A quick little Alphabet Post today as I prepare for the release of Beleaguered!
Sometimes in historical romances you will find refrences to a particular class or designation of man called a “nabob.”
According to Merriman-Webster, “nabob” is a Hindi word for provincial governor in India. I’ve run across this word in romances taking place in India—the works of M. M. Kaye are brought fondly to mind—but also in romances set in England during the Georgian and Victorian ages. The word also has the connotation of a very rich person, especially one who returned to Europe from India with a fortune.
In England especially, the term was applied to men who had become immensely wealthy in
India through the East India Company and who returned to England and purchased seats in Parliament. The fear was that these men would in fact use their wealth to corrupt Parliament.
Nabobs were mainly of the merchant class and although they wielded enormous power and had great social standing in India, when they returned home to England, they were derided, criticized, and found socially wanting. Many of these merchants had taken Indian ladies as wives or mistresses and had mixed-race children. These women, “nabobinas,” were social outcasts and their husbands had little or no social status.
One significant reason why nabobs were shunned by British society was the perception that they were “decadent” in their “oriental tastes.” This perception began with the acquisition of Indian wives, but extended to the desire for diamonds, gold, precious jewels, certain foreign fabrics, and artifacts that were considered “oriental” in nature.
The nabobs who returned to England often fared poorly, many losing their fortunes through vices such as gambling. Even those who tried to live quietly as country gentlemen were shunned by their neighbors and kept at a distance. As we have often seen, money was never a major source of social acceptance in England and the plight of the nabobs is a brilliant illustration of that circumstance.