Sailors, Convicts, and Pilgrims: The Indian Ocean Since 1500 (IDSEM-UG 2067)

Can oceans be the subject of historical inquiry? Maritime spaces help in thinking beyond nations and national borders that dominate modern global histories, leading us into a world of connected pasts. This course investigates the Indian Ocean’s long expanse from the early modern to the modern period from 1500 to the early 20th century. What changed about movement and exchange across land and sea in the longer transition from empires to nation-states? In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, despite growing European presence in the Indian Ocean littoral, pre-existing networks between East Africa, the Persian Gulf, the Indian sub-continent, and Southeast Asia remained resilient. Yet, by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, new shipping technologies, the monitoring of movement across borders, and the introduction of travel documents like the passport became crucial in the formation of nation-states that emerged from colonial empires. From sailors, moneylenders, and pilgrims to convicts and indentured laborers, cultures of mobility connected vast geographies, often defying the logic of nation-states and colonialism. In examining this history, we will cover themes ranging from encounters in port-cities, commodities, smuggling, piracy, and pilgrimage to documents of identity and travel. Readings may include: Broeze’s Brides of the Seas, Ewald’s Motley Crews: Indian and African Seafarers, Tagliacozzo’s Secret trades, porous borders, and Torpey’s The Invention of the Passport, and translations from Samarqandi’s Account of Calicut and Vijayanagar, Afonso De Albuquerque’s Letter from Aden, Linschoten’s Itinerario, Munshi Rahman Khan’s Autobiography of an Indian Indentured Laborer, and Nawab Sikandar Begam’s A Pilgrimage to Mecca.

Interdisciplinary Seminars (Undergraduate)
4 credits – 15 Weeks

Sections (Spring 2024)

IDSEM-UG 2067-000 (12492)
01/22/2024 – 05/06/2024 Tue
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM (Early afternoon)
at Washington Square
Instructed by Dayal, Subah