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Traders from Arabia travelled to and traded with Roman and Asian empires and this Nabataean Sea Merchants article. How far did Arabian traders travel - where was the furthest extent of their expeditions, particularly in Asia (or maybe Australia)?
It's not a full answer, but if you're interested by medieval Arabic travels, the unavoidable reference is Ibn Baṭūṭah. In his Rihla, he describes three travels he made during the 14th century :
- from Tangiers to middle-East, with a travel along the East coast of Africa, down to Zanbar and Kilwa. (map here)
- from Mecca to Beijing, and back, through Eastern Europe, Central Asia, India and South-East Asia. From the way you phrase your question, it's probably the travel which interest you more. (map here and below)
- from Mecca to the Mali Empire and back. (map here)
This text has been translated in many languages, so you probably can find a version in your preferred language. There is a French translation in la Pléïade, and a 19th French translation freely downloadable at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi; I haven't found (yet) an English translation available on the web.
He mainly used the commercial routes, but he probably didn't to "the furthest extent of [Arabic] expeditions. According to the wikipedia page on spice trade, the route went as far East as Molucca.
A brief history of globalization
When Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2018 announced it had chosen the ancient city of Xi’an as the site for its new regional headquarters, the symbolic value wasn’t lost on the company: it had brought globalization to its ancient birthplace, the start of the old Silk Road. It named its new offices aptly: “Silk Road Headquarters”. The city where globalization had started more than 2,000 years ago would also have a stake in globalization’s future.
Alibaba shouldn’t be alone in looking back. As we are entering a new, digital-driven era of globalization – we call it “Globalization 4.0” – it is worthwhile that we do the same. When did globalization start? What were its major phases? And where is it headed tomorrow?
This piece also caps our series on globalization. The series was written ahead of the 2019 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which focuses on “Globalization 4.0”. In previous pieces, we looked at some winners and losers of economic globalization, the environmental aspect of globalization, cultural globalization and digital globalization. Now we look back at its history. So, when did international trade start and how did it lead to globalization?
Classic Period Indian Ocean Trading
During the classical era (4th century BCE–3rd century CE), major empires involved in the Indian Ocean trade included the Achaemenid Empire in Persia (550–330 BCE), the Mauryan Empire in India (324–185 BCE), the Han Dynasty in China (202 BCE–220 CE), and the Roman Empire (33 BCE–476 CE) in the Mediterranean. Silk from China graced Roman aristocrats, Roman coins mingled in Indian treasuries, and Persian jewels sparkled in Mauryan settings.
Another major export item along the classical Indian Ocean trade routes was religious thought. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism spread from India to Southeast Asia, brought by merchants rather than by missionaries. Islam would later spread the same way from the 700s CE on.
Viking Explorations and Settlements: Iceland, Greenland and Vinland
When the Vikings burst out of their homelands starting in the 8th century, they raided, fought and settled in many parts of Europe and Russia, but they also took off on voyages of discovery across the Atlantic Ocean. They moved into Scotland and Ireland and most of the Atlantic Islands—Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides. Vikings soon settled in the Faroe Islands as well and later discovered Iceland through a sailing mishap. Over the next two centuries, Viking explorers settled in Iceland, Greenland and Vinland, in what is now Newfoundland.
Norwegian Vikings first discovered Iceland. The first was Naddod, who was blown off course sailing from Norway to the Faroe Islands in 861. He called the new island Snowland. Naddod returned to Norway and told people of his discovery. Six years later, Floki Vilgerdarson was the first Viking to set out for Iceland and find it. Floki gave the island its present name of Iceland. However, it wasn’t until 870 that people arrived to settle in Iceland.
When Harald Fairhair strong-armed Norway under his control, many people fled—some settled in Scotland, Ireland, Orkneys and Faroe Islands and Iceland. A Norwegian chieftain, Ingolfur Arnarson brought his family to Iceland in 874, settling on the southwest peninsula in a place he called Reykjavik or Cove of Smoke. Many other families from Norway, Scotland and Ireland followed. The Icelandic sagas and Landnamabok or Book of the Settlements, written 200 years later, describes the early settling of Iceland. For the next 60 years, settlers came and picked out arable land to farm.
Icelanders discovered and settled in Greenland starting in the 980s. Erik the Red, an adventuresome and belligerent man, was exiled from Iceland for killing a man. During his three year-exile, Erik explored the southwest coast of Greenland. When he returned to Iceland, he bragged of the good land he had found, calling it Greenland to attract settlers. Icelanders settled in two main areas, the Eastern Settlement and the Western Settlement.
Farming was difficult, but settlers were able raise livestock and enough grain to feed them. Greenland was able to export furs, wool, sheep, whale blubber and walrus ivory. Due to the advance of the Little Ice Age, however, the colony declined during the 14th century. Life had become too hard, shipping too difficult due t o growing ice. By 1408, all the settlers were gone.
Vinland, North America
A trader named Bjarni Herjolfsson was sailing to Greenland. He was blown off course and sighted lands to the west. He successfully completed his journey to Greenland where he described his accidental find to Leif Ericson, son of Erik the Red. Circa A.D. 1000, Leif and a crew sailed across 1,800 miles across open sea, following Bjarni’s description of his voyage. The Greenlanders made a small settlement in the land they called Vinland. Due to hostile natives that the Vikings called skraelings, the settlement eventually failed.
In the 1960s, a Norse settlement was found at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland by an archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband Helge. Whether this is the Viking settlement mentioned in various sagas is still in dispute, but archeology proves the Vikings discovered North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
This article is part of our larger selection of posts about Vikings history. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to Vikings history
Where was the furthest extent of Arabian trade explorations? - History
I Global Maritime Expansion Before 1450
1. Over a period of several thousand years, peoples originally from Asia crossed the water to settle the islands of the East Indies, New Guinea , the Melanesian and Polynesian islands, the Marquesas, New Zealand , and other Pacific islands out to Hawaii. Polynesian use of the sweet potato, domesticated in South America, suggests that they may have reached the Americas .
2. Polynesian migration and establishment of colonies was aided by the development of large, double-hulled canoes that used both paddlers and sails. Polynesian mariners navigated by the stars and by their observations of ocean currents and evidence of land.
1. Malayo-Indonesians colonized the island of Madagascar in a series of voyages that continued through the fifteenth century.
2. Arab seafarers used the regular pattern of the monsoon winds to establish trade routes in theIndian Ocean. These trade routes flourished when the rise of Islam created new markets and new networks of Muslim traders.
3. The Chinese Ming dynasty sponsored a series of voyages to the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433. The Ming voyages were carried out on a grand scale, involving fleets of over sixty large treasure ships and hundreds of smaller support vessels.
4. The treasure ships carried out trade in luxury goods including silk and precious metals, as well as stimulating diplomatic relations with various African and Asian states. The voyages, which were not profitable and inspired opposition in court, were ended in 1433.
1. During the relatively warm centuries of the early Middle Ages, the Vikings, navigating by the stars and the seas, explored and settled Iceland , Greenland, and Newfoundland ( Vinland). When a colder climate returned after 1200, the northern settlements in Greenland and the settlement in Newfoundland were abandoned.
2. A few southern Europeans and Africans attempted to explore the Atlantic in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Voyagers from Genoa in 1291 and from Mali in the 1300s set out into the Atlantic but did not return. Genoese and Portuguese explorers discovered and settled the Madeiras, the Azores, and the Canaries in the fourteenth century.
3. In the Americas , the Arawak from South America had colonized the Lesser and Greater Antilles by the year 1000. The Carib followed, first taking over Arawak settlements in the Lesser Antilles and then, in the late fifteenth century, raiding the Greater Antilles.
II . European Expansion, 1400-1550
A. Motives for Exploration
1. The Iberian kingdoms sponsored voyages of exploration for a number of reasons, including both the adventurous personalities of their leaders and long-term trends in European historical development: the revival of trade, the struggle with Islam for control of the Mediterranean, curiosity about the outside world, and the alliances between rulers and merchants.
2. The city-states of northern Italy had no incentive to explore Atlantic trade routes because they had established a system of alliances and trade with the Muslims that gave them a monopoly on access to Asian goods. Also, Italian ships were designed for the calm waters of the Mediterranean and could not stand up to the violent weather of the Atlantic.
3. The Iberian kingdoms had a history of centuries of warfare with Muslims. They had no significant share in the Mediterranean trade, but they had advanced shipbuilding and cannon technology. They were open to new geographical knowledge and had exceptional leaders.
1. The Portuguese gained more knowledge of the sources of gold and slaves south of the Sahara when their forces, led by Prince Henry, captured the North African caravan city of Ceuta. Prince Henry (the Navigator) then sponsored a research and navigation institute at Sagres to collect information about and send expeditions to the African lands south of North Africa.
2. The staff of Prince Henrys research institute in Sagres studied and improved navigational instruments, including the compass and the astrolabe. They also designed a new vessel, the caravel, whose small size, shallow draft, combination of square and lateen sails, and cannon made it well suited for the task of exploration.
3. Portuguese explorers eventually learned to pick up the prevailing westerly winds that would blow them back to Portugal , contributing important knowledge about oceanic wind patterns to the maritime community.
4. The Portuguese voyages eventually produced a financial return, first from trade in slaves, and then from the gold trade.
5. Beginning in 1469, the process of exploration picked up speed as private commercial enterprises began to get involved.
1. When Christopher Columbus approached the Spanish crown with his project of finding a new route to Asia, the Portuguese had already established their route to the Indian Ocean. The King and Queen of Spain agreed to fund a modest voyage of discovery, and Columbus set out in 1492 with letters of introduction to Asian rulers and an Arabic interpreter.
2. After three voyages, Columbus was still certain that he had found Asia, but other Europeans realized that he had discovered entirely new lands. These new discoveries led the Spanish and the Portuguese to sign the Treaty of Tordesillas, in which they divided the world between them along a line drawn down the center of the North Atlantic.
3. Ferdinand Magellans voyage across the Pacific confirmed Portugals claim to theMolucca Islands and established the Spanish claim to the Philippines .
III . Encounters with Europe, 1450-1550
1. During the fifteenth century, many Africans welcomed the Portuguese and profited from their trade, in which they often held the upper hand. In return for their gold, Africans received from the Portuguese merchants a variety of Asian, African, and European goods, including firearms. Interaction between the Portuguese and African rulers varied from place to place.
2. The oba (king) of the powerful kingdom of Benin sent an ambassador to Portugal and established a royal monopoly on trade with the Portuguese. Benin exported a number of goods, including some slaves, and its rulers showed a mild interest in Christianity. After 1538, Benin purposely limited its contact with the Portuguese, declining to receive missionaries and closing the market in male slaves.
3. The kingdom of Kongo had fewer goods to export and consequently relied more on the slave trade. When the Christian King Afonso I lost his monopoly over the slave trade, his power was weakened and some of his subjects rose in revolt.
1. In Eastern Africa, some Muslim states were suspicious of the Portuguese, while others welcomed the Portuguese as allies in their struggles against their neighbors. On the Swahili Coast, Malindi befriended the Portuguese and was spared when the Portuguese attacked and looted many of the other Swahili city-states in 1505.
2. Christian Ethiopia sought and gained Portuguese support in its war against the Muslim forces of Adal. The Muslims were defeated, but Ethiopia was unable to make a long-term alliance with the Portuguese because the Ethiopians refused to transfer their religious loyalty from the patriarch of Alexandria to the Roman pope.
1. When Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut in 1498, he made a very poor impression with his simple gifts. Nonetheless, the Portuguese were determined to control the Indian Ocean trade, and their superior ships and firepower gave them the ability to do so.
2. To assert their control, the Portuguese bombarded the Swahili city-states in 1505, captured the Indian port of Goa in 1510, and took Hormuz in 1515. Extending their reach eastward, Portuguese forces captured Malacca in 1511 and set up a trading post at Macao in southern China in 1557.
3. The Portuguese used their control over the major ports to require that all spices be carried in Portuguese ships and that all other ships purchase Portuguese passports and pay customs duties to the Portuguese.
4. Reactions to this Portuguese aggression varied. The Mughal emperors took no action, while the Ottomans resisted and were able at least to maintain superiority in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Some smaller states cooperated with the Portuguese others tried evasion and resistance.
5. The Portuguese never gained complete control of the Indian Ocean trade, but they did dominate it enough to bring themselves considerable profit and to break the Italian city-states monopoly on pepper.
1. While the Portuguese built a maritime trading empire in Africa and Asia, the Spanish built a territorial empire in the Americas . The reasons for the difference are to be found in the isolation of Amerindian communities and their lack of resistance to Old World diseases.
2. The Arawak were an agricultural people who mined and worked gold but did not trade it over long distances and had no iron. Spanish wars killed tens of thousands of Arawak and undermined their economy by 1502, the remaining Arawak of Hispaniola were forced to serve as laborers for the Spanish.
3. What the Spanish did in the Antilles was an extension of Spanish actions against the Muslims in the previous centuries: defeating non-Christians and putting them and their land under Christian control. The actions of conquistadors in other parts of the Caribbean followed the same pattern.
4. On the mainland, Hernan Cortes relied on native allies, cavalry charges, steel swords, and cannon to defeat the forces of the Aztec Empire and capture the Tenochtitlan. The conquest was also aided by the spread of smallpox among the Aztecs. Similarly, Francisco Pizarros conquest of the Inca Empire was made possible by the dissatisfaction of the Inca Empires recently conquered peoples and by Spanish cannon and steel swords.
1. Strong centralized governments like China's were not inclined to attempt long-distance exploration.
2. Weaker rulers such as the Iberian monarchs left the details of exploration to individuals, such as Columbus, who proposed them.
3. Dominance of the Americas by Spain and Portugal was aided by the native populations vulnerability to European disease and by the superior weaponry of Europe.
4. Natives of Asia and Africa had more immunity to European diseases from earlier contact and were more able to resist militarily.
1. Europeans found sophisticated markets and trade networks in Africa and Asia.
2. In contrast, Europeans needed to introduce new technology and strong political control over American natives to exploit their natural resources.
Western Arabia formed part of the African landmass before a rift occurred in Earth’s crust, as a result of which the Red Sea was formed and Africa and the Arabian Peninsula finally became separated some five to six million years ago. Thus, the southern half of the peninsula has a greater affinity with the regions of Somalia and Ethiopia in Africa than with northern Arabia or the rest of Asia. The northern Arabian Desert merges imperceptibly into Arab Asia through the Syrian steppe (treeless plain). The bulge of Oman contains mountain ranges that formed when oceanic crust accumulated on the Arabian plate as it moved northeastward. The peninsula measures about 1,300 miles (2,100 km) in length, from northwest to southeast its width, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman or Persian Gulf, ranges from about 700 miles (1,100 km) across central Saudi Arabia to some 1,250 miles (2,000 km) in the south between Yemen and Oman.
Three corners have high elevations: the southwestern corner in Yemen, where Mount Al- Nabī Shuʿayb reaches the desert’s highest elevation, 12,336 feet (3,760 metres) the northwestern corner in Hejaz (Al-Ḥijāz a part of Saudi Arabia), where Mount Al-Lawz rises to 8,464 feet (2,580 metres) and the southeastern corner in Oman, where Mount Al-Shām attains an elevation of 9,957 feet (3,035 metres). Much of the Yemen Plateau is at an elevation above 7,000 feet (2,100 metres). To the north and east elevations decrease. Steep cliffs and steep canyons descend from the highlands into adjacent seas to the south and west. The peninsula is bounded on its western margin by a great escarpment, stretching more than 600 miles (1,000 km) from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. It is the most striking feature of the Red Sea margin, rising abruptly from an elevation of roughly 600 feet (200 metres) to greater than 3,300 feet (1,000 metres). South of Al-Ṭāʾif, near Mecca, the escarpment is rugged and dissected into short, steep canyons and ridges. At the foot of the scarp, the Tihāmah plain slopes to the sea at Mount Sawdāʾ, near Abhā in the Asir (ʿAsīr) region, the drop is about 9,000 feet (2,700 metres) in 6 miles (10 km). In Oman, northeastern slopes are short and steep, but on the southwest flanks the slopes grade gently to the Rubʿ al-Khali desert basin. The southern plateau is cut by great steep-walled canyons into rugged limestone masses that have kept the peoples of that region isolated for centuries.
The rest of the peninsula displays a moderate relief characterized by broad plains. At least one-third is covered by sand. North of Al-Ṭāʾif the Hejaz and Najd plateaus seldom rise above 3,600 feet (1,100 metres), except where volcanic fields occur or where remnants of the crystalline rocks that underlie the region rise to the surface. The slope to the Persian Gulf averages 8 feet per mile (1.5 metres per km).
The Silk Road
Although the Silk Road from China to the West was initially formulated during the reign of Emperor Wu (141–87 BCE) during the Han dynasty, it was reopened by the Tang in 639 CE when Hou Junji (d. 643) conquered the West, and remained open for almost four decades. It was closed after the Tibetans captured it in 678, but in 699, during Empress Wu’s period, it reopened when the Tang reconquered the Four Garrisons of Anxi originally installed in 640, once again connecting China directly to the West for land-based trade.
The Silk Road was the most important pre-modern Eurasian trade route. The Tang dynasty established a second Pax Sinica and the Silk Road reached its golden age, whereby Persian and Sogdian merchants benefited from the commerce between East and West. At the same time, the Chinese empire welcomed foreign cultures, making it very cosmopolitan in its urban centers.
The Tang captured the vital route through the Gilgit Valley from Tibet in 722, lost it to the Tibetans in 737, and regained it under the command of the Goguryeo-Korean General Gao Xianzhi. When the An Lushan Rebellion ended in 763, the Tang Empire had once again lost control over its western lands, as the Tibetan Empire largely cut off China’s direct access to the Silk Road. An internal rebellion in 848 ousted the Tibetan rulers, and Tang China regained its northwestern prefectures from Tibet in 851. These lands contained crucial grazing areas and pastures for raising horses that the Tang dynasty desperately needed.
Despite the many western travelers coming into China to live and trade, many travelers, mainly religious monks, recorded the strict border laws that the Chinese enforced. As the monk Xuanzang and many other monk travelers attested to, there were many Chinese government checkpoints along the Silk Road where travel permits into the Tang Empire were examined. Furthermore, banditry was a problem along the checkpoints and oasis towns, as Xuanzang also recorded that his group of travelers was assaulted by bandits on multiple occasions.
The Silk Road also affected Tang dynasty art. Horses became a significant symbol of prosperity and power as well as an instrument of military and diplomatic policy. Horses were also revered as a relative of the dragon.
Tang period jar. A Tang period gilt-silver jar, shaped in the style of northern nomad’s leather bag, decorated with a horse dancing with a cup of wine in its mouth, as the horses of Emperor Xuanzong were trained to do.
A History Of The Arab Slave Trade In Africa
Occupying the vast intercontinental space between Africa, Europe, Persia, and India, the Arab world came to dominate the primary trade routs between sub-Saharan Africa and the wider world of antiquity. Arabian traders brought many positive advances including writing, technology, religion, and new crops. Africans in turn supplied gold, ivory, salt, hardwood, and unfortunately slaves.
Elikia M’bokolo, wrote in the renown French newspaper Le Monde (diplomatique) . “The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic.
He continues writing “Four million slaves exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean”.
In the first part of this look at the Arab presence in Africa, I’ll write about the Arab slave trade, and how it differed from more widely known (in the West) trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought slaves from West Africa to the New World. In a later diary, I’ll look at positive aspects of the Arab presence in Africa.
Already by the 8th century, the African continent was dominated by Arab-Berbers in the north: Islam started to move southwards along the Nile and also along desert trails through the Sahara. Thus began at least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth). The Arab trade of Zanj (ethnic-Bantu) slaves in Southeast Africa is one of the oldest slave trades, predating the European transatlantic slave trade by 700 years. Just as a side note in the Arabic world ethnic-Bantu, means black Africans but excluding Ethiopians, Somalis, and North Sudanese (they are considered Cushitic people). I will follow that nomenclature.
The main slave routes in Africa during the Middle Ages.
Male slaves were often forced to work as servants, soldiers, or laborers by their owners, while female slaves, including those from Africa, were long traded to the Middle Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab and other traders from the orient as concubines and servants. Arab, African, and Middle Eastern traders were involved in the capture and transport of slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into the Middle East, Persia and the Far East.
From the 7th century until around the early 20th, the Arab slave trade continued in one form or another. Historical accounts and references to slave-owning nobility in Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere are frequent into the early 1920s.
The conditions of the enslaved Africans under Islamic Arabs, according to Ronald Segal (Islam’s Black Slaves, Atlantic Books 2003) was very different from the conditions imposed by Europeans Christians. The most fundamental difference between the two being that under Islam enslaved Africans were still considered human beings with some rights. Additionally unlike European Christian based slavery where even people who converted to Christianity were kept in perpetual bondage, the children of slaves who converted to Islam were born free.
The Arab slave trade, across the Sahara desert and across Indian Ocean, began after Muslim Arab and Swahili traders won control of the Swahili Coast (East Africa from the horn to Swaziland) and sea routes during the 9th century, especially from the Sultanate of Zanzibar , located on the island of Zanzibar (off the coast of Tanzania). These traders captured African ethnic Bantu peoples ( Zanj ) from the interior in present-day Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania and brought them to the coast (William Robert Ochieng. Eastern Kenya and Its Invaders ). There, the slaves gradually assimilated in the rural areas, particularly on Zanzibar ( Unguja and Pemba islands of the coast of modern Tanzania).
There are large difference in estimated numbers based on what assumptions are made, but some historians assert that as many as 17 million people were sold into slavery on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, and North Africa, and approximately 5 million African slaves were bought by Muslim slave traders and taken from Africa across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara desert between 1500 and 1900 ( “Focus on the slave trade” . BBC ). The captive slaves were sold in slave markets throughout the Middle East. The trade in human beings accelerated as superior ships led to more trade and greater demand for labor on plantation estates in the region. Eventually, tens of thousands of captives were being taken every year.
A slave market in Cairo. Drawing by David Roberts , circa 1848.
The Indian Ocean’s slave trade was multi-directional and changed over time. To meet the demand for menial labor, Ethnic Bantu slaves bought by Arab slave traders from southeastern Africa were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers on the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and European colonies in the Far East of Asia (Gwyn Campbell, The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, 1 edition, (Routledge: 2003).
Slave labor in East Africa was drawn from the Zanj, Bantu peoples that lived along the East African coast ( Bethwell A. Ogot , Zamani: A Survey of East African History).The Zanj were for centuries shipped as slaves by Arab traders to all the countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs recruited many Zanj slaves as soldiers and, as early as 696, there were slave revolts of the Zanj against their Arab enslavers in Iraq (see Zanj Rebellion ). Ancient Chinese texts also mention ambassadors from Java presenting the Chinese emperor with two Seng Chi (Zanj) slaves as gifts, and Seng Chi slaves reaching China from the Hindu kingdom of Srivijaya in Java Roland Oliver, Africa in the Iron Age: c.500 BC-1400 AD, (Cambridge University Press).
African Slaves in Iraq
The Zanj Rebellion , a series of revolts that took place between 869 and 883 AD near the city of Basra (also known as Basara), situated in present-day Iraq. It is the most largest and most famous African slave revolt in the Middle East. The revolts is believed to have involved enslaved Zanj that had originally been captured from the African Great Lakes region and areas further south in East Africa (Junius P. Rodriguez Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion, Volume 2 ). It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves and free men who were imported from across the Islamic World and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq” ( Revisiting the Zanj and Re-Visioning Revolt: Complexities of the Zanj Conflict (868-883 AD) ). The Zanj who were taken as slaves to the Middle East were often used in strenuous agricultural work. As the slave plantation economy boomed and the Arabs became richer, agriculture and other manual labor work was thought to be demeaning. The resulting labor shortage led to an increased slave market.
It is certain that large numbers of slaves were exported from eastern Africa the best evidence for this is the magnitude of the Zanj revolt in Iraq in the 9th century, though not all of the slaves involved were Zanj. There is little evidence of what part of eastern Africa the Zanj came from, for the name is here evidently used in its general sense, rather than to designate the particular stretch of the coast, from about 3°N. to 5°S., to which the name was also applied.
The Zanj slaves were needed to work the hot humid marshlands of Southern Iraq:
the Tigris-Euphrates delta, which had become abandoned marshland as a result of peasant migration and repeated flooding, could be reclaimed through intensive labor. Wealthy proprietors “had received extensive grants of tidal land on the condition that they would make it arable.” Sugar cane was prominent among the products of their plantations, particularly in Khuzestan Province. Zanj also worked the salt mines of Mesopotamia, especially around Basra.
The slaves jobs were to turn over the rich topsoil that made the land valuable for agricultural. The working conditions were also considered to be extremely harsh and miserable. Many other slaves from around the Indian Ocean were imported into the region, besides Zanj.
Noted Middle-Eastern historian M. A. Shaban has argued that rebellion was not a slave revolt, but a revolt of blacks (zanj) people. In his research he found that although a few runaway slaves did join the revolt, the majority of the participants were Arabs and free Zanj. If the revolt had been led by slaves, they would have lacked the necessary resources to combat the Abbasid government for as long as they did.
Some descendants of African slaves brought to the Middle East during the slave-trade still live there today, and are aware of their African origins ( “A Legacy Hidden in Plain Sight” . The Washington Post )
In Somalia, the Bantu minorities are descended from Bantu groups that had settled in Southeast Africa after the initial expansion of ethnic Bantus from Lake Chad. To meet the demand for menial labor, Bantus from South-Eastern Africa captured by Somali slave traders were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Somalia and the Arab world. People captured locally during wars and raids were also sometimes enslaved by Somalis. However, the perception, capture, treatment and duties of both groups of slaves differed markedly.
A photograph of a slave boy in Zanzibar. ‘An Arab master’s punishment for a slight offence. ‘ c. 1890.
From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000–50,000 Bantu slaves are thought to have been sold from the slave market of Zanzibar to the Somali coast. Most of the slaves were from the Majindo, Makua, Nyasa, Yao, Zalama, Zaramo and Zigua ethnic groups of Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. Collectively, these Bantu groups are known as Mushunguli, which is a term taken from Mzigula, the Zigua tribe’s word for “people” (the word holds multiple implied meanings including “worker”, “foreigner”, and “slave”).
Ethiopia also had slaves shipped from there, due to a high demand for non-Muslim slaves in the markets of the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere in the Middle East. Enslaved Ethiopians were mostly domestic servants, though some served as agricultural laborers, or as water carriers, herdsmen, seamen, camel drivers, porters, washerwomen, masons, shop assistants and cooks. The most fortunate of the men worked as the officials or bodyguards of the ruler and emirs, or as business managers for rich merchants (Gwyn Campbell. Abolition and Its Aftermath in the Indian Ocean Africa and Asia ). Ethiopian slaves enjoyed significant personal freedom and occasionally held slaves of their own. Besides Javanese and Chinese slave girls brought in from the Far East, so called “red” Ethiopian young females were among the most valued concubines. The most beautiful ones often enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle, and became mistresses of the elite or even mothers to rulers. The principal sources of these slaves, all of whom passed through ports on the Red Sea, were the southwestern parts of Ethiopia, in the Oromo and Sidama country.
The Portuguese And The Rise Of Zanzibar
By around the 10th century, Arabs had established commercial settlements on the Swahili Coast, and continued to trade there for several centuries. Then In 1497 the Portuguese exploded onto the scene in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese conquered these trading centers after the discovery of the Cape Road (around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa).
The Portuguese arrived in East Africa found a series of independent towns on the coast, with Muslim Arabic-speaking elites. While the Portuguese travelers describe them as ‘black’ they made a clear distinction between the Muslim and non-Muslim populations. Regardless of their appearant race, their relations with these leaders were mostly hostile.
The Portuguese came first as explorers and stayed as conquerors. In a whirlwind campaign, they gained control of the sea-lanes and many onshore possessions along the East African coast, in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and the Spice Islands. The campaign was well executed. It is highlighted by naval battles against tremendous odds, sieges won against strong walls, and captured cities held by the Portuguese against large and well equipped armies. And it is a campaign that is undeservedly ignored by most historians.
One of the main participants, Afonso d’Albuquerque, was probably the first modern European to fully understand naval strategy. He emphasized controlling sea lanes through the use of fortified bases in or near key straits such as the Straits of Hormuz (the entrance to the Persian Gulf) and Bab el Mandeb. He reasoned that the Portuguese, being so small in number, could not hope to dominate the area through sheer military force. But, by controlling the entrances and exits to and from the area, Portugal could dominate the area economically and control the spice trade.
As the British Empire began to restrict the trans-Atlantic slave trade from West Africa, the Portuguese who still supported the slave trade began to purchase slaves from East Africa’s Swahili coast. The Portuguese presence was relatively limited, leaving administration in the hands of preexisting local leaders and power structures.
This system lasted until 1631, when the Sultan of Mombasa massacred the European inhabitants. Muslim forces from Oman ( Sultanate of Muscat ) reseized these market towns, especially on the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar . In these territories, the Oman Arabs mingled with the local “negro” populations, thereby establishing Afro-Arab communities. The Swahili language and culture largely evolved through these intermarriages between Arab men and native Bantu women. Zanzibar became
The strangling of trade and diminished local power had led the Swahili patrician elites in Mombasa and Zanzibar to invite Omani aristocrats to assist them in driving the Europeans out. By 1698, Zanzibar came under the influence of the Sultanate of Oman , although there was a brief revolt against Omani rule in 1784.
Rather than a form of colonization in the modern sense, this was an invited sphere of influence. Wealthy patricians Zanzibarese invited Omani merchant princes to settle on Zanzibar, rather than the former conquering the latter. In the first half of the nineteenth-century, locals saw the Busaidi sultans as powerful merchant princes whose patronage would benefit their island. Many locals today continue to emphasize that indigenous Zanzibaris had invited Seyyid Said , the first Busaidi sultan, to their island. Cultivating a patron-client relationship with powerful families was a strategy used by many Swahili coast towns since at least the fifteenth century.
Between 1832 and 1840 (the date varies among sources), one the Arabs world’s major royal families Said bin Sultan, Sultan of Muscat and Oman moved his capital from Muscat, Oman to Stone Town Zanzibar. This meant one of the Arab’s world’s major royalties was ruling from East Africa. After Said’s death in June 1856, two of his sons, Thuwaini bin Said and Majid bin Said , struggled over the succession.Rather than a form of colonization in the modern sense, this was an invited sphere of influence. Wealthy patricians Zanzibarese invited Omani merchant princes to settle on Zanzibar, rather than the former conquering the latter. In the first half of the nineteenth-century, locals saw the Busaidi sultans as powerful merchant princes whose patronage would benefit their island. Many locals today continue to emphasize that indigenous Zanzibaris had invited Seyyid Said , the first Busaidi sultan, to their island. Cultivating a patron-client relationship with powerful families was a strategy used by many Swahili coast towns since at least the fifteenth century.
Said’s will divided his dominions into two separate principalities , with Thuwaini to become the Sultan of Oman and Majid to become the first Sultan of Zanzibar .
Afro-Arab communities were similarly founded in the Nile Valley, as Arabs intermarried with indigenous ethnic- Nilotic women. Other Afro-Arabs in the Sudans had little biological connection to Arab peoples, but were instead essentially of ethnic-Nilotic and Bantu origins, albeit influenced by the old Arabian civilization in language and culture.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, Arab traders began to move into the interior, in pursuance of the ivory trade in central Africa. Unlike many cases of racial intermixing in the Western World, Arabs generally did not view Afro-Arabs as half-caste or lesser people. Afro-Arabs instead enjoyed similar statuses in their societies as long as the father was Arab ] Thus, after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, many of the Afro-Arabs that left Zanzibar and settled in Oman were able to attain high political and diplomatic positions and be accepted as Arabs. Racial assimilation of Afro-Arabs with non-Arab Africans also aided Muslim missionaries in the spread of Islam throughout Africa.
Afro-Arab man of the Congo (ca. 1942).
In the Central African Republic, during the 16th and 17th centuries Muslim slave traders began to raid the region as part of the expansion of the Saharan and Nile River slave routes. Their captives were slaved and shipped to the Mediterranean coast, Europe, Arabia, the Western Hemisphere, or to the slave ports and factories along the West and North Africa or South the Ubanqui and Congo rivers.
Historian Walter Rodney argues that the term Arab Slave Trade is a historical misnomer since bilateral trade agreements between a myriad of ethnic groups across the proposed ‘Zanj trade network’ characterized much of the acquisition process of chattel, and more often than not indentured servants.
Historian Patrick Manning writes that although the “Oriental” or “Arab” slave trade is sometimes called the “Islamic” slave trade , a religious imperative was not the driver of the slavery. He further argues such use of the terms “Islamic trade” or “Islamic world” erroneously treats Africa as being outside Islam, or a negligible portion of the Islamic world . According to European historians, propagators of Islam in Africa often revealed a cautious attitude towards proselytizing because of its effect in reducing the potential reservoir of slaves.
British explorers under Stanley Livingston were then the first Europeans to penetrate to the interior of the Congo Basin and to discover the scale of slavery there. The Arab Tippu Tip extended his influence there and captured many people as slaves. After Europeans had settled in West Africa ( Gulf of Guinea ) the trans-Saharan slave trade became less important. In Zanzibar, slavery was abolished late, in 1897, under Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed .
Today In the Arab states countries of the Persian Gulf, descendants of people from the Swahili Coast perform traditional Liwa and Fann At-Tanbura music and dance of East African origon. The mizmar is also performed by Afro-Arabs in Eastern Saudi Arabia. In addition the music known as Stambali in Tunisia and the Gnawa music of Morocco are both ritual music and dances, which in part trace their origins to West African musical styles.
ISIS And Modern Slavery
Earlier this year a video of men appearing to be sold at auction in Libya for $400 has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees the north African country.
“Eight hundred,” says the auctioneer. … 1,000 … 1,100 …” Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars — the equivalent of $800.
Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not “merchandise” at all, but two human beings.
One of the unidentified men being sold in the grainy cell phone video obtained by CNN is Nigerian. He appears to be in his twenties and is wearing a pale shirt and sweatpants.
He has been offered up for sale as one of a group of “big strong boys for farm work,” according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera. Only his hand — resting proprietorially on the man’s shoulder — is visible in the brief clip.
After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and traveled to Libya to investigate further.
Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.
The combination of chaos in Libya and a militant debased form of Islam that wants to turn the world back to the 8th century has lead to an underground slave trade. Luckily the world is watching and switch action from the international community including several African nations are working to swiftly shutdown the human rights crisis. In the 21st century the Arab slave trade in Africa is finally, after 13 centuries, ending.
Age of Exploration
The so-called Age of Exploration was a period from the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century, during which European ships were traveled around the world to search for new trading routes and partners to feed burgeoning capitalism in Europe. In the process, Europeans encountered peoples and mapped lands previously unknown to them. Among the most famous explorers of the period were Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, John Cabot, Juan Ponce de León, and Ferdinand Magellan.
The Age of Exploration was rooted in new technologies and ideas growing out of the Renaissance, these included advances in cartography, navigation, and shipbuilding. The most important development was the invention of first the Carrack and then caravel in Iberia. These that were a combination of traditional European and Arab designs were the first ships that could leave the relatively passive Mediterranean and sail safely on the open Atlantic.
The Santa Maria at anchor by Andries van Eertvelt, painted c. 1628
The first great wave of expeditions was launched by Portugal under Prince Henry the Navigator. Sailing out into the open Atlantic the Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419 and in 1427 the Azores were discovered and both became Portuguese colonies. The main project of Henry the Navigator was exploration of the West Coast of Africa. For centuries the only trade routes linking West Africa with the Mediterranean world were over the Sahara Desert. These routes were controlled by the Muslim states of North Africa, long rivals to Portugal. It was the Portuguese hope that the Islamic nations could be bypassed by trading directly with West Africa by sea. It was also hoped that south of the Sahara the states would be Christian and potential allies against the Muslims in the Maghreb. The Portuguese navigators made slow but steady progress, each year managing to push a few miles further south and in 1434 the obstacle of Cape Bojador was overcome. Within two decades the barrier of the Sahara had been overcome and trade in gold and slaves began in with what is today Senegal. Progress continued as trading forts were built at Elmina and Sao Tome and Principe became the first sugar producing colony. In 1482 an expedition under Diogo Cão made contact with the Kingdom of Kongo. The crucial breakthrough was in 1487 when Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope and proved that access to the Indian Ocean was possible. In 1498 Vasco da Gama made good on this promise by reaching India.
Portugal’s larger rival Spain had been somewhat slower that their smaller neighbour to begin exploring the Atlantic, and it was not until late in the fifteenth century that Castilian sailors began to compete with their Iberian neighbours. The first contest was for control of the Canary Islands, which Castille won. It was not until the union of Aragon and Castille and the completion of the reconquista that the large nation became fully committed to looking for new trade routes and colonies overseas. In 1492 the joint rulers of the nation decided to fund Christopher Columbus’ expedition that they hoped would bypass Portugal’s lock on Africa and the Indian Ocean reaching Asia by travelling west to reach the east.
Columbus did not reach Asia, but rather found a New World, North America. The issue of defining areas of influence became critical. It resolved by Papal intervention in 1494 when the Treaty of Tordesillas divided the world between the two powers. The Portuguese “received” everything outside of Europe east of a line that ran 270 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands this gave them control over Africa, Asia and western South America (Brazil). The Spanish received everything west of this line, territory that was still almost completely unknown.
Columbus and other Spanish explorers were initially disappointed with their discoveries. Unlike Africa or Asia the Caribbean islanders had little to trade with the Spanish ships. The islands thus became the focus of colonization efforts. It was not until the continent itself was explored that Spain found the wealth it had sought in the form of abundant gold. In the Americas the Spanish found a number of empires that were as large and populous as those in Europe. However, the Spanish conquistadors, with the aid of the pandemics of disease their arrival unleashed, managed to conquer them with only a handful of men. Once Spanish suzereignancy was established the main focus became the extraction and export of gold and silver.
The nations outside of Iberia refused to acknowledge the Treaty of Tordesillas. France, the Netherlands, and Britain each had a long maritime tradition and, despite Iberian protections, the new technologies and maps soon made their way north.
The first of these missions was that of the British funded John Cabot. It was the first of a series of French and British missions exploring North America. Spain had largely ignored the northern part of the Americas as it had few people and far fewer riches than Central America. The expeditions of Cabot, Cartier and others were mainly hoping to find the Northwest passage and thus a link to the riches of Asia. This was never discovered but in their travels other possibilities were found and in the early seventeenth century colonist from a number of Northern European states began to settle on the east coast of North America.
Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 8 August 1588 by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, painted 1796 depicts the battle of Gravelines
It was the northerners who also became the great rivals to the Portuguese in Africa and around the Indian Ocean. Dutch, French, and British ships began to flaunt the Portuguese monopoly and found trading forts and colonies of their own. Gradually the Portuguese were forced out of many of their most valuable possessions. The northerners also took the lead in exploring the last unknown regions of the Pacific Ocean. Dutch explorers such as Willem Jansz and Abel Tasman explored the coasts of Australia while in the eighteenth century it was British explorer James Cook that mapped much of Polynesia.
The effect of the Age of Exploration was unprecedented. For millennia it had been the Mediterranean economy that had been the continent’s most vibrant and regions like Italy and Greece had thus been the wealthiest and most potent. The newly dominant Atlantic economy was controlled by the states of Western Europe, such as France, Britain, and Germany, and to the present they have been the wealthiest and most powerful on the continent.
Following the period of exploration was the Commercial Revolution when trans-oceanic trade became commonplace. The importance of trade made it so that traders and merchants, not the feudal landowners, were the most powerful class in society. In time in Britain, France and other nations thus bourgeoisie would come to control the politics and government of the nations.