The Land of the Hat-Wearing Peoples

Back in 2004, my wife and I went to see an exhibit at the V&A on contact between Europe and Asia between 1500 and 1800. It was fascinating in a million ways, as these things usually are. But what I really remember is an Indian map which detailed all the different parts of India and its neighbours, then relegated everywhere else to one big blob (well, not that big) labelled “lands of the hat-wearing peoples”. It’s funny what people decide to make the distinctive features of other cultures. But fair, in this instance. 

Did you know that “solar topee” is a folk etymology? Some pith helmets were made from a plant called the sola, and English people pronounce “sola” and “solar” similarly. 

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The Land of the Hat-Wearing Peoples