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Importance Of The Indian Ocean Trade

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Vasco de Gama’s voyage around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean enabled the establishment of a sea route between the Indian Ocean, with its lucrative Asian spice market, and Europe for the first time. The discovery and establishment of this route offered potentially great rewards for the Portuguese economy. This marked Europe’s first direct foray into Asian maritime trade. For the first time there was a possibility of trade between Europe and Asia which would circumvent the Muslim middleman traders of the continent. In this essay I will look at the factors which led to Portugal establishing such a strong position in the Indian Ocean trade. I will look at the importance of technology and the key role this played in both exploration and in military superiority. I will analyse the strategy of the Portuguese in their fortification of their trade routes, military conquest, elimination of rivals and attempts to obtain a monopoly of the Asian spice trade. It is also important to question how successful Portugal were in achieving their strategic aims, and whether their position in the Indian Ocean was as strong as many perceive it to have been. The first half of the 16th Century saw Portugal establish a dominant position in trade through military fortifications of crucial sea passages, however the Portuguese failure to establish a monopoly of the spice trade meant their position as the pre-eminent trading power in Asia was short lived.
Technological developments in ship building were vital in establishing Portugal’s position in Indian Ocean trade. These technological advances allowed greater exploration by Portuguese sailors, which resulted in the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. The most significant development was the inven...

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...itary tactics were the crucial factors for Portugal breaking into the Indian Ocean trade and dominating the spice trade for half a century. The superiority of the Portuguese navy meant their maritime rivals in the Indian Ocean were minimally effective, and through canny leaders such as Albuquerque they were able to establish themselves in the key strategic locations to command the spice trade through their maritime route and limit the trade through the traditional overland routes. However the inability of Portugal to establish a monopoly and the resurgence of traditional trade routes shows that Portugal never reached the dominance in trade that they desired. Technology, military tactics and fortunate circumstances then all contributed to Portugals strong position in Indian trade, yet these factors were not enough for Portugal to achieve its aims in the Indian Ocean.
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