Shaping Civilisations: The Sea in Asian History


The ocean is more connective device than barrier, bringing together diverse topics, time-periods and geographies. It has linked and connected the various littorals of Asia into a segmented, yet at the same time, a unitary circuit over roughly the past 500 years since the so-called age of contact initiated a quickening of patterns and engagements that already existed. But despite the centrality of the maritime domain, there hasn’t really been a single study looking at Asia’s seas through a broad macro-lens.

Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Professor Eric Tagliocozzo seeks to address this gap. Drawing from his latest book, In Asian Waters: Oceanic Worlds from Yemen to Yokohama (Princeton University Press, 2022), he provides a sweeping account of how the seas and oceans of Asia have shaped the region’s history for the past half millennium, leaving an indelible mark on the modern world in the process.

About Eric Tagliacozzo:

Eric Tagliacozzo is the John Stambaugh Professor of History at Cornell University, where he teaches Southeast Asian history. He is the director of Cornell's Comparative Muslim Societies Program, the director of the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, and the contributing editor of the journal Indonesia. Much of his work has centered on the history of people, ideas, and material in motion in and around Southeast Asia, especially in the colonial age. His first book, Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier (Yale University Press, 2005), examined many of these ideas by analysing the history of smuggling in the region. His second book, The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (Oxford University Press, 2013), attempted to write a history of this very broad topic from earliest times to the present.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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