‘Empires of the Monsoon is a panoramic study of the history of the Indian Ocean and the destruction of its traditional trade by colonial Europe… Its major achievement is to weave into a coherent whole the histories of a kaleidoscope of civilisations and peoples… Empires of the Monsoon reads like some mediaeval Book of Wonders, rich with exotic improbabilities… . It is all gripping stuff, dizzily ambitious in its scope and full of some of the oddest facts imaginable.’
William Dalrymple, Independent
‘Empires of the Monsoon is an example of popular history at its best… It is the story of many marvels and many great adventures.’
J.D.F. Jones, Financial Times
‘A panoramic account of the Indian Ocean and its invaders… combining scholarly zeal with a good journalist’s flair for selection and narrative. The book is full of fascinating information.’
John Grigg, Sunday Telegraph
‘Hall’s lively compendium is rich in bloodthirsty sultans, swashbuckling pirates, hypocritical imperialists and serendipitous Sinbads… He is an enthusiastic storyteller who can hold you with his glittering eye.’
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Sunday Times
‘A vast and fascinating history… I found it both absorbing and instructive.’
Robert Carver, Scotsman
From the Back Cover
Until Vasco da Gama discovered the sea-route to the East in 1497-9 almost nothing was known in the West of the exotic cultures and wealth of the Indian Ocean and its peoples: a 16-million-square-mile sea, bordered by civilisations more ancient than those of Greece and Rome, fed by the Indus, Euphrates and many of the world's greatest rivers. For almost a thousand years after the fall of the Roman empire, the western littoral of the Indian Ocean was as much an entity as the Mediterranean, surpassing it in wealth and power. The arts and scholarship flourished in cities to which merchants travelled from all corners of the East to trade in gold, ambergris, leopard skins, ivory and slaves.
It is this civilisation, and its destruction at the hands of the West, that Richard Hall, one of Britain's finest popular historians and writers on travel and exploration, recreates in this sparkling book. 'Empires of the Monsoon' combines historical analysis with an exciting narrative to show how, from the sixteenth century onwards, the European presence changed the life of the Indian Ocean irrevocably. Then with the insight derived from his many years in Africa, Hall charts the liberation of Africa south of the equator the mid-nineteenth century – first from isolation, and then from a colonialism which, although short-lived, seemed at one point to have forged unbreakable bonds between Africa and Europe.
Hall's history of exploration and exploitation – by Chinese and Arab travellers and the Portuguese, Dutch and British alike – is one of brutality, betrayal and colonial ambition. It is told with an eye for the exotic in a fine, unobtrusive style. It is a compelling and instructive epic.
Richard Hall has travelled throughout the Indian Ocean region as an historical writer and journalist. Born in 1925, he spent part of his boyhood in Australia, was educated at Hastings Grammar School, served in a destroyer in the Royal Navy, then went to Oxford University. After working in London on the 'Daily Mail', he lived for thirteen years in Africa where he was editor of the 'Times of Zambia'. He later became the Commonwealth correspondent of the 'Observer', and a columnist on the 'Financial Times'. In 1986, he founded the financial and political bulletin 'Africa Analysis'. He has written biographies of the Victorian explores Sam and Florence Baker and Henry Stanley, and of the modern merchant – adventurer Tiny Rowland. He lives in Oxfordshire.
"A triumph: a first class comprehensive narrative of the impact upon the people of the Indian Ocean of those who penetrated it. It is hard to believe that this account of a European epic has any rival."
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
J. M. ROBERTS, author of the 'Penguin History of the World'