The book is a critical rethinking of the nature of the classical eastern Mediterranean exchange relations with the coasts of the Indian sub-continent. It examines in the light of the extant source material and theoretical insights whether the expression 'Indo - Roman trade' is tenable. The book characterizing the nature of contemporary exchanges in detail, maintains that the expression, 'Indo-Roman trade' is inappropriate. It starts off with the theoretical premise that the term 'trade' if applies uniformly to all kinds of transactions in time and place, will lead to many anachronistic correlations, causations and generalisations about the nature of early forms of exchange. An important factor is that contemporary Mediterranean exchange of goods from the eastern world was a combination of multiple forms of exchange in which trade was just one and confined to Rome. The management of this ensemble was a heavily collaborative, extensively networked, document based, enterprise, with precise notions of weights, measures, rates of rent, interest, price and profit accounted in terms of money.
It had necessitated a stratified society, aristocracy, state system and the entailing political economy of demand for luxury goods from far off lands. The book dismisses the claims in the South Indian historiography for the early historic Tamil Chieftains to have conducted overseas commerce, on the ground that such institutional and structural pre-requisites were absent in the social formations of contemporary Peninsular India. It was not possible for the merchant bodies to conduct independent overseas trade for there was no naval technology in the sub-continent efficient enough to conduct cross-oceanic voyages. There was no need for it either.
Rajan Gurukkal is Visiting Professor at Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Sciences, Banglore.
List of Maps ; List of Abbreviations ; Preface ; 1. Introduction: Theoretical Preliminaries and Methodologies ; 2. Sources and Historiography ; 3. Eastern Mediterranean Overseas Exchanges ; 4. Ports, Marts, and Ship-Technology in Early Peninsular India ; 5. Exchange Relations in Early Peninsular India ; 6. Polity, Statecraft, and Overseas Exchange ; 7. Conclusion ; Bibliography ; Index ; About the Author