Red Sea Citizens

Red Sea Citizens

Cosmopolitan Society and Cultural Change in Massawa
Jonathan Miran
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/06/2009
Format: Paperback 35 b&w photos, 5 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22079-0
Bookmark and Share
Buy from Amazon


In the late 19th century, the port of Massawa, in Eritrea on the Red Sea, was a thriving, vibrant, multiethnic commercial hub. Red Sea Citizens tells the story of how Massawa rose to prominence as one of Northeast Africa's most important shipping centers. Jonathan Miran reconstructs the social, material, religious, and cultural history of this mercantile community in a period of sweeping change. He shows how Massawa and its citizens benefited from migrations across the Indian Ocean, the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, and the African interior. Miran also notes the changes that took place in Massawa as traders did business and eventually settled. By revealing the dynamic processes at play, this book provides insight into the development of the Horn of Africa that extends beyond borders and boundaries, nations and nationalism.

Author Bio

Jonathan Miran is Assistant Professor of Islamic Civilization in the Department of Liberal Studies at Western Washington University.


“A reconstruction of the social, material, religious, and cultural history of a developing mercantile community in a period of sweeping change. "This well-designed and exquisitely documented book conceptualizes historically the position, identity, and roles of a Northeast African urban community." —Jay Spaulding, Kean University”

“[A]n original and very substantial contribution to the growing literature on the Indian Ocean world in the 19th century.”
 — Lee Cassanelli, University of Pennsylvania

“[A] mature and competent expression of social history [that will be] extremely important in the context of Northeast African historiography because of its alternative approach. ”
 — Jay Spaulding, Kean University

“. . . this is an important, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated book that deserves to be widely read.Vol. 51, 2010”
 — Lidwien Kapteijns, Wellesley College

“[The author] has taken an impressive first step toward a Braudelian treatment of the Red Sea as a place of cultural, geographic and socioeconomic cross-pollination.2010”
 — Saudi Aramco World

“[This] is a fine book and should encourage similar studies of other Indian Ocean ports in the colonial period. September 2011”
 — Journal of World History

“Red Sea Citizens is an excellent, detailed study of this port town at the historical meeting point of the Red Sea, Arabia, the Nile Valley, and the Ehtiopian plateau. . . . This original and thoroughly researched book breaks new ground and makes valuable contributions to a growing field. September, 2011”
 — African Studies Review

“Jonathan Miran has ... produced a rich, well written and attracting book ... which will surely become a must-read reference for many years to come.Vol. 13 2010”
 — Aethiopica

“Red Sea Citizens is a welcome addition to the literature on cultural pluralism ... The book is well-written and meticulously put together ...Vol. 9 2010”
 — African and Asian Studies

“[This book] is a history of the (currently) Eritrean port city of Massawa, focusing on the 19th century but reaching back as far as the 1500s and moving up to the 1920s.... As a long-time lover of Massawa I have learnt a huge amount about the city from this book... that helps us understand Massawa from the perspective of Massawans.Winter 2010/11”
 — Leeds African Studies Bulletin

“This is a rich, brilliantly researched, and intellectually ambitious book that will stimulate further research on the region. . . . In sum, the author must be praised for such a thorough and thought-provoking piece of research. December 2010”
 — American Historical Review

“The 'global cities' of the 19th century are increasingly coming to the attention of historians of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Jonathan Miran's study of Massawa on the Red Sea coast is a clear example of this orientation and a benchmark to which future studies will have to refer. Vol. 42.4, 2010”
 — Intl. Journal of Middle East Studies

“After navigating through 300 pages of readable yet well documented thematic narrative supplemented with insightful anecdotes, useful maps, and a glossary, one realizes that Miran delivers on multiple levels. Vol. 43.1, 2010”
 — International Journal of African Historical Studies

“[The author] deepens our understanding of...local topics [but] his major contribution lies in the links he draws with much larger historical processes. ...Miran’s work admirably illustrates how attention to transregional empires and larger spatial units can recast the problems that animate a field.”
 — James De Lorenzi, CUNY, John Jay College

“This text is a useful microanalysis for historians in search of biographical accounts of alien residential families from regions as far as Kabul, Bombay, Yemen, Turkey, and Bosnia. . . . Recommended.”
 — Choice

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Facing the Land, Facing the Sea
1. Making a Region Between the Sea and the Mountain: Na'ib Autonomy and Dominance, to the 1850s
2. On Camels and Boats: Spaces, Structures and Circuits of Production and Exchange
3. Connecting Sea and Land: Merchants, Brokers, and the Anatomy of a Red Sea Port Town
4. "A Sacred Muslim Island": Sufis, Holy Men, and Town Islam in Massawa and the Interior
5. "Being Massawan": Citizenship, Family, and Urban Authority