By Sunil S. Amrith
The Indian Ocean used to be worldwide lengthy sooner than the Atlantic, and this present day the international locations bordering the Bay of Bengal--India, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia--are domestic to at least one in 4 humans on the earth. Crossing the Bay of Bengal locations this quarter on the middle of worldwide heritage for the 1st time. Integrating human and environmental background, and mining a wealth of resources, Sunil Amrith supplies a revelatory and stirring new account of the Bay and people who have inhabited it.
for hundreds of years the Bay of Bengal served as a maritime street among India and China, after which as a battleground for eu empires, all whereas being formed through the monsoons and by way of human migration. Imperial powers within the 19th century, abetted by way of the strength of capital and the facility of steam, reconfigured the Bay of their quest for espresso, rice, and rubber. thousands of Indian migrants crossed the ocean, certain via debt or spurred by way of drought, and full of ambition. Booming port towns like Singapore and Penang turned the main culturally varied societies in their time. through the Nineteen Thirties, even if, fiscal, political, and environmental pressures started to erode the Bay's centuries-old styles of interconnection.
this present day, emerging waters go away the Bay of Bengal's shorelines specifically at risk of weather swap, even as that its situation makes it primary to struggles over Asia's destiny. Amrith's evocative and compelling narrative of the region's pasts bargains insights severe to knowing and confronting the various demanding situations dealing with Asia within the many years ahead.
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Extra info for Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants
But change is not just seasonal. The sea—its currents, its shoreline—has changed gradually, over millennia. Its coasts have been carved away by ﬂoods; they have expanded as mangrove colonies spread and sandbanks shifted. Such changes have occurred ever more rapidly over the past century. ”67 The landscape of the coasts changed ﬁrst, and they changed dramatically. The mass migration of the age of empire turned tropical Southeast Asia into a ﬂood of commodities: the forests of Malaya cleared and replanted by Tamil workers crossing the Bay of Bengal, its tin mined by Chinese laborers crossing the South China Sea.
The maritime expansion of this small country in southwestern Europe had begun a century earlier, with the conquest of Ceuta (in Morocco) in 1415, followed by exploratory voyages into the Atlantic and along the west coast of Africa. The creeping conquest of the Canary Islands in the ﬁfteenth century produced the earliest agricultural “plantations” in the New World; enslaved people, both Africans and local Guaches, worked alongside indentured Europeans and “free” adventurers to make them productive.
Their appetite for the earth’s products appeared limitless— spices, timber, food to feed their workers, and eventually coal to power their ships. The lands around the Bay’s rim were no tabula rasa for European newcomers to reshape in their own image. The Bay was thick with trafﬁc and crowded with family ﬁrms and business relationships that antedated the Europeans’ arrival. The Asian commercial world was the substratum on which the Europeans constructed a new layer of trade— and which, eventually, haltingly, they came to dominate.