Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maritime history of pre-modern India

Coastal Histories Society and Ecology in Premodern India
Edited by Yogesh Sharma
Primus Books
Rs. 695

Maritime India - Trade, Religion and Polity in the Indian Ocean:
Pius Malekandathil
Primus Books
Rs. 695

The two books under review complement each other in establishing the sea trade as an important driver of socioeconomic process in littoral societies that interacted primarily for trade.

They highlight the social dynamics behind the changes in the ruling and trade patterns of the coastal region. Michael N. Pearson, the well known historian of the Indian Ocean, has written the foreword for both. Sea trade was known in the South from very early times and the Sangam literature is full of references to the overseas trade and the functioning of ports, with the state acting as a facilitator of trade and as the custodian of goods landing in the harbour. Almost everyone who came from the West was referred to as Yavanas in Sangam and there was cordial relationship between the state and the foreign trader.

Effect of Christianity
A collection of articles by Pius Malekandathil, ‘Maritime India' speaks largely about Christianity in the coastal areas and its effect on trade. And the author describes the publication as a “study of the impact that the circuits in the Indian Ocean exerted on the socioeconomic and political process of India.” Significantly, Pius has dealt with the India-Sassanid (Persia) maritime trade and its impact on society, an area that has not been gone into by the earlier studies. One felt that the analysis of tributary-trade system could have drawn upon the Tamil inscriptions in Southeast Asia and China, where Indian merchant guilds had a strong presence.

Full report here Hindu

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