Two points need to be established at the outset. First, in spite of its title, this book has absolutely nothing to do with Jane Austen, beyond the coincidental fact that the novelist was alive for two of the four years covered in these pages. True, there is a real-life character called D’Arcy to be encountered in this tale, but surely this is too slight a peg on which to hang a hat. Secondly, and self-confessedly, the author has a mission. He wants to remind us that ‘Muslims are not inherently inimical to “Western” values’, and that in the friendship of ‘shared humanity’ much good might be found.
The opportunity for this homily is the visit of a party of Persians to England between 1815 and 1819, one of whom, Mirza Salih, kept a diary. They were a semi-official delegation, sent by their political masters to learn about the technology and invention that made Britain the wonder of