HIST 2146: Indian Ocean History

We survey the Indian Ocean as a historic global arena of trade, migration, cultural interchange, imperial ambitions, and modern independence movements. Our period of study is from the dawn of recorded history to the contemporary world. We trace the many social and economic ties that have always linked the east coast of Africa, the Middle East, the coast of India, island archipelagos, and Southeast and East Asia. We examine the integrative roles of spices and food crops, textiles, languages (Swahili, Arabic, Portuguese, English), and religion (Buddhism and Islam). Studied are the technologies of early sailing ships, the intricacies of ocean navigation, and the seasonal effects of changing weather patterns (the monsoons). The arrival of European traders and then political empires previewed modern changes marked by new technologies (steamships, telegraphs, and modern arms) and political divisions. Themes include regional migration, nationalism, the rise of Middle Eastern oil economies, and the continuing interaction of religious, literary, musical, and cultural traditions and practices. Students will write papers on cultural exchange, interregional politics, and historic or contemporary processes of globalization. Writing assignments are structured to develop communication skills.