The Indian Ocean in World History

ISBN : 9780195337877

Edward A. Alpers
192 ページ
157 x 235 mm
New Oxford World History
  • Covers an understudied geographic region
  • Explores cultural exchanges between a variety of groups
  • Draws on a variety of engaging cultural history sources

The Indian Ocean remains the least studied of the world's geographic regions. Yet there have been major cultural exchanges across its waters and around its shores from the third millennium B.C.E. to the present day. Historian Edward A. Alpers explores the complex issues involved in cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean Rim region over the course of this long period of time by combining a historical approach with the insights of anthropology, art history, ethnomusicology, and geography.
The Indian Ocean witnessed several significant diasporas during the past two millennia, including migrations of traders, indentured laborers, civil servants, sailors, and slaves throughout the entire basin. Persians and Arabs from the Gulf came to eastern Africa and Madagascar as traders and settlers, while Hadramis dispersed from south Yemen as traders and Muslim teachers to the Comoro Islands, Zanzibar, South India, and Indonesia. Southeast Asians migrated to Madagascar, and Chinese dispersed from Southeast Asia to the Mascarene Islands to South Africa.
Alpers also explores the cultural exchanges that diasporas cause, telling stories of identity and cultural transformation through language, popular religion, music, dance, art and architecture, and social organization. For example, architectural and decorative styles in eastern Africa, the Red Sea, the Hadramaut, the Persian Gulf, and western India reflect cultural interchanges in multiple directions. Similarly, the popular musical form of taarab in Zanzibar and coastal East Africa incorporates elements of Arab, Indian, and African musical traditions, while the characteristic frame drum (ravanne) of séga, the widespread Afro-Creole dance of the Mascarene and Seychelles Islands, probably owes its ultimate origins to Arabia by way of Mozambique.
The Indian Ocean in World History also discusses issues of trade and production that show the long history of exchange throughout the Indian Ocean world; politics and empire-building by both regional and European powers; and the role of religion and religious conversion, focusing mainly on Islam, but also mentioning Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Using a broad geographic perspective, the book includes references to connections between the Indian Ocean world and the Americas. Moving into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Alpers looks at issues including the new configuration of colonial territorial boundaries after World War I, and the search for oil reserves.


Series Editors' Preface
1. Imagining the Indian Ocean
2. The Ancient Indian Ocean 
3. Becoming an Islamic Sea 
4. Intrusions and Transitions in the Early Modern Period
5. The Long Nineteenth Century
6. The Last Century 
Further Reading


Edward A. Alpers is Professor of History, UCLA. He is the author, The East African Slave TradeIvory and Slaves in East Central AfricaThe African Diaspora: A Global Perspective; co-editor, Africa and the West. A Documentary History from the Slave Trade to Independence.

"Alpers...marshals his formidable pedagogical and authorial skills to integrate a plethora of human experiences from Eastern Africa to the South China Sea over 7,000 years...[A] particularly rich emphasis on the role that Muslims from Arabia and South Asia played in competition with Chinese, Gujarati, and Iranun traders in Southeast Asia...[T]his is a valuable initiation for students to Indian Ocean studies...Highly recommended."--CHOICE

"...[A]n astonishing volume that distills knowledge accumulated about the Indian Ocean over centuries in about 146 pages rich in information and analysis."--H-Asia

"The Indian Ocean in World History proves to be an excellent source of information, especially in the emerging trend of 'new world history'...By taking a holistic approach to writing about history, the reader leaves with a rich sense of identity for the Indian Ocean and the people who have called the region home."--Education About Asia

"The author provides the reader a new perspective from which to understand the Indian Ocean within the context of world history. The theme that emerges strongly from this book is that oceans are not just barriers, but connecting barriers which have time and again proved their dominance in shaping the historical past."--National Maritime Foundation