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East Africa and Long Distance Trade

Essay by   •  January 25, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,694 Words (7 Pages)  •  4,644 Views

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History has always been the key to our existence. We learn from our failures to better our future, just as we learn from our triumphs to excel even further. A very important time in the history of our world was the East Africa long distance trade .In the middle of the seventeenth century, East Africa had a far more important place in the world than other African countries .So wrote Marsh, Z.A & Kingsnorth G.W in their book Ð''An introduction to the History of East Africa ', published by Cambridge university press in 1965 .. They added that "The riches of East Africa were incomparably greater than those of the other African states." According to (Walter, 1966) East African countries were first African countries to be involved in long distance trade. Long distance trade resulted in the development of partnerships between the rulers of European countries and those of Africa who saw each other as equals. Some of the earliest European visitors to Africa recognised that many African societies were as advanced or even more advanced than their own. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese trader Duarte Barboosa said of the east African city Kilwa: There were many fair houses of stone and mortar, well arranged in streets. Around it were streams and orchards with many channels of sweet water.' Of the inhabitants of Kilwa he reported, Ð''They were finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk, and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver in chains and bracelets, which they wore on their legs and arms, and many jeweled earrings in their ears.

This trade relation has been a international debate over 100 years .With most economist and historians believing that long distance trade was destructive to East African Ð''s economic , political and cultural systems , while other argue that long distance trade was effectual to East African Ð''s economic , political and cultural systems .So the following paper will examine whether long distance trade was destructive to East African countries systems(Economic , political and cultural ) .The first part of this paper will discuss the history of East African long distance trade and the second part will attempt to answer the question of whether long distance trade was destructive or effective to economic , political and cultural systems of East African countries

The Indian Ocean trade network spans from east coast of Africa through Middle East to western and eastern India and then on through Burma to the different islands of Southeast Asian region. It is a vast trade network that has witnessed thriving trade since the ancient times. This trade in the earlier times took place in the form of coastal trade between different centres of trade. For example, the Indus valley people had good trade relations with the Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilisations. This trade network was equally important to Europe even before the Suez Canal came into existence. Usually the goods from the East would be carried via the Arab merchants either through the Red Sea route overland to Nile or through Persian Gulf via Syria and Black Sea. The direct European ships that came to this region came round the Cape of Good Hope in the southern tip of Africa.

East Africa trade relation with other countries led to desperate and brutal competition between major trading power to control the shipping routes that brought spices to their markets .Dutch, Portuguese, English and Spanish government dispatched intrepid merchant companies to Far East in search of the elusive sources of spice for which their citizens were clamoring.

As stated by Bennet (1978) many never return, shipwrecked. Lost or murdered in the unknown. Uncharted waters of the world's oceans .But eventually, the European powers gained control of the production of spices trade from the Arabic merchants who had been supplying to the rest of the world centuries before.

I strongly believe that the east African long distance relationship with other countries was not destructive because it linked cultures, spread new religions, enhanced trading skills, and increased economic growth in several different regions of the world. Before the Indian Ocean Trade, most East African regions knew nothing of their neighboring civilizations. This trade network united the world. Because of it, just about all civilizations are conversant with each other. The Indian Ocean Trade began with small trading settlements around 800 A.D., and ended in the 1500's when Portugal invaded and tried to run the trade for its own profit. As trade intensified between Africa and Asia, powerful city-states flourished along the eastern coast of Africa. These city-states traded with inland kingdoms the feuds that had been created during the time. Portuguese weren't the only people who traded through the Indian Ocean Trade. As people from other countries traded as well, they brought their culture, religions, and other values and beliefs that fascinated the people who lived along the Indian Ocean regions. Thus, the trade was a way of spreading religions and cultures, and binding civilizations together. Also, by trading sundry goods and merchandise, the economies of the trading countries grew and they became experts at trading.

Culturally long distance was destructive to east African countries, because of the long distance trade Europe managed to gain control over east African countries .Because of long distance trade European managed to spread Christianity among East African people, and they introduce the newly invented technological innovations. They influenced east African people in a lot of ways, but mainly, they changed their beliefs, principles, religions, and other ritual routines that those people had been practicing for centuries. One thing different was that they enslaved the Africans in Africa and won more converts from Africa than they did from Asia because the Asians kept themselves more secluded .The Europeans were avaricious people who sought greater wealth as they invented new things and started building stronger ships. They wanted to explore new lands, invading innocent people. Their influence on both of these regions played a greatly effective role in the history of the world. They sought to spread their ideas and beliefs around the world and, being greedy, desired more and more products for exchange goods. They influenced most parts of Africa and several parts

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