Bowrey’s Life in the East Indies

Finally. I completed the first draft of Bowrey’s life in the East Indies yesterday from 1669 to 1688. It has been a slog because there was just so much material but it is done. I think that it needs to be broken into at least three chapters. The word count, at present, is over 16,000. It has been satisfying seeing how the evidence from Bowrey’s Papers dovetailed with evidence from other sources. Each filled in the gaps for the other. Each confirming the other.

One thing that emerges very clearly. Bowrey experienced extraordinary bad luck or was extraordinarily rash. So many unfortunate things happened to him ranging from being imprisoned to loosing his ship in a storm. It is easy to understand why, once he retunred to England, he became both controlling and risk averse.

What was harder was deciding how to deal with topics that are no longer PC. It was disturbing to read how Bowrey had transported slaves, only later to discover that he also traded slaves on his own behalf. It was unsettling to read how he expected coolies to carry him on a palanquin on a journey down the coast (taking many days). It was disturbing  to read how he referred to Muslims. It was unsettling to read about how he tolerated cruelty to animals. The list could continue for some time.

Without doubt, Bowrey lived in very different times and he cannot be judged according to the morality of the present day. The difficulty arises when choosing the words to use when writing about his life. I wish to be honest but I have no desire to alienate any readers by seeming to condone outdated attitudes. For the moment, I have dealt with this by quoting Bowrey’s own words. It remains to be seen, how this will read when I return to rework the text after a week.


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