The Indian Ocean World

The Indian Ocean World comprises the area of the globe that is affected by the seasonal monsoon weather system. This area contains an ecological, cultural, political and historical world-system – sustaining interconnected societies and environments which must be viewed as a networked structure rather than a field of individual historical entities.

The Indian Ocean World System

Contemporary Borders

The contemporary nations of the Indian Ocean World Include:

Afghanistan
Armenia
Australia
Azerbaijan
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Botswana
Brunei Darussalam
Burundi
Cambodia
China
Comoros
Djibouti
Egypt
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Georgia
Hong Kong
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Lebanon
Lesotho
Macao
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mauritius
Mayotte
Mongolia
Mozambique
Myanmar
Nepal
New Zealand
North Korea
Oman
Pakistan
Palestine
Papua New Guinea
Philippines
Qatar
Réunion
Rwanda
Saudi Arabia
Seychelles
Singapore
Somalia
South Africa
South Korea
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Swaziland
Syria
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Thailand
Timor-Leste
Turkey
Turkmenistan
Uganda
United Arab Emirates
Uzbekistan
Vietnam
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Our work is deeply indebted to the historical paradigm proposed by Fernand Braudel and other members of the Annales school.

Fernand Braudel

braudel

Events are the ephemera of history; they pass across its stage like fireflies, hardly glimpsed before they settle back into darkness and as often as not into oblivion. Every event, however brief, has to be sure a contribution to make, lights up some dark corner or even some wide vista of history.

Fernand Braudel – The Mediterranean (1949)

Fernand Braudel (1902–1985) and the Annales School introduced a revolutionary new paradigm for the study of history. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach in which geography and economics play the most significant roles, Braudel advocated a global vision of history.

Traditionally, history was built around state-building and the acts of “great men” such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Winston Churchill. These exceptional individuals defined the scale of history; their deaths signalled a change of era.

Without contesting the value of such accounts, Braudel nonetheless proposed a shift in the historian’s focus. Beneath the rapid succession of events on a human scale, which the historian likens to ripples on the ocean’s surface, Braudel related the history of human groups to their environment, to structures such as trading and sailing routes, and to mentalities that shape societies.

For Braudel, the subject matter of history changes because its time-frame changes. The rise and fall of states, and the short-lived and dramatic moments of the lives of “great men” are replaced by the long-term rhythms of material life. Moreover, Braudel demonstrated quite clearly that history does not exist independently of the historian’s perspectives and prejudices. As with specialists in other disciplines, the historian intervenes at every stage in the making of history; indeed, history per se does not exist – only past phenomena submerged under the dark cloud of all-consuming time. Braudel’s approach led him to relate a history that not only called on eye-witness accounts and psychology but also on geography, political economy, and sociology. Braudel introduced new disciplines like new colours on the palette of history: he brought social sciences to history.

Braudel belonged to a group of scholars in the Annales School, who set about recasting history in the long term. Mahomet et Charlemagne by Henri Pirenne, La Société Féodale by Marc Bloch, and Rabelais ou le problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siècle by Lucien Febvre all attempt to ‘extract’ history from the strait-jacket of short-termism. Braudel’s work differed from these in that it added a geographer’s perspective. Hence, in Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philippe II, Braudel was interested first and foremost in the environment in which the peoples of the Mediterranean basin lived: its mountains and plains, the sea, its rivers, roads, and towns. He combined the almost fixed rhythm of “geographic time” with the rapid rhythm of “individual time” and the movement of peoples and their ideas.

This research led him to study such focal points of human activity as Venice, Milan, Genoa, and Florence, and the exchanges that took place between them; the development of capitalism and its impact: flows of communication and money; shifts in borders; even changes in state structure. Moreover, the horizon for this reconstruction of history is the world – global history, painted on a giant canvas.

(Adapted from Eric Maulin, Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Label France, magazine)