GBST 391
When India was the World: Trade, Travel and History in the Indian Ocean
Last Offered Spring 2021
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed HIST 391 / ASIA 391
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

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.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 10-12
Class#: 5268
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 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.
Prerequisites: none; open to all
Enrollment Preferences: history majors and students with demonstrable interest in maritime/Indian Ocean history
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GBST 391 Division II HIST 391 Division II ASIA 391 Division II
WS Notes: 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 (10-12 pages) on which each student will work closely with the instructor and receive feedback on improving research and writing skills.
DPE Notes: This course questions the conventional view that global interconnectedness was the result of Europe's discovery of 'new worlds'. Instead, it centers non-European actors in facilitating global networks before colonialism. Throughout, students will critically engage questions of how Asian and African players forged and shaped global connections across the Indian Ocean arena and examine the ways in which these contributions have been overshadowed in traditional historiography.
Attributes: GBST South + Southeast Asia Studies
HIST Group B Electives - Asia
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern
MAST Interdepartmental Electives

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