Under Empire: Muslim Lives and Loyalties Across the Indian Ocean World, 1775–1945

Michael Francis Laffan

2023 Winner

Book cover

Judges' comments

Michael Franics Laffan’s Under Empire is a majestic account of the shifting perceptions of Muslims in Indian Ocean empires from the Dutch to the British, Ottomans and, at the close, Japanese. The book’s expansive geographical scope takes the reader from East Africa to Southern India and Southeast Asia, across Muslim and western worlds, showing how a variety of political formations have shaped and been shaped by Muslim lives. 

Drawn from meticulous archival research spanning multiple nations and languages, this engagingly written book makes a complex history accessible. Laffan moves effortlessly between the human scale of individual Muslim lives and the broader sweep of state and imperial power. This authoritative analysis illuminates the place of Muslims as subjects under and between the rule of European, Islamic, and Asian powers and reveals how Muslims navigated the demands of shifting political relationships by performing loyalties in complex and strategic ways. 

Under Empire offers a significant new understanding of the intersections of empire, faith and nation in the Indian Ocean world, and of the broader history of imperialism and colonialism in the long nineteenth century. It is a model of contemporary global history and a worthy recipient of the NSW Premier’s History Award for General History.

Updated on 23 February 2024