Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blog 3- The Persian Gulf and Asia

The first part of this section deals with the Persian Gulf and the middle passage route from to the East. The Persian Gulf was the cheapest and easiest route to the east during this time, but a number of factors changed its popularity. The biggest happening was the Mongol conquest of Mesopotamia and Baghdad, which caused blockages along the route, but this did not stop traders from traveling this route. The true hinderances came when the Il-Khans converted to Islam and were hence considered infidels that were subject to Papal injunctions. At the same time, the Crusaders lost their foothold in Levant. These events prompted Europeans to travel the northeastern passage instead, which fostered the decline of the middle route. Until this time, Baghdad was an important point on this journey route. The city had once been a very wealthy centerpiece in the world system. However the splendor would not last. The fall of Baghdad occurred because fo the natural disasters (famine, fires, floods), religious conflict, Mongol occupance.

The Mongol occupance led to the increases in taxation and the transfer of the ruling class from Baghdad to Tabriz. The Mongol invasion also had another important effect. A truce was called between them and the Egyptian Mamluks which rendered the Italians useless and less tolerated. They retreated and the northern route became more attractive to the Europeans. Cairo and Syria were also important players in this area. Egypts two major industries- textile and sugar confectioning joined industry and agriculture which led to increases in wealth and productivity. Italians learned the banking, accounting, currency and credit practices that they employed in the French and Flemish fairs from the Egyptians. The Black Death was a pivotal turning point in Cairo's history; however, even with the reduction in population, Cairo's strategic location kept it from falling completely.

The second part of this reading concerned Asia. Abu-Lughod identified three interlocking circuits of the eastern trading hegemon. The western part was controlled by the Muslims, the southern by the Hindus on the Indian continent and the eastern part by the Chinese. This section talks about India's role in the world system. India was a integral piece of the world puzzle at this time. Not only was some of the most sought after goods produced by the Indian people, but its location was the prime location of international business. Paricularly the southern end of the continent served as host to the merchants traveling to the east from the west as well as the eastern merchants travelling west. India was also highly self sufficient in that it produced its own goods and became very wealthy because it often had a surplus of materials. Because of its prime location, it was also unnecessary for the people of India to travel in order to participate in the trading system; everyone came there. Therefore, India had no need to take an active or aggressive approach to trading and did not build a naval fleet because there was no use for it. This passive approach coupled with India's constant hosting of foreing traders, left it vulnerable to those who wished to overtake it, which is ulitmately what occurred.

What I found interesting about this portion of the book was the discussion on India. Although India had such a great opportunity to impose strict taxation, dominate the passage ways and become a world hegemon, India was content to remain a passive player in the system, which kept the peace instead of starting controversy. The people of India appear to be the antitheis of the western players who were looking for conquest, wealth and splendor. Do you think this disparate philosophies were a result of religious doctrine- (at least the way the Europeans at that time were interpreting the Bible)?

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