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Lecture - “The Route to China: A Seaborne Exploration in Medieval Islam” Professor Dionisius Agius FBA

Drinks reception from 5pm in the common room followed by the talk at 5.30pm Lecture Rooms 1 and 2, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter Enquiries to Professor Timothy Insoll, The Route to China: Seaborne Exploration in Medieval Islam Dionisius A. Agius FBA Emeritus Al-Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture, University of Exeter, UK Adjunct Distinguished Professor, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abstract Nowadays, when maps, distance and speed have become integral to our life style, we have almost forgotten that world where people relied on camel, horse, donkey, or ship for transport. Whether travel was by land or sea, man perforce had to call upon the experience of generations gone before to endure his safety, but sea transport was always perilous for many reasons, not least that navigational aids were not accurate. The sea proved no barrier to human enterprise; trade and cultural interaction brought together the great civilizations of Islam, India and China. The caravan routes overland, as they have been in the past, were a vital source for trade; their connections with the main harbours led to an expansion of the seaborne trade and, though there were times when it was affected by political instability and natural disasters, trade continued to prosper until the day the Europeans entered the Indian Ocean in 1487, as capitalist predators, disturbing the commercial and cultural system of peoples who had lived in relative harmony since antiquity. This is a journey of Classical and Medieval Islam narrated by people who lived those days; they will tell us their impressions about the cultural, material and commercial significance of the Classic Ships of Islam, their role in the life and interaction of coastal communities; the long tradition of seafaring in the Indian Ocean and seaborne exploration – the route to China.

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IAIS Building/LT1