Pramod Biligiri (pramodbiligiri) wrote,

The Rediscovery of India by Meghnad Desai - 2

Chapter 2 - The English Turn

A big negative outcome of British control was how India's economy got hitched to Britain - they were the monopoly buyers of many Indian products. He says this was a repeat of what the Portuguese did to spice growers in the Malabar region, but on a larger scale. So I decided to read up on the spice trade.

The Spice Trade
I didn't know that the Spice Trade was such a big thing. Found this must read article which says the spice trade existed even during the ancient Egyptian civilization. It consisted of transporting clove, pepper, nutmeg, mace (read up more on these items) from Indonesia and South West India to Europe, via land and sea routes passing through Arabia.

When this spice route got blocked due to the Ottoman Empire, this spurred Italians (Venice) and Portuguese to find new routes.

[quote]
..as far as spice went, (Vasco) Da Gama and his crew were right on the money. Then, as now, Calicut was a gateway to the world’s greatest pepper-growing region—indeed this was why the Syrians had moved there in the first place. As such it was at the heart of the spice trade, a network of sea routes and entrepôts in the making for millennia: the world economy’s oldest, deepest, most aromatic roots.
[/quote]



In the Middle Ages, spices were of great use to preserve meat, and cover up stale food. They were extremely expensive.

[quote]
a German price table from the 14th century sets the value of a pound of nutmeg at seven fat oxen. At the same time “peppercorn rents” were a serious way of doing business. When the Mary Rose, an English ship that sank in 1545, was raised from the ocean floor in the 1980s, nearly every sailor was found with a bunch of peppercorns on his person—the most portable store of value available.
[/quote]

The Dutch had great success in this spice trade:
[quote]
By 1670 the Dutch East India Company was the richest corporation in the world, paying its shareholders an annual dividend of 40% on their investment despite financing 50,000 employees, 30,000 fighting men and 200 ships, many of them armed. The secret of this success was simple. They had no scruples whatsoever.
[/quote]

(Wow..the article describes how ruthless the Dutch were)

Why England defeated the European rivals
He says one of the main reasons England defeated other European nations, esp. France, is because the King's powers were bound by law. He could not tax arbitrarily and use it to fund wars, which made him use resources more prudently. He also attributes it to luck and having capable commanders like Robert Clive.
Tags: book, history
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