What is the relationship between trafficking and free trade? Is trafficking the perfection or the perversion of free trade? Trafficking occurs thousands of times each day at borders throughout the world, yet we have come to perceive it as something quite extraordinary. How did this happen, and what role does trafficking play in capitalism? To answer these questions, Johan Mathew traces the hidden networks that operated across the Arabian Sea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following the entangled history of trafficking and capitalism, he explores how the Arabian Sea reveals the gaps that haunt political borders and undermine economic models. Ultimately, he shows how capitalism was forged at the margins of the free market, where governments intervened, and traffickers turned a profit.
Johan Mathew is Assistant Professor of History and Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"This is a superb and vitally important book: conceptually sophisticated, imaginatively researched, and beautifully written. Johan Mathew brings into view the shifting networks of commerce around the Arabian Sea’s littoral, forged in the shadows of imperial regulation—a traffic in people, guns, and gold. This book is a breakthrough in Indian Ocean history, with huge contemporary resonance. And it is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of global capitalism."—Sunil Amrith, Harvard University
"This brilliant book draws on unique primary sources and private archives to tell vivid stories, beautifully framed and theoretically rich, about the traffic in licit and illicit goods across the Arabian Sea. Its wonderful account of the smuggling of coins, guns, and humans, and also of the secret world of price-setting, shows how such trade is the shadowy other of more mundane forms of capital accumulation."—Laleh Khalili, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
"Johan Mathew's Margins of the Market provides a valuable corrective to the prevalent idea that trafficking and smuggling operate outside capitalism. Mathew shows, in vivid detail and with wide-ranging, in-depth research, how modern empires and nations around the Arabian Sea have struggled to frame the market inside a vast world of coercive profit making—based on physical control of human beings, weapons, goods, and money—whose expansive margins in fact provide capitalism much of its lucrative, adaptive dynamism."—David Ludden, New York University