God and His Doubles

Kipling and Conrad's 'The Man who would be King'

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Kent k.nagai@kent.ac.uk
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When James Brooke (1803–68), a former soldier of the East Indian Company, sailed for Borneo in 1838 as an adventurer and merchant, he was inspired by contemporary works of ethnology and geography, especially Thomas Stamford Raffles’s History of Java. Upon his arrival, he eagerly inquired after the languages and customs of native inhabitants. His interviews often took the form of inquiries into their religious beliefs, especially as to whether they had a concept of a supreme God, and if so, by which name he was known. Brooke religiously recorded in his journals the details of such interviews, and even the unease of his native informants, who occasionally had difficulty understanding what Brooke wanted when he insistently asked who and what their god was. Brooke’s inquiry was along the lines of comparative philology, which was at that time regarded as a vital methodology for the new human sciences.

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