The Indian Ocean has been a zone of human interaction throughout world history. Neglected in standard studies for decades, historians have only recently begun to think of the world's seas and oceans as theaters of human history. French historian Fernand Braudel pioneered this movement by viewing the Mediterranean Sea as an integrated historical and geographic region that extended beyond its immediate shores. His research encouraged other historians to develop their own studies of maritime zones of interaction. This has led to the creation of terms such as the Atlantic World, the Pacific Rim, and the Indian Ocean Basin.
Approaches to studying history that emphasize a series of separate civilizations make it difficult to include terrestrial regions like Central Asia or maritime regions such as the Indian Ocean, which covers an arc from East Africa to the Indian subcontinent and Australia. Textbooks used to bring the Indian Ocean into focus only after Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama entered it in 1497. World history research, however, reveals that for much longer the Indian Ocean has been a vibrant region of exchange, innovation in production of goods and technological advancement. From its early role in the story of prehistoric human migration, to the earliest voyages on the open sea, and finally to a network of trade routes that linked coastal circuits with transoceanic passages during the medieval period, the Indian Ocean has played a central role in the motivation to explore the oceans. The trade circuits of the Old World (Afroeurasia) were linked to global routes crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific, including those in Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and East Africa. Although much ignored in the past, the Indian Ocean is rapidly becoming an important topic in middle and high school world history and geography courses.
The SQCC Indian Ocean in World History resource helps teachers incorporate this region into world history studies by illustrating a variety of interactions that took place among its various civilizations throughout time. The material has been assembled into an integrated and user-friendly teaching tool for students from upper elementary to high school. It offers students the chance to investigate primary sources that illustrate historical interactions, helping them to better develop their analytical thinking skills through assisted performance and the practice of asking questions about various types of sources. This website gives students enough scaffolding on which to climb into effective interaction with primary sources. Critical to future learning, such historical thinking skills are part of virtually all state history standards requirements today.
Note for the Teacher on the Site's Features
This web site is intended primarily for use by middle and high school teachers and students in connection with the surveys of world history, geography and cultures that are required by nearly every state's academic standards in social studies. It consists of a collection of primary sources on the Indian Ocean Basin organized by world historical eras. The site's web pages are divided according to the following eras of world history:
- Prehistoric Era, 90,000 B.P. to 5000 B.C.E.
- Ancient Era, 5000 to 1000 B.C.E.
- Classical Era, 1000 B.C.E to 300 C.E.
- Medieval Era, 300 C.E. to 1450 C.E.
- First Global Era, 1450 C.E. to 1770 C.E.
- Industrial and Imperial Eras, 1770 C.E. to 1914 C.E.
- Twentieth Century and Globalization, 1914 C.E. to the present
The resources on the maps for each era fall into eight different categories, with each category represented by a distinctive icon placed on a physical map of the Indian Ocean. At each location on the map, the content is identified at mouse-over, and opens up to a brief, illustrated text and images upon clicking the icon. Travel accounts include excerpts from the primary sources in addition to an explanation. The eight categories are:
Clicking on each icon on the map key or legend--represented as a scroll on the bottom left of each era map--reveals a brief skills lesson. These skills lessons provide a set of questions to ask about the objects, documents and other features on the map, and explain the importance of the questions for understanding interactions in the Indian Ocean. These skills lessons are adapted from the expert lessons on historical evidence located at the web site 'World History Sources' http://chnm.gmu.edu/worldhistorysources/index.html at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
A collection of lesson plans and note-taking sheets (graphic organizers) for each era is provided, suggesting ways to interact with the web site for individual, small group and whole class engagement. Whichever era or method chosen, students will benefit from familiarizing themselves with the icons that appear on each map and completing the skills lessons for each type of resource represented by the icons.
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