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What do Ibrahim Ben Yiju, a Jewish merchant from 11th century Yemen, Ibn Batutah, a Muslim scholar from 15th century Morocco and Captain Kidd, a 17th century English pirate have in common? All three men travelled and lived in the Indian Ocean region! This course explores the history of one of the world’s oldest maritime highways that has connected the diverse cultures of Asia, Africa and Europe for millennia, thus making it a vital element in the birth of globalization. Moving away from conventional land-centric histories, we will focus instead on understanding the human past through oceanic interactions. 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 expansion 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 as travel and adventure; trade and exchange; trust and friendship; religion and society; pilgrimage; piracy; the culture of port cities; and food across time.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
class participation and weekly responses to readings, 4 short papers (4-5 pages), an oral presentation and final research (10 pages) paper based on any one of the 4 papers written during the course.
none; open to all
history majors and students with demonstrable interest in maritime/Indian Ocean history
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Students will write 4 short papers (4-5 pages) each and receive detailed feedback from the instructor. One of the four papers will become the basis of a final research paper on which each student will work closely with the instructor and receive feedback on improving research and writing skills.
GBST South + Southeast Asia Studies Electives
HIST Group B Electives - Asia
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern
MAST Interdepartmental Electives