New kid on the block

Primus Books, a relatively new imprint on the block and an arm of the ubiquitous Ratna Sagar had two books in yesterday's Book Review of The Hindu.

MARITIME INDIA - Trade, Religion and Polity in the Indian Ocean by Pius Malekandathil discusses the socio-economic and political processes that evolved over centuries in the coastal fringes of India and out of the circuits of the Indian Ocean, to give it the consciousness and identity of Maritime India.

This book dwells upon a wide range of issues, including the nature of maritime trade of the Sassanids with India; the impact of maritime trade on the political processes of Goa; the social processes linked with the settlements of foreign merchant groups in India; the nature of the Portuguese expansion in coastal India; and the nuances of political assertions over maritime centres of exchange and their hinterlands.

The work also discusses in some detail the repercussions of the Ottoman expansion into the Indian Ocean, the impact of Portuguese commercial expansion on the traditional Muslim merchants of Kerala, the changing methods of information-networking between coastal India and the Mediterranean, the burgeoning of Portuguese power units in Bengal, and the role of private traders in the structure and the functioning of Estado da India.

These painstakingly researched and immensely erudite essays that make up the volume are essential reading for scholars and students for an understanding of Indian history in general and its maritime history in particular.

Pius Malekandathil is currently Associate Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Earlier, he was Reader in History at Goa University.

In our History section, xxviii + 212pages in hardcover, Rs 695. ISBN: 9789380607016

The other book is also by a JNU don, Yogesh Sharma who is Ph.D. from l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is Associate Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU. His field of research includes the European traders and Indian commercial and maritime history. Dr Sharma has co-edited Portuguese Presence in India during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (2008) and Biography as History, Indian Perspectives (2009). COASTAL HISTORIES SOCIETY AND ECOLOGY IN PREMODERN INDIA is edited by him.

The subject of maritime and oceanic history comprises a large corpus and includes related thematic engagements such as the history of overseas exploration and expansion, navalmilitary history, shipping, port cities, the role of migrations and cross-cultural processes.

This extensive field of enquiry also focuses upon the study of littoral societies or the coastal regions, in understanding the influence of the ocean upon these lands. The interface between the land and the sea, with its several ecological and topographical variations, has played an important role in determining human activity, the settlement patterns and material culture in the coastal regions, which taken together constitute huge masses of territories in all continents. The general pattern of existence and the rhythm of life in all these dissociated regions, however, had considerable commonality, due to the overwhelming impact of the two dominant elements-water and land-in shaping the destinies of its inhabitants. Coastal societies have their own particular notion of identity and ambience, which differentiates them from the extensive continental zones. It is in this context, that coastal territories and their histories constitute an interesting theme of enquiry.

The present volume examines a number of themes pertaining to different coastal regions of India: coastal ecology, commercial crops, transmission of diseases, fortifications, port hierarchy, new port towns, vessels and boats, fishing communities, social life of women, etc. It should be of interest to students and scholars of maritime history of India.

Contributors to this volume include Anirudh Deshpande, Jangkhomang Guite, Pius Malekandathil, Tilottama Mukherjee, Joy L.K. Pachuau, Vaibhav Sharma, Abhay Kumar Singh, and Arvind Sinha.

Well-researched and documented, quite a few of the articles throw valuable new light on the early modern maritime history of India. (The Hindu).

Also in our History section, xii + 216 pagres in hardcover, Rs 695, ISBN: 9789380607009