Learning Tools


Get to know how to use this site!


Find tools and tricks for incorporating the Indian Ocean region into your classroom.

Learn More

Era Maps

The core of this site is the maps representing seven time periods in world history. On each of these era maps, there are pictographic icons representing geographic features, places, trade goods, documents, technologies, travelers, and objects. ‚Äč

Lesson Plans

A collection of lesson plans is provided here, suggesting ways to interact with the website for individual, small group and whole class engagement.

LESSON PLAN Indian Ocean Treaties Tea Goes Global Medieval Travelers Treasure Hunt
More Plans

About the Indian Ocean

discovering more about the Indian ocean basin.

The Indian Ocean Basin is becoming an important topic in middle and high school world history and geography courses, but one for which there are few instructional resources. This web-based resource helps teachers incorporate the Indian Ocean into world history studies by illustrating a variety of interactions that took place in the Indian Ocean during each era. The material has been assembled into an integrated and user-friendly teaching tool for students in upper elementary, middle and high school. It offers students the chance to investigate primary sources that illustrate historical interactions, helping them to become more adept at the analytical historical thinking skills that are required by virtually all state history standards today.

The Indian Ocean has been a zone of human interactions throughout world history. As a body of water, of course, it has not been host to a civilization, and for this reason, it has been neglected in standard studies of world history for decades. Historians have only recently begun to think of the world's seas and oceans as theaters of human history. Fernand Braudel pioneered in viewing the Mediterranean Sea as a historical region beyond its shores, and since his seminal work The Mediterranean, terms such as the Atlantic World, the Pacific Rim and the Indian Ocean Basin have come to reflect the mainstreaming of important new research on maritime regions in world history.

Approaches to world history that emphasize a series of discrete civilizations make it difficult even to cover a terrestrial region like Central Asia, much less to find room for a maritime region that covers an arc from East Africa to the Indian Subcontinent and Australia. Modern world history surveys, on the other hand, often emphasize the 'unknown' Spice Islands during the medieval period, and only bring an Indian Ocean trading system into focus with the entry into that zone of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498. For young students learning about world history for the first time, this is equivalent to stating that the region only became a part of history at this time. In recent years, the Indian Ocean has been mentioned in connection with the trading expertise of the Arabs, and Zheng He's voyages are also mentioned. Only seldom are maps showing the entire region presented, much less maps that portray the interconnections between the various societies studied in the medieval period, such as China, India, Islam, Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Pacific Islands.

Video Voyages

Engage with the Indian Ocean sphere through a number of video voyages!

More Voyages