Instructor: Dr. Anna Winterbottom

Introduction:  The Indian Ocean World (IOW) encompasses the ocean itself, the islands within it, and the surrounding coasts and their hinterlands, from East Africa to East Asia. The seasonal wind pattern known as the monsoon enabled people to move across the region from ancient times. Sometimes described as the original site of globalization or the hinge-point of a world-system, the IOW remains an important geo-political area in the modern world. We will examine the history of the region from the medieval period to the nineteenth century.

Historically, the IOW saw the movement of peoples – migrants, pilgrims, and slaves – and the circulation of ideas – religious, philosophical, medical, and scientific. The European colonial presence in the region intensified and redirected these flows of goods, people, and information. This course approaches the history of the IOW from a range of different perspectives: including environmental history, labour history, and material culture. We will follow the lives and travels of individuals from Jewish and Arab merchants, Muslim travellers and emperors, African soldiers and slaves.

Aims and Goals: This course will introduce students to the different approaches to global history, including comparative and connected history. Students will learn about the different scales of historical analysis, from micro-histories of particular objects and lives to longue durée histories charting social and environmental change over centuries. Students will be supported to access primary sources from the region in translation and learn how to combine them with secondary sources to produce a research assignment of their own choice.

Class Format: We will meet once per week in a three-hour block. The normal distribution of time will be split between lectures (mostly), in-class discussions based on the examination of historical sources, and student presentations.

Methods of assessment: The course will be assessed mainly through written assignments, with some points given for in-class tests and student presentations. The written assignments will include a literature review and an in-depth research essay on an aspect of Indian Ocean history.

Key introductory text: Michael Pearson, Indian Ocean. London: Routledge, 2003. This text is available as an e-book in the MacOdrum library. Other readings will be assigned throughout the course.

Questions? Please email