Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/64

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28
[1400-1500
Muslim traders in the East.

way to the ports of China itself, they were amicably received, and allowed to form settlements of their own. Many such settlements, each having its resident magistrate and Sheikh ul Islam, existed hard by the chief Chinese ports, and others were scattered through the Eastern Archipelago. Malacca became the western outpost of the Far-Eastern trade thus developed. Hither were brought the cloves of the Moluccas, the mace and nutmeg of Banda, the sandal wood of Timor, the camphire of Borneo, and many other spices, drugs, dyes, and perfumes from Java, Siam, China, and the Philippine Islands, all of which could be purchased here more cheaply of the resident Arab merchants than of those of Calicut, who obtained them in the ancient course of trade from the Chinese fleet. Hence the sailors of Africa and Arabia, at the arrival of the Portuguese, already resorted directly to Malacca for the produce of the Far East, and Calicut became chiefly a market for the cinnamon of Ceylon, and the ginger, pepper, and miscellaneous commodities of Malabar itself.

The ports of Arabia, and the Arab settlements in Eastern Africa, were the inlets through which the produce of India and the Far East were finally dispersed; and large quantities found their way through Suez, Jiddah, Mascat, and Hormuz, to the markets of Europe. It thus appears that the area of the Eastern trade naturally fell into two divisions, the mouth of the Persian Gulf marking the partition. Eastward of this lay the area of export, westward the area of import. Hence the fact that the Portuguese, having rounded Southern Africa, made straight for Calicut, the outpost of the exporting area. The ideas and expectations with which they approached this immense and unique field of enterprise were tinged with the arrogance of prolonged success. It was necessary, as a means to making themselves masters of the Eastern trade, before all else, not only to prove themselves masters of the Asiatic seas, but to be able to defy resistance on land, and to hold by military force whatever positions it might be desirable to occupy. For these purposes such demonstrations of force as had availed them on the African coast were insufficient. Society in the East rested everywhere on a military basis. The native Asiatic princes universally possessed numerous and not ill-equipped armies, though ill-supplied, or not at all, with firearms. By sea the Arabs and Rumes were more formidable. Wherever maritime trade exists it must defend itself against pirates; and piracy was rife on all the Indian and Chinese shores. Hence the larger vessels, both on the Malabar coast and on that of China, were usually manned with fighting men, and those of the Arabs and Rumes occasionally carried large guns. The Oriental fleets, if assembled in one place, would have immensely outnumbered the ships capable of being sent against them by Portugal. But in regard to construction, equipment, and the art of navigation the Portuguese had greatly the advantage. Even the Arabs knew nothing of the art of using a vessel mainly as a military machine,