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Indian Ocean trade

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Title: Indian Ocean trade  
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Subject: History of Cambodia, Malayan–Portuguese war, History of Kerala, Felix A. Chami, Mappila riots
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Indian Ocean trade

Indian Ocean trade served as an important role in history, and has been a key factor in East–West exchanges. Long distance trade in dhows and sailboats made it a dynamic zone of interaction between peoples, cultures, and civilizations stretching from Java in the East to Zanzibar and Mombasa in the West. Cities and states on the Indian Ocean rim were Janus-faced. They looked outward to the sea as much as they looked inward to the hinterland.

In the contemporary period, the re-assertion of Asia's cultural, political, and economic strength has manifested itself in varied events such as the meteoric rise of the Chinese economy and the growing influence of India’s culture industry, and the rise of Dubai as a global financial hub. These processes indicate a gradual movement of the fulcrum of global economic and military exchanges away from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, a shift which is being keenly watched by national elites and global institutions.

Roman period

Roman trade with India according to the Periplus Maris Erythraei, 1st century CE.
Indian ship on lead coin of Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi.
Relief panel of a ship at Borobudur, 8th–9th century.

Since antiquity, Indian Ocean trade had a significant role and led to the development of Roman trade with India.

Hindu-Buddhist period

The Satavahanas developed shipping ventures in Southeast Asia.

The 8th century wooden double outrigger sailed Borobudur ship of ancient Java suggested that there is ancient trading links across Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Africa (in particular East Africa and Madagascar) called the Cinnamon route. The single or double outrigger is a typical feature of vessels of the seafaring Austronesians and the most likely vessel used for their voyages and exploration across Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Indian Ocean.[1] During this period, between 7th to 13th century in Indonesian archipelago flourished the Srivijaya thalassocracy empire that rule the maritime trade network in maritime Southeast Asia and connecting India and China.

Muslim period

During the Muslim period, in which the Muslims had dominated the trade across the Indian Ocean, the Gujaratis were bringing spices from the Moluccas as well as silk from China, in exchange for manufactured items such as textiles, and then selling them to the Egyptians and Arabs.[2]

In the south, Calicut was also the center of Indian pepper exports to the Red Sea and Europe.[2] In Calicut, Egyptian and Arab traders were particularly active.[2]

Chinese travels

Zheng He's navigation chart from Hormuz to Calicut, 1430

Chinese fleets under Zheng He criscrossed the Indian Ocean during the early part of the 15th century. The missions were diplomatic rather than commercial, but many exchanges of gift and produces were made.

Portuguese period

The Portuguese under Vasco da Gama discovered a naval route to the Indian Ocean through the southern tip of Africa in 1497–98. Initially, the Portuguese were mainly active in Calicut, but the northern region of Gujarat was even more important for trade, and an essential intermediary in east-west trade.[2]

Reception of Venetian ambassadors in Damascus in the time of Qaitbay.

Venetian interests were directly threatened as the traditional trade patterns were eliminated and the Portuguese became able to undersell the Venetians in the spice trade in Europe. Venice broke diplomatic relations with Portugal and started to look at ways to counter its intervention in the Indian Ocean, sending an ambassador to the Egyptian court.[3] Venice negotiated for Egyptian tariffs to be lowered to facilitate competition with the Portuguese, and suggested that "rapid and secret remedies" be taken against the Portuguese.[3] The Mamluks sent a fleet in 1507 under Amir Husain Al-Kurdi, which would fight in the Battle of Chaul.[3]

The Ottomans tried to challenge Portugal's hegemony in the Persian Gulf region by sending an armada against the Portuguese under Ali Bey in 1581. They were supported in this endeavor by the chiefs of several local principalities and port towns such as Muscat, Gwadar, and Pasni. However, the Portuguese successfully intercepted and destroyed the Ottoman Armada. Subsequently, the Portuguese attacked Gwadar and Pasni on the Mekran Coast and sacked them in retaliation for providing aid and comfort to the enemy.

Dutch and English period

The island of Hormuz was captured by an Anglo-Persian force in the 1622 Capture of Ormuz.

During the 16th century the Portuguese had established bases in the Persian Gulf. In 1602, the Iranian army under the command of Imam-Quli Khan Undiladze managed to expel the Portuguese from Bahrain. In 1622, with the help of four English ships, Abbas retook Hormuz from the Portuguese in the Capture of Ormuz (1622). He replaced it as a trading centre with a new port, Bandar Abbas, nearby on the mainland, but it never became as successful.

Japanese Trade

Japanese portolan sailing map, depicting the Indian Ocean and the East Asian coast, early 17th century.

During the 16th and 17th century, Japanese ships also made forays into Indian Ocean trade through the Red Seal ship system.

See Also


  1. ^ Borobudur Ship Expedition
  2. ^ a b c d Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 Bailey Wallys Diffie p.234ff [1]
  3. ^ a b c Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 Bailey Wallys Diffie p.230ff [2]
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