A. Monsoon Mariners
1. The Indian Ocean trade increased between 1200 and 1500, stimulated
by the prosperity of Latin Europe, Asian, and African states and, in the
fourteenth century, by the collapse of the overland trade routes.
2. In the Red and Arabian Seas, trade was carried on dhows. From
India on to Southeast Asia, junks dominated the trade routes.
3. Junks were technologically advanced vessels, having watertight
compartments, up to twelve sails, and carrying cargoes of up to 1,000
tons. Junks were developed in China, but during the fifteenth century,
junks were also built in Bengal and Southeast Asia and sailed with crews
from those places.
4. The Indian Ocean trade was decentralized and cooperative, with
various regions supplying particular goods. In each region a certain
port functioned as the major emporium for trade in which goods from
smaller ports were consolidated and shipped onward.
B. Africa: The Swahili Coast and Zimbabwe
1. By 1500, there were thirty or forty separate city-states along the
East African coast participating in the Indian Ocean trade. The people
of these coastal cities, the "Swahili" people, all spoke an African
language enriched with Arabic and Persian vocabulary.
2. Swahili cities, including Kilwa, were famous as exporters of gold
that was mined in or around the inland kingdom whose capital was Great
3. Great Zimbabwe’s economy rested on agriculture, cattle herding,
and trade. The city declined due to an ecological crisis brought on by
deforestation and overgrazing.
C. Arabia: Aden and the Red Sea
1. Aden had enough rainfall to produce wheat for export and a
location that made it a central transit point for trade from the Persian
Gulf, East Africa, and Egypt. Aden’s merchants prospered on this trade
and built what appeared to travelers to be a wealthy and impressive
2. In general, a common interest in trade allowed the various peoples
and religions of the Indian Ocean basin to live in peace. Violence did
sometimes break out, however, as when Christian Ethiopia fought with the
Muslims of the Red Sea coast over control of trade.
D. India: Gujarat and the Malabar Coast
1. The state of Gujarat prospered from the Indian Ocean trade,
exporting cotton textiles and indigo in return for gold and silver.
Gujarat was not simply a commercial center; it was also a manufacturing
center that produced textiles, leather goods, carpets, silk, and other
commodities. Gujarat’s overseas trade was dominated by Muslims, but
Hindus also benefited.
2. Calicut and other cities of the Malabar Coast exported cotton
textiles and spices and served as clearing-houses for long-distance
trade. The cities of the Malabar Coast were unified in a loose
confederation whose rulers were tolerant of other religious and ethnic
E. Southeast Asia: the Rise of Malacca
1. The Strait of Malacca is the principal passage from the Indian
Ocean to the South China Sea. In the fourteenth century a gang of
Chinese pirates preyed upon the strait, nominally under the control of
the Java-based kingdom of Majapahit.
2. In 1407, the forces of the Ming dynasty crushed the Chinese
pirates. The Muslim ruler of Malacca took advantage of this to exert his
domination over the strait and to make Malacca into a major port and a
center of trade.