Origins of the Modern World

Hist. 1010-851
Origins of the Modern World Assignment 1

Robert E. Marks considers the Indian Ocean to be “the most important crossroads for global exchange” in the early modern era because the three main powerhouses of the time (China, India, and the Islamic world) congregated and relied on this crossroads for their success and prosperity (43). After China’s new power-hungry emperor, the Prince of Yan, declared his plans for overseas trade and determined exploring opportunities in the Indian Ocean could bring some rewards to China, the Chinese opened a sea route that “linked the eastern and western parts of the Eurasian continent with trade circuit in India and in Africa” (48). With China’s large “Treasure Ships” and powerful presence in the waters of the Indian Ocean, it didn’t take long for much of the sea-trade to be under Chinese eyes. To the trade, China brought silk, porcelain, and iron- and copperwares, and returned with spices, edibles, pearls, cotton goods, and most importantly, silver.
While China’s main export was silk, India’s was cotton. In fact, India had three great textile manufacturing centers to help make cotton a successful export: “Gujarat on the west coast, Madras in the south, and Bengal in the east” (51). Cotton was spun both for internal Indian demand and for trade, and Indian cotton reached as far as Poland and the Mediterranean. In return for their textiles, India received palm oil, cocoa, groundnuts, and precious metals not otherwise naturally available. Although India had a prominent influence in the Indian Ocean trade system, it was not a unified empire, and because of this disunity, was often in political and religious unrest. Despite these factors, “the rulers of most Indian states supported trade, and political and religious disunity did not hinder economic activity” (52).
Starting in the eight century with the Arabs, the Islamic faith began spreading into north India, and began to cause a major political and religious...