In these annual letters, the Jesuits have recorded how they found the local social practices to be offensive. Indeed, these letters show some evidence to the ‘civilising mission’ undertaken by the European missionaries. However, they also strongly took up issues of social reforms, like in the case of lower caste women who were not permitted to cover their breasts. The book also draws out the missionary mind-set of the times which attributed diseases, famines and healings to supernatural causes.
The author is not the first one to study these letters. Hayavadana Rao, a polyglot and scholar, the first historian of Mysore historiography, has expressed scepticism over the historical value of Jesuit materials. The author of the book under review highlights the biases engaged by Rao towards the missionary materials, and refutes them.
These archives of the Jesuits were not primarily for writing the history of the times, but this book should engage historians of all hues, to analyse missionary archives to reconstruct the history of the times.
Title: Jesuit Letters and Mysore History
Author: Mahimai Dass A., SDB.
Publisher: Kristu Jyoti Publications, Bengaluru
Pages : 450
Price: Rs. 700