A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

Synopsis

On December 26, 2004, giant tsunami waves destroyed communities around the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Kenya. Beyond the horrific death toll, this wall of water brought a telling reminder of the interconnectedness of the many countries on the ocean rim, and the insignificance of national boundaries. A Hundred Horizons takes us to these shores, in a brilliant reinterpretation of how culture developed and history was made at the height of the British raj.

Between 1850 and 1950, the Indian Ocean teemed with people, commodities, and ideas: pilgrims and armies, commerce and labor, the politics of Mahatma Gandhi and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore were all linked in surprising ways. Sugata Bose finds in these intricate social and economic webs evidence of the interdependence of the peoples of the lands beyond the horizon, from the Middle East to East Africa to Southeast Asia.

In following this narrative, we discover that our usual ways of looking at history--through the lens of nationalism or globalization--are not adequate. The national ideal did not simply give way to inevitable globalization in the late twentieth century, as is often supposed; Bose reveals instead the vital importance of an intermediate historical space, where interregional geographic entities like the Indian Ocean rim foster nationalist identities and goals yet simultaneously facilitate interaction among communities.

A Hundred Horizons merges statistics and myth, history and poetry, in a remarkable reconstruction of how a region's culture, economy, politics, and imagination are woven together in time and place.

Excerpt

“Beside you,” Nietzsche once wrote, “is the ocean: to be sure, it does not always roar, and at times it lies spread out like silk and gold and reveries of graciousness. But hours will come when you realize that it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity.” I experienced many such hours of realizing that I was facing awesome infinity during the long years of researching and writing this book. My gratitude to the people who gave me courage during those hours is, therefore, deeply felt.

My early years as a historian were spent with peasants who worked the land. By the mid-1990s I was restless to leave the safety of the Indian shores and began to test the waters by dipping my feet under gentle waves. But I really set sail on my oceanic adventure during a year of leave I had as a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation in 1997–1998. This book is a product of the riches I accumulated at various libraries and archives that served as my ports of call for the next few years. a log of my debts will be found in the notes to this book. I was also able to try out the wares I collected at seminars and conferences in various locations, including the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh in Dhaka, Presidency College in Calcutta, St. Ste-

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