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Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris


The majority of Japanese even today believe that the politico-cultural universe of the Edo period was fundamentally determined by the closure of the country. They also think that the opening of Japan can be reduced to the development of exchanges with the West, following the birth of the Meiji regime. It is hard for them to imagine that Japan developed in relation with other Asian countries, since they are hardly used to appreciating Asian cultures.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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2 Yuko, Tanaka, ‘Le monde comme représentation symbolique: Le Japon de 1'époque d'Edo et l'univers du mitate’, Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales 50, 2 (1995), 281.Google Scholar

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4 Nevertheless, the present project by Lieberman represents, in my view at least, a considerable advance on his earlier conceptual framework of the ‘administrative cycle’; for which see his Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580–1760 (Princeton, 1984).Google Scholar

5 Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, The Making of Early Modern Asia (Boulder: Westview Press, forthcoming);Google ScholarSubrahmanyam, , The Early Modern World (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, forthcoming).Google Scholar

6 Cf. the relatively recent, important, work on Timur by Manz, Beatrice Forbes, The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane (Cambridge, 1989).Google Scholar

7 See, in this context, the essays collected in Salmon, Claudine (ed.), Récits de voyage des asiatiques: Genres, mentalités et conception de l'espace (Paris, 1996);Google Scholarand more particularly on (semi-fictional works for) Japan, Kosugi Keiko, Satake Akihiro and Jacqueline Pigeot, Voyages en d'autres mondes: Récits japonais du XVIe siècle (Paris, 1993).Google Scholar

8 The history of ‘early anthropology’ is obviously in need of revision, as are the implicit presuppositions of such pioneering but dated works as Hodgen, Margaret T., Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia, 1964).Google ScholarThe important work of Pagden, Anthony, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (Cambridge, 1982), adds depth to the analysis, but does not shift the perspective.Google Scholar

9 For a sense of some of the complexities of this relationship through a careful case-study, see Fletcher, Joseph, ‘The Mongols: Ecological and Social Perspectives’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 46, 1 (1986), 1150.Google Scholar

10 Besides the oft-cited (and oft-criticized) works of Alfred Crosby (The Columbian Exchange, and Ecological Imperialism), see the recent and ambitious synthesis by Grove, Richard, Green Imperialism (Cambridge/Delhi, 1994), which pays far greater attention to Asia than does Crosby.Google Scholar

11 Cf. Gruzinski, Serge, Les Hommes-dieux du Mexique: Pouvoir indien el société coloniale, XVIe–XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1985);Google Scholaralso the very widely cited work by the same author, La colonisation de I'imaginaire: Sociétés indigènes et occidentalisation dans le Mexique espagnol, XVIe–XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1988).Google Scholar

12 An exception is Parker, Geoffrey, ‘David or Goliath? Philip II and his World in the 1580s’, in Kagan, Richard L. and Parker, Geoffrey (eds), Spain, Europe and the Atlantic World: Essays in Honour of John H. Elliott (Cambridge, 1995), 245–66.Google Scholar

13 In this context, see the useful essay by Kafadar, Cemal, ‘Self and Others: The Diary of a Dervish in Seventeenth Century Istanbul and First-person Narratives in Ottoman Literature’, Studia Islamica 69 (1989), 121–50,Google Scholarwhich draws in turn on Davis, Natalie Zemon, ‘Boundaries and the Sense of Self in Sixteenth-Century France’, in Heller, T. C., Sosna, M. and Wellbery, D. E. (eds), Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality and the Self in Western Thought (Stanford, 1986),Google Scholar

14 This point was made forcefully by Dikötter, Frank, ‘Parallel Modernities: Normalization, Individuation and the Biologizing Process in China’, presented to the seminar, ‘The Eurasian context of the early modern history of mainland South East Asia, c. 1400–1800’, at the Centre of South East Asian Studies, SOAS, 22–4 June 1995.Google Scholar

15 For selected papers of that conference, see Marshall, P. J., van Niel, R. et al. , The Ancien Régime in India and Indonesia (Leiden, 1988).Google Scholar

16 My own book, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500–1700: A Political and Economic History (London, 1993), drew inspiration in part from Bayly's work. There are, of course, a number of points of divergence, both stylistic and substantive.Google Scholar

17 From a rather different perspective, this parallels observations made on the study of systems of medicine by Zimmermann, Francis, Généalogie des médecines douces: De l'Inde à l'Occident (Paris, 1995).Google Scholar

18 For a discussion, see Alam, MuzafTar and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, ‘L'Etat Moghol et sa fiscalité’, Annales HSS 49, 1 (1994); 189217.Google Scholar

19 For an earlier, more empirically substantiated, statement, see Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India, 1500–1650 (Cambridge, 1990), ch. 4.Google Scholar

20 I develop these themes at greater length in my paper, ‘Persianisation and Mercantilism: Two Themes in Bay of Bengal History, 1400–1750’, in Lombard, Denys and Prakash, Om (eds), Trade and Cultural Contacts in the Bay of Bengal, 1400–1800 (Delhi: Manohar, forthcoming).Google Scholar

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22 Cited in Parker, Geoffrey, Philip II, 3rd ed. (Chicago, 1995), xvi. The letter is dated December 1574.Google Scholar

23 For a further discussion, see Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, ‘A Note on the Kabul Kingdom under Muhammad Hakim Mirza (1554–1585)’, La Transmission du savoir dans le monde musulman périphérique, Lettre d'information No. 14 (1994), 89101.Google Scholar

24 In this context, we may note that the social, ideological and political ramifications of the important Mahdawi movement in sixteenth-century northern India will be discussed in the forthcoming work of Derryl Maclean, Waiting for the End of the World.

25 Hamdani, Abbas, ‘Columbus and the Recovery of Jerusalem’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 99, 1 (1979), 3948;Google Scholaralso Phelan, John L., The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World (Berkeley, 1970).Google Scholar

26 Cf. Godinho, Vitorino Magalhäes, Mito e mercadoria, utopia e prática de navegar, séculos XIII–XVIII (Lisbon, 1990);Google Scholarand in contrast, the important new interpretation in Filipe, LuílsThomaz, F. R., De Ceuta a Timor (Lisbon, 1994).Google Scholar

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28 See, for example, Kagan, Richard L., Lucrecia's Dreams: Politics and Prophecy in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Berkeley, 1990);Google Scholarand earlier, Weinstein, Donald, Savonarola and Florence: Prophecy and Patriotism in the Renaissance (Princeton, 1970).Google Scholar

29 For the best discussion to date of early sixteenth-century Iran, see Aubin, Jean, ‘L'avènement des Safavides réconsideré’, Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 5 (1988), 1130.Google ScholarMy discussion of Isma'il, Shah draws liberally on this extensive, and very welldocumented, essay. But, see also several of the essays in Calmard, Jean (ed.), Études safavides (Paris-Teheran, 1993).Google Scholar

30 Cf. Minorsky, V., ‘The Poetry of Shâh Ismâ'îl I’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 10, 4 (1942), 1006a–53a;Google Scholarfor other verses, see also Gandjei, Tourkhan, Il Canzoniere di Shâh Ismâ'îl (Naples, 1959).Google Scholar

31 For a brief overview of this reign, and an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of this ruler, see Mazzaoui, Michel M., ‘The Religious Policy of Shah Isma'il II’, in Mazzaoui, M. M. and Moreen, Vera B. (eds), Intellectual Studies on Islam: Essays Written in Honour of Martin B. Dickson (Salt Lake City, 1990), 4956.Google Scholar

32 Savory, R. M., ‘A Curious Episode in Safavid History’, in Bosworth, C. E. (ed.), Iran and Islam: In Memory of the Late Vladimir Minorsky (Edinburgh, 1971), 461–73.Google Scholar

33 Indeed, my discussion here draws largely on Babayan, Kathryn, ‘The Waning of the Qizilbâsh: The Temporal and the Spiritual in Seventeenth-Century Iran’ (Princeton University, Ph.D. dissertation, 1993).Google Scholar

34 Babayan, , ‘The Waning of the Qizilbâsh’, 4864.Google Scholar

35 The Sikandar Nâmah-i-Bahri by Nizâmî, 2 vols, eds Sprenger, A., Shustari, Agha Muhammad and Ali, MoulawiAli, Agha Ahmad (Calcutta, 18521869).Google Scholar

36 The Dârâb Nâma in question is by ibn, Abu Tahiral-Tarsusi, Hasan Musa, British Museum, London, MSS. Or. 4615;Google Scholar two paintings representing the swallowing of Shah Ardashir by a dragon, and the island of Nigar are reproduced in Welch, Stuart Cary, Imperial Mughal Painting (London, 1978), 4851.Google Scholar

37 Cf. in this context, Valensi, Lucette, Venise et la Sublime Porte: La naissance du despote (Paris, 1987), 5970.Google Scholar

38 I have closely followed the summary in Mirza, Mohammad Wahid, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrau (Delhi, 1935), 200–1;Google Scholarbut, see also Gaeffke, Peter, ‘Alexander and the Bengali Sufis’, in Entwistle, Alan W. and Mallison, Françoise (eds), Studies in South Asian Devotional Literature, Research Papers, 1988–1991 (New Delhi, 1994), 275–84,Google Scholarbasing himself on the text in Sharif, Ahmad (ed.), Alâûl viracita Sikandarnâma (Dhaka, 1977).Google Scholar

39 Lombard, Denys, ‘Les Lusiades comparées à deux autres “visions” de la fin du XVle siècle: le Xi Yang Ji et le roman malais d'Alexandre’, in de Matos, Artur Teodoro and Thomaz, Luís Filipe F. Reis (eds), As Relaçōes entre a Índia Portuguesa, a Asia do Sueste e o Extremo Oriente (Macau-Lisbon, 1993), 173–86.Google Scholar

40 Cf. in this context, Seneviratne, H. L., Rituals of the Kandyan State (Cambridge, 1978), for an exploration of Buddhist rituals around the sacred tooth relic at Kandy, and its relations to state-building.Google ScholarAlso, Godakumbara, C. E., ‘Relations between Burma and Ceylon’, Journal ofthe Burma Research Society 44, 2 (1966), 145–62,Google Scholarand most recently, Raymond, Catherine, ‘Étude des relations religieuses entre le Sri Lanka et l'Arakan du XIIe au XVIIIe siècle: Documentation historique et évidences archéologiquesJournal Asiatique 283, 2 (1995), 469501.Google Scholar

41 Goldstone, Jack A., Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (Berkeley, 1991).Google Scholar

42 Cf. Perlin, Frank, Unbroken Landscape: Commodity, Category, Sign and Identity: Their Production, Strengths and Knowledge from 1500 (Aldershot, 1994).Google Scholar

43 For the most thought-provoking piece in the collection, see brief essay by Steensgaard, Niels, ‘The Seventeenth Century Crisis and the Unity of Eurasian History’, Modern Asian Studies 24, 4 (1990), 683–97.Google ScholarIt is curious that what inspired this ‘revisionist’ wave in early modern Asian studies was the singularly inconclusive, and at times positively woolly-headed, debate on seventeenth-century Europe, for which see Parker, Geoffrey and Smith, Lesley M. (eds), The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1978).Google Scholar

44 For one detailed case-study, see Phillips, Carla Rahn, Ciudad Real, 1500–1750: Growth, Crisis and Readjustment in the Spanish Economy (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), 71–5, passim. The ‘bureaucratic elite’ of the area is shown to have invested in land, taking advantage of distress sales by small landholders.Google Scholar

45 For an excellent (albeit uneven) collection of papers on these questions, see Schwartz, Stuart (ed.), Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era (New York, 1994).Google Scholar

46 Cf. in this context, the pertinent comments in Ludden, David, ‘History Outside Civilization and the Mobility of South Asia’, South Asia (n.s.) 17, 1 (1994), 123.Google Scholar