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How we obtained the historical past of Calicut mistaken (and what we will be taught from it)

How we obtained the historical past of Calicut mistaken (and what we will be taught from it)

2023-01-19 23:50:07

A tale of two cities: How we got the history of Calicut wrong (and what we can learn from it)
A. India, exhibiting location of the previous area of Malabar (yellow) and the border of the fashionable state of Kerala; B. Kerala, exhibiting the areas of historical (fashionable) buying and selling ports; C. The examine space, exhibiting the areas of the sooner ‘Calicut at Beypore’ and the later ‘Calicut at Kozhikode’. Credit score: Worldwide Assessment of Environmental Historical past (2022). DOI: 10.22459/IREH.08.02.2022.03

UniSC’s Professor Patrick Nunn and Roselyn Kumar did not got down to rewrite historical past.

They had been merely attempting to analysis how India’s shoreline had modified over the centuries.

“There have been these accounts from historical voyages describing this fabulous harbor in Calicut (current day Kozhikode) and the way it was one of many biggest ports in Asia,” Professor Nunn mentioned.

However one thing was bothering him. Sooner or later within the sixteenth century, the depictions and illustrations of Calicut stopped matching up with the outdated ones.The river was mistaken. So had been the boats. The place was the promised nice maritime metropolis and the bushes heaving with fruit?

“It was only a sandy seashore. It seemed just like the worst attainable place for a harbor,” Professor Nunn mentioned. “It did not make sense.”

It was like Calicut had one way or the other teleported to a totally completely different location.

He now thinks that is precisely what occurred.

The difficulty began in 1498 with a person who was no stranger to hassle—Vasco da Gama. Da Gama had been despatched by the King of Portugal to discover a sea path to India and set up commerce relations in Calicut. However as a substitute of anchoring off in a grand harbor that compelled earlier guests to espouse its magnificence, Professor Nunn and Kumar consider da Gama missed the mark and landed 33km to the north close to a considerably much less spectacular seashore city he thought was Calicut.

A easy mistake that rewrote history.

The Portuguese later realized their error, as evidenced by their repeated assaults on the precise Calicut, however by no means rectified this of their language or writing. Issues had been sophisticated additional when the centuries-old port of legend seems to have met its demise.

“A long time after that, what I infer is {that a} huge tsunami swept ashore and destroyed the outdated Calicut. So, the Zamorin (the native rulers) merely determined to maneuver to what the Portuguese regarded as the brand new Calicut,” Professor Nunn mentioned.

With the outdated metropolis gone, subsequent vacationers to the “new” Calicut believed it to be that very same grand harbor of antiquity. The histories of two completely different locations, turned one—a confused amalgamation, riddled with inconsistencies.

“What appears notably extraordinary, is that the majority guests to the realm after the 12 months 1590 thought there was only one Calicut, despite the fact that native informants undoubtedly instructed them what had occurred to the opposite,” Roselyn Kumar mentioned.

That is the larger challenge raised by Professor Nunn and Kumar. Why have the oral histories of different cultures been met with such skepticism and doubt over the course of Western historical past, whereas that very same crucial gaze isn’t turned to our personal written accounts?

“The story of the 2 Calicuts is a reminder of the incompleteness of historical past and the hazard of reconstructing it solely from what may be seen, touched, learn or associated. There’s a lot that’s lacking from present understandings of human historical past, requiring that novel and sometimes imaginative approaches are generally wanted to finish it,” Roselyn mentioned.

It additionally raises one other query. If we had been mistaken about Calicut, what else did we get mistaken?

“If historians make assumptions concerning the previous that transform incorrect, then total sequences of deductions could should be reeled again. That is troublesome for us narrative-loving people to just accept,” Professor Nunn mentioned. “Rising up you are taught one historical past as the reality. However the fact is much more nuanced than that.”

See Also

The findings are printed within the journal Worldwide Assessment of Environmental Historical past.

Extra info:
Patrick Nunn et al, ‘A as soon as capacious haven’: What occurred to Calicut (Malabar coast of India), 1335–1887, Worldwide Assessment of Environmental Historical past (2022). DOI: 10.22459/IREH.08.02.2022.03

Supplied by
College of the Sunshine Coast

A story of two cities: How we obtained the historical past of Calicut mistaken (and what we will be taught from it) (2023, January 19)
retrieved 21 January 2023

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