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- European Background Of American History - 5/42 -

strangest tale of luxury and waste. It gave its name to a mythical island of Bresil, in the western seas, which was the subject of much speculation and romance. The same name was eventually applied to the South American country that now bears it, because it produced a similar dye-wood in large quantities. Sandal-wood and aloe-wood, which were valuable for their beautiful surface and fragrance when used in cabinet-work, and for their pleasant odor when burned as incense, grew only in certain parts of India.

Many articles of manufacture, attractive for their material, their workmanship, or their design, came from the same Eastern lands. Glass, of superior workmanship to anything known in Europe, came from Damascus, Samarcand, and Kadesia, near Bagdad. Objects of fine porcelain came from China, and finally became known by the name of that country. A great variety of fabrics of silk and cotton, as well as those fibres in their raw state, came from Asia to Europe. Dozens of names of Eastern origin still remain to describe the silk, cotton, hair, and mixed fabrics which came to Europe from China, India, Cashmere, and the cities of Persia, Arabia, Syria, and Asia Minor. Brocade, damask, taffeta, sendal, satin, camelot, buckram, muslin, and many varieties of carpets, rugs, and hangings, which were woven in various parts of those lands, have always since retained the names of the places which early became famous for their manufacture. The metal- work of the East was scarcely less characteristic or less highly valued in the West, though its varieties have not left such specific names. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschtchte des Levantehandels, II., App., 543-699.] Europe could feed herself with unspiced food, she could clothe herself with plain clothing, but for luxuries, adornments, refinements, whether in food, in personal ornament, or in furnishing her palaces, her manor- houses, her churches, or her wealthy merchants' dwellings, she must, in the fifteenth century, still look to Asia, as she had always done. It is true that in the later Middle Ages many articles of beauty and ornament were produced in the more advanced Western countries; but not spices nor drugs, nor precious stones, nor any great variety of dyes. Oriental rugs are even yet superior to any like productions of the West; and a vast number of other articles of Eastern origin then held, and indeed still hold, the markets.

In return for the goods which Europe brought from Asia a few commodities could be shipped eastward. European woollen fabrics seem to have been almost as much valued in certain countries of Asia as Eastern cotton and silk goods were in Italy, France, Germany, and England. Certain Western metals and minerals were highly valued in the East, especially arsenic, antimony, quicksilver, tin, copper, and lead. [Footnote: Birdwood, Hand-book to the Indian Collection (Paris Universal Exhibition, 1878), Appendix to catalogue of the British Colonies, pp. 1-110.] The coral of the Mediterranean was much admired and sought after in Persia and India, and even in countries still farther east. Nevertheless the balance of trade was permanently in favor of the East, and quantities of gold and silver coin and bullion were used by European merchants to buy the finer wares in Asiatic markets. There was much general trading in Eastern marts. Numbers of Oriental merchants, like Sindbad the Sailor and his company, "passed by island after island and from sea to sea and from land to land; and in every place by which we passed we sold and bought and exchanged merchandise." The articles enumerated above were almost without exception in demand throughout the whole East, and were bought by merchants in one place and sold in another. Marco Polo, in describing the Chinese city of Zayton, says: "And I assure you that for one shipload of pepper that goes to Alexandria or elsewhere destined for Christendom, there come a hundred such, aye and more too, to this haven of Zayton." [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed), book II., chap. lxxxii] Even as late as 1515, Giovanni D'Empoli, writing about China, says: "Ships carry spices thither from these parts. Every year there go thither from Sumatra 60,000 cantars of pepper and 15,000 or 20,000 from Cochin and Malabar--besides ginger, mace, nutmegs, incense, aloes, velvet, European gold-wire, coral, woollens, etc." [Footnote: Quoted in ibid, book II., 188.] Nevertheless the attraction of the West was clearly felt in the East. Extensive as were the local purchase and sale of articles of luxury and use by merchants throughout India, Persia, Arabia, Central Asia, and China, yet the export of goods from those countries to the westward was a form of trade of great importance, and one which had its roots deep in antiquity. A story of the early days tells how the jealous brothers of Joseph, when they were considering what disposition to make of him, "lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a travelling company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt." [Footnote: Genesis, xxxvii. 25.] When the prophet cries, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with garments dyed red from Bozrah?" he is using two of the most familiar names on the lines of west Asiatic trade. Solomon gave proof of his wisdom and made his kingdom great by seizing the lines of the trade-routes from Tadmor in the desert and Damascus in the north to the upper waters of the Red Sea on the south. The "royal road" of the Persian kings from Sousa to Ephesus made a long detour through northern Asia Minor, which was inexplicable to modern archaeologists until it was perceived that it was following the line of a trade-route much more ancient than the Persian monarchy. [Footnote: Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor, chap. i.] The harbor of Berenice, named after the mother of Ptolemy Philadelpnus, was built by him as a place of transit for goods from India which were to be carried from the Red Sea to the Nile. [Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India, I., 40.] Roman roads followed ancient lines through Asia Minor and Syria, and medieval routes in turn, in many places, passed by the remains of Roman stations. Thus the East and the West had been drawn together by a mutual commercial attraction from the earliest times, an attraction based on the respective natural productions of the two continents, and favored by the vast superiority of the East in the creation of articles of beauty and usefulness.



In the fifteenth century Eastern goods regularly reached the West by one of three general routes through Asia. Each of these had, of course, its ramifications and divergences; they were like three river-systems, changing their courses from time to time and occasionally running in divided streams, but never ceasing to follow the general course marked out for them by great physical features. The southernmost of these three routes was distinguished by being a sea-route in all except its very latest stages. Chinese and Japanese junks and Malaysian proas gathered goods from the coasts of China and Japan and the islands of the great Malay Archipelago, and bought and sold along the shores of the China Sea till their westward voyages brought them into the straits of Malacca and they reached the ancient city of that name. This was one of the great trading points of the East. Few Chinese traders passed beyond it, though the more enterprising Malays made that the centre rather than the western limit of their commerce. Many Arabian traders also came there from India to sell their goods and to buy the products of the islands of the archipelago, and the goods which the Chinese traders had brought from still farther East.

The Indian and Arabian merchants who came to Malacca as buyers were mostly from Calicut and other ports on the Malabar coast, and to these home ports they brought back their purchases. To these markets of southwestern India were also brought the products of Ceylon, of the eastern coast, and of the shore of farther India. From port to port along the Malabar coast passed many coasting vessels, whose northern and western limit was usually the port of Ormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. A great highway of commerce stretched from this trading and producing region, and from the Malabar ports directly across the Arabian Sea to the entrance of the Red Sea. When these waters were reached, many ports of debarkation from Mecca northward might be used. But the prevailing north winds made navigation in the Red Sea difficult, and most of the goods which eventually reached Europe by this route were landed on the western coast, to be carried by caravan-- to Kus, in Egypt, and then either by caravans or in boats down the line of the Nile to Cairo.

Cairo was a very great city, its population being occupied largely in the transmission of goods. A fifteenth-century traveller counted 15,000 boats in the Nile at one time; [Footnote: Piloti, quoted in Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., 43.] and another learned that there were in all some 36,000 boats belonging in Cairo engaged in traffic up and down the river. [Footnote: Ibn Batuta, quoted, ibid.] From Cairo a great part of these goods were taken for sale to Alexandria, which was in many ways as much a European as an African city. Thus a regular route stretched along the southern coasts of Asia, allowing goods produced in all lands of the Orient to be gathered up in the course of trade and transferred as regular articles of commerce to the southeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

A second route lay in latitudes to the north of that just described. From the ports on the west coast of India a considerable proportion of the goods destined ultimately for Europe made their way northward to the Persian Gulf. A line of trading cities extending along its shores from Ormuz near the mouth of the gulf to Bassorah at its head served as ports of call for the vessels which carried this merchandise. Several of these coast cities were also termini of caravan routes entering them from the eastward, forming a net-work which united the various provinces of Persia and reached through the passes of Afghanistan into northern India. From the head of the Persian Gulf one branch of this route went up the line of the Tigris to Bagdad. From this point goods were taken by caravan through Kurdistan to Tabriz, the great northern capital of Persia, and thence westward either to the Black Sea or to Layas on the Mediterranean. Another branch was followed by the trains of camels which made their way from Bassorah along the tracks through the desert which spread like a fan to the westward, till they reached the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Antioch, and Damascus. They finally reached the Mediterranean coast at Laodicea, Tripoli, Beirut, or Jaffa, while some goods were carried even as far south as Alexandria.

Far to the north of this complex of lines of trade lay a third route between the far East and the West, extending from the inland provinces of China westward across the great desert of Obi, south of the Celestial mountains to Lake Lop; then passing through a series of ancient cities, Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar, Samarcand, and Bokhara, till it finally reached the region of the Caspian Sea. This main northern route was joined by others which crossed the passes of the Himalayas and the Hindoo-Kush, and brought into a united stream the products of India and China.[Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India, I., 31.] A journey of eighty to a hundred days over desert, mountain, and steppes lay by this route between the Chinese wall and the Caspian. From still farther north in China a parallel road to this passed to the north of the desert and the mountains, and by way of Lake Balkash, to the same ancient and populous land lying to the east of the Caspian Sea. Here the caravan routes again divided. Some led to the southwestward, where they united with the more central routes described above and eventually reached the Black Sea and the Mediterranean through Asia Minor and Syria. Others passed by land around the northern coast of the Caspian, or crossed it, reaching a further stage at Astrakhan. From Astrakhan the way led on by the Volga and Don rivers, till its terminus was at last reached on the Black Sea at Tana near the mouth of the Don, or at Kaffa in the Crimea. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., 68-254.]

European Background Of American History - 5/42

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