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UMass Sesquicentennial

University of Massachusetts Amherst

History Department

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Johan Mathew


Assistant Professor

Office: Herter 711
Telephone: (413) 545-6706
Fax: (413) 545-6137

Research Interests and Professional Activities:
Johan Mathew specializes in the history of illicit trade and capitalism in 19th and 20th centuries with a focus on the Indian Ocean world.  He is completing his first book entitled Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism in the Arabian Sea, which is due to be published by the University of California Press in late 2016.  The book traces the hidden networks that trafficked slaves, guns and gold across the western Indian Ocean. This history demonstrates how labor, property and capital – the conceptual foundations of capitalist ideology – were framed by the interplay between economic regulations and trafficking networks. He is starting work on two new projects: the first explores the history of cannabis/hemp and ideas of intoxication in the Indian Ocean world, the second is a global history of the 1973 Oil Crisis and role of cartels in the history of capitalism.

Educated at Harvard University (Ph.D. in History, 2012); SOAS -University of London (Diploma in Arabic, 2006); Princeton University (BA in History, 2004)

Research Areas:

History of Capitalism

Economic History

The Indian Ocean World

The Middle East, South Asia

Maritime History


Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism in the Arabian Sea (University of California Press, Forthcoming 2016)

“Moral Economies of Violence along the Arabian Sea Littoral” in Trading Circuits, Mobile Cultures: Port Cities and Littoral Societies of the Indian Ocean (Forthcoming)

Trafficking Labor: Abolition and the Exchange of Labor across the Arabian Sea, 1861-1947” in Slavery & Abolition (March 2012)

Awards and Accolades:

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, John E. Sawyer Seminar Grant, Co-Principal Investigator

Social Science Research Council, Postdoctoral Fellowship for Transregional Research

Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Graduate Fellowship

Business History Conference, K. Austin Kerr Prize (Honorable Mention)

Recent Courses:

History 131: The Middle East, 1500 to the Present

History 391MW: Histories of Slavery in the Muslim World

Economics 397EP: The Economics of Piracy

History 392P: Globalization in the Indian Ocean History

History 691CC: On Consumers and Capitalism