Scheda insegnamento

  • Docente Karin Pallaver

  • Crediti formativi 6

  • SSD SPS/13

  • Modalità didattica Convenzionale - Lezioni in presenza

  • Lingua di insegnamento Inglese

  • Orario delle lezioni dal 04/02/2020 al 13/03/2020

Anno Accademico 2019/2020

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

During the course, the students will analyze travel accounts, novels, historical sources, and scholarly works and critically engage with the historiographical debates that characterize the Indian Ocean Studies field. At the end of the course they will both reach an understanding of the Indian Ocean cultures, economies and societies that transcends national histories and be able to engage with a non-Eurocentric approach to processes of globalization.


The course will be divided into three main parts.


The first part will focus on the methodology of Indian Ocean studies and explore how the Indian Ocean has been and can be used by historians as a field of analysis. We will reconstruct the development of the Indian Ocean Studies field, and discuss the most important contributors and their works. We will then consider the spatial and chronological boundaries of the Indian Ocean and how they changed over time. We will discuss what makes the unity of the Indian Ocean from a geographical point of view and see how ports, trade routes and cultural exchanges have promoted the development of littoral societies and trade diasporas. We will then analyse the chronological boundaries of Indian Ocean history, considering the first trade and cultural contacts across the Indian Ocean region, the development of the so-called “Islamic sea”, the emergence of the Swahili civilization in Eastern Africa, the role of the Europeans since the 16th century and the establishment of formal colonial rule in the 19th century. We will see some examples of how a thematic approach to the circulation of goods, people and ideas can be used to explore the connections and disconnections of the Indian Ocean in a historical perspective.


In the second part we will consider the Indian Ocean in its human dimension, as a space where people connected to the sea moved and lived. We will pay particularly attention to the movement of free and unfree labourers, and the impact that these migrations had on the societies involved. We will analyse what is a slave in the Indian Ocean world and students will be invited to think about the difference between various forms of slavery. We will explore the role of the Europeans in the slave trade and its abolition. We will see how other types of labourers moved across the oceanic space, such as indentured labourers, convicts, etc. We will see what types of human activity created an interconnected oceanic space, reconstruct where people moved to and for what reason, and analyze the impact that these migrations had on the economies, cultures and languages of the Indian Ocean World.


The third part will focus on the circulation of commodities and currencies in the Indian Ocean World. We will analyse the production, consumption and circulation of cloth, opium and cowry shells as examples of commodities that created connections among the societies of the Indian Ocean.


Students attending the course will be given articles and book chapters, that are designed to complement the lectures. The readings and assignments will make students think about the Indian Ocean as a space of connections and disconnections and make them able to apply a thematic approach to the study of the circulation of people, goods and ideas across the ocean. The material will be uploaded on iol.unibo.it each week.


Students not attending the classes will read a total of four books:

1. Edward A. Alpers, The Indian Ocean in World History, Oxford University Press, 2013

2. R. Harms, B.K. Freamon, D.W. Bligh (eds.), Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition, Yale University Press, 2013.

3. A. Ghosh, Sea of Poppies, 2008.

4. One among the following:

Abu Lughod, Janet, Before European Hegemony. The World System Theory AD 1250-1350, Oxford, 1991.

Bose, S., A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Global Empire, Harvard University Press, 2006.

Bowen, H. V., Reid, John C., Mancke, E., edited by, Britain's Oceanic Empire, Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, c.1550-1850, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Campbell, G., Africa and the Indian Ocean World from early times to 1900, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Chaudhuri, Kirti N., Trade and civilisation in the Indian Ocean: history from the rise of Islam to 1750, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985

Chaudhuri, Kirti N., Asia before Europe: economy and civilization of the Indian Ocean from the rise of Islam to 1750, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990; .

Dasgupta, U. ed., The world of the Indian Ocean merchant 1500–1800: collected essays of Ashin Das Gupta, New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001

Das Gupta, Ashin and Michael Pearson, eds., India and the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800, Calcutta and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Hall, R., Empires of the monsoon: a history of the Indian Ocean and its invaders, London: HarperCollins, 1996.

Larson, P. M., Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora Cambridge, 2009.

McPherson, K., The Indian Ocean: a history of the people and the sea, 1993.

Pearson, M., The Indian Ocean, London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

Pearson, M., The world of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800: studies in economic, social and cultural history, Burlington: Ashgate, 2005.

Metodi didattici

Lectures and class discussions. Archival documents and photographs, travelogues, biographies and novels will be presented and analyzed in order to better situate the historical processes discussed in class.

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento


Students attending the course will be evaluated on the basis of:

a. participation to classes and discussions (50%)

During the course, you will have to keep up on the readings. To receive a positive evaluation for this part, you will have to engage with the readings and assignments, to think actively about them and to participate to class discussions in a positive way. There will be group presentations of historical sources and a final discussion on A. Ghosh Sea of Poppies at the end of the course. Participation is mandatory to both group presentations and the final discussion if you want to be considered as attending student.

b. oral exam (50%)

During the oral exam, the student will have to discuss the material presented in class (power point slides, historical sources, etc.) as well as four articles from the reading list provided at the beginning of the course. During the oral exam the student will show that he/she is able to connect the readings with the themes discussed during the course. To receive a positive evaluation the student will show that he/she has reached an understanding of:

- how the Indian Ocean has been and can be used by historians as a unit of analysis; 

- the chronological and spatial frontiers of the Indian Ocean;

- the main historical processes that involved the Indian Ocean;

- how to situate the circulation of a specific group of people or commodity in the Indian Ocean World;

- what is the Indian Ocean today.



Students not attending the course will be evaluated on the basis of an oral exam. During the oral exam you will be asked four questions, one on each book. During the exam, you will have to show that you are familiar with the most important processes that characterize the history of the Indian Ocean World; that you have understood the elements of unity and disunity of the Indian Ocean; that you are familiar with a non-Eurocentric approach to the history of the world; that you are able to discuss methodological problems and use an appropriate terminology. You have to read all the books assigned. If the reading list is not clear enough or you have problems in finding the texts, please contact Prof. Pallaver by e-mail.



If you take this course as part of the integrated course Oceanic Studies, you can take first either Indian Ocean History exam or Atlantic and Global History of Modern Political Concepts exam. You will get a grade for each module (one for Indian Ocean History and one for Atlantic and Global History of Modern Political Concepts). The final grade for the integrated course will be the average grade of the two modules.

Strumenti a supporto della didattica

We will use power point presentations with images and maps. These will be made available to the students and uploaded on iol.unibo.it

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Karin Pallaver