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Oriental despotism: Anquetil-Duperron's response to Montesquieu

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The leading arguments of Anquetil-Duperron's Legislation Orientale (1778) are analysed as a sustained attempt by this early Indologist to refute Montesquieu's influential theory of oriental despotism with respect to the Muslim regimes of Turkey, Persia and India (the Mogul empire). Anquetil adduces literary evidence and his own observations to refute the claim that Asian governments are invariably arbitrary, lawless and without property rights. Rather, similarities in these basic respects between European and Asian societies underline the common humanity of their inhabitants, in keeping with the convictions of Enlightenment humanism and contrary to some eighteenth-century justifications for European empires.

Keywords: Anquetil-Duperron; Enlightenment; India; Islam; Mogul; Montesquieu; Orientalism; oriental despotism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.. Email: fwhelan@pitt.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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