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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Oceanic Histories and Monsoon Cultures: The Indian Ocean, 700-1750 CE (HIST10511)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryInstead of seeing the ocean from the land, what if we looked at the land from the ocean, with a long-term historical perspective? Focusing on the Indian Ocean over a millennium, from 700 to 1750 CE, this course introduces foundational debates and issues in the emerging field of oceanic histories.
Course description In Southeast Asia, there is a common expression: "The water unites us and the land divides us". It refers to the archipelagic characters of the mainland and island Southeast Asia, but it also draws attention to the centrality of oceans in connecting humans across time and space. The oceans have historically brought together people from different continents, countries and contexts, similar to a single water body in a deep forest that unites all the animals. On the waters and shores of the seas, many civilizations and cultures have risen and fallen, and thousands of humans have prospered and perished in their insurmountable yet eternal ambition to control the oceanic wilderness. Oceans have been at the centre of world history. After all, oceans cover almost three-fourth of earth's surface. Their impact on the past and present of human life is tremendous as many small seas and big oceans have shaped, and continue to shape, the trajectories of life on earth in significant ways.

With a specific focus on the Indian Ocean over a millennium, from 700 to 1750 CE, this course introduces you to some foundational debates and issues in the burgeoning field of oceanic histories. This framework helps us understand the long histories of societies that have transcended national and continental borders and chronological brackets. In the Indian Ocean context, several shared cultures, communities and systems have evolved in coastal Asia and Africa thanks to its peculiar monsoon winds. The discovery of monsoon a few millennia before the Common Era, and the dependence of seafarers on it in the Common Era, created a rhythm in the mobility of ships, people, commodities across the Indian Ocean. This rhythm immensely shaped the ways in which old and new communities, cultures, and countries interacted with one another. Interrelating oceans and monsoons, this course shall explore the diverse social and cultural dimensions of the Indian Ocean on the basis of essays, books, films and fictions. Through some hands-on experience working with sources in multiple languages from the oceanic region, students will develop a nuanced understanding of the complexities of the region and its historical significance. Additionally, the course will provide them with a long-term oceanic perspective on some of the ongoing global climate changes.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: castration, slavery and racial violence. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1000-word plan (20%)
3000-word essay (60%)

Non-Written Skills:
Class participation (10%)
Oral presentations (10%)
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. acquire a methodological ability to reappraise the importance of oceans in human history
  2. have an in-depth knowledge of some of the most important scholarship, debates and sources on the Indian Ocean world before 1750
  3. develop skills to distill the main arguments in a historical study, and to communicate that in a coherent manner
  4. explore potential primary sources from the Indian Ocean region and to analyse them critically and creatively
  5. show detailed knowledge of global interactions in and between Asia and Africa before the European colonial expansion on the basis of internal and external sources.
Reading List
David Armitage, Alison Bashford and Sujit Sivasundaram, eds. Oceanic Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Edward Alpers, The Indian Ocean in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

K.N. Choudhuri, Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Engseng Ho, Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Elizabeth Lambourn, Abraham's Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Abdul Sheriff, Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce, and Islam (London: Hurst, 2010).

Ines Zupanov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth-century India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Graduates of this course will be able to:
1. understand the methodological value of the oceans in our everyday thoughts as well as in the historical frameworks.
2. transcend land-based histories of nation-states and continents in order to see the human history from the seas, instead of seeing the seas from the land alone.
3. acquire a good knowledge of the most significant scholarship in the Indian Ocean history.
4. read primary and secondary sources on certain Indian Ocean phenomena in a global historical perspective, and analyse them critically and creatively.
5. understand some creative, commercial and virtual platforms through which one can employ historical knowledge.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Mahmood Kooria
Course secretaryMiss Katherine Perry
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