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Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia1

  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam (a1)

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.

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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.

3 See Lieberman Victor, ‘Secular Trends in Burmese Economic History, c. 1350–1830, and their Implications for State Formation’, Modern Asian Studies 25, 1 (1991), 131.

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).

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

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

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);and 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).

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).The 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.

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.

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.

11 Cf. Gruzinski Serge, Les Hommes-dieux du Mexique: Pouvoir indien el société coloniale, XVIe–XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1985);also 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).

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.

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,which 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),

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.

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).

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.

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).

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

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

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).

21 Hosten H. (ed.), ‘Mongoliecae Legationis Commentarius’, in Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 3 (1914), 513704;Banerjee S. N. and Hoyland John S. (tr.), The Commentary of Father Monserrate S.J. on his Journey to the Court of Akbar (London, 1922).

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

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.

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;also Phelan John L., The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World (Berkeley, 1970).

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

27 See the important paper by Kafadar Cemal, ‘Les troubles monétaires de la fin du XVIe siècle et la prise de conscience ottomane du déclin’, Annales ESC 46, 2 (1991), 381400.

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

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.My 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).

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;for other verses, see also Gandjei Tourkhan, Il Canzoniere di Shâh Ismâ'îl (Naples, 1959).

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.

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.

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).

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

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

36 The Dârâb Nâma in question is by ibn Abu Tahir al-Tarsusi Hasan Musa, British Museum, London, MSS. Or. 4615; 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.

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

38 I have closely followed the summary in Mirza Mohammad Wahid, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrau (Delhi, 1935), 200–1;but, 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,basing himself on the text in Sharif Ahmad (ed.), Alâûl viracita Sikandarnâma (Dhaka, 1977).

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.

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.Also, Godakumbara C. E., ‘Relations between Burma and Ceylon’, Journal ofthe Burma Research Society 44, 2 (1966), 145–62,and 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.

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

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

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.It 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).

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.

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).

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.

1 This paper was originally prepared for 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. A preliminary version was presented to a seminar at Leiden University in May 1995. I am grateful to Peter Carey, W. G. Clarence-Smith, Jos Gommans and David Wyatt for comments or helpful reflections.

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