Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire

By Sujit Sivasundaram




‘Helps re-centre how we look at the world’ PETER FRANKOPAN

‘Global history at its finest’ SUNIL AMRITH

‘A master class’ OLIVETTE OTELE


Starting from the ocean and from the forgotten histories of ocean-facing communities, this is a new history of the making of our world.

After revolutions in America and France, a wave of tumult coursed the globe from 1790 to 1850. It was a moment of unprecedented change and violence especially for indigenous peoples. By 1850 vibrant public debate between colonised communities had exploded in port cities. Yet in the midst of all of this, Britain struck out by sea and established its supremacy over the Indian and Pacific Oceans, overtaking the French and Dutch as well as other rivals.

Cambridge historian Sujit Sivasundaram brings together his work in far-flung archives across the world and the best new academic research in this remarkably creative book. Too often, history is told from the northern hemisphere, with modernity, knowledge, selfhood and politics moving from Europe to influence the rest of the world. This book traces the origins of our times from the perspective of indigenous and non-European people in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

This is a compulsive story full of cultural depth and range, a world history that speaks to urgent concerns today. The book weaves a bracingly fresh account of the origins of the British empire.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 20 Aug 2020
Pages: 496
ISBN: 978-0-00-757554-1
Sujit Sivasundaram was born and educated in Sri Lanka. He came to Cambridge in 1994 to study engineering and then natural sciences and history and philosophy of science. He has taught at LSE, EHESS in Paris, the University of Singapore, the University of Sydney, and the University of Cambridge. He is a world class historian specialising in world history, especially the Pacific and Indian oceans and their islands, the history of race, the history of the British Empire.Awards and Prizes:Philip Leverhulme Prize (for early-career contributions to research in the UK, 2012)Sackler Caird Fellowship at the National Maritime MuseumFellow and Councillor of the Royal Historical Society

A Waterstones History Book of the Year -

”'A breathtaking book. Takes the familiar story of the 'age of revolutions” - and turns it upside down, putting the voices, the hopes and the struggles of the seafaring peoples of the Indian and Pacific oceans at the heart of his account of how the modern world was forged … Global history at its finest: eloquent, surprising, and deeply moving’SUNIL AMRITH

‘Challenges our understanding of colonial history … [The] outstanding volume takes us on a gripping journey across the globe … [This] magisterial book brings to light a world history that has so far been cast aside by many world historians … A master class in history writing’OLIVETTE OTELE -

‘[There are] many fascinating stories in this rich and stimulating new history … Turns conventional wisdom upside down, and invites us to follow the making of the modern world from the Pacific instead … This is big history’SPECTATOR -

”'Fascinating … Brings to life the 'surge of indigenous politics” - that marked this era'FINANCIAL TIMES

'Brilliantly reconstructs how empire was made through voyages across oceans … An exemplar of historical writing'BBC HISTORY MAG -

‘Follows little-known voyages across the southern oceans accomplished by multi-ethnic crews … As Sivasundaram convincingly argues in the global South this revolutionary age was defined by the way indigenous peoples responded to Western invasion'LITERARY REVIEW -

‘The age of revolutions reconceived … A subversion of established history, giving the perspectives of the colonised and with a cast of enjoyable characters’GUARDIAN -

'Confidently surfs a dynamic wave of scholarship … To call this ambitious would be an understatement … By recasting empire - especially the British empire - as the countervailing force in this turbulent arena, he brilliantly restores counter-revolution to its proper place in the Age of Revolutions'TLS -