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Africa and the Indian Ocean: exchanges and globalization (2nd millennium BC.- 19th century)

Call for contributions to a thematic issue for 2015 (issue n°6)

Thematic issue directed by Philippe Beaujard (IMAF, CNRS) and Thomas Vernet (IMAF, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University).


Like the Mediterranean, from a very early date, the Indian Ocean was traversed by people moving in search of goods, new lands, or the great unknown. By the beginning of the Christian era, exchanges progressively transformed the Indian Ocean into a unified space, that went far beyond its own borders, reaching from China to Europe and Africa.

Four types of exchange networks contributed to this process of progressive globalization: with a growing size, bulk goods, political/military, prestige goods networks and information networks. Long distance exchanges played a crucial role in transforming interconnected societies. Their expansion induced a growing division of labour, that helped to create innovations and structural changes – for example in state building. In turn, these innovations led to a rise in production, trade, and social complexity.

From at least the Bronze Age, Africa was involved in exchanges with the Red sea, and through terrestrial routes with Arabia. The spread of cultivated plants from Africa to India in the 2nd millennium BC shows the existence of long distance networks involving Southern Arabia, the Horn of Africa and Western India (Boivin and Fuller, 2009). In East Africa, it is in the context of developing oceanic exchanges that we can best understand the birth of a Pre-Swahili culture and the rise of the Swahili culture.

Since the pioneering work of Chaudhuri (1985), research on the history of the Indian Ocean has been increasing steadily (Ray 1999, Alpers 2003, Pearson 2003, Campbell 2004, Beaujard 2012…). Associating researchers from different countries, the Sealinks Project (University of Oxford) explores early contacts through this ocean, and symposiums organized by the Indian Ocean World Center (McGill University, Montreal) focus on the history of the Indian ocean up to recent times, these projects and events all taking a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the past.

Open to papers written in English and French, this thematic issue wishes to call attention to the diversity of on-going research, showing the centrality of the Indian Ocean in a globalized world.


Deadline for the submission of abstracts (in French or English): January 2013.

Special issue to be published at the beginning of 2015.

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