This book presents nine essays and two appendices on both, the ‘history of ’ and the ‘history in’ the Indian Ocean prior to c.1500 CE by identifying the factors of change and continuity with reference to particular cases and overviews alike. The third largest maritime space, with the subcontinent and Sri Lanka at its centre, the Indian Ocean has been regularly traversed at least since the third millennium BCE. The book discards the notion of the perceived efficacy of Brahmanical taboos against Indic seafaring and the Eurocentric perspective of ‘the age of discoveries’, in the history of the Indian Ocean.
South Asian ports, oriented to the Indian Ocean, were ‘maritime cities’, sites of thriving exchanges of commodities as well as the meeting grounds of numerous ethnic communities and socio-religious groups with rich legacies from disparate zones, and this had far-reaching consequences. The essays in this volume discuss the possibilities of the interlocking of the coasts with the mainland of South Asia; the attitudes of powers to the coasts and maritime trade without becoming maritime polities or thalassocracies; and the significance of bulk commodities in the sea-borne networks. In doing so, this volume seeks to rescue the subcontinent’s pre-modern pasts from the stranglehold of nationalism and the nation state.
Ranabir Chakravarti has an enduring interest in and engagements with the pre-modern maritime history of the Indian Ocean. He also specializes in the socio-economic and political history of pre-modern South Asia. A bilingual author, he has also published three books in Bangla on early Indian history. He was elected Sectional President, Ancient India, of Indian History Congress in 2011.