"The Greeks in the Western Indian Ocean and the Coming of Islam" - Presented by Himanshu Prabha Ray

28 November 2008, 5-7pm
Leacock 26, McGill University

IOWC Visiting Lecturer: Himanshu Prabha Ray

The larger debate that this presentation addresses relates to maritime contacts leading to the period from 1250 to 1350, which Abu-Lughod has viewed as a "turning point in world history" when "the Middle Eastern heartland region, linking the eastern Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean, constituted a geographic fulcrum on which West and East were then roughly balanced" in her book Before European Hegemony: The World System 1250-1350 (Oxford University Press, New York, 1989).

This presentation reviews recent archaeological reports from the western Indian Ocean, especially between the Red Sea and the Indian subcontinent with two objectives in mind: one, to assess the legacy of the Greeks who had sailed the region from the fifth-fourth centuries BCE to at least the eighth century; and second to focus on change in the nature of seafaring activity with the introduction of Islam in the Indian Ocean world. It thus focuses on the region of the Red Sea and its links with centres in the western Indian Ocean, thereby shifting the fulcrum westward from the 'central Islamic lands'.

Himanshu Prabha Ray is a Professor of Archaeology and Maritime History in the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.