Event — Indian Ocean Lecture Series

From Decline to Colonialism, or An Era of Unscripted Possibilities? Sovereign Governance in the Middle East and South Asia, 1680-1840

Lunch Lecture - The historiographies of the Middle East and South Asia between the 17th and 19th centuries are frequently framed through the tropes of decline and transition. What do we miss out by sticking to this narrative? Gagan Sood highlights a number of unscripted possibilities.

Lunch Lecture by Gagan Sood (PhD Yale) from the Institute of History at the London School of Economics.

Lunch is provided. Registration is required.

Organised by the Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies (IIAS; KITLV; Leiden University). 

The lecture
The logic of decline and the transition to colonialism continues to imbue received interpretations of the histories of the Middle East and South Asia between the 17th and 19th centuries. As a result, the empires of the Ottomans, Mughals, British, Russians and French dominate how we access and make sense of this past. That approach has a number of virtues. But there are downsides, too. Perhaps most importantly it forecloses our understanding of the paths to modernity embarked upon within individual polities of the Middle East and South Asia, as well as of their involvement in the global genesis of the modern world. In this lecture, a novel alternative to the frameworks of decline and the transition is proposed. It is predicated on a perspective that takes seriously developments on regional scales covering much of the the Middle East and South Asia, and on a set of heuristics - a working model - that enable us to distinguish robustly between historical constants and historical contingencies. By so doing, a qualitatively different picture of the region begins to emerge, one of an era of unscripted possibilities between 1680 and 1840, forged within an evolving kaleidoscope of sovereign regimes.

Gagan Sood, educated at Cambridge and Yale, received his doctorate from Yale’s Department of History. Currently, he is Assistant Professor in the Department of International History at the London School of Economics. Before arriving at the LSE, he held research and teaching positions at Cambridge, the European University Institute and Yale.


The Leiden Indian Ocean Lectures series is organised by the Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies (Leiden University, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and IIAS).

Registration (required)

Please let us know you are coming via the web form below, (by Tuesday 3 April 09:00 am. if you would like IIAS to cater for your lunch).