Economist and urban theorist Sanjeev Sanyal’s new book The Ocean of Churn primarily looks at how the Indian Ocean shaped human history.
Here’s Sanyal talking about his preferred philosophy of history. Don’t miss the part where he reads out sections from his fascinating book.
In this moving away from the Delhi-centric study of the nation’s history, the book manages to demolish some favourite Indian beliefs about, among other things, racial purity, caste, the Aryan invasion, and the reputation of historical figures like Emperor Ashoka and Tipu Sultan.
Sanyal’s approach to history emerges from his view of the world as a Complex Adaptive System. This is a change from both, the Great Man theory of history and the Marxist approach. In this view, it isn’t just the great kings or huge events that impact history, even the actions of ordinary individuals could have far-reaching effects. Take the case of the trader Naruttam.
Intent on protecting his daughter from the unwanted attentions of a Portuguese gent, he brought about the eventual expulsion of the Portuguese from Oman.