She-Merchants,
Buccaneers
and Gentlewomen

She-Merchants,
Buccaneers
and Gentlewomen

She-Merchants,
Buccaneers
and Gentlewomen

An extraordinary and illuminating book that tells the incredible stories of the first British women to set foot in India - 250 years before the Raj.

by Katie Hickman

by Katie Hickman

by Katie Hickman

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An extraordinary and illuminating book that tells the incredible stories of the first British women to set foot in India - 250 years before the Raj.

An extraordinary and illuminating book that tells the incredible stories of the first British women to set foot in India - 250 years before the Raj.

An extraordinary and illuminating book that tells the incredible stories of the first British women to set foot in India - 250 years before the Raj.

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Vividly evoking Jacobean society, The House at Bishopsgate is a sumptuous, richly woven story of marital secrets and sexual jealousy, from a master of historical fiction.

The first British women set foot in India in the early seventeenth century, over two hundred years before the Raj came into being. In stark contrast to the languid ladies of popular imagination, these women were tough adventurers, making extraordinary leaps into the unknown. Those who dared the nineteen-month sea voyage, often confined to the lowest bowels of the ship, were at risk of hurricanes, shipwreck and piracy. For some it was a painful exile - it could take more than three years to receive and reply to letters from home - but for others it was an exhilarating opportunity to re-invent themselves.

While it is well-known that women went to India to find husbands, what is almost unknown is that they also worked as traders, cloth merchants, milliners, bakers, dress-makers, actresses, portrait painters, maids, shop-keepers, governesses, teachers, boarding house proprietors, midwives, nurses, missionaries, doctors, geologists, plant-collectors, writers and travellers - many succeeding in building independent lives.


British Imperialism has cast a long shadow; 'memsahibs', once a title of respect, is now more likely to be a byword for snobbery and racism. And it is true: prejudice of every kind - racial, social, imperial, religious - did cloud much of British involvement in India. But it was not invariably the case.

Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, draws on diaries, letters and memoirs (many still in manuscript form), and rewards us with this exciting and bracingly new landmark history.

The first British women set foot in India in the early seventeenth century, over two hundred years before the Raj came into being. In stark contrast to the languid ladies of popular imagination, these women were tough adventurers, making extraordinary leaps into the unknown. Those who dared the nineteen-month sea voyage, often confined to the lowest bowels of the ship, were at risk of hurricanes, shipwreck and piracy. For some it was a painful exile - it could take more than three years to receive and reply to letters from home - but for others it was an exhilarating opportunity to re-invent themselves.
While it is well-known that women went to India to find husbands, what is almost unknown is that they also worked as traders, cloth merchants, milliners, bakers, dress-makers, actresses, portrait painters, maids, shop-keepers, governesses, teachers, boarding house proprietors, midwives, nurses, missionaries, doctors, geologists, plant-collectors, writers and travellers - many succeeding in building independent lives.
British Imperialism has cast a long shadow; 'memsahibs', once a title of respect, is now more likely to be a byword for snobbery and racism. And it is true: prejudice of every kind - racial, social, imperial, religious - did cloud much of British involvement in India. But it was not invariably the case.
Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, draws on diaries, letters and memoirs (many still in manuscript form), and rewards us with this exciting and bracingly new landmark history.

The first British women set foot in India in the early seventeenth century, over two hundred years before the Raj came into being. In stark contrast to the languid ladies of popular imagination, these women were tough adventurers, making extraordinary leaps into the unknown. Those who dared the nineteen-month sea voyage, often confined to the lowest bowels of the ship, were at risk of hurricanes, shipwreck and piracy. For some it was a painful exile - it could take more than three years to receive and reply to letters from home - but for others it was an exhilarating opportunity to re-invent themselves.

While it is well-known that women went to India to find husbands, what is almost unknown is that they also worked as traders, cloth merchants, milliners, bakers, dress-makers, actresses, portrait painters, maids, shop-keepers, governesses, teachers, boarding house proprietors, midwives, nurses, missionaries, doctors, geologists, plant-collectors, writers and travellers - many succeeding in building independent lives.


British Imperialism has cast a long shadow; 'memsahibs', once a title of respect, is now more likely to be a byword for snobbery and racism. And it is true: prejudice of every kind - racial, social, imperial, religious - did cloud much of British involvement in India. But it was not invariably the case.

Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, draws on diaries, letters and memoirs (many still in manuscript form), and rewards us with this exciting and bracingly new landmark history.

The first British women set foot in India in the early seventeenth century, over two hundred years before the Raj came into being. In stark contrast to the languid ladies of popular imagination, these women were tough adventurers, making extraordinary leaps into the unknown. Those who dared the nineteen-month sea voyage, often confined to the lowest bowels of the ship, were at risk of hurricanes, shipwreck and piracy. For some it was a painful exile - it could take more than three years to receive and reply to letters from home - but for others it was an exhilarating opportunity to re-invent themselves.

While it is well-known that women went to India to find husbands, what is almost unknown is that they also worked as traders, cloth merchants, milliners, bakers, dress-makers, actresses, portrait painters, maids, shop-keepers, governesses, teachers, boarding house proprietors, midwives, nurses, missionaries, doctors, geologists, plant-collectors, writers and travellers - many succeeding in building independent lives.


British Imperialism has cast a long shadow; 'memsahibs', once a title of respect, is now more likely to be a byword for snobbery and racism. And it is true: prejudice of every kind - racial, social, imperial, religious - did cloud much of British involvement in India. But it was not invariably the case.

Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, draws on diaries, letters and memoirs (many still in manuscript form), and rewards us with this exciting and bracingly new landmark history.

The first British women set foot in India in the early seventeenth century, over two hundred years before the Raj came into being. In stark contrast to the languid ladies of popular imagination, these women were tough adventurers, making extraordinary leaps into the unknown. Those who dared the nineteen-month sea voyage, often confined to the lowest bowels of the ship, were at risk of hurricanes, shipwreck and piracy. For some it was a painful exile - it could take more than three years to receive and reply to letters from home - but for others it was an exhilarating opportunity to re-invent themselves.

While it is well-known that women went to India to find husbands, what is almost unknown is that they also worked as traders, cloth merchants, milliners, bakers, dress-makers, actresses, portrait painters, maids, shop-keepers, governesses, teachers, boarding house proprietors, midwives, nurses, missionaries, doctors, geologists, plant-collectors, writers and travellers - many succeeding in building independent lives.


British Imperialism has cast a long shadow; 'memsahibs', once a title of respect, is now more likely to be a byword for snobbery and racism. And it is true: prejudice of every kind - racial, social, imperial, religious - did cloud much of British involvement in India. But it was not invariably the case.

Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, draws on diaries, letters and memoirs (many still in manuscript form), and rewards us with this exciting and bracingly new landmark history.

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She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen

She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen

She-Merchants, Buccaneers
and Gentlewomen

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REVIEWS
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She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen:

British women in India 1600 – 1900

“Sharply observed, snappily written and thoroughly researched, She Merchants provides a fabulous panorama of a largely ignored area of social history. Katie Hickman successfully challenges the stereotype of the snobbish, matron-like memsahib by deploying a riveting gallery of powerful and often eccentric women ranging from stowaways and runaways through courtesans and society beauties to Generals’ feisty wives and Viceroys’ waspish sisters. It is full of surprises and new material and completely engaging from beginning to end.”
– William Dalrymple
“Absolutely brilliant… these are remarkable women, but until now almost unknown. I was so gripped I couldn’t put it down.”
– Antonia Fraser
“With her customary brilliance, Katie Hickman has delved beneath the surface of male-dominated imperial history to dig out a cast of extraordinary women, living astonishing lives in remarkable times. At times funny, at others sobering, but always engrossing.”
– Anita Anand
BIOGRAPHY
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Katie Hickman is the best-selling author of nine books. Her most recent work, She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British Women in India 1600 – 1900 was preceded by the highly-acclaimed series of novels, The Aviary Gate, The Pindar Diamond and The House at Bishopsgate, a trilogy set in early seventeenth century Constantinople, Venice, London, and rural Wiltshire.

She is also the author of two best-selling history books, Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia, which between them have sold more than quarter of a million copies worldwide. Her other works include two travel books, Travels with a Mexican Circus (republished by Bloomsbury in August 2014) which was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 1993, and Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon, the story of a journey on horseback across the forbidden Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Her first novel, The Quetzal Summer, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. Her books have been translated into 20 languages.

Katie Hickman lives on a converted barge on the Thames in London with her partner, the designer Matthew Ruscombe-King.