Book Review – Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco Da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498-1945

This is just a tremendous book by late Mr. KM Panikkar. It is an old book and might be difficult to get.

The book has a sweeping account of how West came onto dominate Asia around Indian ocean. How the west used its superior maritime forces to take control over Asia is quite enthralling.

The book starts with Portugese sailor Vasco Da Gama whose journey from Lisbon to Calicut in 1498 opened gates for Europeans. Earlier most Europeans were not sure how to reach India and Asia using the African route. It is like this human effort which keeps moving ahead. So after many attempts, finally Da Gama succeeded where his peers could not. Da Gama also used Indian sailors from his journey from Africa to India as they were more familiar with Indian ocean. The book has an interesting account of wars between Portugese and King of Travancore which latter won keeping Portugese limited to the Western coast.

After Portugese, came the Dutch and then the British. No one imagined that it will be British who will go onto capture the Indian sub-continent. The Portugese had the first mover advantage but did not really work for them. It was British and to an extent Dutch (who controlled Indonesian islands) which led the race.

The author has divided the book in certain phases and focuses on three main countries in these phases – India, China and Japan. After all these countries mattered most in the Indian Ocean setting. Towards later years, the discussion also moves to Russia as it became a stakeholder in China and Japan wars. So you get an amazing flavor of several things happening during this phase as much of world attention was on Indian ocean. The discussion on China is particularly interesting as all these western powers though were highly against each other, joined forces to push China to open up to them.

The book kind f becomes weak towards the end as author discusses world wars and so on. This is fine as the book was written when not much time had passed since the wars. You need much more hindsight and info which is there for earlier periods.

An amazing account and one of the must reads as attention again shifts to Indian ocean.

6 Responses to “Book Review – Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco Da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498-1945”

  1. Anil Says:

    Amol Sir,
    Its getting really difficult to keep up with the books you write about.

    Regards,
    Anil

  2. Amol Agrawal Says:

    Hi Anil,

    Not sure how should I react to this comment. Is it good or bad?

  3. Anil Says:

    hi Amol,

    Ofcourse it is awesome. Its just that i am not getting enough time to follow. By the way, inspired by you i joined Bshool this session after long stint in corporate. And its pretty hectic🙂
    Anil

  4. Anil Says:

    No Amol, I am doing MBA from FMS. You inspired mean I was regular on your blog, which pulled me so much to Economics and Finance. I was just a grad. so ended up in MBA.

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