This talk explores the history of the Indian Ocean World (IOW), a macro-region stretching from eastern Africa to East Asia, from early times to the present day. It discusses conventional historiographical approaches to the region and their weaknesses, then introduces the concept of human-environment interaction as the central dynamic in historical developments. In doing so, it draws on data gleaned from a major international research project exploring the rise and development of an Indian Ocean World “global’ economy, and discusses the potential of a second major research initiative, in which that data set will be greatly expanded for six prolonged periods in the macro-region characterised by adverse environmental factors.
Gwyn Campbell holds a Canada Research Chair in Indian Ocean World History at McGill University. He gained degrees in economic history from the universities of Birmingham and Wales and has taught at universities in Madagascar, Britain, South Africa, Belgium and France. A specialist in the economic history of the Indian Ocean region, his current research is focused on the foundations of the Indian Ocean World global economy, as well as slavery, migration and diasporas in the Indian Ocean World.