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Mirza I'tesamuddin

Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin was born probably in 1730 in Bengal, of a family of Sayyids who claimed descent from the Prophet Mohamed. His family were distinguished for piety and scholarship and were chiefly employed in administration or the judiciary. The Mirza was educated by Munshi Salimullah at Mir Jaffir’s court, a training that equipped him to become a munshi or secretary, which in the context of time and place was a position of respect and influence. He worked for a time for Emperor Shah Alam II and for most of his life as a senior employee of the East India Company.

In 1765, the Mirza travelled to Europe on an abortive mission for Robert Clive (aborted by Clive’s duplicity), but made good use of his time in Britain by later writing the memoirs of his experiences there, in Persian. These were first translated into English by John Edward Alexander in 1827 as Shigurf Namah-I-Vilaet or Excellent Intelligence Concerning Europe, Being the Travels of Mirza Itesa Modeen. On his return from Britain and Europe he became a local celebrity and given the nickname ‘Vilayet Munshi’. He continued in the East India Company’s employment through years of turbulence. He is thought to have died in 1800.

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