The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History Hardcover – September 1, 2016
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|Hardcover, September 1, 2016||
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Top international reviews
It is refreshing because it is not about same banal topics like mughals and khilzi or aryan and dravidians, more topics that were never covered before in Indian History..
It is a page turner you won't put down before end.
I was happy to find a book that seemed to be just what I was looking for. Having lived in India for more than five years, I’ve often been struck by the intriguing evidence of interconnectedness that I didn’t have the historical background to understand. From a discussion with a Nairobi cab driver who had no idea that chapati (a flat bread common in South Asia, but eaten as far afield as the Caribbean) was anything other than an indigenous Kenyan culinary invention to the fact that Tamil is one of the official languages of Singapore, I’ve often found myself curious about how these connections came to be. This book didn’t disappoint. Sanyal delves right into the fascinating fun facts without getting too bogged down in the who married whom and who fought whom that quickly becomes the tediousness contributing to a lack of enthusiasm for the subject of History among school children. (That said, there is – probably necessarily – some of the stuff that students are forced to memorize, here and there.)
The approach of the book, after an introductory chapter that gives the reader a contextual introduction to the region, is to proceed chronologically. This means the book starts out more geology, geography, and anthropology and gradually becomes more of a history. In the later half of the book, this history is particularly an economic history focused on the products whose trade drove interaction in the region – be it for conflict or for cooperation. Trade is important through out the region’s history, but we also see a lot the spread of culture earlier, especially the spread of religion. From the spice that was much coveted in Europe to the opium that the British East India Company used to balance its trade with China (resulting in the Opium Wars,) this trade has had a profound impact on the world in which we live.
There are many graphics throughout the book, primarily maps. These are extremely beneficial. The book is annotated with endnotes that provide sources and elaborations.
I found this book to be both interesting and entertaining. The author throws in a one-liner joke now and again, but what I really found humorous were the fictions that were widely believed back in the day. Most of these resulted from merchants telling tall tales to make asking prices more palatable. It’s harder to scoff the price of a diamond if one thinks they were guarded over by gigantic snakes and the only way to get them was to throw meat into a canyon so that Eagles (the only things that could out move the snakes) might snatch up a diamond with its steak. It is also fascinating to learn how the same stories were heard from different sources, suggesting that false information behaving like an infection isn’t new to the internet age.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that in the final chapters the author leaves behind the historical objectivity that seems prevalent throughout most of the book. Instead of presenting the information and letting the reader make up their own mind about such events as Subhas Chandra Bose’s (Netaji’s) courting of the Nazis during the Second World War, Sanyal shapes the information he feeds to readers to persuade rather than to inform. I didn’t notice this in earlier parts of the book and suspect it was just easier to be dispassionate about the distant past.
All-in-all, I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about history and trade across the Indian Ocean. I learned a great deal, and found the book readable and intriguing.
Recent research has been amplifying the view that Europe, the Middle East, india and South East asia have a rich tradition of trade spanning the eastern and western boundaries of the Indian Ocean. With trade you discover connections and many of them surprising - for example the tale of the Pallava's inviting a prince from South East asia to rule their Kingdom and that Yale University and the DuPont chemical empire were founded on fortunes made in India.
The author weaves the most current research into his narrative and candidly states when he is hypothesising or challenging the received wisdom of others.
I agree with some of the reviewers of this book that there wasn't enough variety in the sources quoted which raises questions about the objectivity of the content.
It offers a view into Indian history and those of it's neighbours which most Indians have not experienced - an Indian author tracing a period of time which predates the 200 years of British rule.
There are eleven chapters and each chapter is slice of the history, giving you a rare insight into the period. It helps that the author is well travelled and has visited many of these historical sites and it gives the book a very live and authentic feel to it.
Altogether, reading it gives you a feeling of pride and reveals that Indian history is far deeper than what all of us have been exposed to in our history books.. A definite must read, the book is well written, authoritative and retains the reader's interest to the end..
A must add to one's reading list...
It's a great effort by Sanjeev Sanyal after Kanaka Latha Mukund's Merchants of Tamilakam which is another stupendous piece of work on the maritime history of the sub-continent.
For the millions of people that are eager to break away from the academic school history information in India, which was fed through one-sided political ideology, this book would be a treat!
It would have been great if the book had included cultural changes, impact on art and architecture etc.,
Overall this book is a must read for any one who wants to listen to the heartbeat of Indian Ocean.
Sketches stories panning across region and times - Asoka, Srilanka, Vietnam , Cambodia, European invasions and what not.
Helps to understand a lot of what's going around today from a lens of history.
The narration is simple, unbiased & leaves most of it for the reader to conclude. I say this, its not straightforward.
Generally the historians try to attest their research, impose & sometimes even instigate strong sentiments on the readers.
In this regard, as an author, Sanjeev (economist) has taken great measures to avoid this trap, eventhough its
very clearly evident that he too has well researched & visited many locations to corroborate the findings.
Similarly, many potential sensitive issues regarding Aryans, King Ashoka which highly deviates from our School (Indian) understanding
and those not covered anywhere (South indian dynasties/Marathas Naval capabilities, Indian soldiers global & WWx contributions)
are explained at facts level without taking positions.
Lastly, Sanjeev has made the reading interesting, witty & spicy, by narrating those incidents, which can be known best only to local expert.
Overall excellent book & was hooked till the last page. Must read for all Indians.
Being from Odisha it was indeed a pleasure to see a lot mentioned abour Bali Jatra and about Asoka and why he is not Asoka the Great as we now!!