I am an economic historian of the medieval Indian Ocean world, with a focus on India. My research interests revolve around the development of Islam in monsoon Asia, the role of piracy and maritime violence, and the evolution of capitalism from a non-European perspective.
Between the 12th and 16th centuries, a distinct form of Islamic thought and practice developed among Muslim trading communities of the Indian Ocean. In Monsoon Islam: Trade & Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast (Cambridge University Press 2018), I argue that this development was shaped by merchants not sultans, forged by commercial imperatives rather than in battle, and defined by the reality of Muslims living within non-Muslim societies. Focusing on India's Malabar Coast, the much-fabled "land of pepper", the book offers a window into the processes by which this "Monsoon Islam" developed in response to concrete economic, religious, and political challenges. Most importantly, because communities of Muslim merchants across the Indian Ocean were part of shared commercial, scholarly, and political networks, developments on the Malabar Coast illustrate a broader, trans-oceanic history of the evolution of Islam across monsoon Asia.
Supported by a SSHRC Insight Grant, I am currently expanding this project beyond the scope of the book to explore the connected histories of Monsoon Islam in East Africa and Southeast Asia.
My second project studies the history of Indian Ocean piracy from an Asian perspective. The project is premised on the notion that in Asia as in Europe, the early-modern period was marked by a shift from fluid to more rigid parameters of social and political identity, from semi-private to public forms of warfare, and from personal to increasingly codified legal regimes. Recognizing that maritime violence was a crucial vector in all of these developments recasts the much-maligned pirate as a key player in the making of the early-modern world.
My third, and most experimental, project has evolved through my teaching on the global history of capitalism to high school students, university undergraduates, and lifelong learners. The complexities of globalization, modern finance, government intervention, and workplace regulations that mediate our present-day encounter with capitalism make it nearly impossible to grasp it as a system. To get to the heart of capitalism, I seek it out "in the wild", in the liminal spaces where it exists unencumbered and unrestrained. If we are curious to know what capitalism is really like, then we need to look at the truest, most authentic capitalists there are: outlaws.
Outlaw Economics: A Rogue History of Capitalism explores the history of capitalism in four chapters. Each chapter corresponds to a distinct phase in its historical development; the key themes of each phase are illustrated through a particular outlaw enterprise. These outlaw groups offer a microcosm of the imperatives, opportunities, practices, and institutions that defined capitalism during that particular phase of its development. History often reveals itself at the margins—by operating on the fringes of the “regular economy”, these outlaws cast a fresh light on the system by which we all live our lives.
Monsoon Islam traces the evolution of a distinct form of Islamic thought and practice that developed in the trading world of the medieval Indian Ocean. What defines this Monsoon Islam is that its traditions, ideologies, and customs reflect the values of ordinary merchants rather than the interests of a political or religious elite. At its core, Monsoon Islam was the product of the tension between the distant and the local, between...
This course offers a broad survey of the history of the world from the end of the fifteenth century to the early twentieth century. The course begins at the pivotal moment in world history when oceanic contact created new connections between Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Term 1 will focus on the period from 1500 to 1750. We will examine and compare the political, social, economic and religious systems of some major civilizations – particularly those of East Asia, South Asia, Europe and the Middle East – and consider how increased contact among these cultures resulted in new patterns of conquest, collaboration and exchange. Term 2 will cover the history of the world from about 1750 to the early twentieth century. We will study the new forms of globalization that resulted from intensified European colonialism as well as the emergence of new ideologies in the nineteenth century and then see how these trends contributed to the political catastrophes that beset much of the world in the first half of the twentieth century.
In addition to attending two lectures each week, students will also attend a weekly discussion. Every student who registers for the course must also register for a discussion tutorial. Evaluation will be based on written work, examinations, and participation in the tutorials.
This course studies the history of the Muslim world in its global dimensions and contexts. It considers the emergence of an Islamic polity in seventh-century Arabia, the rise of the caliphate to encompass a diverse empire, and the global diffusion of Muslim states, societies, and diasporas. It is not a course about Islamic theology or the religious beliefs and cultural practices of Muslims. Rather, it explores the formation of Islamic states and institutions from a historical perspective. In doing so, it seeks to move away from viewing Islam as a monolithic, timeless entity and instead explores its historical pathways without privileging any single narrative or viewpoint. Ultimately, the course asks how useful the category of “Islam” is to understanding the global past. HIST 280 will introduce students to the methods of historical practice, including primary-source analysis, historical writing, library and research skills, and public history.