This course explores the early-modern foundations of law in a world of global empire. It charts the development of regional trading systems that linked the early-modern Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and their eventual integration into a growing Atlantic world of commerce and empire. The world of trade that emerged by the time of the industrial revolution was one in which markets, polities, and fortunes across Europe, Asia, and the Americas were intimately linked up to one another. Through a series of readings and lectures, the course pushes students to think of an interlinked world of commerce, empire, and law that came to being over the course of several hundred years. At the same time, the course introduces pivotal treatises that help us understand how actors in this world actively imagined and constructed the world of law and exchange around them. We read merchant letters, works on economic thought, legal treatises, trial transcripts, works of philosophy, and travel narrative to understand a burgeoning discourse in political economy – one that would frame actors’ understanding (and in many ways justify) their views on the natural world, the world of trade, and the expansionist tendencies of their own empires. We will read works by such luminaries as John Locke and Hugo Grotius, but we’ll also counterbalance their views with writings by their Asian counterparts – Jewish and Muslim jurists, philosophers, and traders who had just as much to say about European empires as they did about their own worlds.
This course aims to introduce students to the study of economic life - of production, exchange, and consumption in different parts of the world, and at different junctures in history. Through readings from both anthropology, economics, and history, we explore the various social, cultural and political considerations that motivate people to engage in economic activity. And by thinking historically, we situate market-oriented exchange as one of many possible configurations of economic life across space and time. Over the course of the semester, we explore concepts like trade, markets, money, and work, developing a critical analytical toolkit that allows us to think and talk about the multiple logics of exchange in our world today. As in all 1501 courses, there is no expectation of prior knowledge on these topics, and some weeks will be set aside to explore issues in argument-driven writing as well. However, as it is a seminar, we will primarily devote ourselves to reading (80 pages or so a week) and discussing the material. Students will produce one research paper, divided into several stages over the course of the semester.
Economic History of the Islamic World. "This course is designed to introduce students to the economic history of the Islamic World - a broad region stretching from West Africa to Indonesia - over the duration of roughly 1300 years of history. We explore the ideologies, institutions, and practices of commerce in Muslim society, paying close attention to the actors, artifacts, and encounters, that gave it shape over the course of a millennium, ending with the rise of Islamic banking in the twentieth century. We will explore the relationship between Islamic law and commerce, Muslim engagement with an expanding world of trade, and how the forces of global capitalism shaped (and transformed) Muslim society. To do this, we will combine broad sweeps of events in Islamic and world history with fine-grained analyses of primary documents and close readings of secondary sources. No prior knowledge of Islamic history or economic history is assumed.
The course is designed to introduce the Arabian Sea as a region linking the Middle East, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia. With a focus on both continuities and rupture, we study select cultures and societies brought into contact through trade, migration. and travel across the Indian Ocean over a broad arc of history. We explore how nobles, merchants, soldiers, statesmen, sailors, laborers, scholars, and slaves engaged in different types of mobility, and how their actions led to the forging of a shared world, from the early period until the present. By building a world-historical narrative that connects Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, we will be able to historicize many of the phenomena that we associate with “globalization” in the world today, while taking seriously the idea of seas as arenas of history.
For nearly a century now, scholars have been positing an antithetical relationship between capitalism and Islam, framing the perceived underdevelopment of the Islamic world in terms of an absence of the rational spirit of capitalism, restrictions put in place by Islamic law, or more fundamentally as a clash between two competing ideologies (“jihad” vs “McWorld”). This course seeks to familiarize students with the debates surrounding the supposed tension between Islam and capitalism, but also explores the development of ideas and practices on capitalism and commercial society within the broader Islamic world, stretching from the Western Mediterranean to the Eastern Indian Ocean. We will look at the scholarship produced on the subject, but will also explore the everyday commercial practices, discourses, and artifacts that animated Muslim commercial society over the course of centuries. Students will leave with a deep appreciation of the contingencies surrounding the history of capitalism in the Islamic world, but also a sense of the genealogies of capitalist societies in the region. Our focus thus isn’t simply on how capitalism has shaped or transformed Muslim society, but how Muslims around the world have domesticated the forces of global capitalism – and perhaps even generated their own visions of a uniquely Islamic brand of capitalism.
This course explores the history of capitalism in a post-Industrial Revolution world, and is driven by two questions: how did we get from the textured political economy of the early eighteenth century to the disembodied market processes that we understand to be “the economy” today; and how does this changing body of economic thought reflect the dynamic world of industrial capitalism, empire, and global politics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Through a historically-minded engagement different texts in economic thought, both Western and otherwise, we chart the emergence of a discipline of economics – one that distinguished itself from classical political economy in its methodologies and concerns, and that was deeply embedded in the changing commercial and industrial world into which it was born. In doing so, we create a more textured narrative of how we ended up with what we understand to be “the economy” – both as a theoretical concept and a lived reality.
At the same time, we map the circulation of these new ideas – of political economy, of “economics”, and of imagined alternatives – around the globe. We examine how these ideas were given articulation through 19th- and 20th-century global empires and the modern corporation, bridging South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America into a singular, unified image of a global economy (although for purposes of depth, we will primarily focus on India and Egypt). We also explore how scholars, teachers, and jurists developed their own visions of the marketplace that sometimes complemented and other times actively confronted the global economy. At its core, the course is an opportunity for students to acquaint themselves with the history of modern capitalism around the world while actively engaging with classic texts in the history of Western and non-Western economic thought.
The course is designed to introduce the Indian Ocean as a region linking the Middle East, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia. With a focus on both continuities and rupture, we study select cultures and societies brought into contact through trade, migration. and travel across the Indian Ocean over a broad arc of history. We explore how nobles, merchants, soldiers, statesmen, sailors, laborers, scholars, and slaves engaged in different types of mobility, and how their actions led to the forging of a shared world, from the early period until the present. By building a world-historical narrative that connects Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, we will be able to historicize many of the phenomena that we associate with “globalization” in the world today.
Rather than a comprehensive overview, this course provides a general set of conceptual and analytic tools for understanding empires, migrations, and adaptations across temporal and spatial bounds. At the heart of the course is a challenge to traditional area studies boundaries by thinking about actors, institutions, and historical processes that traverse those boundaries and create altogether new geographies. Using an array of different primary sources, we look at particular case studies and their broader social and cultural contexts
Where does law come from, and how does it structure our everyday interactions? This course explores how different societies have drawn on state legislation, courts, community norms, and other sources of law to bring order to the world around them, and how individuals exploited the tensions between legal systems to make their own claims to authority. Students will leave with a strong grasp of law in its many forms and its importance to shaping politics, economies, and societies in world history.