The Ali Rajas of Cannanore had a significant role in the history of South India owing due to their commercial and maritime activities in the Arabian Sea and in the emerging politics of South India particularly during 16th and 17th centuries. This ruling house with an unknown origin had been responsible to a consolidate political authority over Lakshadweep as well as in the maritime city of Cannanore. As in the maritime European cities of Venice, Antwerp and London, this merchant house consolidated economic power and later turned o be a prominent ruling house in south India. Their relationship with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English and other native powers like the Canares, Mysoreans and the Kolathiries were mainly based on a political farsightedness of the self existence. Although a small principality they have to fight against these powers often and reconcile with their ambitious programme of political conquests. In fact in the age of European expansion to Asia this tiny power on the coast of Malabar had to initiate a political and economic policy for survival and continuity. Thus the experience of this house in compromise with colonial powers as well as in the resistance against them had a significant historical relevance for the students of South Indian history.
This very important role of this house has not been traced by historians for want of sufficient and chronological primary sources. They are scattered in colonial archives and records and very difficult for historians to have proper accessibility. Here an attempt is made mainly based on English sources to trace their historical achievements and failures. As the only Muslim house of Kerala the rulers of this house had great contribution to the Islamic culture of this region. Even after the liquidation of the house by the British, its members had contributed to the growth of Islamic religion and culture of Kerala. It was first time in 1975 a comprehensive history of the house was published by this author. However, this publication had been sold out before decades. Thus this University Publication is a great boon for the students of Kerala history and culture. I am extremely happy to see this work published by the Publication Division of the University of Calicut. I am thankful to the editorial board and the University for incorporating this work in its publication programme.
The most knowledgeable people, the writing of the History of Kerala stands condemned as a frustrating task because of the numerousness of the small chieftains and principalities figuring in it and the fickleness of their alliances and rivalries, as the heterogeneity underlying its social structure. Hence Actonian ambitions of designing a comprehensive History of Kerala have so far failed to come off. Such an attempt will have to wait for its success till deep and intensive studies of distinct royal families, regions and social groups are ventured upon by competent scholars.
This monograph on ‘The Ali Rajas of Cannanore’ by Sri. K.K.N. Kurup, who is a keen student of the History of North Malabar in all its variegated phases, is a laudable work which attempts effectively to plug a hole in Kerala History. I am glad he has, by and large, succeeded in his exercise. By delving deep into the original records and documents which had remained so far fallow and unexplored, he has created a piece of history which is distinctly authentic and highly readable. He has also succeeded in shedding a lot of illumination on the twilight-area of the confrontation between the native rulers and the western powers by focussing his researches on this unique Muslim dynasty of Malabar. This book will surely catch as a fine contribution to the emergence of an exhaustive history of Kerala.
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