"The Indian Ocean in World History," A Web Resource developed by Susan Douglass, funded by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, Revised and Updated, 2010.
Reviewed by John Maunu and Bryan Scheiber
The place of the Indian Ocean in World history has long been of great interest to world historians. It has been of even greater value to classroom teachers addressing world historical processes, so much so that the College Board developed a 77–page "Special Booklet" on that topic in 2006–2007.1 It rightly remains a standard resource for the varieties of approaches it offers to the subject. This essay seeks to draw attention to an additional resource in the form of a website developed by Susan Douglass, at the time of writing a doctoral candidate at George Mason University and an educational consultant for the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding. This website, entitled "The Indian Ocean in World History," was funded by Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, a program of the Middle East Institute, whose goal is to educate America and the West in Arab culture, history, and geography. This website does not focus on the Arab world as may be suggested by an opening video presentation which begins with Omani Arab dhows gliding gracefully over Indian Ocean waters. Rather, it is intended to spur understanding of the Indian Ocean as a cultural, economic, and historical trade route. Updated this year, "The Indian Ocean in World History" is a free online resource for K–12 teachers and other educators that gives students access to a variety of primary sources as texts and images, arranged into seven eras, or long time periods, from more than 90,000 years ago to the twentieth century. It can be viewed at http://www.sqcc.org/indianocean/ or http://www.indianoceanhistory.org. This review of the website also includes reference to related on-line lesson plans, links, book reviews, university teaching syllabi, and key introductory books and articles.
"The Indian Ocean in World History" excels as a middle school and high school teaching tool. In technical terms, it is designed with the "web 2.0" ideology in mind. The website loads with a short video, which fades into an introductory text. The navigation from there is easy to access and use, although additional time could have been spent designing the drop down menu options. The maps section of the website is particularly welcome. Select a map from the navigational menu and a map with key events, locations and travel routes is displayed. Click on an icon on the map and additional information appears. The website is designed for a specific fixed-width size, so some users may have to use the scrollbars to fully access the content and photos. Students should be able to freely navigate the site.
The website could be regarded as a stand alone lesson on Indian Ocean trade routes over time. Under "Learning Tools" the first resource mentioned is a "Change and Continuity over Time" article on Indian Ocean history. Pull down maps, all interactive are exceptional "hands on" learning tools for students in middle and high school. The maps offer icons displaying products, goods, important people, ports, and cities within the Indian Ocean trading community. Current AP World history units begin at 8000 BCE; as this website begins the trade route story more than 90,000 years ago, it possesses somewhat of a "Big History" feel. Though beginning earlier in time, the website lessons, maps, primary source documents can be easily formatted into the existing AP World 5 units of study. The website also is suited to current AP World History course description themes, comparative approaches and major snapshots as described at apcentral.collegeboard.com.2 The quizzes and answer keys are all AP World history friendly.
The coming revision of the AP Course will in no way diminish the value of the site to AP instructors. It will certainly help with the new "key concepts" section (19 in all) that can be found at www.collegeboard.com/ap/coursechanges. The announced AP World History Curriculum revised framework for 2011–2012 has key concepts which can be taught with this website. For example in Period 1 "Technological and Environmental Transformations" to 600 BCE, which should be taught in a week and a half, the Key Concept 1.3, "The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral and Urban societies," can include Indian Ocean trade. The same can be said for Period 2 from 600 BCE–600 CE "Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies," Key Concept 2.3 "Emergence of Transregional Networks of Communication and Exchange," Period 3 from 600 CE–1450 "Regional and Transregional Interactions," Key Concept 3.1 "Expansion and Intensification of Communication and Exchange Networks," Key Concept 3.3 "Increased Economic Productive Capacity and Its Consequences," Period 4 from 1450–1750 "Global Interactions," Key Concept 4.1 "Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange," and Key Concept 4.3 "State Consolidation and Imperial Expansion," Period 5 from 1750 to 1900 "Industrialization and Global Interaction," Key Concept 5.1 "Industrialization and Global Capitalism," Key Concept 5.2 "Imperialism and National State Formation," Key Concept 5.4 "Global Migration," and also Period 6 "Accelerating Global Change and Realignments c. 1900 to the Present," Key Concept 6.2, "Global Conflicts and Their Consequences," and Key Concept 6.3 "New Conceptualizations of Global Economy, Society and Culture." These can all be taught from an Indian Ocean trade perspective through use of this website.
It is important to note that 11 of the 19 Key Concepts in the AP World History Revised Curriculum are related to information contained within the "Indian Ocean in World History" website. To this should be added Lynda Shaffer's classic essay, "Southernization, is a powerful secondary classroom tool that is also widely used in high schools, colleges, and universities. It was originally published in the Journal of World History (5, no. 1 (Spring 1994), 1–21 and available at several websites in a student-friendly edited and condensed form accompanied by nine study questions, including http://sites.google.com/site/mstorrespage/Home/honors-world-history-ii/southernization-reading-with-questions and at the AP Central webpage mentioned above.
Under the "Learning Tools" icon at the top of the "Indian Ocean in World History" website is WorldQuest. Clicking on that finds an outdated competition for April 24, 2010, but the WorldQuest Study Guide is filled with summary information on the Indian Ocean.
In sum, the "Indian Ocean in World History" website provided valuable information and is both interactive and student friendly. Any middle or high school instructor will find it beneficial to their curriculum with many segments being of university quality.
http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/World_History_SF_Indian_Ocean_World07.pdf. This is the direct and free source for the digital version of the above.
A Teaching Syllabus
Recent Bibliography (2007–2010) on East Asian integration and Trade.
Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250–1350 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
George Hourani, Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Expanded edition, 1995).
Milo Kearny, The Indian Ocean in World History (New York and
Michael Pearson: The Indian Ocean (New York: Routledge, 2010). Highly recommended.
See also: Markus Vink, "The World's Oldest Trade": Dutch Slavery and Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean in the Seventeenth Century," Journal of World History, 14, no. 2 (June 2003): 131–177.
Three reviews of Robert Kaplan's new book, Monsoons: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (New York: Random House) 2010. [Editor's note: Kaplan's sweeping geenralizations, like most such things, often do not stand the test of time]
John Maunu is an
AP/Collegeboard World History consultant, World
History Connected's Internet/Links
Editor, and a 40 year World History, AP World History and AP European
History teacher at Grosse Ile High School, Grosse Ile, Michigan. He can
1 See http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repWorld07ository/World_History_SF_Indian_Ocean_.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2011.
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