Spring 2019 Professional Development Course, March 2-3, 2019

An Indian Ocean of Goods:

Tracing Commodities and the Rise of Global Capitalism in South Asia

Saturday-Sunday, March 2-3, 2019, 10:00am - 4:45pm

This intensive, 2-day professional developement course will explore the interconnected relationships between commodities, corporations, and states, and between commerce and politics.  It will focus attention on the regions of South Asia and the Indian Ocean and will trace specific commodities – from tea to textiles – to explore the forms of global capitalism we still see today.  By focusing on specific commodities and tangible goods, this course enables teachers to learn about and employ concrete yet flexible lenses applicable in a range of K-12 classroom settings. Commodities exchanges are both central and approachable topics through which teachers can approach global history, particularly in New York City - a center of both South Asian immigration and global trade.
The course will provide historical overview and offer insights into the how goods were traded, and how this exchange connected South Asia, Europe, and the Americas from circa 1750-2000. For participants who took last year's course titled "Trading Companies and the Rise of Global Capitalism," this year's course expands and builds on themes featured in March 2018.  However, no prior knowledge is required for this 2019 seminar.

The ASPD seminar "Indian Ocean of Goods" will begin by exploring the colonial history of commodities in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.  In the second session, the course will continue to illuminate the blurry lines between politics and commerce as well as colonial and post-colonial history. It will look at goods and companies, from tea to denim, whose histories connect pre-colonial South Asia to today’s globalized economies.  Moving from the eighteenth century to the present day, the course will assess how specific goods and companies animate the politics and economies of both the past and present.

Both sessions will include curriculum development 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 integrate the topical material discussed in the previous three sessions into material for their own classrooms.

The “Indian Ocean of Goods” workshop was organized and will be moderated by Melissa Turoff, Outreach Associate at 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 “Indian Ocean of Goods” 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).


Note:  scroll down to accompanying course readings for each session

Saturday, March 2
10am-10:15am: Introductions, Registration, Coffee
10:15-11:30am: Calico and Cotton: Connecting India to the Americas in the long Eighteenth Century
Jonathan Eacott (History Department, University of California at Riverside)
11:30-11:45am: Coffee break
11:45am-1pm: Indigo Plantations and Knowledge in 19th Century India
Prakash Kumar (History Department, Penn State)
1pm-2pm: Lunch
2pm-3:15pm: Jute and Peasant Life in Colonial Bengal
Tariq Omar Ali (History Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
3:15-3:30pm: Coffee Break
3:30-4:45pm: Re-thinking how to teach trade, commerce, and early capitalism in the British Imperial World: 
Integrating Session 1 material into Teaching Resources 
Maria Hantzopoulos (Education Department, Vassar College)

Sunday March 3, 2019

10am-10.15am: Introductions, Registration, Coffee
10:15-11:30am: Historicizing Tea: A Local, Imperial, and Global Commodity
Jayeeta Sharma (History Department, University of Toronto)
11:30-11:45am: Coffee break
11:45am-1pm: The Arvind Group: Jewels to the Mughals, Jeans to the Public
Sudev Sheth (Harvard-Newcomen Fellow, Harvard Business School, Harvard University)
1pm-2pm: Lunch
2pm-3:15pm: Swadeshi Steel: Tata and the Making of a National Industry
Mircea Raianu (History Department, University of Maryland)
3:15-3:30pm: Coffee Break
3:30-4:45pm: Re-thinking how to teach trade and commerce through business history: 
Integrating Session 2 material into Teaching Resources
Maria Hantzopoulus (Education Dept, Vassar College )



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.


Tariq Omar Ali is  Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is affiliated with the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2012 and his first book, A Local History of Global Capital: Jute and Peasant Life in the Bengal Delta was published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Taking readers from the nineteenth-century high noon of the British Raj to the early years of post-partition Pakistan in the mid-twentieth century, the book traces how the global connections wrought by jute transformed every facet of peasant life: practices of work, leisure, domesticity, and sociality; ideas and discourses of justice, ethics, piety, and religiosity; and political commitments and actions.

Jonathan Eacott is  Associate Professor of History at University of California, Riverside, joining the department in 2008 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He holds an M.A. in British History from Queen's University, Kingston and a joint B.A. in History and International Development Studies from McGill University, Montreal. Eacott's research focuses on the British and their empire from the eighteenth century to the present. His first book, Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600-1830 was winner of the World History Association’s 2017 Bentley Book Prize. Selling Empire links four continents over three centuries to offer a new approach to the empire by revealing the importance of regions not under official imperial rule, including pre-conquest India and the post-independence United States, to imperial thinking and the exercise of British power.

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.

Prakash Kumar is Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He received his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004.  He spent two years as a postdoc at Yale University’s History Department, and was an Assistant and Associate Professor at Colorado State, before joining Penn State in 2014. He is the author of Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India (Cambridge, 2012) The book tracks the odyssey of indigo from its African/Caribbean beginnings, through the Carolinas and the Spanish colonial world, before exploring in detail its journey among the colonial plantations on the Indian subcontinent.  He is now working on two monographs on agrarian and rural histories in India.

Mircea Raianu is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He received his PhD in History from Harvard University in 2017 and his BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2009.  His book manuscript, provisionally title The Incorporation of India: The Tata Business Firm between Empire and Nation, focuses on India’s largest and most influential corporate group since the early twentieth century. It shows how private capital played a key role in the construction of the Indian national economy. His research was supported by the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship. In parallel, he works on a series or related projects on land acquisition law, corporate sovereignty in the steel and mining belt of Eastern India, and the intellectual history of Swadeshi capitalism.

Jayetta Sharma was born in Assam (North-east India) and went to school there, and then to the University of Delhi, before winning a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Cambridge to do a PhD in History. Based on her dissertation, which combined social and cultural history approaches to the study of plantations, commodity capitalism, tea labour, political and cultural identity-making, she wrote her first book Empire’s Garden which was published by Duke University Press in 2011, and has recently been chosen by a team of international librarians to become an e-book that will be freely available for download to global audiences.  Her second book is tentatively titled Mountains of History and focuses on cross-cultural encounters around Darjeeling and the Eastern Himalayas. Along the way, she developed a keen interest in the study of food and circulation, as well as food and social justice, and is involved in several research and community projects around those themes, as part of the team at the new Culinaria Research Centre, at the University of Toronto, where she is an Associate Professor.

Sudev Sheth is currently the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Buissness History at Harvard University. He earned his PhD in South Asian Studies & History, with Distinction, from the University of Pennsylvania in June 2018. He completed an M.A. in History at the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2011. His dissertation, titled “Business Households, Financial Capital, and Public Authority in India, 1650-1818,” draws on a range of unpublished sources from India and Europe in rethinking the relationship between elite banking households, financial capital, and the rise and fall of multiple bureaucratized nodes of political authority between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

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 Rutgers University, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) and at UC Berkeley. Before graduate school, she worked in news and documentary film production WNET.ORG, conducted research for several history museums, and has always been committed to public history.



Saturday, March 2, 2019

10:15-11:30am: Calico and Cotton: Connecting India to the Americas in the long Eighteenth Century (Jonathan Eacott)

Jonathan Eacott, “Making an Imperial Compromise:  The Calico Acts, the Atlantic Colonies, and the Structure of the British Empire”

Hampden, The Alarm II (1773)

11:45am-1pm: Indigo Plantations and Knowledge in 19th Century India (Prakash Kumar)

 From Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India by Prakash Kumar

“The Odyssey of Indigo”

2pm-3:15pm: Jute and Peasant Life in Colonial Bengal (Tariq Omar Ali)

From A Local History of Global Capital:  Jute and Peasan Life in the Bengal Delta

Required readings are pages 25 - 55.  Note:  the PDF file includes the complete book Chapters One and Two, pages 21 - 66.

Sunday March 3, 2019

10:15-11:30am: Historicizing Tea: A Local, Imperial, and Global Commodity (Jayeeta Sharma)

Jayetta Sharma, “A Tale of Tea”

“Tracts on Tea”


Himalaya and Asia map

India and Assam map

Optional readings:

Jayetta Sharma, “‘Lazy’ Natives, Coolie Labour, and the Assam Tea Industry”

11:45am-1pm: The Arvind Group: Jewels to the Mughals, Jeans to the Public (Sudev Sheth)

From the Oxford India Anthology of Business History  (Both articles are in one PDF file.)

Maria Graham, “The Bazaar from a European Traveller’s Perspective”

C. A. Bayly, “The Family Firm: A Perspective”

2pm-3:15pm: Swadeshi Steel: Tata and the Making of a National Industry (Mircea Raianu)

Daniel R. Headrick, from The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850-1940.  Chapter Eight, pages 276-298



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.  (Third edition, 2014).

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