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date: 25 April 2019

India and Africa

Summary and Keywords

Connections between India and Africa have existed for thousands of years, with the intensity of linkages varying over time. The earliest known relations involve the anonymous exchange of food crops and domestic livestock, which date to the second millennium bce. Commercial contacts are recorded from the beginning of the Current Era, while from the rise of Islam and the creation of Islamic states in India from the 14th century on enslaved and war captive Africans begin to appear in India. Trade relations continued throughout the early modern period (c. 1500–1750) and intensified in the 19th century, focusing on Gujarat and Zanzibar. Indian textiles were the most important Indian commodity during these centuries, while ivory and other primary products dominated exchanges from Africa.

The consolidation of a British Empire in the Indian Ocean intensified these relations, giving rise to the movement of migrant labor to both South Africa and the East African Protectorate (eventually Kenya Colony). During the high colonial period an Indian merchant class developed from Ethiopia to South Africa. Indian nationalism played out in various ways in South Africa, Tanganyika, and Kenya. In turn, African nationalism and independence had its own reciprocal, sometimes violent, impact on Indians residing in East Africa, while Afrikaner nationalism and the creation of formal apartheid differentially affected Indians and Africans in South Africa. In the post-colonial era, state relations between India and the independent states of Africa focused on questions of both national and human development. Finally, Indian residents continue to seek their place in independent Africa, while African students in India face prejudice there.

Keywords: Gujarat, Kachchh, Kenya, Natal, race, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, trade, labor

Earliest Contacts

By about 2000 bce there exists botanical evidence from scientific analysis of the exchange of plants and animals between Africa and South Asia. These exchanges around the rim of the northwestern Indian Ocean depended on small-scale trade in the hands of coastal fishing communities rather than the more dramatic luxury trade that was driven by land-based states. What this evidence suggests is that from about 2200 bce a major climate shift that created a drier and less predictable environment sustained the movement of domesticated crops from the northern savannah regions of Africa to their counterparts in India along routes that skirted the northern coastline of the Arabian Sea. Among these African crops that migrated to South Asia are three cereals—sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), and finger millet (Elesusine coracana)—many varieties of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and hyacinth bean (Lablab purpueus).

Although these food crops are now widely distributed on the Indian sub-continent, their earliest appearance comes from the Late Harappan period, dating to c. 1900–1300 bce. Each of these African crops was additional to endemic Indian crops, which may account for their ready adoption by Indian farmers. There is evidence, too, that common or broomcorn millet (pannicum miliaceum), a cereal of Chinese origin, eventually migrated across South Asia and Arabia to northeast Africa, probably by sea, as early as the period 2000–1500 bce. According to genetic evidence the most important food source contribution from India to Africa by sea, as opposed to land, was the zebu cow (Bos indicus), although the timing and distribution of its appearance in Africa is widely varied. Unlike cereals, which can be transported unintentionally, but like legumes, the movement of livestock reveals human intentionality. Certain weeds and rodents—black rat, house mouse, and house shrew (this last all going from India to Africa)—also reflect unintentional seaborne exchanges across the northwest Indian Ocean.

If the human agents of these crop and animal exchanges remain unknown, by the beginning of the Current Era a combination of literary and archaeological sources combines to reveal more specifically both the places and the people who fashioned these linkages. The 1st century Periplus of the Erythraen Sea and subsequent Greek sources indicate the presence of an “Ethiopian” community at the dominant commercial port of Barygaza (modern Bharuch, Gujarat) in the Gulf of Khambhat in the early centuries of the Current Era. There is also abundant evidence of a flourishing trade between the Mediterranean, via the Red Sea, and India during this period. Concretely, the ubiquitous presence of Indian black pepper in excavation trenches and the discovery of the largest single cache of this precious commodity, weighing about sixteen pounds, at the Roman Red Sea port of Berenike, in Egypt, points to trade with the Malabar coast, where the principal port was Muziris. This conclusion is reinforced by the discovery of a few graffiti on broken storage jars dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries ce at Myos Hormos/Quseir-al-Qadim, then a Roman port farther north on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and Berenike. Three of these are written in the Tamil-Brahmi script, with a single list of trade goods in Prakrit. The Tamil-Brahmi graffiti, in particular, indicate a strong connection to the South Indian port of Arikamedu, which had strong commercial ties to Rome. Other evidence suggests the presence of both sojourning and resident Indian merchants at the Red Sea ports.

At Berenike archaeologists unearthed thousands of beads, manufactured from a variety of stones, as well as glass and gold foil, which came from western and southern India. Teak was another item of trade that was highly valued in the wood-poor environment of the Red Sea. As for trade from Gujarat, Indian rouletted ware from the Ganges River delta, rough pieces of onyx and sardonyx for cameos, and silver (in exchange for Roman coins) were all exchanged through Berenike. Indirect evidence of trade and the movement of people between western India and the African side of the Red Sea corridor comes from Socotra Island, where Brahmi and Ethiopic graffiti in Hoq cave, on the north side of the island, reveal the presence of both Indian and Axumite sojourners. The vast majority of the roughly two hundred graffiti are written in Brahmi, while only about twenty are in Axumite. Revealingly, several of those in Brahmi indicate that the individuals who wrote them came from Barygaza.

Following the decline of this period of robust trade between the Roman Mediterranean through northeast Africa and India there is very little evidence available except for fleeting references in the Christian Geography of Cosmas Indicopleustes, who notes extensive traffic through Sri Lanka that connected southern India to the Aksumite kingdom of northeast Africa during his voyage to that island in 525. By the middle of the 6th century, however, the Old World pandemic of bubonic plague fatally disrupted both seaborne and overland trade between India and Africa.

Rise of Islam and Medieval Connections

The rise of Islam in the 7th century and its rapid, if incomplete, expansion around the coastline of the Arabian Sea over the next several centuries facilitated the emergence of an oceanic system of intercontinental exchange that was dominated by Arabs. By the same token, in the long run it also sustained the movement of commodities, people, and ideas between India and Africa. The clearest evidence of these first millennium connections comes from glass beads, for which recent advances in analytical techniques enable archaeologists to identify probable origins based on mineral composition much more accurately than by appearance and style. The origin of bead assemblages discovered at Fukuchani and Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar, that date to the 6th to 10th centuries, for example, are clearly traceable to Sri Lanka or south India and were probably traded from Mantai, on the northwest coast of Sri Lanka. Similar beads have also been identified at Berenike in 4th- and 6th-century contexts. There is thus an argument to be made for the existence of a trade circuit linking south India/Sri Lanka to the Red Sea and Zanzibar at this time. A different circuit is suggested by the larger bead assemblages at Chibuene, in southern Mozambique, where a style known as Zhizo beads dominated from the 8th to the mid-19th centuries. Although the glass origins of Zhizo beads are identified as “east of the Euphrates,” their actual manufacture may have been at Bhanbore, on the Kacchhi littoral, or by Indian artisans at Sohar, in Oman.1 This hypothesis fits in well with what we know about the domination of trade between the Gulf and East Africa during the heyday of the Abbasid caliphate.

An early piece of verifying literary evidence dates to the 10th century, when the Iraqi historian and geographer al-Masudi emphasizes the importance of the trade in ivory from the Swahili coast to India. During the first half of the second millennium, however, there emerges an increasing level of evidence of trade exchanges between India and eastern Africa, from the Red Sea coast, down the Swahili coast, across to the Comoro Islands and northwest Madagascar, and continuing south along coastal Mozambique. Much of this commerce was probably conducted indirectly through the Gulf and Red Sea, as testified to by the presence of Indian ceramics in both western Asia and eastern Africa. There is further evidence of Indian cloth fragments discovered in the late 9th and 10th centuries at Fustat, Old Cairo, while several of the Geniza documents from the 12th and 13th centuries bear witness to textiles from northwestern India traded at Fustat. Textiles have also been preserved from the first half of the 13th century at Quseir al-Qadim and in Nubia.2

Medieval Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa was another area with significant commercial linkages to India. As elsewhere, Indian textiles, especially luxury cloths, dominated imports by the Abyssinian court, while gold was arguably the most important export to India. The critical hub for trade between India and Ethiopia was Aden. According to a 13th-century Arabic source, port activity at Aden included “ships from India and its environs, ships from the land of Zanj and environs, ships from Berbera and Ḥabash and environs,” that is, the Somali Gulf of Aden coast and Ethiopia.3 Although we lack pre-1500 evidence, early 16th-century Portuguese observers leave no doubt as to the significance of this traffic through Aden. The major ports of entry for the Ethiopian interior were Massawa, Zeila, and Berbera. Indian textiles dominated the import trade, while gold, ivory, and slaves were leading exports. Tomé Pires notes the presence of “Abyssinians” at Cambay, and Indian trade with the main Gulf of Aden ports of Zayla and Berbera. The contemporary Italian traveler, Ludovico di Vartema similarly records Ethiopian merchants at Calicut.

Enslaved Africans from the Ethiopian highlands, invariably known as “Habshis” in the late medieval and early modern sources, first appear in Islamic India in the 13th century, specifically in the Ilyas Shai sultanate of Delhi during the first half of that century. When Ibn Battuta traveled in India, he commented on Habshis as sailors and soldiers wherever he visited. Some Habshis even occupied positions of political authority, as he found at Alapur, where the governor was a Habshi named Badr. In the last decade of the 15th century, Habshi military leaders usurped power in the Bengal sultanate and established a short-lived, independent state before themselves being ousted and fleeing south to the Deccan. Africans were already present as both concubines and bodyguards at the court of the Bahmani sultanate in the Deccan and had played a similar military and political role as king-makers in that state. A quite different Habshi figure was an apparent Sufi named Gori Pir who may have been enslaved, and is remembered as having initiated the trade in agates between Gujarat and Africa. A dargah dedicated to his memory is today located at Ratanpur, near the most important site of agate mining. As early as the mid-15th century the founder of the Khilji dynasty of Malwa, is said to have visited Gori Pir’s dargah.

When Ibn Battuta visited Mogadishu, Mombasa, and Kilwa in the 1330s, however, he made no mention of Indian trade or traders, but the establishment of the Muslim Sultanate of Gujarat in 1392 and the consequent rise to prominence of the port-city of Khambhat (Cambay) soon led to the domination of Indian trade and traders along the Swahili littoral. Although we lack solid data for the 15th century, we can extrapolate from the first decades of the early modern period that African ivory and Indian textiles were the principal items of trade between these two vast regions of the western Indian Ocean world. Certainly, by the time that Vasco da Gama sought to sail his small fleet from Malindi, Kenya to India in early 1498, he readily found an experienced pilot—arguably an Indian—to guide the way.4 According to one version of the Pate Chronicle, the ruler of that city-state sent an annual fleet to trade with Gujarat. In 1500 a Portuguese fleet encountered three large vessels from Cambay at Malindi, while the well-known descriptions of Tomé Pires and Duarte Barbosa, both of which date to the first decade of the new century, explicitly mention Indian merchants at the ports of the East African littoral from Zeila and Berbera on the Gulf of Aden coast around to Mogadishu and thence south to Sofala. These vivid descriptions leave no doubt that when the Portuguese first entered Indian Ocean waters at the very end of the 15th century there was already a well-established commercial network between Gujarat and East Africa.

Early Modern Period

While the entrance of the Portuguese into the Indian Ocean world may not have introduced a Vasco da Gama era, it definitely initiates a period of much more extensive and detailed sources of information on relations between India and Africa than previously obtained. At the same time, once the Portuguese had firmly established the center of their Indian Ocean thalassocracy—the Estado da Índia—at Goa in 1510, a permanent link with the Portuguese in East Africa was created that would have important ramifications deep into the 20th century. Despite Portugal’s conquest of the major Swahili city-states, the fact remains that Portugal’s connection with the coast to the north of Cape Delgado was marginal; to the south of that promontory, however, it was more profound. During the 16th century Diu, in Gujarat, which finally submitted to the Portuguese in 1545, came to dominate seaborne trade with the Swahili coast. Portuguese antipathy to Muslims provided an opening for its Hindu Vāniyā merchants to insert themselves into the trading networks of the western Indian Ocean. Notwithstanding Portuguese attempts to keep them out of the African market, by the beginning of the 17th century small communities of these merchants were established at Mombasa and Pate, where they continued to trade until disruption caused by the Omani challenge to Portuguese hegemony on the coast in the last decades of the century. Meanwhile, Gujarati traders from Surat also frequented the Swahili coast in the 17th century. By providing financing and shipping in support of the new Busaidi dynasty of Oman, which came to power in 1744 and extended its commercial and imperial interests to Zanzibar in 1750, still others expanded their commercial operations to the Swahili coast.

By 1530 the Portuguese seized command of the gold and ivory trade from Sofala to India, while Indian textiles and beads flowed to southeast Africa in what the Portuguese called “the India-to-India trade.”5 The details of the Portuguese presence in both India and southeast Africa are not as important here as is the larger point that the Estado da Índia “became increasingly dependent on Southeast Africa for its own sustenance,” that is, for its customs revenue.6 During the 17th century a small number of Goan and Kanara Christian converts, lumped together as Canarins by the Portuguese, settled in southeast Africa, mostly in the Zambezi Valley. They represented the vanguard of later generations of both Goans and other Indian settlers in East Africa.

Connections between Ethiopia and India were intensified in the 16th century as a consequence of increased slave trading that accompanied decades of religio-political warfare between the Islamic sultanates of Ifat and Adal and the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia. Many war captives ended up as military slaves in India. Undoubtedly, the most prominent of these individuals was the Oromo boy Chapu, who later rose to achieve dominant political authority in the Deccan kingdom of Ahmednagar as Malik Ambar. Ambar reached India in 1571, where he was purchased by the prime minister of the Nizam Shahi dynasty. After three decades of exceptional military service and some political intrigue, in 1600 he emerged as prime minister of Ahmednagar, a position he held until his death in 1626, when he was succeeded by his son. Other notable Habshis who achieved military and political leadership positions in the 17th-century Deccan include Siddi Yakub Khan, Ikhlas Khan, and the Siddi rulers of the island-state of Janjira. Enslaved through the misfortune of war and instability in Ethiopia, the Islamic tradition of employing and entrusting enslaved men as soldiers (mamluks) provided opportunities for men like these to succeed in Indian society, notwithstanding their foreignness and social origins.

During this same period Portuguese intervention in Ethiopia reinforced existing links with India. Portuguese involvement was founded on assistance to a fellow Christian kingdom, but following defeat of the Adal sultanate in 1543, aggressive Jesuit efforts to convert Abyssinia to Roman Catholicism resulted in the expulsion of the Jesuits in the 1630s and re-establishment of the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, in addition to continuing commercial relations between India and Ethiopia, there may have been royal gift exchanges between the Abyssinia monarch Susenyos I (r. 1606–1632) and the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–1627) in the form of exotic animals: an elephant and zebra from the former, a parrot from the latter.7 Seeking to establish an eastern policy that was independent of the Portuguese at Goa, successive emperors of Abyssinia sent official embassies to the Mughal in the second half of the 17th century, although they never produced any long-term relations between the two, religiously contrasting, states.

If the Portuguese presence on the Swahili coast has left few traces beyond the monumental Fort Jesus Mombasa, the extensive building activities of successive 17th-century Abyssinian monarchs reveal both significant Portuguese and Indian influences. In particular, the royal palace at the new capital of Gondar, established by Emperor Fasiladas (r. 1632–1667), bears witness to this combination. In the words of the Yemeni envoy to Abyssinia in 1648, “The builder of this construction is an Indian; the characteristics of its arrangement are according to the style of his country.”8 Similarly, prior to the combination of Portuguese and Indian building techniques, lime was unknown in Ethiopia, while various sources mention Indian masons and craftsmen involved in the construction of these royal buildings. This same period yields both literary and material evidence of the central place of Indian luxury textiles in Abyssinian court and church culture.

In the Red Sea area and Ethiopian Highlands Indian traders, generally known as Banians whether they were Hindu or Muslim, still dominated international trade into the early decades of the 18th century, although their presence declined noticeably by the 1730s. The most important Indian foothold in eastern Africa during this period was established at Mozambique Island, where in 1686 a body of merchants at Diu organized themselves as the Company of Mazanes. Over the next century, until its dissolution in 1777, this corporation came to monopolize the international trade in ivory and textiles between Southeast Africa and India. The driving force in this development was a combination of growing demand for African elephant ivory in India and an expanding African market for Indian textiles. Indian capital financed not only this vibrant commercial exchange, but also Portuguese expansion in its still precarious Southeast African colonial empire. Consequently, whereas there seem to have been no Indian residents at Mozambique in 1600, by the middle of the 18th century they numbered several dozens, some of whom inhabited the coastal mainland. All hailed from Diu; most were indeed Hindu Vāniyā, but as many as one-quarter were Muslims from the same city. In addition to merchants, some were goldsmiths; most were single men without families. The demise of the Company of Mazanes and the declaration of free trade at Diu opened up new opportunities for a broader range of Vāniyā to trade in Africa and appear to have temporarily driven most of the Muslim Indian traders out of the Mozambique market. In the absence of relevant documentation, it is difficult to assess how Indians regarded the Africans among whom they lived and with whom they traded during this period. What is known is that Vāniyā merchants at Mozambique employed slave labor systematically, engaged in the slave trade, and, according to a 1782 census, owned a great many slaves.9

The 19th Century

For the historian, periodization is especially difficult when examining connected histories of regions as disparate and internally complex as India and Africa. At the intersection between long 18th and long 19th centuries deciding where to draw lines is particularly vexed. Nevertheless, several developments in the western Indian Ocean world characterize these connections and provide a preamble to the period of formal colonial rule—which brought its own consequences—that dominated the following era. These elements are the rise of British India and the role of Bombay as a driving force in linking India and Africa; the critical intermediary role of the Sultanate of Oman and of its capital, Muscat; and the rapid expansion of the slave trade from eastern Africa and the complementary evolution of indentured labor from India.

From the middle of the 18th century, Bombay grew into the dominant economic center in western India, both as headquarters for the English East India Company and as a magnet for Indian merchants and shipping. While Surat and Diu remained significant centers for trade with Africa well into the 19th century, Bombay steadily exerted its influence as a dominant source of financing and shipping. For East Africa, the critical connection linked Bombay to Masqat and, through it, to Zanzibar. The establishment of the Busaids as rulers of Oman at Masqat can be credited in no small part to the financial support they received from the so-called Banian community—whether Hindu, Muslim, Gujarati or Kachchhi—that moved between these three port-cities. The rise of Busaidi Zanzibar also stimulated a parallel commercial development in Kachchh, especially through the port of Mandvi.

The British occupation of Aden in 1839 provided a direct imperial connection to Bombay that facilitated the progress of Indian trade on both sides of the Red Sea. The arrival of the Parsi merchant Cowasjee Dinshaw (Adenwalla) in the early 1850s, who drew upon his family banking concerns in Bombay, stimulated Gujarati business throughout the region, where financing and credit were the foundational elements of Indian commercial success. Important family firms became established in Massawa and Berbera. Some were Parsi, some Hindu, and others Muslim, both Shia and Sunni. Banians came to dominate Red Sea trade at Massawa, their community growing from fewer than ten in the 1840s to almost 150 by 1910. While some of these merchants migrated directly from Gujarat, others came indirectly from other Red Sea ports. As a merchant community, they maximized their profits by exploiting the difference in exchange rates between the Maria Theresa dollar and Indian rupee, while their ability to utilize bills of exchange [hundis] financed the penetration of their commercial networks deep into the African interior.

Zanzibar Town was the other great center for Indian financial and commercial penetration of eastern Africa in the 19th century. Around 1819 the ruler of Oman, Seyyid Said bin Sultan (r. 1804–1856), awarded control of the customs farm at Zanzibar to the Mandvi-based Shia Khoja firm of Jairam Sewji, which held this lucrative office for most of the next seven decades. Building on their favored status under the Busaids, Kachchhi and other Gujarati merchants flocked to Zanzibar Town, where they dominated the import of Indian textiles and export of ivory. Over the course of the century they financed both the long-distance caravans that penetrated the African interior in search of ivory and slaves, as well as the clove plantations acquired by the Arab elite of Zanzibar. As Zanzibar extended its imperial presence along the coast, Indian houses sent junior male relatives to act as trading agents in towns up and down the coast. Indian Muslim traders penetrated the interior, reaching as far as the powerful kingdom of Buganda before mid-century. To take only one example of the extent of Gujarati financing of the caravan trade, at one point when he was deep in the interior of southern Tanzania and far away from his principal source of credit at Zanzibar, the notorious Afro-Arab trader Hamed bin Muhammad el Murjebi (Tippu Tip) was able to float a large loan to sustain his activities.10

The vast majority of Indians in 19th-century Africa were men. While some cohabited with African and Arab women, for the most part they resided and socialized within their own ethno-religious communities. Initially, most men were semi-permanent residents who moved back and forth with the monsoons to western India. Like their Vāniyā counterparts at Mozambique, they were also slave owners. Hindus did not bring their women and children with them, generally returning to Gujarat to marry locally until well into the 20th century. The first Hindu woman arrived in Zanzibar in the 1880s; even then, Hindu wives returned to Gujarat to give birth and raise their children. From the beginning of the 19th century, however, the different Gujarati and Kachchhi Muslim communities had begun to bring their wives and families with them to Zanzibar. Most prominent were the Khōjās, who steadily abandoned their Gujarati origins to settle in Zanzibar. An 1840 report observed that there were 165 Khōjā families and 26 married women at Zanzibar. By 1870 in a total estimated Khōjā population of 2,558 were included 535 families and 700 married females.11 According to British Consular reports, out of a total Indian resident population in Omani East Africa of 3,248 in 1870, more than 88 percent were Muslim, the remainder being Hindu; in 1887, when the total population had risen to 4,360 the percentages were 80–20.12 Because of their domination of commerce and finance during the 19th century, many mercantile terms from Gujarati and Hindi entered the Swahili lexicon.

Smaller communities of Kachchhi merchants were also present in the ports of western Madagascar and the Kerimba Islands of northern Mozambique. In 1867 there was a well-established community at Mahajanga of so-called Karana, probably Khōjās, numbering almost two hundred individuals—men, women, male and female children. At Mozambique Island the long-established Vāniyā community held its own commercially until the mid-19th century, but thereafter Kachchhi Bhātiyā merchants effectively displaced them. Nevertheless, there were at least 140 Vāniyā and more than twenty Gujarati Muslims resident in the Kerimba Islands in the third quarter of the century, as well as a handful of Kachchhi Bhātiyā.

Until the second quarter of the 19th century, workers for the plantation economies the Mascarene Islands of the southwest Indian Ocean had been provided overwhelmingly by enslaved labor from Madagascar and East Africa, mainly Mozambique. Following abolition and the end of a short apprenticeship system on Mauritius in the mid-1830s, a novel system of indentured labor was developed between British India and British Mauritius to supply the booming sugar plantation economy. Consequently, in the course of four decades the demography of Mauritius was completely transformed so that by about 1880 its population was two-thirds Indian. By the end of the coolie system in 1917, more than 453,000 persons had been transported to Mauritius. Abolition on the French colonial island of Réunion was delayed until 1848, and although Anglo-French relations complicated extending indentured labor to the island, between 1861 and 1883 more than 26,000 Indian workers were recruited there, as well. Finally, to supply the growing sugar plantations in Natal, in 1860 the system of indentured Indian labor was extended to British South Africa. At the conclusion of this labor migration system in 1911, more than 150,000 men and women had been recruited to South Africa from Calcutta and Madras. Finally, the last significant population of Indian migrant laborers in Africa was recruited to build the Uganda Railway from Mombasa across British East Africa (later Kenya Colony) to the Uganda Protectorate. Between 1896 and 1901, railway construction recruited some 32,000 mostly males from the Punjab.

By the last decades of the century steamships from Bombay regularly connected ports in western Madagascar to those in Portuguese East Africa and Natal. The 1870s witnessed the independent movement of so-called passenger Indians to Durban who established small businesses and professional practices. By the end of the century, a number of wealthy businessmen had become established in Durban, while significant Indian trading operations had moved inland to where the mining economy had become dominant. Most famously, Mohandas Gandhi joined this community in 1893 and was active in South Africa until his final departure in 1914. At the same time, both Muslim and Hindu religious movements, whether reformist or customary, competed for followers among the formerly indentured labor force in Durban,

Although the 19th century witnessed the growing presence of Indians in Africa, with the exception of the importation of enslaved Africans by the armed forces of the Nizam of Hyderabad, small numbers of enslaved retainers in Kachchh, and the continued presence of African seamen and laborers in Bombay and other western Indian ports, few Africans migrated to India during this transformative period. Rather, the different African groups that had been present in India for many years gradually evolved either as distinct Afro-Indian communities, like the Siddis of Gujarat and Karnataka, or became assimilated into the dominant Indian populations, as happened with the Habshis of the Deccan.

Colonialism and Independence

The imposition of colonial rule dramatically changed the terms of connections between India and Africa. With the exception of the small Portuguese and French enclaves in India, all Indians were now British subjects, which affected both their conditions of movement and located them in the wider context of the British Empire. As the centerpiece to British imperial ambitions in the Indian Ocean, Indians became players in British efforts to dominate eastern and southern Africa, whether by employing Indian laborers to build an extractive colonial infrastructure, using Indian sepoys to police their African empire, or enabling Indians to occupy an intermediate socio-economic space between white rulers and settlers and their African subjects. This was a process with roots in the later 19th century, but it dominated India-Africa relations right up to the gaining of independence in India and Pakistan in 1947, while its aftermath resonates to the present. In eastern Africa itself, British Indian subjects now found themselves residing or doing business in a series of colonial territories ruled by Great Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany (at least until the end of the First World War), as well as Imperial Ethiopia. For the purposes of this survey, however, our focus will be on British East Africa and South Africa.

Notwithstanding the presence of Indians in East Africa before the outbreak of the First World War, most migration dates to the decades following 1918 and the consolidation of the British Empire over all four territories (Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar). Indeed, nearly all of the 32,000 Punjabi men who had been recruited to build the Uganda Railway had returned to India by the end of their three-year contracts. Once Great Britain controlled all four East African territories, Indian migration increased dynamically. As the center of British East Africa, Kenya attracted the largest number of Indian migrants. From a total of almost 12,000 in 1911, the numbers of Indian residents (including Goans) of Kenya climbed progressively to more than 25,000 in 1921, 43,000 a decade later, more than 97,000 in 1948, to a high of 139,000 in 1969.13 In 1920 there were an estimated 10,000 Indian residents in Tanganyika; by the 1948 census, their number had grown to over 44,000, not counting some 2,000 Goans; in 1967, several years after independence in 1961 and union in 1964, that figure was reckoned at more than 75,000 on the mainland and 13,500 on Zanzibar.14 Although Indian traders had penetrated to Buganda in the late 19th century, the Indian population of that Protectorate was more limited than in either Kenya and even in Tanganyika until after the Second World War. From an Indian population of fewer than 4,000 in 1914, Indians in Uganda grew only to just over 35,000 in 1948; but rapid economic growth after the war stimulated a parallel expansion of the Indian population to more than 74,000 in 1969.15

Just as Indian migrants to South Africa constituted different socio-economic communities based on origin, class, occupation, and religion, so too did those who migrated to British East Africa. The British encouraged Indian migration to East Africa to fulfill a number of economic roles, while many individuals chose to cross the Indian Ocean to seek their fortunes. Many Indians served in the civil administrations of all four British East African territories as clerks and in the middle ranks of colonial administration. Others became small businessmen or shopkeepers, the so-called dukawallahs (from Swahili for “shop” and Gujarati for a person associated with any business), occupying one of the critical economic and social interstices between European rulers and African subjects. While some of these shopkeepers never became wealthy, others managed their businesses to grow into much more ambitious operations; still others built upon earlier commercial enterprises and the financial institutions in India that had provided the credit for growth in the 19th century. Although what became Kenya Colony dominated Great Britain’s East African empire, the fact that all four territories were under British rule (notwithstanding that Tanganyika was, technically, first a League of Nations Mandate and then a United Nations Trust Territory) enabled energetic Indian merchants to extend their businesses and family networks across the entire region. Indians came either to dominate or to enjoy significant proportions of banking and insurance, road transport, and industry, especially ginning and milling. Others invested in agriculture and construction. Among the leading Indian businessmen in East Africa during these decades were A. M. Jeevanjee, Karimjee Jivanjee, Mulibhai Madhvani, Nanji Kalidas Mehta, and Allidina Visram, all of whom operated in the context of widely networked family firms. As an educated Indian elite developed, a number of individuals occupied professions like medicine, law, and education. Despite efforts during the colonial period to integrate East Africa more intimately with British India, African resentment across the region at the perceived favored position of Indians in each territory, and futile Indian attempts to secure privileged political representation during the colonial era—most notably the 1923 Devonshire Declaration against Indian property and voting rights in Kenya—and at independence, a number of prominent Indians committed themselves to participation as equals in African nationalist movements. These men included, most notably, Nairobi-born journalist Pio Gama Pinto and Punjabi-born trade unionist Makhan Singh—both men of the Left—in Kenya, and Tanganyika-born Ismaili Amir H. Jamal, who after independence served in several ministerial positions. Both Pinto and Jamal were educated in India and first became politically engaged in India before returning to East Africa.

Whereas in the 19th century India dominated both the import and export trade of East Africa, during the colonial period India’s percentage of imports declined progressively so that by 1938 it was exceeded by the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and Germany. By contrast, East Africa’s exports to India—now diversified by the colonial economy—continued to hold their own, almost equally those to the U.K.16 Following Indian partition in 1947, economic relations between India and East Africa changed significantly as both India and Pakistan initially turned inward to develop their own economies, while the new East African nations largely traded across their international borders and with the developed economies of the West and Japan.17 Since the 1990s globalization has greatly diversified the import-export relations of every country, but for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda both India and Pakistan have re-emerged as major trading partners. It must be noted, however, that Indian and Pakistani trade with Africa is now dominated by Nigeria and South Africa, rather than by any of the East African nation-states.

A quite different impact of the partition of India in 1947 was the consequent change in nomenclature and implications for identity of Indian residents of East Africa, who now became “Asians” to avoid offending anyone. The gaining of independence by the four colonial territories of British East Africa—Tanganyika in 1961, Uganda in 1962, Kenya in 1963, and Zanzibar at the end of that year—had more substantive implications for Asian residents than what they were named. As the newly independent governments sought to nationalize their socio-economies, Asians were first gradually, and then violently pushed to the margins. Beginning with the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964 and culminating with the 1972 Asian expulsions ordered by Idi Amin Dada in Uganda, the Asian population of East Africa declined precipitously from around 300,000 persons in 1969 to some 90,000 in 1984 in all three nation-states.18 Since the late 1990s some of these Asians have returned to East Africa, while new Indian and Pakistani immigrants have arrived, welcomed by African governments for their business acumen and capital, as well as for their professional skills. Because neither Uganda nor Tanzania record ethnicity in their censuses, it is difficult to do more than estimate the numbers of Asians, whether citizens or alien residents, in these two countries, but informed estimates suggest figures of 45,000 for Tanzania and roughly 10,000 for Uganda in the 21st century.19 According to the 2009 Kenya Census, Asians numbered 81,791, of whom 57 percent were Kenyan citizens. Reflecting the context of ethnic community politics in Kenya, in July 2017 “Kenyans of Asian descent” were granted status as the country’s forty-fourth official “tribe.”

Although British East Africa dominated India-Africa connections throughout the colonial period, Indians were also resident throughout the British colonial territories of southern Africa (Nyasaland, Northern and Southern Rhodesia). In Portuguese East Africa the Indian population, which grew from just over 9,000 individuals in 1940 to over 22,500 in 1970, was primarily from Portuguese India and were Catholic Goans, although more than a thousand Gujarati Ismailis also migrated to that colony.20 Yet outside British East Africa the most important theater of Indian presence in Africa in the 20th century was South Africa, where from their origins in the sugar plantations and urban activities of Natal they moved next into the mining centers of the Transvaal and eventually to the other major urban areas of the colony. By 1894 Indians outnumbered whites in Natal so that consequently anti-Indian legislation was enacted to restrict immigration and socio-economic mobility. From the 1920s to the triumph of apartheid in 1948, Indians developed into an urban proletariat and became progressively radicalized as new political leadership emerged. Yet Indian political resistance was often seen as being at odds with African struggles against South Africa’s racial hierarchy. Distinctions between Indians and Africans (including so-called Coloureds) became hardened under apartheid. Still, there were many examples of Indian political support for African liberation in South Africa. Notable individuals in the anti-apartheid struggle were Ahmed Kathrada, Fatima Meer, and Jay Naidoo. By the mid-1930s the Indian population had reached about 220,000. During the 1940s and 1950s Durban, where African nationalists and South African Indians—both inspired by the example of the Indian National Congress—became an intellectual and political crucible for the forging of mass nationalism by the African National Congress. Over time natural increase and post-apartheid immigration caused a significant rise in that figure so that according to the 2011 South African census, Indians/Asians numbered 1,286,930, while Durban was considered to be the largest “Indian” city outside of India. Since the end of apartheid in 1994 India and South Africa have forged increasingly important economic, military, and cultural ties.

For most of the colonial period few Africans traveled to India, but both East and West African soldiers trained in India and saw action in Burma as members of the British army during the Second World War. East African veterans who returned home to Kenya from India were clearly inspired by Indian independence in 1947. For most of the post-colonial period, however, linkages between India and Africa were fairly limited. At the same time, Indian attitudes toward Africa and Africans—shaped by a combination of Indian’s own racial hierarchies, Indian experiences in Africa, and popular images that were significantly influenced by South Africa—were significantly negative and often frankly racist. Encouraged by India’s outreach to other former British colonies, African students were invited to study at Indian universities, but even before such traumatic events as the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 their experiences were not always positive. Since the 1990s many more African students have traveled to India to pursue tertiary education, mainly in technology; according to some estimates there are as many as 10,000 African students studying in India. In addition, there may be some 50,000 Nigerians resident in India. Regrettably, in the second decade of the 21st century there have been many violent attacks on Africans in India, while racial insults and prejudice in areas like housing are a daily occurrence. What the future holds for Africans in India remains to be resolved.

Discussion of the Literature

The modern historiography of the broad topic of India and Africa addressed in this article can initially be divided into works dealing with East Africa and South Africa. The former begins shortly after the gaining of independence in East Africa, when Dharam P. Ghai edited an important collection of essays and J. S. Mangat authored the first scholarly history of Asians in East Africa.21 Two important sociological studies from this period are by H. S. Morris and Agehananda Bharati.22 In the 1990s feminist geographer Richa Nagar contributed a series of stimulating articles on Asians in Dar es Salaam.23 Beginning in 1971, the wide-ranging historical scholarship of Robert G. Gregory merits special attention. Gregory’s initial focus was on race relations in the British Empire, while his later works centered on different aspects of the Asian experience in East Africa, ranging from politics to philanthropy to economic and social history.24 In the 1970s, Edward Alpers published an article on Gujarat and East Africa during the early modern period that considered some of the consequences of Portuguese intrusion into the Indian Ocean.25 Since the appearance of these pioneering works many authors, both professional and amateur, have continued to pursue this subject, sometimes adopting a broad historical frame, often focusing on Kenya. Two such examples are books by Dana April Seidenberg and Blanche Rocha D’Souza.26 Cynthia Salvadori compiled three most useful volumes of stories about pioneering Indians in Kenya; she also co-edited two revealing Indian travelogues from the early 20th century that Gaurav Desai has critically analyzed.27

The current century has seen the publication of a number of innovative studies on India and Africa that reveal the growing scholarly interest in Indian Ocean and transnational history. Although there are no monographs that specifically address this broad topic for earliest times, Chhaya Goswami’s study of Kachchhi traders in 19th-century Muscat and Zanzibar establishes a valuable transnational perspective, while Pedro Machado’s meticulously documented history of Gujarati merchants in Portuguese East Africa in the early modern period provides a genuinely global perspective.28 Adopting a broadly imperial perspective with the distinction of an Indian focus, Thomas Metcalf examines India’s role in the wider Indian Ocean, dividing his case studies between Malaya and Africa.29 No less integrative in its Indian Ocean perspective is Gaurav Desai’s fascinating study of historical and literary texts connecting India and Africa.30 Two methodologically distinct studies of different East African Indian communities have recently appeared by Margret Frenz on Goans and Iqbal Akhtar on Tanzanian Khōjās.31 The system of Indian indentured labor on Mauritius has produced several important works by Marina Carter, while the transportation of Indian convicts to Mauritius is vividly analyzed by Clare Anderson.32 Patrick Eisenlohr examines contemporary Indian Mauritians from an ethnolinguistic perspective.33 Gijsbert Oonk built on his personal access to the family and business archives of the Karimjee Jivanjee family to write about the history of that enterprising family business and contributes a more general study of Asian businessmen in East Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.34 Taking a specifically diasporic and transnational approach to her study of Indians in Kenya, Sana Aiyar reveals the intricate links between Africa and India.35 Two quite different, yet complementary transnational studies of India and Indians in Tanzania, have been written by James Brennan and Ned Bertz.36 For Madagascar the key work, combining historical and anthropological methodologies, is by Sophie Blanchy.37 A major collaborative work produced by a team of scholars supported by the French Institute for Research in Africa offers a sociological overview that recalls the pioneering effort of Ghai’s volume cited above.38

The historical literature for Indians in South Africa is much more extensive than for East Africa. Despite the shorter chronology of India-South Africa linkages, the two-decade residence of Gandhi in South Africa and its legacy of Indian struggles for equality, the concentration of the Indian population in Natal, and the impact of apartheid seem to have combined to stimulate this historiography.39 In one way or another many such studies speak to “the Indian question,” while others feature individual biographies. Two invaluable early sociological studies published in the 1960s are by Hilda Kuper and Fatima Meer.40 In 1971 Bridglal Pachai offered an interesting attempt to understand the international context of the Indian question in South Africa.41 Indentured labor was a central experience of Indian migration to South Africa. In 1980 Y. S. Meer and colleagues edited a valuable collection of original documents on that experience; a few years later Surendra Bhana joined with Pachai to produce a documentary history of Indians in South Africa.42 Bhana next joined with Joy Brain to produce a more integrated analytical history of Indian settlement in South Africa.43 Bill Freund opened up a new perspective on the historiography by setting his study of the Indian working class in Durban in the context of African social history.44 More recently Goolam Vahed has collaborated on publishing two fascinating books of collective biographical studies, one of which provides a basis for comparison with studies of Indian traders in East Africa.45 Also embracing a transnational Indian Ocean perspective, Nile Green has contributed several innovative articles that demonstrate the close religious and linguistic linkages between India and Africa.46 Not surprisingly, there continues to be a steady production of books on Gandhi’s experience in South Africa, but among these the most notable are by Maureen Swan, Ramachandra Guha, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed.47 An especially rich analysis of the intersection of Indian diaspora and African nationalism in South Africa has been written by Jon Soske.48 Finally, and quite distinct from the numerous International Relations publications covering recent and contemporary political and economic relations between India and Africa that have appeared for several decades, there is the thoughtful collection of historical and socio-political essays co-edited by Hofmeyr and Michelle Williams that grows out of the Center for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand.49

By comparison to writing about Indians in Africa, the literature on Africans in India is more restricted, though it is also growing in response to current trends in world history and diaspora studies. In 1932 D. R. Banaji authored a unique historical monograph about Siddis in Bombay, while Richard Pankhurst wrote about Habshis in the early 1960s, but the most foundational among these studies was Joseph Harris’s 1971 history of the African presence in Asia, which focuses on India.50 Stimulated by emerging awareness of the global dimensions of the African diaspora have been various publications by Ann Pescatello, Omar Khalidi, R. R. S. Chauhan, and Shanti Sadiq Ali.51 No less reflecting this trend are edited volumes that include both historical and sociological or cultural chapters by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers, and by Kenneth X. Robbins and John McLeod.52 The most important modern sociological studies of African communities in India are by Ababu Minda Yimene on Hyderabad and Helene Basu on the Sidis of Gujarat.53 Interest in Malik Ambar, the most important Habshi military and political leader in Indian history, has yielded several books over time, most recently and authoritatively Omar H. Ali.54 Antoinette Burton incisively examines the place occupied by Africa in the Indian imagination, raising questions that are also explored reciprocally in a collection of essays edited by John C. Hawley.55

Finally, it should be noted that in addition to the works cited above there are hundreds of journal articles and book chapters that address virtually every aspect of the relationship between India and Africa, including Indians in Africa and Africans in India.

Primary Sources

Considering the scope of this article, there is no single archive or coherent body of sources to which one can direct the interested researcher. Rather, appropriate sources will emerge with the focus of one’s particular topic. For the ancient period, the critical source is clearly The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea.56 For the pre-modern period, the serious historian will necessarily turn to published accounts of contemporary Arab, Persian, and European travelers and geographers, several of whom are noted in the main essay above. For more recent history a scholar interested in the history of different aspects of Indians in Africa may draw upon a combination of official archives, oral interviews, and family or business records, as have authors of works cited in the following section on Further Reading. The associations of different Indian immigrant communities are another potentially important source of primary information.57

For the pre-modern history of India and Africa, in addition to primary sources in various scattered archives—what Pier Larson has identified as “fragmented archives”—the diligent historian will want to read as widely as possible in travelers’ accounts.58 At the most general level, the national archives of India, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Portugal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda (no official website, but linked to Derek R. Peterson’s site at the University of Michigan), the United Kingdom, and Zanzibar may need to be consulted. Although the most professionalized have online guides to their collections, for those that do not the best way to orient oneself is through Google searching or country-specific research organizations. For India research in various State archives Goa, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu may also be important. In the U.K., the India Office Records at the British Library, the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, and the School of Oriental and African Studies Library may also be relevant.

In addition to the published collections of documents or oral histories noted above under “Discussion of the Literature” (Salvadori, Salvadori and Aldrick, Y. S. Meer et al., Bhana and Pachai), there is an essential compilation available on Indian immigration to Mauritius.59 E. S. Reddy and Fatima Meer produced a focused collection of documents on the passive resistance campaign of 1946 in South Africa.60 Official colonial publications, such as the Natal Blue Books on Indian immigrants, or the South African Department of Indian Affairs, can be especially valuable. For the most part, however, published collections of documents, such as British Parliamentary Papers on the slave trade, India, or specific consular documentation must be searched line by line for relevant information.61 Newspapers and periodicals, both national and communal, are another invaluable source of detail on both Indians in Africa and Africans in India in the modern period. For South Africa it is also possible to search the names of all Indian immigrants through South Africa History Online’s publication of ships lists of indentured laborers.

A final kind of source material exists in the memoir by Nanji Khalidas Mehta and the historical novels of M. G. Vassanji and Peter Nazareth.62

Further Reading

Aiyar, Sana. Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Akhtar, Iqbal. The Khōjā of Tanzanjia: Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016.Find this resource:

Ali, Omar H. Malik Ambar, Power and Slavery across the Indian Ocean. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Alpers, Edward A. “Gujarat and the Trade of East Africa, c. 1500-1800.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 9, no. 1 (1976): 22–44.Find this resource:

Basu, Helene “Slave, Soldier, Trader, Faqir: Fragments of African Histories in Western India (Gujarat).” In The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. Edited by Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Richard Pankhurst, 223–249. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Bertz, Ned. Diaspora and Nation in the Indian Ocean: Transnational Histories of Race and Urban Space in Tanzania. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Bhana, Surendra, and Joy B. Brain. Setting Down Roots: Indian Migrants in South Africa, 1860–1911. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Brennan, James. Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Burton, Antoinette. Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Catlin-Jairazbhoy, Amy, and Edward A. Alpers, eds. Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians. Noida: Rainbow Publishers, 2004.Find this resource:

Carter, Marina. Servants, Sirdars, and Settlers: Indians in Mauritius, 1834–1874. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Desai, Ashwin, and Goolam Vahed. The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Desai, Gaurav. Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Freund, Bill. Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910–1990. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann; Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press; London: James Currey, 1995.Find this resource:

Goswami, Chhaya. The Call of the Sea: Kachchhi Traders in Muscat and Zanzibar, c.1800–1880. New Delhi: Orient Black Swan, 2011.Find this resource:

Green, Nile. Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Gregory, Robert G. South Asians in East Africa: An Economic and Social History, 1890–1980. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Harris, Joseph. The African Presence in Asia: Consequences of the East African Slave Trade. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971.Find this resource:

Hofmeyr, Isabel. Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Hofmeyr, Isabel, and Michelle Williams, eds. South Africa & India: Shaping the Global South Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Machado, Pedro. Ocean of Trade: South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean, c. 1750–1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Mangat, J. S. A History of Asians in East Africa c. 1886 to 1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.Find this resource:

Metcalf, Thomas R. Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860–1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Oonk, Gijsbert. Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa (1800–2000). New Delhi: SAGE, 2013.Find this resource:

Robbins, Kenneth X., and John McLeod, eds. African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2006.Find this resource:

Soske, Jon. 2017. Internal Frontiers: African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Vahed, Goolam, and Surendra Bhana. Crossing Space and Time in the Indian Ocean: Early Indian Traders in Natal, A Biographical Study. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2015.Find this resource:


(1.) Marilee Wood, “Divergent patterns in Indian Ocean trade to East Africa and southern Africa between the 7th and 17th centuries ce: The glass bead evidence,” Afriques: Débats, methods et terrains d’histoire 6 (2015); Marilee Wood et al., “Zanzibar and Indian Ocean trade in the first millennium ce: the glass bead evidence,” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 9, no. 5 (August 2–17): 879–901; and Marilee Wood, Laure Dussubieux and Peter Robertshaw, “The Glass of Chibuene, Mozambique: New Insights into Early Indian Ocean Trade,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 67, no. 195 (2012): 59–74.

(2.) Katherine Strange Burke and Donald Whitcomb, “Quṣeir al-Qadīm in the Thirteenth Century: A Community and Its Textiles,” Ars Orientalis 34 (2004): 83–97.

(3.) Quoted in Roxani Eleni Margariti, Aden & the Indian Ocean Trade (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 154.

(4.) Gerald Randall Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the Portuguese (London: The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1971), 11.

(5.) Kartkeya Kohli, “Initiating ‘India to India’ Trade: Portuguese Southeast Africa in the Indian Ocean Trade, 1500–1800,” in The Trading World of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800, ed. Om Prakash (New Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilisations, 2012), 133–183.

(6.) Kohli, “Initiating ‘India to India’ Trade,” 136.

(8.) Quoted in Pankhurst, “A Tale of Four Cities: Late-16th and Early-17th Century Ethiopian Capitals and their Turkish, Portuguese and Indian Connections,” in The Indigenous and the Foreign in Christian Ethiopian Art, ed. Manuel João Ramos with Isabel Boavida (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2004), 13.

(9.) Pedro Machado, Ocean of Trade: South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean, c. 1750–1850 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 222–24.

(10.) Wilfred H. Whitely, trans., Maisha ya Hamed bin Muhammad el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip kwa maneno yake mwenyewe (Kampala/Nairobi/Dar es Salaam: East African Literature Bureau, 1966), 13, 15 §11.

(11.) Chhaya Goswami, “Khojas: Historical Overview of their Settlements Overseas,” in Gujarat and the Sea, ed. Lotika Varadarajan (Vadodara, Gujarat: Darshak Itihas Nidhi, 2011), 638.

(12.) Gijsbert Oonk, Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa (1800–2000) (New Delhi: Sage, 2013), 84, Table 2.1.

(13.) Laurent Nowik, “East African Indians: How Many Are They?” in Indian Africa: Minorities of Indian-Pakistani Origin in Eastern Africa, ed. Michel Adam (Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota, 2015), 121.

(14.) Nowik, “East African Indians,” 104–112.

(15.) Nowik, “East African Indians,” 145.

(16.) Robert G. Gregory, South Asians in East Africa: An Economic and Social History (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), 50–51.

(17.) Gregory, South Asians in East Africa, 54.

(18.) Oonk, Settled Strangers, 219, 243.

(19.) Nowik, “East African Indians,” 117, 159.

(20.) Cláudia Castelo, “Colonial Migration to Angola and Mozambique: Constraints and Illusions,” in Imperial Migrations: Colonial Communities and Diaspora in the Portuguese World, ed. Eric Morier-Genoud and Michel Cahen (Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 114, Table 4.2; and Nicole Khouri and Joana Pereira Leite, “The Ismailis of Mozambique: History of a Twofold Migration (late 19th century-1975),” in Castelo, Imperial Migrations, 168–189.

(21.) Dharam P. Ghai, ed., Portrait of a Minority: Asians in East Africa (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1965); and J. S. Mangat, A History of Asians in East Africa c. 1886 to 1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969).

(22.) H. Stephen Morris, The Indians in Uganda (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968); and Agehananda Bharati, The Asians in East Africa: Jahind and Uhuru (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1972).

(23.) See, inter alia, Richa Nagar, “Communal Places and the Politics of Multiple Identities: The case of Tanzanian Asians,” Ecumene 4, no. 1 (1997): 3–26; “The Making of Hindu Communal Organizations, places and Identities in Postcolonial Dar es Salaam,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 15 (1997): 707–730; “Communal Discourses, Marriage, and the Politics of Gendered Social Boundaries among South Asian Immigrants in Tanzania,” Gender, Place and Culture 5, no. 2 (1998): 117–139; and “Religion, Race and the Debate over Mut’a in Dar es Salaam,” Feminist Studies 26, no. 3 (2000): 661–690.

(24.) Robert G. Gregory, India and East Africa: A History of Race Relations Within the British Empire, 1890–1939 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971); Quest for Equality: Asian Politics in East Africa, 1900–80 (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1992); The Rise and Fall of Philanthropy in East Africa: The Asian Contribution (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1992); and South Asians in East Africa.

(25.) Edward A. Alpers, “Gujarat and the Trade of East Africa, c. 1500–1800,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 9, no. 1 (1976): 22–44.

(26.) Dana April Seidenberg, Mercantile Adventurers: The World of East African Asians 1750–1985 (New Delhi: New Age International, 1996); and Blanche Rocha D’Souza, Harnessing the Trade Winds: The Story of the Centuries-old Indian Trade with East Africa, Using the Monsoon Winds (Nairobi: Zand Graphics, 2008).

(27.) Cynthia Salvadori, comp., We Came in Dhows, 3 vols. (Nairobi: Paperchase Kenya, 1996); Cynthia Salvadori and Judy Aldrick, ed., Two Indian Travellers, East Africa, 1902–1905, trans. Vimla Chavda and Shariffa Keshavjee (Mombasa: Friends of Fort Jesus, 1997); and Gaurav Desai, Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 85–111.

(28.) Chhaya Goswami, The Call of the Sea: Kachchhi Traders in Muscat and Zanzibar, c. 1800–1880 (New Delhi: Orient Black Swan, 2011); and Pedro Machado, Ocean of Trade: South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean, c. 1750–1850 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

(29.) Thomas R. Metcalf, Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean Arena, 1860–1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

(30.) Desai, Commerce with the Universe.

(31.) Margret Frenz, Community, Memory and Migration in a Globalizing World: The Goan Experience, c. 1890–1980 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014); and Iqbal Akhtar, The Khōjā Community of Tanzania (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016).

(32.) Marina Carter, Servants, Sirdars, and Settlers: Indians in Mauritius, 1834–1874 (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Lakshmi’s Legacy: The Testimonies of Indian Women in 19th Century Mauritius (Stanley, Rose-Hill, Mauritius: Editions de l’Océan Indien, 1994); and Clare Anderson, Convicts in the Indian Ocean: Transportation from South Asia to Mauritius, 1815–53 (Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan, 2000).

(33.) Patrick Eisenlohr, Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).

(34.) Gijsbert Oonk, The Karimjee Jivanjee Family, Merchant Princes of East Africa 1800–2000 (Amsterdam: Pallas Publications/Amsterdam University Press, 2009); and Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa (1800–2000) (New Delhi: SAGE, 2013).

(35.) Sana Aiyar, Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

(36.) James Brennan, Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012); and Ned Bertz, Diaspora and Nation in the Indian Ocean: Transnational Histories of Race and Urban Space in Tanzania (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015).

(37.) Sophie Blanchy, Karana et Banians: Les communautés commerçants d’origine indienne à Madagascar (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995).

(38.) Michel Adam, ed., Indian Africa: Minorities of Indian-Pakistani Origin in Eastern Africa (Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota, 2015).

(39.) Although I am reluctant even to mention this book, it is essential to flag it here so that unsuspecting students do not mistake it for a serious work of scholarship, rather than the methodologically flawed and ideologically tainted tract that it is: Cyril A. Hromnik, Indo-Africa: Towards a New Understanding of the History of Sub-Saharan Africa (Cape Town: Juta, 1981).

(40.) Hilda Kuper, Indian People in Natal (Pietermaritzburg: Natal University Press, 1960); and Fatima Meer, Portrait of Indian South Africans (Durban: Avon House, 1969).

(41.) Bridglal Pachai, The International Aspects of the South African Indian Question, 1860–1971 (Cape Town: C. Struik, 1971).

(42.) Y. S. Meer et al., ed., Documents of Indentured Labour: Natal 1851–1917 (Durban: Institute of Black Research, 1980); and Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai, eds., A Documentary History of Indian South Africans (Cape Town: D. Philip; Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1984).

(43.) Surendra Bhana and Joy B. Brain, Setting Down Roots: Indian Migrants in South Africa, 1860–1911 (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1990).

(44.) Bill Freund, Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910–1990 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann; Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press; London: James Currey, 1995).

(45.) Goolam Vahed, Ashwin Desai, and Thambisa Waetjen, Many Lives: 150 Years of Being Indian in South Africa (Pietermartizburg: Shuter, 2010); and Goolam Vahed and Surendra Bhana, Crossing Space and Time in the Indian Ocean: Early Indian Traders in Natal, A Biographical Study (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2015).

(46.) Nile Green, Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 208–234; “Africa in Indian Ink: Urdu Articulations of Indian Settlement in East Africa,” Journal of African History 53 (2012): 1–20; and “Urdu as an African Language: Outlines of a Source Literature,” Islamic Africa 3, no. 2 (2012): 173–199.

(47.) Maureen Swan, Gandhi: The South African Experience (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985); Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi before India (New Delhi: Penguin, 2013); Isabel Hofmeyr, Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016).

(48.) Jon Soske, Internal Frontiers: African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press/Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2017).

(49.) Isabel Hofmeyr and Michelle Williams, eds., South Africa & India: Shaping the Global South (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2011). For a useful volume on broader relations between India and Africa, see Emma Mawdsley and Gerard McCann, eds., India in Africa, Changing Geographies of Power (Cape Town: Pambazuka Press, 2011).

(50.) Dady Rustomji Banaji, Bombay and the Sidis (Bombay: Macmillan, 1932); Richard Pankhurst, An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, Appendix E, “The Habshis of India” (London: Lalibela House, 1961), 409–422; and Joseph Harris, The African Presence in Asia: Consequences of the East African Slave Trade (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971).

(51.) Ann M. Pescatello, “The African Presence in Portuguese India,” Journal of Asian History 11 (1977): 26–48; Omar Khalidi, “African Diaspora in India: The Case of the Habshis of the Dakan,” Hamdard Islamicus 11 (1988): 3–22; Raghu Raj Singh Chauhan, Africans in India from Slavery to Royalty (New Delhi: Asian Publication Services, 1995); and Shanti Sadiq Ali, The African Dispersal in the Deccan: From Medieval to Modern Times (Hyderabad: Orient Blacksburn, 2012).

(52.) Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers, eds., Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians (Noida: Rainbow Publishers, 2004); and Kenneth X. Robbins and John McLeod, eds., African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat (Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2006).

(53.) Ababu Minda Yimene, An African Indian Community in Hyderabad: Siddi Identity, Its Maintenance, and Change (Göttingen, Germany: Cuvilier, 2004); Helene Basu, Habshi-Sklaven, Sidi-Fakire: Muslimische Heiligenverehrung in westlichen Indien (Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 1995); and, inter alia, “Slave, Soldier, Trader, Faqir: Fragments of African Histories in Western India (Gujarat),” in The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean, eds. Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Richard Pankhurst (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003), 223–249.

(54.) Omar H. Ali, Malik Ambar, Power and Slavery across the Indian Ocean (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(55.) Antoinette Burton, Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016, originally published in India in 2012); and John C. Hawley, ed., India in Africa, Africa in India: Indian Ocean Cosmopolitanisms (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2008).

(56.) Lionel Casson, ed., The Periplus Maris Erythraei (Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989).

(58.) Pier Larson, “Fragments of an Indian Ocean Life: Aristide Corroller Between Islands and Empires,” Journal of Social History 45, no. 2 (2011): 366–389.

(59.) Saloni Deepalsingh and Marina Carter, Select Documents on Indian Immigration: Mauritius, 1834–1926, 3 vols. (Moka, Mauritius: Mahatma Gandhi Institute, 1994–1996).

(60.) Enuga Sreenivasulu Reddy and Fatima Meer, Passive Resistance, 1946 (Durban: Madiba Publishers/Institute for Black Research, 1996).

(61.) These are published by the Irish University Press, e.g. East India (1805–1874), 22 vols.; and Slave Trade (1801–1899), 95 vols.

(62.) Nanji Khalidas Mehta, Dream Half-Expresed (Bombay: Vakils, Feffer, and Simons, 1966), which is closely analyzed by Desai, Commerce with the Universe, 121–139; Moyez G. Vassanji, The Gunny Sack (Oxford: Heinemann, 1989); Uhuru Street (Oxford: Heinemann, 1991); and Peter Nazareth, In a Brown Mantle (Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau, 1972).