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Evaluate the extent to which the Portuguese transformed maritime trade in the Indian Ocean in the sixteenth century.
In the sixteenth century, the Portugese dramatically transformed maritime trade in the Indian Ocean because after discovering a new route to the Spice Islands, they monopolized trade by taking power from the Ottoman Empire and beginning to tax merchants and attack ships, as well as contributed to the spread of Indian goods around Europe. Bartolomeu Dias, a Portugese explorer, found a revolutionary route around the Cape of Good Hope to the Spice Islands. This gave Portugal a quicker way to get to India and trade Indian goods. Also, following the Scientific Revolution as well as trade on the Silk Road, the Portugese had obtained a mass amount of technological advancements. They had the magnetic compass and sternpost rudder, which both helped with navigation, and had existed in East Asia for a long time, but were spread on the Silk Road during the Song Dynasty. They had the astrolabe, a navigation device which used the sun and started to determine latitude, as well as lateen sails, which harnessed wind power efficiency. This was especially important in the Indian Ocean, because of the monsoons there. The Portugese wanted to trade Indian spices, especially pepper and cinnamon. Before the Portugese found a quicker way to the Spice Islands, the Ottomans, who were a Muslim capital based in Istanbul, which contained the prosperous Bosperous Strait, had control over the Spice Islands. This all changed in the sixteenth century.
The Portugese altered trade by taxing and attacking non-Portugese countries when trading goods in the Indian Ocean. In the Maldives, the Portugese taxed many Muslim ships as well as attacked them (Document 4). They did this for economic gain, as there were many valuable goods migrating through the Indian Ocean at the time. It is also important to recognize that the source of Document 4 is Alauddin Riayat Syah al-Kahar, a ruler of a Muslim state in Indonesia. So, of course he would be opposed to the Portugese expansion, because it threatens the state that he is politically responsible for in a financial way. However, we do know that the Portugese did, in fact, tax and attack Ottoman ships, so this document is not invalidated by its bias. Not only did Indonesian ships get affected by the Portugese’s actions, but Indian merchants were heavily affected. In Cambay, Portugese merchants kept track of the activity of all merchants, and even took over their trade. This led to some Indian merchants purposely giving bad quality goods to the Portugese (Document 6). This process was incredibly infuriating for Indian merchants, who had been used to trading through Ottoman merchants for a long time. These Indian merchants were specifically in the Mughal Empire, who were also Islamic. This is part of the reason why they had a comfortable relationship with the Sunni Islamic Ottomans.
The Portugese also changed trade on the Indian Ocean because they took long standing power from the Ottoman Empire, and spread Indian goods around Europe. An anonymous Portugese Official was opposed to permitting the Ottomans to continue to trade in the Indian Ocean because they felt as though it would threaten Portugal’s power. Also, they recognized that the Ottomans have a history with the Indians which would give them an advantage over Portugal (Document 3). This is a very nationalistic point of view because it belongs to a Portugese official. Also, it was going to the King of Portugal, King Sebastian, so it was very heavy on Portugal’s well being, and no one else’s. It is also very possible that the king had the power to fire this official, meaning that he is doing all he can to show his patriotism to Portugal and appease his monarch. The Portugese also contributed to the movement of goods around Europe. They manufactured goods such as inlaid boxes with Indian materials such as teak, ebony, and ivory. Also, these boxes contained classic scenes with distinct Indian animals such as tigers (Document 7). This illustrates how the Portugese were able to move traditional goods around the world, thus leading to exposure to different cultures and cultural diffusion. While international trade already existed on the land, the Portugese opened that up to maritime trade, as well. They also explored the Americas, in which they traded silver in China and Europe. They moved the silver from the Americas to Europe and Asia, therefore exposing groups of people to different goods from other parts of the world.
The Portugese drastically altered maritime trade on the Indian Ocean in the sixteenth century because they took power from the Ottoman Empire, taxed merchants in Asia, and moved goods around the world, thus leading to conflict, economic prosperity and struggle, and cultural diffusion worldwide. Although some might say that intercontinental trade existed before the Portugese Age of Exploration, such as in the Silk Road, strengthened by the Mongols, or in the Trans-Saharan Trade Routes, the Portugese were able to apply scientific advancements and maritime technology to truly transform trade in the Indian Ocean. While trade was not new, the Portugese made extreme changes to the nature of trade across continents. This relates to the present day because Europe, Asia, America, and Africa are all very interconnected, still. There is much trade on the Indian Ocean that transports goods such as spices to America, Europe, and more.