Geographical Exploration & Colonisation by Europe

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  • India and Europe had trading relations since time immemorial. This is evident from the large amounts of gold and roman goods found in India, especially during the Sangam age.
  • This trade used to take via the following three routes:

(i) Via the Silk route which involved the Amu Darya River, Caspian, Sea and Black Sea.

(ii) Via the Arabian Sea and then a land route through Saudi Arabia, Syria and then on Mediterranean Sea.

(iii) Via Arabia Sea, Red Sea and then on land passing Egypt and then through a sea route over the Mediterranean Sea.

  • During this time, Italian merchants were the main players and controlled trade of various artisanal and luxury items to Europe. Italy also enjoyed a geographical advantage over the Mediterranean Sea. This made Italy very powerful.
  • Other European countries wanted to break the Italian monopoly over trade. These countries were in search of alternative routes to the East via Africa.
  • Capture of Constantinople (Istanbul) by the Turks closed these routes for Europeans. Europeans were forced to search for new routes for trading with Asia and India for spices which were essential for preserving food in Europe.

Factors behind this

  • Rise of centralised states with strong kings like Portugal and Spain encouraged explorations and supported navigators.
  • Technological development such as the compass, astrolabe, gunpowder, printing and making of maps (cartography) made the works of explorers easier.
  • Fables about the riches of Asia countries, and the zeal to spread Christianity and achieve glory also inspired navigators.
  • In search of a maritime route from Western Europe to the East. Bartholoew Diaz (a Portuguese) reached the southern tip of Africa in 1487 and it was named as Cape of Good Hope. In 1498, Vasco Da Gama landed in India.
  • Rise of Joint Stock Companies which allowed pooling of capital from the large number of shareholders, continuity of business activities, liquidity, and ease of movement of capital for more profitability. Thus, joint stock company was preferable method of business organisation which allowed European trading companies to dominate East Indian trade.
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