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Crossing the Bay of Bengal

by Sunil S. Amrith

The Indian Ocean was global long before the Atlantic, and today the countries bordering the Bay of Bengal--India, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia--are home to one in four people on Earth. Crossing the Bay of Bengal places this region at the heart of world history for the first time. Integrating human and environmental history, and mining a wealth of sources, Sunil Amrith gives a revelatory and stirring new account of the Bay and those who have inhabited it. For centuries the Bay of Bengal served as a maritime highway between India and China, and then as a battleground for European empires, all while being shaped by the monsoons and by human migration. Imperial powers in the nineteenth century, abetted by the force of capital and the power of steam, reconfigured the Bay in their quest for coffee, rice, and rubber. Millions of Indian migrants crossed the sea, bound by debt or spurred by drought, and filled with ambition. Booming port cities like Singapore and Penang became the most culturally diverse societies of their time. By the 1930s, however, economic, political, and environmental pressures began to erode the Bay's centuries-old patterns of interconnection. Today, rising waters leave the Bay of Bengal's shores especially vulnerable to climate change, at the same time that its location makes it central to struggles over Asia's future. Amrith's evocative and compelling narrative of the region's pasts offers insights critical to understanding and confronting the many challenges facing Asia in the decades ahead.

Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia

by Sunil S. Amrith

Migration is at the heart of Asian history. For centuries migrants have tracked the routes and seas of their ancestors - merchants, pilgrims, soldiers and sailors - along the Silk Road and across the Indian Ocean and the China Sea. Over the last 150 years, however, migration within Asia and beyond has been greater than at any other time in history. Sunil S. Amrith's engaging and deeply informative book crosses a vast terrain, from the Middle East to India and China, tracing the history of modern migration. Animated by the voices of Asian migrants, it tells the stories of those forced to flee from war and revolution, and those who left their homes and their families in search of a better life. These stories of Asian diasporas can be joyful or poignant, but they all speak of an engagement with new landscapes and new peoples.

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