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Tansen Sen examines the consequences of the Ming maritime expeditions, led by Admiral Zheng He (1371–1433), in the early fifteenth century on Indian Ocean diplomacy, trade, and cross-cultural interactions. The presence of the powerful Ming navy not only introduced an unprecedented militaristic aspect to the Indian Ocean region, but also led to the emergence of state-directed commercial activity in the maritime world that extended from Ming China to the Swahili coast of Africa. Additionally, these expeditions stimulated the movement of people and animals across the oceanic space and might eventually have facilitated the rapid entry of European commercial enterprises into the Indian Ocean region during the second half of the fifteenth century.
Tansen Sen is professor of history and the Director of the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai, and Global Network Professor at New York University. Previously he was a faculty at the City University of New York and the founding head of the Nalanda Sriwijaya Center at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (2003; 2016) and India, China, and the World: A Connected History (2017; 2018). He has co-authored (with Victor H. Mair) Traditional China in Asian and World History (2012), edited Buddhism across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (2014), and co-edited (with Burkhard Schnepel) Travelling Pasts: The Politics of Cultural Heritage in the Indian Ocean World (2019), and (with Brian Tsui) Beyond Pan-Asianism: Connecting China and India, 1840s-1960s (forthcoming). He is currently working on a book about Zheng He's maritime expeditions in the early fifteenth century, a monograph on Jawaharlal Nehru and China, and co-editing (with Engseng Ho) the Cambridge History of the Indian Ocean, volume 1.