09 September 2009


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

‘Sugata Bose has given us an excellent historical study, which is both interesting in itself (even for non-historians) and full of contemporary relevance for understanding an important ancestry of present-day globalization.’—Amartya Sen

Written around a set of sea voyages involving Curzon, Tagore, and Gandhi, as well as unknown merchants, labourers, soldiers, and pilgrims, this book asks us to completely rethink the nature of nationalism.

It does so by arguing the importance of interregional arenas for extra-territorial and universalist anti-colonialism. This current of ideas, Bose powerfully demonstrates, coexisted and contended with territorial nationalism. He illuminates the interplay of nationalism and universalism in the thought and politics of a wide range of nationalists and patriots—both exalted and subaltern.

This fascinating history of mobile peoples around the Indian Ocean also retrieves the nuances of patriotism in diasporic public spheres by focusing on the many fragments that trespassed the borders of colonies and would-be nations. The pilgrimage experience of Muslims from India, Malaya, and Java to Mecca and Medina; the overseas voyages of Tagore and Gandhi; and the diaries and epistolary records of ordinary travellers collectively reveal the reality of the Indian Ocean as a cultural ecumene, a distinguishable zone which inspired ideas and aspirations that challenged Europe’s hegemonies.

This pioneering exploration of the oceanic dimension of anti-colonialism and religious universalism frees the study of nationalism from its landlocked state. By elucidating ideas that wafted across the Indian Ocean, Bose makes a rich and persuasive argument, namely that the intellectual history of the age of empire may best be studied in the framework of multiple and competing universalisms rather than mutually exclusive and conflicting cultural relativisms.

‘Sugata Bose has brought together social, culturaland political history to create a superb study of the peoples of the Indian Ocean littoral duringthe age of European imperialism and anti-colonial nationalism. This is a major contribution to the history of India, Southeast and West Asia, and it provides a critical plane of analysis between histories of “globalization” and histories of regions.’—C.A. Bayly

‘Sugata Bose presents a lyrical, subtly contentious blend of poetry, political economy, and accounts of pilgrims, capitalists, writers,workers, imperialists, soldiers, scholars, and revolutionaries, to analyse the modern Indian Ocean as an ever-changing, transregional space and to formulate a judicious historical critique of territorial nationalism, US empire, and popular ideas about globalization.’—David Ludden

SUGATA BOSE is Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard. Educated at Presidency College, Kolkata, and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (where he was also a Fellow and Reader in History), his books include Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (2004, with Ayesha Jalal); Nationalism, Democracy and Development (1997, edited with Ayesha Jalal); Credit, Markets and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India (1994); Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital (1993); South Asia and World Capitalism (1990, as editor); and Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics (1986).

PAPERBACK / 350PP / Rs 395 / SOUTH ASIA RIGHTS / ISBN 81-7824-280-X / winter 2009

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