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Edward Alpers’s The Indian Ocean in World History (Oxford University Press, 2014) is a concise yet an immensely informative introduction to the Indian Ocean...

Edward Alpers’s The Indian Ocean in World History (Oxford University Press, 2014) is a concise yet an immensely informative introduction to the Indian Ocean world, which 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 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. 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.

Edward Alpers is Research Professor (Emeritus) of history at UCLA.

Kelvin Ng, co-hosted the episode. He is a Ph.D. student at Yale University, History Department. His research interests broadly lie in the history of imperialism and anti-imperialism in the early-twentieth-century Indian Ocean circuit.


Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies Department. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.