Our Mission

The Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC) at McGill University is a research initiative and resource base established to promote the study of the history, economy and cultures of the lands and peoples of the Indian Ocean world (IOW)--from China to Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

This macro-region witnessed the early emergence of major centres of production and a monsoon-based system of trans-oceanic trade that led to the emergence by at least the tenth century of a sophisticated and durable system of long-distance exchange of commodities, monies, technology, ideas and people. The IOW was thus home to the first "global" economy, one that dominated the macro-region until at least the mid-eighteenth century, some would argue the nineteenth century, and which is again resurgent. Today the IOW comprises 50% of the planet's population and is forecast to become the leading world economy by 2020.

The IOWC pursues an interdisciplinary approach inspired by French historian Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) who posited history as an ongoing interaction between human and natural forces, encompassing geography, environment, climate and disease. The Centre's current research priorities include:

  • The rise and development of the first global economy
  • Human migration and diaspora in the IOW
  • Systems of bondage and trafficking of humans in the IOW
  • IOW exchange of commodities, technology and ideas