

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Updated On : 5th Mar, 2018
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