Prof.dr. J.J.L. (Jos) Gommans

  • Professor of Colonial and Global History
  • South Asian History
  • Colonial History
  • World History

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2167
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Institute for History, Algemene Geschiedenis
Office Address: Johan Huizingagebouw
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 2.71

Spreekuur / Office hours

Na afspraak / By appointment

Inaugeral lecture

Stille onzichtbare streng (in Dutch)

Fields of interest

Global history, colonial history, early-modern history, Indian Ocean, Mughal India, early-modern Islamic empires, South Asian Islam, military history, history of globalization, diasporas, Dutch orientalism and Enlightenment.

Curriculum vitae

Jos Gommans (1963) studied history in Nijmegen and Leiden. His PhD-thesis focused on the eighteenth-century horse trade between Central Asia and India which created an extensive informal empire dominated by Durrani, Rohilla and Bangash Afghans (The Rise of the Indo-Afghan Empire, 1710-1780, Leiden: Brill 1995; republished in paperback at Delhi: Oxford University Press 1999). This study raised new questions about the ecological and geographical dynamic of the longer-term interaction between India and its surrounding regions, be it along the frontiers of the so-called Arid Zone of Central Eurasia, or along the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia.

Along these lines Gommans prefers to take a global perspective, for example, by comparing and connecting the various relations between nomads and the settled empires of India, China and the Middle East. Meanwhile, he continued his research on the history of the Mughal Empire. Both these interests culminated in his monograph Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire (London: Routledge 2002) which offers a fresh, geopolitical interpretation of the process of Mughal state-formation, including wide-ranging comparisons with other early-modern empires. 

An important research topic remains Dutch cultural and social-economic interaction with South and Southeast Asia during the time of the Dutch East India Company (see e.g. the archival guide Dutch Sources of South Asia, Delhi: Manohar 2002 and recently two volumes in the Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch East India Company). In this context, together with Piet Emmer, Gommans published a new synthesis (in Dutch) on the Dutch overseas empire, called Rijk aan de rand van de wereld: De geschiedenis van Nederland overzee 1600-1800. The years ahead, Gommans will work on a monograph that explores the seventeenth-century Indo-Dutch middleground in the Indian Ocean world.   

From 2006 to 2009 Gommans served as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, is still editing the series Dutch Sources on South Asia and contributed to the Encyclopaedia of Islam. In the recent past he was a visiting professor at Sophia University in Tokyo (2007) and at the William and Mary College in Williamsburg (VA) (2008).

Since July 2011 Gommans occupies the Chair of Colonial and Global History at Leiden University. Together with colleagues, he supervises the NWO-G Horizon Project (2011-2016) on Eurasian Empires: Integration Processes and Identity Formation: A Comparative Program as well as the COSMOPOLIS programme which offers in depth academic training to (mainly Asian) historians who study the rich Dutch archives on Asia (and Africa). Together with partners in Indonesia, a new PhD-programme, funded by LUF (the Leiden University Fund), The Making of Religious Traditions in Indonesia: History and Heritage in Global Perspective (1600-1940) starts from 2012. Apart from his work as a historian of South Asia and European Expansion, Gommans publishes occasionally on the local heritage and history of his native region De Peel. He is married and has one son.

Major publications

The Rise of the Indo-Afghan Empire (c.1710-1780) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994) Reprint Pbk: (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Edited with D.H.A. Kolff, Warfare and Weaponry in South Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001); Reprint Pbk 2003

With L. Bes and G. Kruijtzer, Dutch Sources on South Asia c. 1600-1825. Vol. 1:Bibliography and Archival Guide to the National Archives at the Hague (TheNetherlands) (Delhi: Manohar Publishers. 2001).

Edited with J. Leider, The Maritime Frontier of Burma: Exploring Political, Cultural andCommercial Interaction in the Indian Ocean World, c. 1000-1800 (Amsterdam: KNAW and Leiden: KITLV, 2002).

Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and Highroads to Empire 1500-1700 (London: Routledge, 2002). Hbk, Pbk, E-book

Edited with Om Prakash, Circumambulations in South Asian History: Essays in Honourof Dirk H.A. Kolff (Leiden: E.J. Brill Publishers, 2003).

Edited with Harriet Zurndorfer, Roots and Routes of Development in China and India: Highlights of Fifty Years of The Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (1957-2007) (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008)

Ed., Empires and Emporia: The Orient in World Historical Space and Time: Jubilee Issue of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 53,1-2 (2010). See also Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

With Jeroen Bos en Gijs Kruijtzer, Grote atlas van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie / Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch United East India Company, Deel VI: Voor-Indië, Perzië en het Arabisch Schiereiland / Part VI: India, Persia and the Arabian Peninsula (Voorburg: Asia Maior / Atlas Maior Publishers, 2010).

With Rob van Diessen, Grote atlas van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie / Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch United East India Company, Deel VII: Oost Azië, Birma tot Japan / Part VII: East Asia, Burma to Japan (Voorburg: Asia Maior/Atlas Maior Publishers, 2010).

With Piet Emmer, Rijk aan de rand van de wereld: Geschiedenis van Nederland overzee 1600-1800 (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2012)

Last Modified: 10-12-2015