The Hidden Face of Surat: Reflections on a Cosmopolitan Indian Ocean Centre, 1540-1750

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Abstract

The great port of Surat in western India dominated accounts of Indian Ocean trade between the late sixteenth and mid eighteenth century. Consolidated first by an Ottoman notable, it became the Mughal Empire’s western window into the worlds of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. In this essay, I explore Surat’s other, less visible, aspect: namely as an intellectual centre, that brought together diverse and sometimes competing traditions. In turn, we shall see how this vibrant intellectual life was tied up both to certain structures of politics, and to commercial exchange at various scales.

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