MANUCCI, Niccolò

MANUCCI (MANNUCCI), Niccolo. Venice 19.4.1638 — Madras 1717. Italian Traveller in India. He run away from his Venetian home in the age of 14 in 1653, became servant to Viscount Bellemont and travelled via Smyrna, Isfahan, Gombron and by ship to Surat where he arrived in January 1656. The travel continued via Burhanpur, Gwalior and Agra, but Bellemont died before Delhi and Manucci enrolled himself in Dara’s artillery. When Dara was slain he joined Aurangzeb’s army in Agra, but was soon again under Dara in Lahore, Multan and Bhakhar and rose into captain of artillery. After Dara’s death he, hating Aurangzeb, adopted the disguise of a doctor and went to Bengal. After a while as captain in Jai Singh’s artillery in Deccan he travelled from Bijapur to Bassein, Goa, Agra and Delhi, now in the disguise of a Carmelite. He worked 6-7 years as a doctor in Lahore and Salsette, speculated himself bankrupt, but became then court physician in Delhi. In 1678 he came with Shah Alam to Deccan, visited Surat, Daman and Goa, and carried negotiations with the Marathas for the Portuguese. Arrested by Shah Alam he escaped to Golconda and in 1686 to Madras where Governor Gyfford employed him as foreign correspondent carrying correspondence with Aurangzeb. In 1687-98 in disgrace as Governors Yale and Higginson did not approve an adventurer like him, but in 1698 Thomas Pitt arranged a house and a farm to be given to him by the government. He lived there until high age and died when 84.

Manucci’s manuscript, written in a curious mixture of Italian, French and Portuguese, was used in 1705 by the French Jesuit historian François Catrou (1659–1737), but disappeared then and was thought for lost until found again in Berlin in the beginning of the 20th century. He hated especially Aurangzeb, Muslims, Brahmans, Portuguese and Jesuits and appreciated Western culture and Christian religion. This calls for certain criticism with his account of society and customs (although, unlike many, he understood the importance of regional differences) and much more with he description of politics. Nevertheless, it is not without value.

Publications: Fr. Catrou: Histoire générale de l’empire du Mogol depuis sa fondation, sur les mémoires portugais de M. Manouchi, vénitien. P. 1705.

Storia do Mogor or Mogul India, 1653–1708. Transl. by W. Irvine. 1-4. 2038 p. L. 1907-09; A Pepys of Mogul India, 1653–1708. 12+289 p. L. 1913 (abridged edition).

Original ed. by P. Falchetta: Storia del Mogol di Niccolo Manuzzi veneziano. 1-2. Milano 1986.

Sources: D. Bredi, “L’immagine di un grande impero musulmano secondo un testimone italiano: la ‘Storia do Mogor’ di N.M.”, La conoscenza dell’ Asia 1, 1984, 373-395; G.L. Devra, “Manucci’s Comments on Indian Social Customs and Traditions: a critical study”, La conoscenza dell’ Asia 1, 1984, 351-371; A Maiello, “Mughal Justice in Manucci’s Storia do Mogor”, La conoscenza dell’ Asia 3, 1989, 623-665; R. Raza, D.B.I. 69, 2007; Oaten 1909, 214-226; Tucci 2005, 74-78; Wikipedia with portrait (more details in French, German and Italian versions).

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