Travels to the Lands of the Indians

History 103F.003

Fall 2014
Section: 
003
Location: 
2231 DWINELLE
Day & Time: 
Th 12-2P
CCN: 
39441
Units: 
4

This course is devoted to the study of the ways in which the lands and peoples of India were encountered, observed and described by visitors from abroad over the last two millennia. We will accordingly read excerpts from a large variety of travelers’ accounts of the Indian subcontinent, beginning with Ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese writings on India. Then we will examine the descriptions of the first Arab conquest of Sindh and subsequent invasions, paying close attention to the accounts of travelers such as Ibn Battuta and al-Biruni. Next we will turn to the narratives of visitors from Europe and West Asia, before ending with a few accounts of travelers in the opposite direction, from India to other parts of the world. As we tour these narratives, we will pay close attention to the literary construction of India as region, empire, or nation across the centuries, focusing in particular on themes of commerce and religion; representations of political and social order; and on questions of exoticism, orientalism and the understanding of difference.