Ahoy there! This class explores the themes of piracy, slavery, and empire in the Caribbean Sea from 1400-1750. Our mission is to trace how various encounters, migrations, trade, and violence shaped the Caribbean as a distinct region. Despite being an island archipelago, the Caribbean was never isolated but intimately tied with Europe, Africa, and the Americas. These distant regions shaped and were in turn transformed by their colonies. We look through the eyes of pirates, slaves, naval commanders, plantation elites, merchants, and government officials. Our path ultimately follows harrowing tales of conquest, resistance, and collaboration. Although a regional study we will also attempt to understand how the Caribbean was a product of transatlantic trade and how the region fit into a global context. This class is discussion based with minimum lectures. Students will dialogue with peers, investigate historical documents, and write three papers. We will read The Caribbean: A History of the Region and Its Peoples, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, and Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624–1783 along with numerous articles. So as Blackbeard the Pirate once said “let’s jump on board, and cut them to pieces!”
Cities have long served as connecting points between geographically dispersed places. Over the last couple of centuries, urban populations have grown more and more rapidly, and technologies of mobility and communication have made them focal points of increasingly global flows. They have also become centers of tighter political control. The rise of Western world empires and political and economic imperialism have been critical in shaping migration patterns and the circulation of technologies and commodities. This course examines cities – densely populated, extensively built up, intensively surveilled urban zones – and the mobile people, ideas and commodities that shape them. We consider urban expansion from the early modern period onwards, and focus on the era after the late nineteenth century, when cities displace other spaces as the paradigmatic arenas of modern life. Starting with an introduction to key concepts, questions and trajectories in urban history, we then turn to case studies of major cities from a variety of locations (in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas). While the course is global in scope, we focus on cities that were integral to relationships of modern colonialism and imperialism, such as London, Mumbai and New York. Reading and discussion topics may include: government planning and urban development, everyday life, built form and architecture, public health and sanitation, policing and surveillance, housing and poverty relief, global capitalist transformations, or the politics of cultural difference, and the formation and negotiation of public spheres.
Colonial South Asia comprised much of what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and was dubbed ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the British Empire at its height. The Subcontinent’s status as the most populous and lucrative colony of the world’s largest empire profoundly shaped the world of both colonized and colonizer there. This course will consider the political, social, economic and cultural effects of Britain’s rule in the South Asia from about 1700 to 1950.
We will examine in detail key themes such as the rise of the colonial state and changes in sovereignty, the formation of the colonial economy, the remaking of social categories (caste, religious community, gender relations), anti-colonial and nationalist movements, and decolonization. Overall, the course seeks to develop a narrative about South Asia that is attentive to both the profound violence and change wrought by colonialism and the agency of South Asians in the making of their own modernity.
Taking oceans, rather than nations or empires, as key units for historical study focuses attention on the movement of people, ideas and commodities across space, and the political and cultural formations that emerge from these circulations. This course will accordingly consider several different stages of globalization from antiquity to the present along the Indian Ocean littoral. We will focus on South and Southeast Asia, eastern and southern Africa, and West Asia (commonly known as the Middle East). A methodological section on oceanic history, and examples of concrete connections with other locations will take us, on occasion, beyond the limits of the Indian Ocean itself. The course will consider, both in minute detail and from a bird’s eye view, inter-regional connections spanning the Indian Ocean world forged by religious solidarities, far-flung trade networks, labor migration, imperial domination, and anti-colonial nationalism.
The South Asia region–contemporary India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan–has been the crossroads of diverse people, ideas and commodities for millennia. This course covers key themes and developments in the subcontinent from antiquity to the rise of British colonialism. We begin by covering major issues in early South Asia, and proceed to consider closely medieval and early modern periods. Central themes include pre-modern dimensions of the Hindu-Muslim encounter, emergence of South Asian regions, the subcontinent in global networks, and early presence of European powers.
In addition to surveying diverse political, socio-economic and cultural developments across South Asia, the course also raises methodological questions about how different sources provide different perspectives on history. Accordingly, we consider material evidence alongside various narrative primary sources, as well as scholarly writings. The course also highlights the importance of historical memory and the continuing relevance of the pre-colonial period in contemporary South Asia.
I will be heading to Albany this week to present my latest project at the Researching New York Conference. Held at SUNY Albany, I will be part of a panel titled “Contested Ground” with Professor Robert Chiles of the University of Maryland serving as commentator. See my abstract below.
Sand Wars: Nature and Community Formation in a Long Island Port, 1906-1940
“Sand Wars” explores a political, social, and economic battle waged between wealthy suburban landowners and working class gravel miners during the Great Depression. Set in Long Island’s North Shore villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre, both parties developed and applied distinct interpretations of their surrounding environment. Elites envisioned a suburban refuge that aesthetically blended Tudor estates with garden landscapes. By improving fallow fields and woodlands they hoped to create a community centered on outdoor recreation. This leisurescape required adjacent communities to conform. In contrast, gravel miners, with the consent of local government, dredged Port Jefferson harbor and mined coastal bluffs to solidify the area’s industrial potential. Miners experienced nature through work and developed an elaborate working class culture surrounding their occupation. Their workscape clashed with Belle Terre’s leisurescape. Elites portrayed miners as invading hordes annihilating the leisurescape’s beauty and depressing housing values. Miners feared unemployment during the Depression and argued that improvement would reinforce the housing market. Elites utilized political incorporation and individual arrests to halt gravel mining. After their victory they buried the memory of the incident in a shroud of myth and memory