The interregional arena of the Indian Ocean has emerged as a connected—if not unified—field of historical study. While the case for integration had been strongly suggested by historical scholarship since the 1980s on the pre-colonial and early modern periods, comparisons and connections across the Indian Ocean in the colonial and modern eras have been a major feature of historical studies in the twenty-first century. Histories of this rich and complex arena of human interaction have taken the form of books, monographs, and research articles. These works have explored and explained important historical webs of relationships—social, economic, cultural, and political—that bound together the peoples of South Asia, Middle East, East and South Africa, and Southeast and East Asia. In so doing, scholars have transcended rigid area studies boundaries and crossed colonial and national borders in creative ways. While earlier works had focused on trade, newer studies have innovatively blended the aspects of culture and political economy.
In light of the efflorescence of work on a region of both historical and contemporary importance, Sugata Bose and Sunil Amrith have taken on the task of bringing together the best historians of the Indian Ocean to offer a grand synthesis of the scholarship of the past few decades in a two-volume The Cambridge History of the Indian Ocean, under contract to Cambridge University Press. Sugata Bose is the general editor of the project, and Sunil Amrith is one of the editors of the second volume. They are joined by Engseng Ho and Tansen Sen (volume 1) and Isabel Hofmeyr (volume 2). The conference will play a pivotal role in a major scholarly endeavor, allowing the editors to hone their overview and conceptualization of the volume as a whole, while providing vital feedback to individual authors.
Cosponsored with the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Asia Center