Student Success - Nick Astle | Saint Francis University
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Student Success - Nick Astle

  • The Question of Religious Tolerance

    Meet Nick Astle, a 2015 graduate of the history program at Saint Francis University.

    HIST Nick Astle Student Story contentNick was interested in religious history, and in particular in the question of religious tolerance. Nick’s interest came from his personal commitment to his own faith, as well as current events which include many Americans questioning the tolerance of one particular faith -- Islam.

    Nick decided to study religious conflict and accommodation in early modern India. He chose this particular history because India was ruled by Muslims for almost a thousand years, but with a subject population that did not embrace Islam, a unique arrangement in world history. The historical question Nick wanted to answer was what happened when Muslims ruled non-Muslims in early modern India; specifically, did it lead to conflict or did the rulers and the ruled find accommodation. In order to answer this question, Nick examined the translated writing of several Europeans who were present in India at this time. These sources appealed to Nick because he felt that being outsiders, these Europeans could act as a set of relatively neutral observers who might be relied upon to provide him with relevant answers.

    Nick’s research included analysis of the writings of a Russian horse trader Afanasy Nikitin, an Augustinian Friar Sebastien Manrique, a French physician Francois Bernier, and a jeweler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. All these Europeans had lived and written about their experiences in India variously from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Some of Nick’s sources suggested that non-Muslims had little to fear from their Muslim kings. For instance, these Europeans, none of whom were Muslim, had little trouble travelling the land, and engaging in trade. On the other hand, Nick came across disturbing evidence that suggested that Muslims did enjoy privileges denied to others in the country. On balance, Nick concluded that while there was much cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims, the relationship was characterized by conflict much more than accommodation. 

    Nick went on to present this research at the Saint Francis University Student Research Day in the spring of 2015. His research was very well received.