Essays collected in the volume under review underscore the seminal role of Ranabir Chakravarti’s scholarship in the study of the maritime history of Indian littorals in the pre-1500 CE period. His numerous research articles and lectures over the last few decades have brought the relatively neglected pre-1500 CE phase of south Asia’s maritime past into sharp focus by establishing the region and the Indian Ocean as a ‘vibrant zone of interactions (of commodities as well as of ideas) among diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic communities’. Therefore, an anthology of essays exclusively devoted to this theme was much anticipated.
Chakravarti lays out his theoretical insights and mediations on the ‘connected history’ of the Indian Ocean and the Indian subcontinent in an extended and lucidly written introductory chapter. This reminds us of another long and much celebrated ‘Introduction’ of his earlier book, Trade in Early India. The treatment of the introductory chapter as an avenue to make readers access the recent historiographical formulations on the theme of the study suits a volume of this kind. It helps to contextualize the separate articles that are part of the volume by underlining the conceptual continuities across them. Chakravarti’s strong insistence on looking beyond the framework of nation state and rejecting the Eurocentric perspective to fully grasp the rhythms of pre-modern Indian Ocean history is an example of one such conceptual thread.