The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

By Malyn Newitt | Go to book overview

Trade in the Indian Ocean and the Portuguese
System of Cartazes

K.S. MATHEW

During the fifteenth century the Indian Ocean region was frequented by merchants of various nationalities, and commodities of diverse sorts were exchanged in its port towns. The picture presented was of a type of trade open to everyone irrespective of religion or nationality. This state of affairs prevailed until the end of the fifteenth century and then underwent substantial change in the early part of the sixteenth when a commercial revolution was effected and merchant capital began to exert great influence on the world of commerce and international politics. The Indian Ocean, frequently navigated by Arab sea-farers and Indian merchants, became the centre of the activities of the European traders supported directly or indirectly by their respective monarchies. This turn of events was inaugurated by the Portuguese navigators who opened up the direct sea-route to India and initiated a new system of control over the movements of the merchant shipping through the introduction of cartazes.

Areas like the East African coast, the ports of the Middle East such as Aden and Hormuz, the Gujerat, Konkan and Malabar coasts and the centres of Southeast Asian trade dominated by Malacca comprised the chief Indian Ocean regions where trade was conducted in the period prior to the sixteenth century. All these areas were interconnected through the exchange of commodities and the visits of merchants.

The trade with the ports in the areas between Egypt and China was chiefly dominated by Arab merchants at the time the Portuguese reached Indian shores. Mogadisho, Melinde, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mozambique, Angoche and Sofala were some of the important centres of trade on the East African coast from where the Arab traders proceeded to the ports of the Indian subcontinent in search of commodities like cotton cloth, silk, other sorts of textiles and spices.(1) Great quantities of gold were taken from Monomotapa to Sofala and the Indian merchants supplied their commodities in exchange for gold. They made a great profit in

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The First Portuguese Colonial Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgements *
  • Introduction 1
  • Prince Henry and the Origins of Portuguese Expansion 9
  • The Estado Da India in Southeast Asia 37
  • Trade in the Indian Ocean and the Portuguese System of Cartazes 69
  • Goa in the Seventeenth Century 85
  • Bibliographical Notes 99
  • Biographical Notes 103
  • Exeter Studies in History 105
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