Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

PRE-20TH CENTURY HISTORY-Arabian Seas 1700-1763

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

PRE-20TH CENTURY HISTORY-Arabian Seas 1700-1763

Article excerpt

PRE-20TH CENTURY HISTORY Arabian Seas 1700-1763, by R.J. Barendse, Four volumes. Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2009. 1772 pages. $800.

These four volumes are the sequel to the author's Arabian Seas 1640-1700. Rather than describing the history of the Indian Ocean in the 18th century with a broad brush, which tends to result in typecasting, the author intends to do so with a fine pencil, as micro-history (p. xvii). In Volume 1, the author provides an introduction to the historiography of the Indian Ocean. Chapter 2 discusses what he calls structures (i.e., the maritime zones and societies in the Western Indian Ocean area) - their characteristics and differences. Chapter 3 examines the main socio-economic characteristics of the societies of East Africa. The fourth and fifth chapters sketch the Red Sea and Persian Gulf area and Western India, respectively.

Volume 2 focuses on actors, rather than areas. In chapter 6, Barendse assesses the role of Europeans among Asians. He follows this with a series of chapters assessing the role of Asians among Europeans, Indian merchants, and kings and gangsters (i.e., the interaction between war and economy in Iran and India).

Volume 3 deals with trade goods. Prices and money is the subject of chapter 10, while chapter 11 discusses the production of and demand for textiles as well as this craft's labor force. Chapter 13 deals exclusively with slavery in its various manifestations in different Indian Ocean areas.

In Volume 4, the author deals with Europe in Asia, in particular the link between trade, conquest, and European rivalries against the background of how the Portuguese Estado da India functioned (ch. 13) and how conquest and its military means figured in the strategy of rival European entities who took into account local power shifts and rivalries (ch. 14). In chapter 15, Barendse further analyzes the linkages in terms of the rise of private trade in the Indian Ocean.

Given the focus of The Middle East Journal, I limit my remarks to the author's treatment of the Persian Gulf area. Despite the author's intention, he also paints with a broad brush (e.g. p. 938f. re monetary issues), and is rather careless with data and their interpretation. …

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