Gwyn Campbell

Canada Research Chair in Indian Ocean World History

Tier 1 - 2005-02-01
Renewed: 2012-03-01
McGill University
Social Sciences and Humanities


Research involves

Using archives and fieldwork to investigate early human migration to Madagascar, as well as slavery and the slave trade in the Indian Ocean World.

Research relevance

The research is uncovering important aspects of migration in the Indian Ocean World and thus contributing to an understanding of the rise and development of the Indian Ocean global economy.

Mysterious Migrations and a History of Slavery: Uncovering the Hidden Past of the Indian Ocean World

The history of the Indian Ocean World was traditionally dominated by Euro-centrists who argued that institutions and beliefs indigenous to the region hindered modernization, which was possible only through intervention by Western forces.

Some scholars have recently questioned this interpretation, asserting that a sophisticated international system of production and exchange developed in the Indian Ocean World much earlier than in Europe.

Dr. Gwyn Campbell's research as a Canada Research Chair aims to clarify the debate and contribute to an understanding of the economic history of the Indian Ocean World through an international and interdisciplinary investigation into human migration across the region.

He is studying the origins of the Malagasy, one of the greatest mysteries of history. The Malagasy speak a language of Austronesian origin and are of mixed African-Austronesian genetic heritage, but their precise origins - and the time and circumstances in which their ancestors settled Madagascar - remain unknown. By shedding light on the Malagasy mystery, he hopes to help illuminate the early structure of trans-Indian Ocean World migration and commercial exchange.

Dr. Campbell also plans to explore the history of the slave trade in the Indian Ocean World, revealing the changing structure, significance, and impact of slavery and the slave trade in the Indian Ocean World. Slavery studies have largely concentrated on the Greco-Roman world, and on plantations and mines in the Americas from 1500 to1860. Preliminary indications suggest, however, that the Indian Ocean slave trade has endured for longer and involved far more people than the Atlantic slave trade ever did.