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The Asia-Europe trade before Coming of the East India Company

The Asia-Europe trade before Coming of the East India Company

THE ASIA-EUROPE TRADE

  • It was since the Greek times that Asia and Europe had engaged in trade via both sea and land links. It was through the land routes that the commodities changed many hands till they reached either Asia or Europe.                                                        The Asia-Europe trade before Coming of the East India Company
  • Even after a multitude of taxes and middlemen, trade remained highly profitable. Arab merchants were largely responsible to transport the material through Asia Minor and Middle East.
  • But these routes came under control of the Turkish Ottoman Empire when they occupied Asia Minor and captured Constantinople in 1453.
  • Moreover, the sailors of Venice and Genoa (both in Italy) monopolised the sea trade with Asia and did not let western Europeans like Portugal and Spain to have any share in this trade.
  • This led these western European states (Portugal and Spain) to search for new and safer sea routes to India and more sought after Spice Islands of Indonesia (then known as East Indies).

Some of the factors which enabled these states to look for new routes were –

  1. Great advances in Shipbuilding and navigation science had taken place in 15th century
  2. The spirit of Renaissance had brought forth a new generation of sailors who were not averse to adventure and risks associated with discovering new waters
  3. The governments sponsored the expenses and thus helped lower the risks taken by these adventurous sailors
  4. They wanted to break the monopolies of Arab and Venetian traders and avoid the hostile Turkish Empire
  5. Direct trade relations with the East would be highly profitable as compared to dealing with several middlemen

Thus began an era of geographical discoveries by Spanish and Portuguese sailors. These were –

  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus of Spain, who set out to discover India, discovered America instead
  • 1498 – Vasco da Gama of Portugal, discovered a new sea route to India via Cape of Good Hope (round the southern coast of Africa). He landed at Calicut and went back with a cargo which sold for 60 times the cost of his voyage.                                              The Asia-Europe trade before Coming of the East India Company

The discoveries of Americas and Asia opened up a new chapter in World History. Soon, Africa was also opened for gold and ivory trade and later the slave trade in 15th century.

Initially this trade was a monopoly of Spain and Portugal, but later it came to be dominated by the Dutch, French and British merchants. Opening up of numerous sea links in 17th and 18th century led to an enormous rise in trade.                                          The Asia-Europe trade before Coming of the East India Company

This dramatically transformed the continents of America and Asia. France and Britain emerged as commercially and politically supreme based on triangular trade.

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Modern History

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