Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Slaves, Arms and Political Careering in 19th Century Oman

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

This paper puts the spotlight on the Persian Gulf littoral in the late 19th century- a region categorized as the ‘Edge of the British Empire’ by the historian of the Gulf, J.Peterson. This period saw the coming together of 2 cataclysmic events that introduced new traction in the Gulf: the crisis of the British Empire caused by the 1857 Indian rebellion and the crisis in the Omani Empire triggered by the death in 1856 of Sultan Syed Said who was the undisputed Sultan of his Arab and African dominions. This conjunctional moment of crisis brought the two Empires in close interaction. Indeed it framed the Indian Ocean political culture and economy as it evolved at the interstice of the British and Omani Empires. This essay draws attention to the idea of ‘crisis’ as an agent of change. It uses the crises as a heuristic device and an analytical category to analyze the Indian Ocean world in the long 19th century. It puts the spotlight on those impacted by the idea of imperial decline, and elaborates, via their histories, the process by which the very illness and ‘crisis’ of Empires led to the creation of a wider space and scope for political and economic entrepreneurship in the Indian Ocean. This political entrepreneurship used imperial networks and rivalries even as it remained pitted against Empire. It lent to the Indian Ocean world a new political culture and economy that worked in the shadows of Empires recovering from grave political jolts.

Seema Alavi

University of Delhi, India


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2 - Slaves, Arms and Political Careering in 19th Century Oman

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