Spring 2018 Profession Development Workshop, March 3 and 4

Trading Companies and the Rise of Global Capitalism 
in South Asia and the Indian Ocean (c. 1600 - 1900)
Co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute at Columbia University

This Professional Develeopment workshop will examine the regions of South Asia and the Indian Ocean and the impact of European trading companies in these regions between 1600- 1900. It will explore how trade and politics intersected to create forms of global capitalism still seen today, and how these historical evolutions help us understand current debates about corporations and states, money and politics.

The first day will offer an historical overview and insights into the social, economic, and political forces that shaped both South Asia and Europe as they came into increasing commercial and imperial contact from circa 1650-1800.  It will begin by exploring the social worlds of early modern India under the Mughal Empire and delve into how this society was connected globally before significant contact with Europe. It will tackle the ways that European trade impacted this society, assessing the growth of the British and French East India Companies, and their similarities and differences between these companies

In the second session, the course will illuminate the blurry lines between politics and commerce as the British “company-state” became a dominant force in South Asia. Moving into the 19th Century, it will look at the diverse ways European trade continued to shape these regions by examining topics such as the Indian household, South Asian indentured labor, and overseas migration in the Indian Ocean world. Both days will conclude with curriculum development activities, breakout group discussions, and lesson plan workshops to discuss approaches to teaching about these regions and the rise of global capitalism more broadly in world religion, social studies, and geography classrooms.

Each day will feature three 45- minute lectures by an academic expert  followed by a 30- minute discussion period facilitated by the course instructor. The final session of each day will focus on curriculum development, led by an education specialist, with the goal of helping participants integrateing the topical material discussed in the previous three sessions into material for their own classrooms.

The “Trading Companies” workshop was organized and will be moderated by Melissa Turoff, Outreach Associate at the Columbia’s South Asia Institute, Part-Time Faculty at New York University, and PhD candidate, History Department, University of California at Berkeley.

The Institute’s “Trading Companies” workshop has been authorized by the New York City Department of Education for credit as part of the After School Professional Development Program.   Teachers who wish to obtain PD credit must register for the course on the NYC DOE ASPDP site.  For more information, visit https://pci.nycenet.edu/aspdp/Home/AboutUs.   Teachers from private schools and colleges may register directly with the South Asia Institute (see below).


Saturday March 3rd: 10:00am-5:00pm

10am-10.15am  Introductions, Registration, Coffee

10:15-11:30am:  “India before Global Capital”

Manan Ahmed (History Department, Columbia)


Five Hundred Years of Fear and Love

Turks and Mughals – India: Brief History of a Civilization

11:30-11:45am:  Coffee break

11:45am-1pm:   “Trade and Politics: The French East India Company and in South Asia”

Danna Agmon (Virginia Tech)


Surgeons, Fakirs, Merchants, Craftsmen

The Private Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai

1:00pm-2:00pm: Lunch (provided) and informal discussion

2:00pm-3:15pm:  “Trade and Politics:  The British East Company and the Early Modern Eurasian Encounter”

Philip Stern (Duke)


The English East India Company at the Height of Mughal Expansion

3:15-3:30pm: Coffee Break

3:30-4:45pm: “Re-thinking how to teach trade, commerce, and early capitalism in South Asia:

Integrating Session 1 material into Teaching Resources”

Maria Hantzopoulos (Vassar College)

ASSIGNMENT:  Midterm Response Paper

4:45-5pm: Wrap up, assessment and prep for next day

Sunday March 4th: 10:00am-5:00pm

10am-10.15am: Introductions, Registration, Coffee

10:15-11:30am: “From the Mughal to the British Empires in India: Political and Economic Transitions"

Robert Travers (Cornell)


The East India Company Raj, 1772-1850

Suggested Supplemental Reading:  Seir Mutaqherin

11:30-11:45am:  Coffee break

11:45am-1pm:   “European Trade and the Indian Household”

Durba Ghosh (Cornell)

1pm-2pm:  Lunch (provided) and informal discussion

2pm-3:15pm:  “Indian Indentured Labor and Migration in the Indian Ocean World in the 19th Century”

Julia Stephens (Rutgers)

Reading (without photos):  Her Middle Passage

URL Link to Reading with photos, Her Middle Passage

3:15-3:30pm: Coffee Break

3:30-4:45pm:      “Re-thinking how to teach trade, commerce, and early capitalism in the Indian Ocean World: 

Integrating Session 2 material into Teaching Resources”

Maria Hantzopoulos (Vassar College)

ASSIGNMENT:  Final Project - Lesson Plan and Template 

4:45-5pm: wrap up, assessment, goodbyes 

Location for all workshops:   South Asia Institute, Knox Hall, Room 208

606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont

Morningside Campus: Map and Directions

Knox Hall Directions:  http://www.sai.columbia.edu/location-directions


Participants must be K-12 teachers, two- or four-year college instructors or students enrolled in graduate education degree programs. If you would like to register for either workshop, or have questions, please contact William Carrick at wac2112@columbia.edu. Participants may register for one or both days.

To register, please send an email to <wac2112@columbia.edu> which includes your name, school affiliation, level of students taught, and subjects taught. Student registrants should include their school and degree program, anticipated graduation date, and a very brief statement of career goals.

There is no registration fee to attend the workshop. Books and materials will be provided to participants at no cost. The NYC DOE After School Professional Development Program requires teachers who register on their site to obtain PD credit to pay a registration fee directly to the NYC DOE. 

To register for Professional Development credit, teachers must register via the NYC Department of Education After School Professional Development Program:


For additional information, please contact William Carrick at <wac2112@columbia.edu> or by phone at (212) 854-4565.


Danna Agmon is Assistant Professor, Department of History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  She earned an MA and PhD in Ph.D in Anthropology and History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Her areas of interest include the French empire in India and the Indian Ocean, and the 17th-19th centuries, the French Empire, India, the Indian Ocean, colonialism,  global trade, and legal history.  Agmon is the author of A Colonial Affair: Commerce, Conversion, and Scandal in French India (2017

Manan Ahmed is Assistant Professor, History Department, Columbia University.  He earned his PhD at the University of Chicago.  His areas of specialization include Muslim intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, early modern and modern South Asia. His monograph, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia (2016) is an intellectual history of a text— the early thirteenth century Persian history called Chachnama— and a place— the medieval city of Uch Sharif in southern Punjab, Pakistan. His current research is a comparative, global project on philosophy of history stretching from the thirteenth through nineteenth century, focusing on Arabic, Persian and Urdu histories and their relationship to the emergence of “World History” (Weltgeschichte) in the nineteenth century. He is the co-founder of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities at Columbia. His work in Digital History focuses on spatial and textual understandings of medieval past.

Durba Ghosh is Associate Professor, Department of History, Cornell University.  She earned her PhD from University of California at Berkeley.  Her research interests focus on Modern South Asia, gender, and colonialism.  Ghosh’s publications include the co-edited volume, with Dane Kennedy, Decentring Empire: Britain, India and the Transcolonial World (2006); Sex and the Family in Colonial India: the making of empire (2006); and Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919-1947 (2017).

Maria Hantzopoulos is Associate Professor of Education and Coordinator of Secondary Teacher Education at Vassar College.  She earned her B.A. from Boston University in History, her M.A. in Social Studies Education from Teachers College at Columbia University and her doctorate at Teachers College in International Educational Development with a specialization in peace education.  Before Vassar, she supervised pre-service student teachers at Columbia University’s Barnard and Teachers Colleges and conducted staff development for middle and high school teachers throughout New York City and nationally.  She taught and worked in New York City public schools for 13 years, served on public school planning teams, and worked with (and continues to work with) a variety of established youth organizations and professional educator organizations.  Prof. Hantzopolous is the author of the book Restoring Dignity in Public schools:  Human Rights Education in Action (2016), and  co-editor, with Alia Tyner-Mullings, of Critical Small Schools:  Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Educational Reform (2012,) and with Monisha Bajaj, Peace Education: International Perspectives (2016).   Prof. Hantzopoulos is currently conducting a multi-sited research project on project-based assessment in NYC schools.

Julia Stephens is Assistant Professor at Rutgers University.  She earned her PhD at Harvard University.  Her research focuses on how law has shaped religion, family, and economy in colonial and post-colonial South Asia and in the wider Indian diaspora. Her forthcoming book manuscript is entitled Governing Islam: Law, Empire, and Secularism in South Asia.  It draws on wide-ranging legal archives to explore how colonial law constructed a religious/secular binary that was deeply influential, and vibrantly contested inside and outside colonial courts.  A new research project focuses on inheritance and diasporic Indian families, tracing the lives of Indian migrants by looking at the assets they left behind after their deaths, providing a window into the intersecting histories of diasporic families and the formation of state bureaucracies for managing global flows of labor and capital.

Philip Stern is Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History at Duke University. He earned his MA, MPhil, and PhD at Columbia University.  Prof. Stern’s work focuses on the history of Britain and the British Empire, particularly in the early modern period.  Current research projects focus on eighteenth-century British overseas exploration and cartography, the historiography of British India, early modern economic thought, the history of companies and colonization, and digital and data visualization approaches to the problem of colonial sovereignty.  His publications include The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India (2011); and two edited volumes: with C. Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire (2013); and with M.R. Hunt, The English East India Company at the Height of Mughal Expansion: A Soldier's Diary of the 1689 Siege of Bombay, with Related Documents (2015).

Robert Travers is Associate Professor, History Department at Cornell University.  He is an historian of Britain and the British empire. His academic research has focused mainly on the British empire in India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and tries to understand the political, social and cultural foundations of imperial power. He is especially interested in how the legacy of Mughal or Indo-Persian modes of imperial politics interacted with British empire-building in India.  He is the author of Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth Century India: The British in Bengal (2007), which examines the political thought of the first generation of British empire-builders in India, to show how British officials of the English East India Company tried to legitimize their conquests by appropriating forms and styles of rule from the Mughal Empire. His ongoing book project, titled ‘An Empire of Complaints: Indian Petitioning and the Making of the British Empire in India’, explores how everyday encounters between Indian petitioners and British officials shaped the practice of modern colonial rule.

Melissa Turoff is Outreach Associate at the South Asia Institute at Columbia, and a PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is completing her dissertation titled “Between Nature and History: Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and the Naturalizing of Early Technocratic Rule in British India, 1780-1830.” Her research interests focus on the History of Modern Britain and the British Empire, late modern Europe, postcolonial theory and modern South Asia.  She is a Part-Time Faculty member at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, and has taught at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) and at UC Berkeley.


Participants will be provided with the following books at the workshops.  Additional readings will be distributed via email, with paper copies available at the workshop.

A Concise History of India.  Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf.  (2002, 2014).

Sources of Indian Traditions: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (Introduction to Asian Civilizations) (Volume 2, Third edition, 2014)