Can you give us the clear difference between the nawabs and nabobs during the British colonization of India?

By Sunil Kumar

“Can you give us the clear difference between the nawabs and nabobs during the British colonization of India?”

Not much of a difference; the words are nearly synonyms.

Nabob is an old Anglo-Indian word used for people who have made a fortune from the Orient(largely India) where they have become accustomed to a life of luxury and unbelievable riches; like a “Maharaja” which figured in 60s British and American television. It is derived from the Hindustani/Urdu word “nawab” which was used to refer to a local Muslim chieftain in India(largely in the context of the Mughal(Mogul: another synonym here) empire. “Nawab” is used largely in colloquial discussions in India(and the subcontinent) to refer to a rich man; or a person with ostentatious characteristics.

In the context of the British colonization; largely referred to East India Company men who accumulated a lot of wealth in India(mostly unethical means: looting by another name).

Warren Hastings; the first Governor-General of India(a part) was impeached by the British Parliament that also witnessed a long speech by Sheridan; a famous Irish satirist and poet. Called Oriental “nabobs”; England of the time seethed with resentment against the fabulous riches of these EIC men; who in a class-conscious society; were previously very “low” in the social pecking order. See link below if you want to read the Irishman’s speech;

The celebrated speech of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq: in Westminster-Hall, on the 3d, 6th, 10th, and 13th of June, 1788, on his summing up the evidence on the Begum charge against Warren Hastings, Esquire.

In the relatively “puritan” England of the time; the “pernicious” influence of such vast amounts of wealth(looted from India) caused an upheaval in British society; as the East India Company men managed to buy a lot of land and influence; as rich men do till the present day.

Also the term was often used in the English literature of the time. As early as 1772; a satirical English play was penned by Samuel Foote based on the EIC men who benefited from the robbing enterprise in India.

In late 19th century America; it was used to refer to Leland Stanford; rich tycoon who founded “Stanford” University as well as other big industrialists who constructed railroads in the American West. Also used by American journalist William Safire to refer to “Crooked” Nixon’s VP; Spiro Agnew.

So “nabobs” became a sort of disparaging(admiring) term for people who indulged in flashy displays of wealth; influence and power. Kind of like some parts of the world play up Rich Sheikhs(Sheiks) or Texas oil billionaires with their drawl. It conjures up images of wealth, power and influence. In the “Netflix” version of “Dynasty” and a “Game of Thrones” loving universe; sordid debauchery. So; summing up; nothing much between the two; nawabs and nabobs.

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