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Indian Ocean Trade - the Exchanges between the East and the West

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That is to say, although some Christians were to be found in this non-Christian kingdom-a tributary satellite of the Ethiopian state-those enslaved in Damot were pagans who, like Malik Ambar, were converted to Islam and sent to serve as warriors in lands far beyond Arabia Kambata, the region from which Malik Ambar appears to have come, lay directly south of Damot. Although Arab slave raiding readily caught the attention of foreign observers, the fewer conspicuous forces of international commerce seem to have played a more important role in Ethiopia's slave-extraction system.

In one town in the northeastern highlands, Father Alvares found "merchants of all nations, " including "Moors of India. " Noting the importance of Indian textiles in the regional economy, and more particularly in the kingdom's clerical hierarchy, Alvares wrote that Ethiopian priests wore white cloaks made of Indian cotton. The emperor presented Alvares and five other Europeans with fine Indian clothes. Alvares also noted the enormous quantities of Indian silks and brocades consumed by the Ethiopian court, acquired both by gifting and by purchase. Writing a century later of a small pagan state in southwestern Ethiopia, the Jesuit priest Manuel de Almeida observed that whenever the king of that state bought foreign cloth from merchants, the price would be fixed in slaves, which the king would then procure and use to settle the transaction (Machado 115-118). This evidence points to an active Arabian Sea commercial system in which Indian textiles and African slaves were vital: cotton goods manufactured in India were reaching the Ethiopian highlands in exchange for Ethiopian exports, which included gold and ivory in addition to slaves as the Ethiopian highlands became more tightly integrated into the Indian Ocean.

In fact, the Christian kingdom seems to have collaborated with long-distance Muslim traders in exporting slaves to the wider world.  

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preview essay on Indian Ocean Trade - the Exchanges between the East and the West
  • Pages: 7 (1750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: History
  • Level: Ph.D.
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