The Black Death put Europe, Asia, and Africa into economic stagnation. Subsequent recovery from this pandemic resulted in the bloom of trade among these three continents. Thus, the Afroeurasian Trade World, which spanned the territories of Africa, the Indian Ocean, China, Europe, and the Middle East, came into existence. Africa supplied Europe with gold, while spices and textiles came from Asian countries, such as India and China. The Ottoman Empire serves as a middleman between Europe and Asia because it controlled the trade routes. European goods were not popular due to their inferior quality compared to their Asian counterparts. This paper will provide details about the Afroeurasian Trade World before European expansion.
The primary regions that comprised the Afroeurasian trade were East Africa, the Middle East, India, and China. The latter civilization was dominant in terms of trade because of advances in domestic business and labor. Rich systems of rivers and canals and the absence of trade barriers contributed to the economic development of China between the 15th and 18th centuries (“China: The Ming and the Qing”). China occupied a large territory, whereas, in Europe, a similar area was divided between many small countries, which increased the need for wars and made imperialism popular (“China: The Ming and the Qing”). The Mongol Empire served as a marketer of Chinese goods – Europeans started learning about Chinese commodities with the arrival of Mongol emperors (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 439). Most historians claim that Chinese dominance in Afroeurasian economics had lasted for at least four centuries (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 439). India was, too, a dominant force in terms of international trade.
The Indian Ocean was a hub for the participants of the Afroeurasian trade. It connected the eastern regions of Africa to islands of the Malay Peninsula. India was in a favorable geographic position, which allowed it to spread its culture and religion to other territories (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 439). The region was sparsely populated, and people often concentrated on ports and land that had access to the ocean (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 439). In terms of commodities, India was the largest producer of pepper, and Europeans highly praised the spices from this country. Indian influence was significant – many Europeans that came to India in search of business opportunities often adopted the customs of locals (Strootman et al. 250). For instance, unlike in the rest of the world, Indian women were given many privileges, including the right to do business. This tradition continued even after Europeans arrived in the region.
Africa exported many goods both to Indian Ocean territories and Europe. From East Africa came ivory and slaves and were exchanged for spices and other commodities that were absent in Africa. Gold, which was a valuable monetary instrument and a material for luxury goods, was primarily present in western territories of the continent. Arabs and African traders used seaports in North Africa to export gold to European countries (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 440). Central African regions profited from trade for as long as gold was transported from the south to the north. However, as caravans started choosing other routes, cities occupying the present-day territories of Mali and Nigeria became weak both in terms of politics and economics.
The Middle East was the glue between Europe, Africa, and Asia. From the Middle East, goods from Asia and Africa reached Europe. Therefore, whoever controlled these territories was in charge of economic communication between continents. Historically, the Persian Safavids and the Ottoman Turks rivaled for dominance in the region. The latter managed to establish full control over territories spanning from North Africa to the eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea (Tignor et al. 441). The expansion of the Ottoman Empire started from the Middle East and reached Vienna by the mid-1500s. They also moved toward the south but were stopped at the borders of Iran (Imber 36). Despite the halt of expansion, the Ottoman Turks benefited significantly from the trade of Asia and Europe, primarily because they provided goods that served as an exchange commodity.
Europe was primarily a buyer of Asian and African goods. European manufacturers were not popular among Asian merchants because the quality of their commodities could not rival those of the Asians. Because of the lack of buying power, Europeans had to exchange using slaves and guns (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 441). The Ottoman control of the trade routes forced Europeans to look for other options of attaining Asian goods and thus revived imperialist moods among politicians.
The period between the 15th and the 16th centuries encompassed significant economic development in Afroeurasia. This progress was based on trade between Africa, Europe, and Asia. Europe supplied guns and slaves to Asian countries, while Africa provided gold and ivory. Textiles and spices came from India and China, while the Middle East was the territory where goods were exchanged between European and Asian merchants. European expansion started after the Ottoman Turks seized control of trade routes, which posed a hindrance to free trade between Europe and Asia.
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