Medieval Seafarers of India by Lakshmi Subramanian. Published 1999
I recently purchased this book from On Military Matters. The book is 152 pages and, to quote the front piece:
"Medieval Seafarers" attempts to explore the dimensions of Indian seafaring from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, a period of striking change and growth for the trade and traders of the Indian Ocean. The vitality and resilience of Indian seafaring, attested by both tradition and historical experience, is set against the growing colonial domination that changed the contours of the traditional maritime world. The interplay of colonial domination and indigenous enterprise found echoes in literature and popular traditions, examples of which are woven into the narrative tapestry of the book.
I had taken it away on holidays but started Edge of Empire instead. However, having left that book in a caravan and being stuck at the airport for nearly 12 hours gave me good reason to read this book.
I found it hard going for the first 127 pages…
The bad things:
- Other than the cover there are only 3 poor b&w illustrations;
- There are no maps;
- There are no footnotes;
- There are vague references to the “latest research”;
- The references referred to in the end notes of most chapters are noted as “well known publications” although a quick internet search reveals them to be generally difficult to obtain;
- On occasion the account does not flow in a chronological order and is confusing;
- There is no index;
- There is no glossary;
- It extends up until 1899 (not necessarily a bad thing, but medieval?);
- The cover art – who is Daulat Khan and where was he in the book? An index would help.
The good things:
- It was only $8;
- On Military Matters shipped it quickly (together with some other books) to Australia;
- Pages 128 onwards are a great read, particularly the brief summary of the Vilayat Nama written by Mirza Ihtisamuddin in 1765, being an account of the first Indian to visit London. I will need to see if I can locate an English translation;
- The cover art – Daulat Khan attacks the British
Anyway, a quick look back and I still can’t find Daulat Khan in the book. For what it’s worth, he was a Maratha admiral who fought a British fleet on 18 October 1679. There is a very short discourse about the Marathas.
Here is a link to a review in India Today. It is more flattering than my review…