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History (Optional) Notes, Mindmaps & Related Current Affairs

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  2. FREE Samples
    4 Submodules
    1. Sources
    9 Submodules
  4. 2. Pre-history and Proto-history
    3 Submodules
  5. 3. Indus Valley Civilization
    8 Submodules
  6. 4. Megalithic Cultures
    3 Submodules
  7. 5. Aryans and Vedic Period
    8 Submodules
  8. 6. Period of Mahajanapadas
    10 Submodules
  9. 7. Mauryan Empire
    7 Submodules
  10. 8. Post – Mauryan Period
    7 Submodules
  11. 9. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India
    9 Submodules
  12. 10. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas
    14 Submodules
  13. 11. The Regional States during the Gupta Era
    18 Submodules
  14. 12. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
    9 Submodules
    13. Early Medieval India (750-1200)
    9 Submodules
  16. 14. Cultural Traditions in India (750-1200)
    11 Submodules
  17. 15. The Thirteenth Century
    2 Submodules
  18. 16. The Fourteenth Century
    6 Submodules
  19. 17. Administration, Society, Culture, Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
    13 Submodules
  20. 18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Political Developments and Economy
    14 Submodules
  21. 19. The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture
    3 Submodules
  22. 20. Akbar
    8 Submodules
  23. 21. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century
    7 Submodules
  24. 22. Economy and Society in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    11 Submodules
  25. 23. Culture in the Mughal Empire
    8 Submodules
  26. 24. The Eighteenth Century
    7 Submodules
    1. European Penetration into India
    6 Submodules
  28. 2. British Expansion in India
    4 Submodules
  29. 3. Early Structure of the British Raj
    9 Submodules
  30. 4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
    12 Submodules
  31. 5. Social and Cultural Developments
    7 Submodules
  32. 6. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas
    8 Submodules
  33. 7. Indian Response to British Rule
    8 Submodules
  34. 8. Indian Nationalism - Part I
    11 Submodules
  35. 9. Indian Nationalism - Part II
    17 Submodules
  36. 10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  37. 11. Other strands in the National Movement (Revolutionaries & the Left)
    5 Submodules
  38. 12. Politics of Separatism
  39. 13. Consolidation as a Nation
  40. 14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  41. 15. Economic development and political change
    16. Enlightenment and Modern ideas
  43. 17. Origins of Modern Politics
  44. 18. Industrialization
  45. 19. Nation-State System
  46. 20. Imperialism and Colonialism
  47. 21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  48. 22. World Wars
  49. 23. The World after World War II
  50. 24. Liberation from Colonial Rule
  51. 25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  52. 26. Unification of Europe
  53. 27. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World
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I. Introduction

Foreign trade has played a crucial role in the economic history of India, especially during the medieval period under the Mughal rule. This comprehensive module delves into the intricate details of foreign trade in medieval India, with a particular focus on the Mughal period. Understanding the significance of foreign trade during this era is essential to grasp the dynamics of the Indian economy and its interactions with other countries.

Overview of Foreign Trade in Medieval India

  • India had a long history of trade relations with various foreign countries, and over time, the patterns of trade and commodities evolved.
  • Indian textiles were one of the primary exports, and they played a pivotal role in regional trade.
  • India’s trade prowess extended from Aden to Achin, and its textiles were widely used across the Asian world.
  • While India exported food items like sugar and rice to Southeast and West Asian countries, it imported metals (tin and copper), spices, horses, and luxury items.
  • The trade balance was maintained by the import of gold and silver.

Importance of Foreign Trade in the Mughal Period

  • During the Mughal period, foreign trade became increasingly crucial for the revenue resources of both the Mughal Emperors and the local Indian rulers.
  • The Mughals and Indian rulers welcomed foreign merchants to ensure the growth of overseas trade and augment their revenue.
  • However, the Mughals and Indian rulers were weak in naval power, leading them to align with powerful European powers for the smooth sailing of Indian ships.
advent of europeans in mughal india

II. Textile Trade in Medieval India

A. Role of Indian Textiles in Regional Trade

Indian textiles held immense significance in the regional trade of medieval India. These textiles were not only a symbol of Indian craftsmanship but also served as a vital commodity for both domestic and foreign markets.

  • Indian textiles were extensively traded within the Indian subcontinent, and they were highly valued for their quality, craftsmanship, and variety.
  • Textile trade formed a significant part of the economic activities in various regions of India, contributing to the prosperity of the local communities involved in textile production and trade.
  • The demand for Indian textiles in regional markets was driven by their unique designs, vibrant colors, and fine craftsmanship, making them popular among the people of different regions.

B. Indian Textiles as the Asian World’s Virtual Factory

During the medieval period, Indian textiles earned the reputation of being the “Asian world’s virtual factory” due to their widespread use and demand in various Asian countries. This aspect of Indian textile trade highlights the dominance of Indian textiles in the Asian markets.

  • The influence of Indian textiles extended from the Middle East, such as Aden, to the Southeast Asian countries like Achin.
  • Indian textiles were the preferred choice for clothing across various regions, and it was observed that people from head to foot were clothed in Indian textiles.
  • The extensive reach of Indian textiles in the Asian world solidified India’s position as a prominent textile manufacturing and trading hub.

C. Indian Textiles in Southeast and West Asian Markets

The trade of Indian textiles extended beyond the Indian subcontinent to the Southeast and West Asian markets. The popularity of Indian textiles in these regions had far-reaching implications for India’s foreign trade.

  • India supplied food items like sugar and rice to many Southeast and West Asian countries, contributing to the foreign trade dynamics of the region.
  • In addition to food items, Indian textiles played a central role in the trade with Southeast and West Asian countries.
  • The demand for Indian textiles in these regions was driven by the superior quality and affordability of the cloth produced on the Coromandel coast, which became highly popular in Southeast Asia.
  • The trade of Indian textiles with these regions further enriched India’s economic ties with neighboring countries and strengthened its position in the international trade arena.

III. Commodities of Foreign Trade

A. Indian Exports to Other Countries

India’s exports were a vital component of its foreign trade, and they played a significant role in fostering economic ties with other nations. The following are some of the notable Indian exports during the medieval period:

  • Textiles: Indian textiles, known for their exquisite craftsmanship and vibrant colors, were in high demand in foreign markets. They found widespread popularity in various Asian countries and beyond.
  • Food Items: India supplied food items such as sugar and rice to numerous Southeast and West Asian countries, further enhancing its trade relations in the region.
  • Indian Textiles in Regional Trade: Indian textiles not only served as a crucial commodity in foreign trade but also played a central role in regional trade within the Indian subcontinent.

B. Imports into India: Metals, Spices, Horses, and Luxury Items

While India had a thriving export industry, there were certain commodities that it needed to import to meet its domestic demands and supplement its trade activities. The following were some of the key imports into India:

  • Metals: India imported certain metals like tin and copper, which were essential for various purposes, including the production of bronze.
  • Spices: Spices were among the sought-after commodities in foreign trade. India imported certain spices for culinary and medicinal purposes.
  • War Horses: Horses were crucial for military purposes, and India imported them to meet its military requirements.
  • Luxury Items: India also imported luxury items, such as ivory, to cater to the demands of the affluent classes.

C. Trade Balance and Gold-Silver Imports

The trade balance and the influx of gold and silver into India had significant implications for its foreign trade dynamics. Here are some key points related to the trade balance and gold-silver imports:

  • Positive Trade Balance: India’s foreign trade enjoyed a positive trade balance, primarily due to the demand for its exports in foreign markets.
  • Gold-Silver Imports: To settle the trade balance and facilitate trade, India imported gold and silver, which served as a medium of exchange in international transactions.
  • Expansion of Foreign Trade: With the expansion of India’s foreign trade, the import of gold and silver increased, leading to economic growth and increased prosperity.

IV. European Traders in Mughal India

A. Dutch Traders and Their Establishments

The Dutch traders were among the prominent European players in India’s foreign trade during the 17th century. They established themselves in various regions and played a crucial role in the spice trade. Here are the key points regarding Dutch traders and their establishments:

  • Expansion of Dutch Trade: The Dutch traders arrived in India during a period when their economy was experiencing rapid growth in agriculture and manufacturing, leading to the expansion of their overseas trade.
  • Establishment at Masulipatam: Despite opposition from the Portuguese, the Dutch secured a farman from the ruler of Golconda in 1606, allowing them to establish themselves at Masulipatam.
  • Dominance in Spice Trade: The Dutch originally came to the Indian coast for the spice trade. They realized that Indian textiles were in high demand in Southeast Asia, and they traded spices for Indian textiles, eventually moving south to the Coromandel coast.
  • Base at Pulicat: The Dutch captured Pulicat from the local ruler and established it as a base of operations on the Coromandel coast.
  • Competition with English: The Dutch and English were both vying for supremacy in the spice trade. The Dutch’s early dominance in the Spice Islands forced the English to focus more on India.

B. English Traders and Their Arrival in India

The English traders, like the Dutch, sought to establish a presence in India for trade purposes. They faced challenges from the Portuguese but eventually secured permissions from the Mughal emperor. Here are the key points about English traders and their arrival in India:

  • Focus on Spice Trade: The English initially came to the East for the spice trade. After defeating a Portuguese fleet outside Surat, they established a factory there in 1612, with the support of Sir Thomas Roe and a farman from Jahangir in 1618.
  • Competition with Dutch: The English faced stiff competition from the Dutch, who had already established themselves in the spice trade. However, the English recognized the significance of Gujarat as a center for India’s textile exports.
  • Capture of Ormuz: The English captured Ormuz, the Portuguese base at the head of the Persian Gulf, in 1622 with the assistance of Persian forces, further bolstering their position in the region.
  • Establishment in Surat: By the first quarter of the 17th century, both the Dutch and the English had established themselves in the Indian trade, and Portuguese control of the sea had declined.

C. Portuguese Decline and European Dominance

The decline of Portuguese influence in India and the rise of Dutch and English dominance marked a significant shift in the dynamics of India’s foreign trade. Here are the key points regarding the decline of Portuguese influence and the rise of European dominance:

  • Indian Traders’ Resilience: Despite the dominance of the seas by European traders, Indian traders were able to maintain a significant presence in Asian trade. The share of European trading companies from any part of India remained a small percentage of India’s total foreign trade.
  • Indian Traders’ Advantage: Indian traders had an edge in textile trade as they knew both domestic and foreign markets better. They were willing to work for lower profits, reducing their operating costs.
  • European Freight of Indian Goods: To reduce their operating costs and ensure safer operations, European traders began freighting Indian merchants’ goods on their ships.
  • Indian Shipping Expansion: Indian shipping expanded during the 17th century, indicating the growth of India’s foreign trade and domestic manufacturing.
  • European Export to Europe: Besides participating in Asian trade, the English and Dutch looked for articles that could be exported from India to Europe. Items like indigo, calicoes, and raw silk became popular exports.
european settlements in india upsc

V. Role of European Traders in Indian Trade

A. Motivation and Economic Expansion of European Traders

European traders were driven by economic ambitions and a desire to expand their influence in the lucrative Asian trade. Here are the key factors that motivated European traders to venture into India:

  • Economic Growth in Europe: European countries were experiencing rapid economic growth during the 16th and 17th centuries, which led to increased demand for goods and spices from Asia.
  • Spice Trade Attraction: The spice trade was a major driving force behind European involvement in Asian trade. Spices like pepper, cinnamon, and cloves were highly valued commodities in Europe.
  • Seeking New Trade Routes: The European traders sought alternative trade routes to the East, bypassing the traditional Silk Road controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
  • Competition among European Powers: There was fierce competition among European powers like Portugal, the Netherlands, and England to establish their dominance in Asian trade.

B. Dutch Dominance in the Spice Trade and Shift to Indian Textiles

The Dutch traders initially focused on the spice trade but eventually recognized the potential of Indian textiles in Southeast Asian markets. Here are the key aspects of Dutch dominance in the spice trade and their shift to Indian textiles:

  • Spice Trade Monopoly: The Dutch were initially dominant in the spice trade, controlling key spice-producing regions like the Spice Islands (Java and Sumatra).
  • Realization of Indian Textile Demand: The Dutch traders observed the high demand for Indian textiles in Southeast Asia. They found that Indian textiles were more easily obtainable in exchange for spices.
  • Base on the Coromandel Coast: The Dutch moved south from Masulipatam to the Coromandel coast and established a base at Pulicat to facilitate their textile trade.
  • Competition with English: The English also vied for a share in the Indian textile trade, leading to competition between the two European powers in the region.

C. English Focus on Gujarat and Bengal Trade

The English traders focused on establishing themselves in key regions like Gujarat and Bengal to gain access to India’s lucrative textile trade. Here are the key points regarding the English focus on Gujarat and Bengal trade:

  • Establishment in Surat: The English successfully established a factory in Surat in 1612, with the help of a farman from Jahangir and support from Sir Thomas Roe.
  • Importance of Gujarat: The English recognized Gujarat’s significance as a center for India’s textile export trade. They sought to disrupt India’s trade with Red Sea and Persian Gulf ports.
  • Competition with the Dutch: The Dutch and the English were rivals in the Indian trade. The English faced competition from the Dutch, who had already established themselves in the spice trade.
  • Expansion to Bengal: The English expanded their trade to Bengal and Orissa, focusing on raw silk, sugar, and textiles as key export items from these regions.

VI. Indian Traders and Their Sustainability

A. Indian Traders’ Dominance in Asian Trade

Indian traders held a prominent position in Asian trade, and their influence extended beyond India’s borders. Here are the key aspects of their dominance in the region:

  • Supply of Textiles: Indian textiles were highly sought after in Southeast and West Asian countries. The widespread use of Indian textiles in these regions contributed to India’s reputation as the Asian world’s virtual factory, excluding China.
  • Presence in Foreign Markets: Indian traders supplied food items like sugar and rice to many Southeast and West Asian countries, establishing strong trade relations with these regions.
  • Extensive Trade Network: Indian traders had a well-established trade network that reached far and wide, including regions like Iran, Bokhara, Samarqand, South Russia, Baku, Astrakhan, and Sinkiang (modern Sinkiang).
  • Overland Trade Hubs: Cities like Lahore and Multan served as major overland trade hubs, connecting Indian traders to various regions in Central Asia and beyond.

B. Factors Leading to Indian Traders’ Success

Several factors contributed to the sustained success of Indian traders in the competitive Asian trade landscape. Here are the key factors that played a pivotal role:

  • In-Depth Market Knowledge: Indian traders had a deep understanding of both domestic and foreign markets, enabling them to cater to the specific demands of different regions.
  • Competitive Pricing: Indian traders were willing to work with lower profit margins, typically 10 to 15%, compared to the higher profit margins demanded by European traders (40 to 50%). This competitive pricing made Indian goods more attractive in the market.
  • Cooperation with European Traders: Indian traders collaborated with European trading companies like the Dutch and the English. They allowed European traders to freight their goods on Indian ships, reducing the operating costs for the Europeans and ensuring safer operations for Indian traders.
  • Expansion of Indian Shipping: Indian traders saw significant expansion in shipping, with the number of ships increasing from around 50 in the mid-17th century to at least 112 by the end of the century. This expansion further boosted India’s foreign trade capacity.

C. Cooperation with Mughal Government and European Traders

The cooperation of Indian traders with the Mughal government and European traders was crucial in maintaining their trade activities. Here are the key points related to their collaboration:

  • Mughal Government Support: Indian traders enjoyed the support of the Mughal government, which facilitated their trade operations. The Mughal rulers issued farman and provided assistance to European trading companies in establishing their factories in India.
  • European Trade Collaboration: Indian traders collaborated with European trading companies like the Dutch and the English to mutual benefit. While Indian traders helped European traders access Indian goods and markets, European traders assisted in expanding India’s export base to Europe.
  • European Entry Points: Indian traders facilitated European traders’ entry into key Indian ports like Surat and Hoogly, enabling them to establish their trade centers and conduct business operations in India.

VII. Items Exported from India to Europe

A. Pepper and Indigo as Major Exports

Indian traders engaged in the export of several commodities, two of the most prominent being pepper and indigo. These commodities held significant value in European markets, and their trade played a crucial role in India’s foreign commerce:

  • Pepper: Pepper was one of the prime commodities exported from India to Europe. Known as the “King of Spices,” pepper was highly prized for its aromatic and medicinal properties. India’s strategic location in the spice trade network made it a key exporter of pepper to European countries.
  • Indigo: Indigo, used for dyeing woolens, was another essential export from India to Europe. The best quality indigo was found in regions like Sarkhej in Gujarat and Bayana near Agra. Indian indigo became a valuable resource for European textile industries, leading to its significant demand.

B. Development of Calicoes (Indian Textiles) for European Markets

Indian textiles, particularly calicoes, played a crucial role in India’s trade with Europe. The development and export of calicoes marked a significant shift in India’s trade relations:

  • Calicoes: Calicoes, referring to Indian textiles, became a major export item to Europe. The English, in particular, sought the cloth produced in Agra and its surrounding regions due to increasing demand. However, the production from Gujarat initially sufficed.
  • Coromandel Coast: As demand for Indian textiles grew in Europe, the Coromandel Coast emerged as a significant source of backup supply. The cloth export from the Coromandel Coast equaled that of Gujarat by 1640 and surpassed it by 1660, making it a crucial trading hub.

C. Growth of Trade in Textiles from Coromandel Coast

The Coromandel Coast, with its abundant textile production, played a pivotal role in boosting India’s textile exports to European markets. Here are the key points related to the growth of textile trade from this region:

  • Masulipatam and Fort St. George: Masulipatam and Fort St. George (later known as Madras) emerged as major ports for textile trade from the Coromandel Coast. These ports facilitated the efficient movement of Indian textiles to European countries.
  • Dutch Involvement: The Dutch, alongside the English, actively engaged in the export of calicoes and indigo from the Coromandel Coast. Their presence further bolstered the textile trade from this region.
  • Expanding European Markets: Indian textiles gained popularity in Europe, with demand increasing rapidly in the second half of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Indian textiles found use in various applications, including women’s clothing and household furnishings.

VIII. Expansion of Indian Trade

A. New Markets and Export Items for India

India’s expanding trade relations brought about the exploration of new markets and diversification of export items. Here are the key aspects of India’s trade expansion:

  • Intra-Asian Trade: While India’s trade with Europe grew, intra-Asian trade remained highly profitable. The majority of the spices produced in India were consumed in India and China, with only a small percentage exported to Europe.
  • Indian Textile Exports to West Asia and East Africa: Indian textiles found markets beyond Europe. West Asia and East Africa became significant destinations for Indian textile exports, contributing to the expansion of Indian trade networks.
  • Coffee Trade from Yemen: Coffee emerged as a new item of trade, produced in Yemen (Southern Arabia). India played a crucial role in facilitating the coffee trade, further strengthening its position as a trading hub.

B. Growing Popularity of Indian Textiles in England

Indian textiles, particularly calicoes, gained immense popularity in England, leading to a surge in demand for these exquisite fabrics. The following points highlight the growing popularity of Indian textiles in England:

  • Indian Calicoes in English Markets: Indian calicoes became highly sought after in England for their quality, intricate designs, and affordability. The English preferred Indian textiles over domestic products due to their uniqueness.
  • Shift from Woolens to Indian Textiles: Initially, the English sought Indian textiles primarily for dyeing woolens. However, over time, the demand for Indian textiles expanded beyond the woolen industry to various other applications.
  • Impact on English Lifestyle: Indian textiles revolutionized the fashion and interior decor industries in England. They became an integral part of women’s clothing and household furnishings, giving rise to an Indian textile craze.

C. Coffee Trade from Yemen and Indian Textile Exports to West Asia

The expansion of Indian trade also saw significant developments in the coffee trade from Yemen and the export of Indian textiles to West Asia. Here are the key points related to these aspects:

  • Coffee Trade from Yemen: Coffee, an exotic beverage, originated in Yemen and quickly gained popularity in various parts of the world. India facilitated the coffee trade, serving as a significant link in the global supply chain.
  • Indian Textile Exports to West Asia: Indian textiles found a receptive market in West Asian countries. The demand for Indian textiles in West Asia increased during the seventeenth century, further enhancing India’s trade relations in the region.

IX. Trading Hubs in Medieval India

A. Lahore and Multan as Overland Trade Centers

Lahore and Multan, located in present-day Pakistan, were crucial overland trade centers during the medieval era. These cities served as significant links in the transcontinental trade routes, connecting India with Central Asia and beyond. Here are the key aspects of their role as trading hubs:

  • Location and Strategic Importance: Lahore and Multan were strategically positioned at the crossroads of various trade routes, making them pivotal hubs for trade between the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
  • Caravan Trade: Overland trade caravans from India traveled through these cities, carrying a wide array of goods, including textiles, spices, precious stones, and metals, to be exchanged for goods from other regions.
  • Cultural Exchange: These trading hubs also facilitated cultural exchange between India and Central Asia, leading to the diffusion of ideas, technologies, and artistic influences.

B. Indian Trading Colonies in Iran, Bokhara, and South Russia

Indian traders established thriving trading colonies in various regions, including Iran, Bokhara (present-day Uzbekistan), and South Russia. These colonies played a significant role in expanding India’s trade networks. The following points shed light on this aspect:

  • Indian Diaspora: Indian merchants formed diasporic communities in these regions, fostering economic ties between India and Central Asia.
  • Trade in Textiles and Spices: Indian textiles, especially calicoes, and spices were highly sought after in these regions. The Indian trading colonies acted as distribution centers for these valuable commodities.
  • Influence on Local Economies: The presence of Indian trading communities had a positive impact on the local economies of these regions, contributing to their prosperity.

C. Indian Traders’ Presence in Yarkand and Khotan

Yarkand and Khotan, located in present-day Xinjiang, China, were crucial stops along the ancient Silk Road and attracted Indian traders due to their strategic location and economic significance. The following points highlight the presence of Indian traders in these regions:

  • Trade with China: Indian traders engaged in trade with China, exchanging Indian goods for Chinese silk, which was highly coveted in various parts of the world.
  • Cultural Exchange: The presence of Indian traders in these regions facilitated cultural exchange between India and China, leading to the diffusion of religious beliefs, languages, and art forms.
  • Decline of Indian Presence: The decline of the ancient Silk Road and the emergence of maritime trade routes gradually led to a decrease in Indian traders’ presence in Yarkand and Khotan.

X. Impact of Foreign Trade on the Indian Economy

A. Influx of Gold and Silver into India

Foreign trade, especially with Europe, resulted in a substantial influx of precious metals, such as gold and silver, into India. This had several implications for the Indian economy:

  • Wealth Accumulation: The influx of gold and silver contributed to the accumulation of wealth in India, leading to the development of prosperous trading communities and influential merchants.
  • Monetary System: The availability of precious metals bolstered the monetary system in India. Gold and silver coins became a common medium of exchange, facilitating commercial transactions.
  • Stimulating Trade: The availability of precious metals provided the necessary liquidity to foster trade growth, as traders had access to valuable commodities and resources.

B. Price Increase and its Socio-economic Consequences

The increase in foreign trade also had repercussions on domestic prices and the socio-economic fabric of Indian society:

  • Price Inflation: The influx of foreign goods, especially luxury items, led to an increase in demand, resulting in price inflation of various commodities within India.
  • Wealth Disparities: The price inflation disproportionately affected lower-income groups, leading to wealth disparities between the rich merchant class and the common people.
  • Social Changes: The growth of foreign trade led to changes in societal patterns, as the wealthy trading class gained prominence, influencing cultural practices and patronizing art and literature.

C. European Strategies to Enter Asian Trade Network

European traders, driven by the allure of Indian textiles and spices, sought various strategies to penetrate the lucrative Asian trade network:

  • Establishing Trading Posts: European powers, including the Dutch and English, established trading posts in key Indian port cities, such as Surat and Calicut, to gain direct access to Indian goods.
  • Partnerships with Indian Merchants: European traders formed alliances with Indian merchants and intermediaries to navigate the complexities of the Indian trade system and gain insights into local markets.
  • Competing with Established Traders: European traders faced competition from well-established Indian traders who held a dominant position in Asian trade networks.

XI. The Dutch and English Competition

A. Dutch Dominance in Spice Trade and Textile Exports

The Dutch East India Company, established in 1602, was a formidable force in the Indian Ocean trade. Their dominance in the spice trade and textile exports from India had significant implications:

  • Spice Monopoly: The Dutch East India Company enjoyed a near-monopoly in the spice trade, controlling key spice-producing regions such as the Indonesian Archipelago.
  • Indian Textile Exports: The Dutch actively engaged in the export of Indian textiles to European markets, particularly high-quality textiles like calicoes and chintz.
  • Trading Posts: The Dutch established numerous trading posts along the Indian coastline, including Surat and Nagapattinam, to facilitate direct access to Indian goods.

B. English Efforts to Develop Gujarat and Orissa Trade

The English East India Company, founded in 1600, was a formidable competitor to the Dutch in the Indian trade scenario. Their efforts focused on developing trade in Gujarat and Orissa:

  • Gujarat Trade: The English East India Company sought to establish a foothold in Gujarat, a region known for its vibrant trade and textile production. They aimed to compete with the Dutch for Indian textile exports.
  • Orissa Trade: Orissa was another region of interest for the English, as it offered access to precious textiles and valuable resources.
  • Establishing Settlements: The English established several settlements along the Indian coastline, including Bombay (now Mumbai), to secure their position in Indian trade.

C. Portuguese Decline and European Control of Indian Trade

The competition between the Dutch and English traders was intensified by the decline of Portuguese influence in Indian trade:

  • Portuguese Loss of Dominance: The decline of Portuguese naval power in the Indian Ocean opened opportunities for the Dutch and English to expand their influence.
  • Shift in Control: As the Dutch and English gained prominence, they gradually replaced the Portuguese as the dominant European players in Indian trade.
  • Strategic Alliances: The Dutch and English traders formed alliances with Indian rulers and local merchants to consolidate their control over trade routes and resources.

XII. Mughal Emperors and Trade Relations

A. Jahangir’s Farman for European Traders

Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor, issued a Farman in 1615 AD that had a significant impact on trade relations with European powers:

  • Trade Privileges: The Farman granted European traders, particularly the English and the Dutch, the right to establish factories and carry out trade in Mughal territories.
  • Customs Exemption: European traders were exempted from paying customs duties for their goods, which provided them a competitive advantage in Indian markets.
  • Textile Exports: The Farman facilitated the export of Indian textiles by European traders, leading to a surge in the demand for Indian textiles in Europe.

B. Shah Jahan’s Farmans for Dutch and English Traders

Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, issued separate Farmans for the Dutch and English traders during his reign:

  • Dutch Farman: In 1635 AD, Shah Jahan granted a Farman to the Dutch East India Company, confirming their rights to trade and establish factories in Mughal territories.
  • English Farman: In 1633 AD, Shah Jahan issued a Farman to the English East India Company, reaffirming their trade privileges and allowing them to continue their activities.
  • Expansion of Trade: These Farmans further expanded the trading opportunities for the Dutch and English in the Indian subcontinent.

C. Aurangzeb’s Reign and Changes in Mughal-English Relations

Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor, had a complex relationship with the English traders:

  • Conflict with the English: Aurangzeb’s reign saw a shift in Mughal-English relations, with instances of conflict arising due to disagreements over trade and territorial control.
  • Capture of Bombay: In 1661 AD, Aurangzeb acquired the island of Bombay from the Portuguese and leased it to the English East India Company, marking a significant territorial acquisition.
  • Strain in Relations: Despite the territorial arrangement, trade relations with the English faced challenges during Aurangzeb’s reign.

XIII. Indian Rulers and Concessions to European Traders

A. Dutch and English Privileges in Bengal

Bengal, a region known for its economic significance, attracted both Dutch and English traders during the medieval era. Indian rulers, particularly the Mughals and regional powers, granted certain privileges to these European trading companies:

  • Trading Rights: The Mughal emperors, as well as local rulers, allowed the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company to establish trading posts and factories in Bengal.
  • Monopoly of Goods: The Dutch and English were often granted a monopoly on specific goods, such as textiles and spices, which gave them a competitive advantage in the European market.
  • Customs Exemptions: Indian rulers exempted European traders from paying certain customs duties, enabling them to conduct trade more profitably.

B. Conflicts with Local Officials and Clashes in Trade

Despite the concessions granted by Indian rulers, conflicts arose between European traders and local officials:

  • Corruption and Extortion: Some local officials engaged in corrupt practices and extorted bribes from European traders, leading to tensions and disputes.
  • Clashes and Violence: In some instances, clashes erupted between European traders and local authorities or rival merchants, often resulting in violence and loss of life.
  • Disputes over Territory: The presence of European factories and trading posts sometimes led to disputes over territorial control between Indian rulers and the European powers.

C. Indian Merchants and European Traders’ Interactions

Indian merchants played a crucial role in facilitating trade between India and Europe. Their interactions with European traders were complex:

  • Mediators and Middlemen: Indian merchants acted as intermediaries, connecting European traders with local markets and suppliers.
  • Cultural Exchange: Interactions between Indian merchants and European traders facilitated cultural exchange and the introduction of new products and ideas.
  • Language and Communication: The need to overcome language barriers led to the development of pidgin languages and mutual efforts to communicate effectively.

XIV. Factors Affecting Foreign Trade

A. Role of Political Stability and Production Growth

Political stability and economic growth were critical in determining the extent and success of foreign trade during the medieval era:

  • Stable Governance: Regions under stable governance, such as the prosperous Mughal Empire, provided a conducive environment for trade to flourish. Political stability reduced the risk of disruptions and conflicts that could impede trade activities.
  • Infrastructure Development: Rulers who invested in infrastructure, such as the construction of roads, canals, and ports, facilitated the movement of goods and enhanced trade links with other regions.
  • Agricultural and Industrial Growth: The growth of agricultural and industrial sectors contributed to the availability of surplus goods for export, increasing the volume of trade.
  • Merchant Guilds and Networks: Merchant guilds and trade networks played a vital role in promoting foreign trade by facilitating cooperation and exchange between different regions.

B. Impact of European Economic Expansion on Trade

The economic expansion of European powers, particularly the Dutch and English, had a profound impact on foreign trade during the medieval period:

  • Competition for Dominance: European trading companies sought to establish monopolies and dominate lucrative trade routes, leading to competition and conflicts with other traders, including Indian merchants.
  • Shift in Trade Routes: The emergence of European powers as dominant traders led to a shift in trade routes, diverting commerce from traditional overland routes to sea routes.
  • Import of European Goods: European economic expansion introduced new products and goods to Indian markets, influencing consumption patterns and preferences.
  • Influx of Bullion: Indian trade with Europe resulted in the influx of precious metals, primarily gold and silver, into the Indian subcontinent.

C. Cooperation and Competition in Asian Trade

Foreign trade in medieval India was not solely limited to interactions with European powers. Asian trade dynamics also played a significant role:

  • Intra-Asian Trade: Indian merchants engaged in extensive intra-Asian trade, exchanging goods with other Asian regions such as Southeast Asia, Persia, and the Middle East.
  • Asian Trading Ports: Ports like Surat, Calicut, and Masulipatnam were crucial centers of Asian trade, attracting merchants from different regions.
  • Competition with Middle Eastern Powers: Indian traders faced competition from Middle Eastern powers like the Ottoman Empire, which also sought to dominate the Asian trade network.
  • Diplomacy and Alliances: Indian rulers formed diplomatic alliances with other Asian powers to secure trade routes and protect their interests in the face of European competition.

XV. Conclusion

Foreign trade played a pivotal role in shaping the economic and cultural landscape of medieval India. This module has explored the multifaceted aspects of Indian trade with European powers and other Asian regions, shedding light on the motivations, strategies, and consequences of these interactions. As we conclude, let us recapitulate the key points discussed, understand the significance of foreign trade for medieval India, and reflect on the lasting legacy of European traders in Indian trade.

A. Recapitulation of Key Points

Throughout this article, we delved into various facets of foreign trade in medieval India, including:

  1. The emergence of European traders, primarily the Portuguese, Dutch, and English, in Indian trade during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
  2. The motivations of European traders, driven by a quest for valuable spices and exotic goods, leading to the establishment of trading posts and colonies in India.
  3. The Dutch dominance in the spice trade and their subsequent shift to Indian textiles, followed by English focus on Gujarat and Bengal trade.
  4. The sustenance and growth of Indian traders in Asian trade, with a focus on factors leading to their success and cooperation with the Mughal government and European traders.
  5. The items exported from India to Europe, with a particular emphasis on pepper, indigo, and the development of calicoes (Indian textiles) for European markets.
  6. The expansion of Indian trade, exploring new markets and export items, and the growing popularity of Indian textiles in England, along with the coffee trade from Yemen and Indian textile exports to West Asia.
  7. The trading hubs in medieval India, including Lahore and Multan as overland trade centers, Indian trading colonies in Iran, Bokhara, and South Russia, and Indian traders’ presence in Yarkand and Khotan.
  8. The impact of foreign trade on the Indian economy, with an influx of gold and silver into India and its socio-economic consequences, along with European strategies to enter the Asian trade network.
  9. The competition between the Dutch and English in Indian trade, Dutch dominance in the spice trade and textile exports, and English efforts to develop Gujarat and Orissa trade, leading to Portuguese decline and European control of Indian trade.
  10. The role of Mughal emperors in trade relations, including Jahangir’s farmans for European traders, Shah Jahan’s farmans for Dutch and English traders, and changes in Mughal-English relations during Aurangzeb’s reign.
  11. Indian rulers’ concessions to European traders, focusing on Dutch and English privileges in Bengal, conflicts with local officials, and interactions between Indian merchants and European traders.
  12. Factors affecting foreign trade, including the role of political stability and production growth, the impact of European economic expansion on trade, and cooperation and competition in Asian trade.

B. Significance of Foreign Trade for Medieval India

Foreign trade was of paramount significance for medieval India, influencing various aspects of its society and economy:

  • Economic Prosperity: Foreign trade acted as a catalyst for economic prosperity, with Indian goods finding markets across the world, and precious metals from Europe bolstering the Indian economy.
  • Cultural Exchange: Trade interactions facilitated cultural exchange, with ideas, technologies, and traditions flowing between India and other regions.
  • Innovation and Craftsmanship: The demand for Indian textiles and other products spurred innovation and craftsmanship, leading to the development of high-quality goods.
  • Diplomatic Relations: Foreign trade also played a role in shaping diplomatic relations between Indian rulers and European powers, leading to alliances and conflicts.

C. Legacy of European Traders in Indian Trade

The legacy of European traders in Indian trade remains indelible:

  • Commercialization: European traders commercialized Indian trade, introducing new business practices and modern trading methods.
  • Colonial Impact: European presence in India paved the way for colonial rule, significantly impacting Indian history and society.
  • Globalization: European involvement in Indian trade contributed to the early stages of globalization, connecting different regions of the world.
  • Cultural Exchange: The interaction between European and Indian cultures left a lasting impact on both societies, influencing art, language, and cuisine.

In conclusion, foreign trade was a driving force behind the economic and cultural exchange during medieval India. European traders’ arrival brought both opportunities and challenges, leaving a lasting legacy in the history of Indian trade. As we study this chapter in history, we gain insights into the interconnectedness of the world and the significance of trade in shaping civilizations.

  1. Analyze the impact of European traders on the Indian economy during the medieval period. (250 words)
  2. Discuss the factors that contributed to the success of Indian traders in Asian trade networks. (250 words)
  3. Assess the role of Mughal emperors in shaping trade relations with European merchants in India. (250 words)


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