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SC Talk: Gwyn Campbell, Director, Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill U “Indian Ocean World History in the Context of Human-Environment Interaction”

July 7, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Speaker: Gwyn Campbell, Director, Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill U “Indian Ocean World History in the Context of Human-Environment Interaction”

Introducer and Host: Marty Klein

Speaker: Gwyn Campbell, Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC), McGill University

Introducer and Host: Marty Klein

Abstract: This presentation challenges the conventional historical assumption that human beings constituted the motive force of their own history. It asserts human-environment interaction, rather than human action alone, as the catalyst of historical change. If this holds true, it presents a radical challenge to conventional historical spatial and temporal paradigms. This challenge is here discussed in relation to the history, over the longue-durée of the Indian Ocean world (IOW), a macro-region running from East Africa through the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to East Asia. The IOW as a historically meaningful macro-region is discussed in relation to its environmental and climatic context, and the role of humans within that context. Conventional Eurocentric temporal paradigms are also re-assessed within this context, notably that of the so-called “Early Modern” which dominates the pre-1900 history of Eastern Africa and Asia. This will form the basis for some concluding comments on the current issue of global warming and its impacts.

Bio: Gwyn Campbell is founding Director of the Indian Ocean World Centre at McGill University, General Editor of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS). Born in Madagascar, and raised in Wales, he holds degrees in economic history from the universities of Birmingham and Wales and has taught in India (Voluntary Service Overseas) as well as at universities in Madagascar, Britain, South Africa, Belgium and France. He served as an academic consultant for the South African Government in a series of inter-governmental meetings that led to the formation of an Indian Ocean regional association in 1997. He held a Canada Research Chair in Indian Ocean World History from 2005-19, and a Humboldt Award from 2017-19 for his research and teaching in Indian Ocean world studies. He is currently director of a major international research project entitled “Appraising Risk, Past and Present: Interrogating Historical Data to Enhance Understanding of Environmental Crises in the Indian Ocean World.” His publications include Africa and the Indian Ocean World from early times to 1900 (Cambridge, 2019), David Griffiths and the Missionary “History of Madagascar” (Brill, 2012), An Economic History of Imperial Madagascar, 1750-1895 (Cambridge, 2005) and, as editor, Bondage and the Environment in the Indian Ocean World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and Africa and the Early Indian Ocean World Trade to circa 1300 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

The link to register is

The deadline to register is the Wednesday of the talk at 8:00am. The Zoom link will be sent to registrants only on the morning of the event.