Across the Green Sea
Histories from the Western Indian Ocean, 1440-1640
288 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 10 b&w illustrations, 5 maps
Sales Date: March 19, 2024
A history of two centuries of interactions among the areas bordering the western Indian Ocean, including India, Iran, and Africa.
Beginning in the mid-fifteenth century, the regions bordering the western Indian Ocean—“the green sea,” as it was known to Arabic speakers—had increasing contact through commerce, including a slave trade, and underwent cultural exchange and transformation. Using a variety of texts and documents in multiple Asian and European languages, Across the Green Sea looks at the history of the ocean from a variety of shifting viewpoints: western India; the Red Sea and Mecca; the Persian Gulf; East Africa; and Kerala.
Sanjay Subrahmanyam sets the scene for this region starting with the withdrawal of China's Ming Dynasty and explores how the western Indian Ocean was transformed by the growth and increasing prominence of the Ottoman Empire and the continued spread of Islam into East Africa. He examines how several cities, including Mecca and the vital Indian port of Surat, grew and changed during these centuries, when various powers interacted until famines and other disturbances upended the region in the seventeenth century. Rather than proposing an artificial model of a dominant center and its dominated peripheries, Across the Green Sea demonstrates the complexity of a truly dynamic and polycentric system through the use of connected histories, a method pioneered by Subrahmanyam himself.
In Across the Green Sea, Sanjay Subrahmanyam once again achieves an impressive feat of scholarship. Through narrative and archival sources in multiple languages, produced in a variety of locations, he brings back to life individuals, communities, networks, and ways of life that have been obscured by an overemphasis on states and empires, and by essentialist and anachronistic understandings of identity and culture. Using the western Indian Ocean between 1440 and 1640 as a case study, this book clearly demonstrates why Subrahmanyam’s “connected histories” approach is one of the best tools for a “polyphonic” history of the early modern world.~Kaya Sahin, author of Peerless among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman
This book is an example of the method of connected histories at its best. His unique command of archival materials, bibliographies, and scholarly traditions allows Sanjay Subrahmanyam to portray the western Indian Ocean between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries as being at the crossroads of regional and global interactions, while recounting forgotten histories of slaves, warriors, merchants, writers, and rulers. Subrahmanyam places himself in a variety of localities from the Arabian Peninsula to the west coast of India. He listens carefully to the many voices that could be heard across the "green sea" and masterfully evokes the polyphony of this early modern maritime world. ~Giuseppe Marcocci, author of The Globe on Paper: Writing Histories of the World in Renaissance Europe and the Americas
- List of Maps
- List of Illustrations
- A Note on Transliteration
- A Note on Currency and Tonnage
- Introduction: Conceptual Issues in Connected Histories
- 1. An Epoch of Transitions, 1440–1520
- 2. The View from the Hijaz, 1500–1550
- 3. The Afro-Indian Axis
- 4. The View from Surat
- A Conclusion: Toward Polyphonic Histories