Europeans needed a way to control the Indian Ocean and the port cities that were located on the sea. As this paper will reveal, control of costal colonies and the network of allies that Europeans will create are two important factors that lead to European control of the Indian Ocean arena. When European’s started their expeditions into the Indian Ocean, they already understood the significance of cities that are located on a body of water. This understanding was one of both transportation and of naval warfare. British trading in India was to bring both goods back to Britain but to also “develop new markets for Indian goods in Africa, and in the America’s.” (HISTORIC DYNAMICS) Britain’s expansion into new markets allowed them to grow their trade routes in the Indian Ocean.
America glanced heavily at the potential of the Far East, especially China, and it’s southern neighbor Latin America as a new market, and a source of raw materials. These are the economic factors that contributed to the rise of American imperialism. For military and strategic reasons America needed to forge and empire. In 1890 Thomas Mahan published Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660 - 1783. In his book Mahan pointed out that Great Britain’s phenomenal growth as the world power was because of it’s unsurpassed naval power.
India was the first major Asian civilizations to fall victim to European predatory activities (Duiker 31). With conquering India, the British had various purposes behind it. Their main purpose was to achieve a monopolistic trading position (The Economic and Social Impact of Colonial Rule in India). The second purpose was the control of India; this was a key element in the world power structure, in terms of geography, logistics and military manpower (The Economic and Social Impact of Colonial Rule in India). When the East India Company continued to trade under the British, huge armies were created, largely composed of Indian sepoys (Marshall).
The indistinct terms of ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonialism’ have led to uncertainty and ambiguity when assessing the activities carried out by the Portuguese and other Europeans in the region of the Indian Ocean. The late fifteenth century to the early sixteenth century was labeled as the “Age of Discovery” where the Portuguese started off the exploration of the world outside of Europe, through Vasco da Gama. The incidents that occurred over the next few hundred years reflected European dominance throughout the region that complete the questionable means of Imperialism or Colonialism. Imperialism may be defined as “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force” where colonialism is defined as “a policy or practice of acquiring full or partial control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically” . This essay will give a brief history of the Europeans (specifically the Portuguese as the initial Europeans) in the Indian Ocean throughout the sixteenth to seventeenth century and will also explain the process of how European activities in the Indian Ocean region should be labeled as ‘colonialism’.
The general spirit of the times however, a spirit of glory and conquest, remained a part of European culture decades later. The crusades had a prominent impact on the way the Europeans thought of their exploration of the Indian Ocean. The very reason behind Vasco de Gama’s famed expedition around the Cape of Good Hope was to create a direct route to Asia, cutting off Muslim traders in the Middle East and creating a military advantage whereby Christian Crusaders could invade the Middle East from both sides (Marks, 61). Their preoccupation with the idea of
But the Dutch had an additional goal in mind. They believed that the trading network would fund their ability to assert independence against the Iberians, the longtime enemy of the Dutch. The Dutch also spent a considerable amount of time carving out a presence for themselves in the intra-Asian trade. They claimed monopoly rights in the Moluccas, which allowed them to become major controllers in the intra-Asian spice trade by the early 1620s. Yet both of these major initiatives would not match the veracity that the VOC stormed into the lucrative Asian coffee trade with.
I believe an expansion of that size would most certainly have had an effect on trade and exchange of ideas. Moreover, Chaudhuri (1985, 36) is confident that the Arab conquests politically integrating Egypt, Syria, Iran, and North Africa established a zone of economic consumption, creating new market demands. Not only did the Islamic expansion form a commercial boost, but also provided safer trade routes, an outcome of the commercial law protection and judicial rights which were governed Islamic leaders. In fact, by the 10th century, there is clear evidence of maritime expansion as a result of the spread of the Islamic lifestyle, Arab ships and merchants sailing to China, as I shall further explore below. Material Evidence of Indian Ocean trade with the Islamic world: Belitung Shipwreck In 1998, a shipwreck was discovered north of the Tanjung Pandan port on the Island of Belitung (figure 1), Indonesia, and was excavated by a German explorations company.
Advent of the Europeans Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. This marked the beginning of the European era in Indian history. The lucrative trade in spices of Malabar - in modern Kerala - had tempted the Portuguese and inspired the search for a sea route to the Indies. The Portuguese had already established their colony in Goa by the first decade of the 16th Century but their territorial and commercial hold in India remained rather limited. In the next century, India was visited by a large number of European travellers - Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Dutchmen.
During this period, Europe sought new sea routes to Asia in pursuit of economic gain, increased glory, and opportunities to spread Christianity. Although these were motivations for explorers, the impact from the discoveries resulted in significant changes and achievements that created possibilities and opened a window to a new world for all of Europe. If were not for the superpowers of Spain, Portugal, England, France, and the Netherlands, the world as we know it would not exist. Leading the way in the exploration of the world was the nation of Spain with a man named Christopher Columbus. Originally intending to find an eastwardly trade route to Asia, Columbus accidently discovered the Americas instead.
Because of this, the decision was made to travel westward instead of around Africa. This led to the biggest discovery in the history of western civilization, The Americas. However, while Spain used this as a catalyst for their empire, the Chinese were set on blatant ethnocentrism.