Empires Of The Sea

Radhika Seshan

21 February 2024
228 pages


An enthralling journey through 2,000 years of India’s steadfast relations with the seas.

The Indian Ocean world’s significance in human history is impossible to dismiss. The 1,000-odd kilometres of the subcontinent’s coastline – which underpinned some of the world’s greatest empires and shaped countless human lives – therefore make for the perfect dock from which to embark on a journey through the centuries for a vital reappraisal of India’s history.

In this eye-opening book, noted historian Radhika Seshan sets out to map our age-old connections with the seas, tracing maritime linkages from the Harappan period all the way to the long colonial era. Her re-examination of India’s past through the prism of water reveals the extent to which this conduit enabled trade and the movement of people, often leading to the establishment of crucial ports, communities, kingdoms and empires. The Chola, Chalukya and Vijayanagar empires, historic ports such as Muziris and Bharuch and accounts of travellers, explorers, merchants and monarchs who frequented India’s shores are explored here in vivid detail, with the sea providing a riveting backdrop of adventure, migration, invasion and rich cultural networks. While the arrival of the Europeans, the subsequent Raj and their consolidation of terrestrial networks marked the gradual decline of our maritime dominance, the seas hold sway over our geopolitics even today.

Combining scholarly rigour with a storyteller’s flair, Empires of the Sea presents India afresh as a nation of pluralities made possible by virtue of its long-standing maritime relations with the world at large.