ASST 391 When India was the World: Trade, Travel and History in the Indian Ocean

Last offered Fall 2013

Cross Listed as INST391, HIST391
Can historians study oceans rather than lands? Is it possible to think about an aquatic space as an integrated cultural region rather than simply focusing on terra-centric empires and societies? What can we learn about human interactions in the past through the study of oceanic histories? This course seeks to answer these questions by focusing on the oldest maritime highway in history: the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean connected diverse regions, cultures and communities for millennia, thus making it a vital element in the birth of globalization. South Asian ports and port cities remained the fulcrum of the Indian Ocean world throughout its history; traders, travellers, nobles, scholars, pilgrims and pirates from all over the world travelled to the Indian coast in search of adventure, spices, knowledge and wealth. Thus we will primarily focus on India's role in the Indian Ocean roughly from the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE through the intrusion of various European communities in the region and the subsequent rise of the global economy and colonialism in the nineteenth century. Rather than following a strict temporal chronology we will concentrate on themes such a travel and adventure; trade and exchange; trust and friendship; religion and society; pilgrimage; piracy; the culture of port cities; and food across time.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on participation, response papers based on primary sources, and two essays
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Prerequisites: none; open to all
Enrollment Preference: none
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Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes: HIST Group B Electives - Asia,INST South + Southeast Asia Studies Electives,MAST Interdepartmental Electives
Enrollment Limit: 25
Expected Enrollment: 15-20
Class Number: 1976
ASST 391 SEM When India was the World Division 2: Social Studies Aparna Kapadia
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