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Introduction to marginal centers : writing life histories in the Indian Ocean world

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journal contribution
posted on 12.03.2014, 14:07 by Clare Anderson
This section centers on the life histories of men and women who were mobile in and around the Indian Ocean during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The articles that follow focus on soldiers, slaves, convicts, pirates, sailors, rebels, traders and travelers; people who are usually given the briefest of historical mention as somehow typical of a particular community, or who are referred to as evidence of particular historical processes or moments in time. In contrast, the collection's authors seek to piece together archival fragments from across the globe to write a series of individual life histories, and to use them as a means of exploring historically the nature, meaning and lived experiences of empire in the Indian Ocean: Dutch, French, British and Malagasy. The individuals that we center on did not write or record their own auto biographies, but left traces of their lives in the archives. Each author has engaged in piecing together and contextualizing these fragments, to present biographical snapshots produced in and through notarial records, wills, inventories, petitions, letters, diaries, court records and official correspondence... The aim of this collection is not to unveil and present the lives of “typical” men and women of the Indian Ocean. Rather, its ambition is to use life history as a critical perspective to explore the practices and processes associated with imperial expansion in the Indian Ocean and the ways in which individuals lived them.



Journal of Social History, 2011, 45 (2), pp. 335-344

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF ARTS, HUMANITIES AND LAW/School of History


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Journal of Social History


Oxford University Press (OUP)





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This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social History following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Journal of Social History, 2011, 45 (2), pp. 335-344 is available online at:



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