Islam and the Trade of Asia: A Colloquium

Held by the Near Eastern History Group at Oxford, June 26-30, 1967.

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Islam and the Trade of Asia: A Colloquium

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Asian Trade in Antiquity
Trade in the Eastern Islamic Countries in the Early Centuries
Le marchand musulman
Commercial Techniques in Early Medieval Islamic Trade
Archaeology and the Study of Later Islamic Pottery
China and Islam–The Archaeological Evidence in the Mashriq
Egypt and China: Trade and Imitation
East African Trade with the Orient
Arab Trade with Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula from the 8th to the 16th Century
Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago Prior to the Arrival of the Europeans
The Medieval Trade of China
L'empire ottoman et le commerce asiatique aux 16e et 17e siècles
Trade and Politics in 18th Century India
Persian Trade Under the Early Qājārs
The Decline of Middle Eastern Trade, 1100-1850
List of Contributors

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ISLAM and the Trade of Asia A










The Near Eastern History Group Oxford and The Near East Center University of Pennsylvania

Bruno Cassirer Oxford and University of Pennsylvania Press


© 1970 by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania L i b r a r y of Congress Catalog C a r d N u m b e r : 7 0 - 1 2 0 1 1 2 S B N 8 1 2 2 7619 ι

Printed by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd., London and Colchester Blocks: Fine Art Engravers Ltd. Godalming




Α. Η. Μ. Jonest Λ sian Trade in A ntiquity 2.

Β. Spuler Trade in the Eastern Islamic Countries in the Early Centuries



M. R o d i n s o n Le marchand musulman



A. L. U d o v i t c h Commercial Techniques in Early Medieval Islamic Trade



J. C a r s w e l l A rchaeology and the Study of Later Islamic Pottery



M. R o g e r s China and Islam—The Archaeological Evidence in the Mashriq



G. T. S c a n l o n Egypt and China: Trade and

81 Imitation


N. C h i t t i c k East African Trade with the Orient



R. R. Di Meglio Arab Trade with Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula from the 8ih to the 16th Century



M. A . P . M e i l i n k - R o e l o f s z Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian A rchipelago Prior to the . 1 rrival of the Europeans



G. F. Hudson The Medieval Trade of China




Page 12.

R. Mantran L'empire ottoman et le commerce asiatique aux i6e et ije siecles



A. D a s G u p t a Trade and Politics in 18th Century India



Α . Κ . S. L a m b t o n Persian Trade Under the Early Qäjärs



C. I s s a w i The Decline of Middle Eastern Trade, 1100-1850


L i s t of



PREFACE The "Near Eastern History Group", an informal group of Oxford scholars, held its second international colloquium in Oxford, at All Souls College, from June 26 to June 30, 1967. This volume contains the papers delivered and discussed there. Generous financial help, which made the colloquium possible, was given by the Near East Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Three Oxford colleges, All Souls, St. Antony's and St. John's, also gave greatly appreciated assistance. All who contributed to the organizing of the colloquium are sincerely thanked. The help given by Dr. D. Hopwood of St. Antony's College in editorial work during the editor's absence is gratefully acknowledged.


Α. Η. M. Jones The period which I propose to cover is from the accession of Augustus (30 B.C.) to the Arab conquest (A.D. 633-41), over six and a half centuries. This may seem somewhat ambitious, but the sources for trade are very scarce, and there is not too much to say. The area is mainly that of the Roman empire, Syria, Palestine, E g y p t , more accurately defined below, but I shall say what I know of the Hejaz, Y e m e n , Hadhramaut and Träq. The information of the Greek and Roman authors is scanty, and I regret that I do not know the oriental sources, but they also are, I believe, scanty. My information is drawn from the following principal authorities. Under Augustus, Strabo the geographer wrote a descriptive work, which includes Syria, E g y p t and Yemen, and less adequately the lands to the east of the Arabian Desert. From the reign of Augustus also is the Parthian Stations of Isidore of Charax, which describes the route from northern Syria to Marv. Probably of the i s t century is the Periplus of the Red Sea, a mariner's and merchant's guide to the ports of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. From the latter part of the ist century there is much miscellaneous information scattered in Pliny's Natural History. From the 2nd century mainly there are a great series of inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic from Palmyra, including the custom's tariff of the city (A.D. 137) and numerous honorific decrees to prominent citizens who acted as caravan leaders. From the early 3rd century there is a list of articles subject to tariff on the eastern frontier, written by a lawyer, Marcianus: it is preserved in Justinian's Digest ( X X X I X . iv. 16 §7) and therefore presumably had some relevance to 6th century trade. There is then very little until Diocletian's tariff of prices issued in A.D. 302, which fixed the prices of goods of all kinds including oriental wares, and the trade regulations between the Roman and Persian empires established by the treaty of A.D. 298. From Constantius' reign (337-62) we have the Description of the Whole World, a short but informative work. There is then very little until Justinian's reign, when there is a brief account of the silk trade in ι


Α. Η. Μ. Jones

Procopius, sundry laws on the same topic, another treaty with Persia, and the biography of two merchants in the Lives of the Eastern Saints by John of Ephesus. There is finally the evidence of hoards of coins throughout the whole period. The distribution of evidence is, it may be observed, uneven, some from 30 B.c. to A.D. 150, one bit from circa A.D. 230, some from circa A.D. 300, more from circa A.D. 550, with huge lacunae intervening. It is also topographically very uneven. Owing to the survival of the inscriptions we know a good deal about Palmyra (during a limited period). Petra was, as its monuments show, important as a trade centre, but no inscriptions survive to document its commercial life. Bostra (Busrä or Eski Shäm in the Hawrän) was important, but no epigraphical evidence survives: the same applies to Gaza and Tyre. Damascus may have been important, but the evidence has been overlaid by the Arab city. In the north we have scraps of literary evidence about the Euphrates route, but little help from archaeology. The one excavated site, Dura Europus, yielded little or nothing relevant to our theme. A fact of primary importance to bear in mind is that there was a high customs barrier along the eastern frontier of the Roman empire. The empire under Augustus included Syria up to the Euphrates, Palestine and Egypt, with the Nabataean kingdom (capital Petra) as a dependency. The Nabataean kingdom was annexed in A.D. 106, becoming the province of Arabia, and a road was built from Damascus to c Aqaba, which roughly formed the eastern frontier. Further north, Palmyra was annexed in A.D. 18. Further north again, the frontier was the Euphrates until the reign of Septimius Severus, who advanced it (circa A.D. 199) to the Khäbür (up to Nisibis). This frontier remained intact, save for the loss of Nisibis (and also Sinjär) in 363, until the Arab conquest. In the ist century a duty of 25% was charged at this frontier on incoming goods and probably also on exports. It is attested at Leuce Come (between al-Wajh and Yanbü'). There were also local tolls, e.g. those collected by the city of Palmyra, at more modest figures. From the 4th century (perhaps as early as the mid-3rd) the rate was 12^%. There were also certain prohibited exports, notably bronze and iron, from the 4th century onwards. At this period the external trade of the empire was closely controlled. There was a Minister for Trade in the Orient and Egypt (comes commerciorum per Orientem et Aegyptum), who controlled the frontier from the Taurus southwards. Under him a 5th-century inscription suggests there were two commerciarii, for Mesopotamia and for Palestine and Clysma (Suez). All trade, by mutual consent of Rome and Persia, had to be channelled through certain cities. In the north

Asian Trade in Antiquity


these were, in Diocletian's day, Nisibis, after 363 Nisibis (Nasibin) in Persian, Callinicum (al-Raqqa) in Roman territory, and Artaxata in Persian Armenia. In Justinian's day the permitted trading cities were Nisibis (Persia) and Dara (just across the frontier on the Roman side). The southern points of trade were Clysma (Suez) as mentioned above, and at some periods Iotabe (an island near c Aqaba). These of course were mainly ports for the maritime trade to Yemen, Abyssinia and India, but caravans may have come from the Hejaz and Yemen (though it is odd that no control post at c Aqaba itself is recorded).1 Strabo's information east of the Roman frontier is mostly antiquated (about a century old), but in the "unchanging East" this is immaterial. One route ran from Zeugma (Birejik) between the Tigris and Euphrates eastwards to Babylon and Seleucia. It was furnished with cisterns, and the local Bedouins (Scenite Arabs) were friendly. The Euphrates itself was avoided because of the large number of heavy tolls charged by successive shaykhs. In Augustus' reign things had changed, for Isidore of Charax describes a route thus: Zeugma, Anthemus, Ichnae, Nicephorium (al-Raqqa) and down the Euphrates. Conditions on this route may have deteriorated later, for a more southerly route, south of the Euphrates, was already before Augustus' reign being opened up by the Palmyrenes. From the west there were desert roads from Damascus, Emesa (Hims) and Epiphania (I^amä); also from the Euphrates at Nicephorium (alRaqqa). The Palmyrenes escorted caravans dircct through the desert to Vologesias, Forath and Spasinou Charax at the mouth of the Euphrates, whence ships sailed to and from India. 2 Strabo records other caravan routes. One ran from Arabia Felix (Yemen) to Damascus via Petra. From Petra caravans also went west to Rhinocolura, north-west to Gaza and north to Jericho. The people of Gerrha (on the coast opposite Bahrein) sent goods by raft up the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates, and also by caravan to Yemen. Strabo also records that large convoys of Roman ships (as many as 120 per annum) sailed from Myos Hormos (Qusair) to India. Naturally these convoys

' 2 6 % d u t y : S. J . de Laet, Portoria, 3 3 3 - 3 9 . Post at Leuce Come: Peripius Maris Erythaei, 19. 1 2 J % duty: Α. Η. M. Jones, Later Roman Empire, xiii, n. 47 (vol. iii, p. 105). Comes commerciorum and commerciarii and prohibited exports and Market towns: ibid, xxi, n. 7 (vol. iii, p. 272). •The Mesopotamian routes: Strabo, xvi, 748, Isidore of Charax, Parth. Stat. Vologesias: Steph. Byz. s.v. BoXoyeauxs, Ptol. v, 19. OGI, 632, 638, 641, etc. F o r a t h : Pliny NH. vi, 146, OGI, 632, etc. Spasinou Charax: Pliny NH, vi, 139, OGI 633, etc.


A. Η. Μ. Jones

called at the ports of the Yemen and Hadhramaut. The author of the Peripius gives details of this trade and of that with Abyssinia.* The objects of trade from East to West were Indian and Chinese goods, the products of c Iräq and Iran, and those of Yemen and Hadhramaut. The first included live animals and birds (as curiosities), furs and hides, Kashmir wool, musk, ivory (but most came from Abyssinia), pearls, mother of pearl, precious and semi-precious stones, lac (red dye), and, most important of all, silk. Among vegetable products were pepper (very important), ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, spikenard, nutmegs, indigo, a little cotton, and precious woods (ebony, rosewood, sandalwood). All these were high-priced luxury articles, which would carry heavy transport charges and tariffs. Much went by long sea (by a direct voyage from Aden to Malabar or Ceylon and vice versa), but much was brought to Gerrha or Spasinou Charax and travelled thence by caravan. 4 The list of Babylonian products is much shorter: embroidered stuffs, bitumen and dates; Persia exported assafoetida, precious and semiprecious stones and dates. These must have come by caravan. The products of Yemen and Hadhramaut were few but most important: incense (used in every temple and, later, every church), myrrh, balsam and nard. These came either by sea or by caravan. To these must be added slaves, for which the Roman empire had an insatiable demand. We know little of them, but in the tariff of Coptos (Qift), where duty was levied on imports via Qusair (A.D. 90), the duty on prostitutes is 27 denarii, and when Apollonius of Tyana arrived at Zeugma after his eastern journeys and was asked what he had to declare, he replied: "Temperance, Virtue, Justice, Chastity, Fortitude and Industry", and the customs officer replied: "Where are the girls?". Another necessary import was eunuchs, who became increasingly fashionable under the empire, and had to be imported, as from Domitian's reign (A.D. 81-96) castration was forbidden within the boundaries of the empire. Later they mostly came, however, from further north, Persia, Armenia and the Caucasus.® On Roman exports to Arabia we have less information, but Strabo

s Damascus and Arabia F e l i x : Strabo, xvi, 756. P e t r a : Strabo, xvi, 769 (Gaza). 779 (Jericho). 781 (Rhinocolura). Gerrha: Strabo, xvi, 766, 776. Myos Hormos: Strabo, xvi, 118, cf. xvi, 781. 1 F o r objects of trade see Ε . H. W'armington, The Commerce between the Roman Empire and India, pp. 146 fi. * See Warmington, Joe. cit. Slaves: OGI, 764 (customs tariff), Philostratus, Vita Apoll. Tyan. i, 20. • Jones, op. cit., xxi, n. 67 (vol. iii, p. 286).


Trade in



says that Petra, the capital of the small dependent kingdom of Nabataea, imported bronze and iron, purple clothing, embossed silver plate and paintings. The author of the Periplus advised merchants to take to Yemen textiles of various kinds (mostly Egyptian and Syrian linen), purple stuffs (from Tyre), belts, glass ware (probably Alexandrian or Sidonian), tin, iron, saffron and a little wine (Laodicean or Italian); also for the king horses, mules, gold and silver plate, bronzes and high-grade clothing. 7 The same author advises merchants to take a stock of silver denarii and gold aurei. This indicates that there was from the Roman point of view an adverse balance of trade. According to Pliny there was an annual drain of 100 million sesterces to India, China and Arabia; in another passage he says 55 millions to India alone. These are not very astronomical figures. The minimum property qualification for a senator was a million sesterces, and many were far richer. There was, however, a substantial export of coin. Hoards of denarii and aurei are common in India; I do not know the evidence for Yemen and c Iräq. The debasement of the denarius and the disappearance of the aureus in the 3rd century is sometimes thought to have interrupted the Eastern trade; there are no hoards of this period. But merchants probably bought old denarii and aurei for the Eastern trade. A Palmyrene inscription praises a caravan leader for contributing 300 old gold denarii to the expenses of the trip in A.D. 193. From the reign of Constantine the gold solidus was universally acceptable; there are many hoards of solidi in India. 8 On the organization of the caravan trade our sole information comes from the Palmyrene inscriptions, which are mostly of the 2nd and the first half of the 3rd century A.D. Palmyra was organized like a Greek city, with local magistrates and council. Its people were divided into four genuine Arab tribes. It levied customs on all goods in transit, and maintained a desert police or gendarmerie, later incorporated into the Roman army. Caravans (Greek awohlai) were organized and led b y caravan chiefs (σννοδιάρχαή, who were great Palmyrene notables. They were apparently entitled to a fee, which they frequently remitted, and often spent large sums out of their own pockets. They appear to be identical with the chief merchants (άρχίμποροι). The journey from Y e m e n to c Aqaba took seventy days, from Y e m e n to Bahrein forty d a y s . ' ' P e t r a : Strabo, xvi, 784. Y e m e n : Periplus Maris Erythraei, 24. •Currency drain: Pliny NH, vi, 101, xii, 84. Old gold denarii·. IGR iii, 1050. For the reputation of the solidus see C.osmas Indicopleustes, xi, 4481). • On caravans see M. Rostovtsev, in Melanges Glotz, ii, 793 ff. and Α. Η. M. Jones, Recueils delaSociete Jean Bodin.vii. La ville ii. Institutions economiques el sociales, pp. 186 ff.


Α. Η. Μ. Jones

There was, of course, much internal trade within and between Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and much trade between this area and the West. Egypt produced very little oil and not enough wine for its needs, and so Syrian and Palestinian oil was imported, and wine from Gaza and Ascalon and as far north as Laodicea. Egyptian surplus wheat went mostly to Rome, later to Constantinople, and only by special imperial permit to neighbouring lands. Goods of international fame, which went to the west, included Tyrian purple, Sidonian glass, onions from Ascalon, dates and balsam from Jericho, asphalt from the Dead Sea, glass (especially coloured glass) and papyrus from Alexandria. Fine linen weaving is later attested in many Cilician, Syrian and Phoenician towns, and in Egypt (especially Alexandria), and was no doubt already of importance. These exports gave employment to the ports of Seleucia, Laodicea, Aradus, Tripolis, Berytus, Sidon, Ptolemais, Ascalon and Gaza, and especially Tyre; there were Tyrian "factories" at Puteoli and Rome. 10 Palmyra was virtually killed after Zenobia's rebellion and Aurelian's capture of the city in A.D. 273, but the trade went on via Mesopotamia, and also in Bostra, as the following extract from the Descriptio Totius Orbis shows. "To these are joined the race of the Saracens, who pass their life in archery and raiding, as impious and perjured as the Persians, not keeping their promises either in war or any other business. Women are said to rule them. "After them come the beginnings of our lands. You have first Mesopotamia and Osrhoene. Mesopotamia has many different cities of which the chief are Nisibis and Edessa (al-Ruhä), which have in particular excellent men of business, rich and adorned with all good things. For they themselves receive goods from Persia and sell them to all Roman territory, and buying what is necessary export it in return except bronze and iron; for it is illegal to give to the enemy these two articles, viz. bronze and iron. The above mentioned cities seem to stand by the guidance of God and the prudence of the emperor. They have famous walls and always break down the courage of the Persians in war, seething with goods and trading with every province. 1 0 See Totius Orbis Descriptio, 2 2 - 3 9 (quoted below), and for Tyrian purple, Strabo, xvi, 757; Sidonian glass, Strabo, xvi, 758, Pliny, Nil, v, 7 5 - 6 , xxxvi, 193; Ascalonite onions, Steph. Byz. s.v. Άσκάλων. Strabo, xvi, 759, Pliny NH, xix, 101, 105; Jericho dates and balsam, Strabo, xvi, 763; Dead Sea asphalt, Pliny N H , ii, 226, v, 72; Alexandrian industries: SHA, Saturninus, 8. Linen: Ed. Diocl. xxvi, xxvii, xxviii. Tyrian factories: IGR, i, 421.

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"Then there is all the region of Syria which is divided into three Syrias, Punic and Palestine and Coele, possessing various large excellent cities. First of them all is the royal city of Antioch, where the lord of the world resides, a splendid city, famous for its public works and adorned with a great population, receiving goods from everywhere and maintaining all men, abounding in all kinds of good things. There is Tyre too, a city fortunate in all things, with a closely packed population; it has citizens rich from commerce and powerful in all things. After it comes the city of Berytus, a delightful place with a law school, whereon all Roman courts of justice seem to depend. Similarly Caesarea, a most delightful city, whose four sided triumphal arch is spoken of everywhere, as it provides a unique and novel spectacle. Then Laodicea is an excellent city, which similarly receives goods and sends them to Antioch. Then there is the great city of Seleucia which receives all goods and similarly sends them itself to the above mentioned Antioch. For that reason the emperor Constantius cut through a great mountain and bringing in the sea created a fine big port where ships come and are secure. There are similarly other cities, Ascalon and Gaza, famous for their trade and abounding in all goods; they export excellent wine to the whole region of Egypt and Syria. Neapolis is a glorious and noble city. Tripolis and Scythopolis and Byblus are industrial cities. Heliopolis near Mount Lebanon breeds lovely women, callcd Lebanese. There are also the excellent cities of Sidon, Sarepta, Ptolemais, Eleutheropolis and Damascus. "Since then we have partly described the above mentioned cities, it seems to me necessary to indicate what each city possesses of its own, so that the reader can gain certain knowledge of them. Well, Scythopolis, Laodicea, Byblus, Tyre and Berytus all export linen to all the world. Sarepta, Caesarea, Neapolis and Lydda provide purple; all are fruitful in wine, oil and wheat. You will find the Nicolaitan palm common in Palestine, in the place called Jericho, and smaller but useful palms at Damascus, and pistaccio nuts and all kinds of fruit". The author goes on to praise rather briefly the fertility of Egypt, which produces wheat, barley, vegetables and wine, but no oil. "Alexandria, which we have mentioned above, is a very large city, notable for its lay out, abounding in all goods and eatables; for it eats three kinds of fish, which no other province has, from the lake,


Α. Η. Μ. Jones the sea and the river. It carries on commerce with the Indians and barbarians and sends on to all regions spices and a variety of precious articles. It is highly praiseworthy in the fact that it alone exports papyrus to all the world, an article which is cheap but v e r y useful and necessary. Y o u will find it abundant in no province excepting only Alexandria. No law suit, no business can be completed without it. It performs a very useful service in supplying it to the whole world. The neighbourhood produces copious crops, being watered by the Nile; one measure yields a hundredfold. From E g y p t Constantinople of Thrace and all the Orient is fed. . . . Again on the right of Syria you will find Arabia, whose largest city is Bostra, which is said to carry on a great trade, being next the Persians and Saracens. In it is a notable public building, a foursided triumphal arch. " T h e n there is the region of Cilicia, which produces much wine and causes many provinces to rejoice. It has a fine big city called T a r s u s " .

The author is evidently a patriotic Syrian. He does not say much of E g y p t and very little of Cilicia, but on Syria he is fairly exhaustive. It is noticeable that he represents Antioch as a centre of consumption (for the Imperial court at times, and normally for a group of high officials) and Seleucia and Laodicea as importing goods for Antioch. This is a little unjust, as there was an imperial arms factory at Antioch, and it produced cheap linen clothing which travelled as far as E g y p t and Rome. It was not, however, apparently a mercantile town. The Chinese, Indian and Persian imports (which in the Diocletianic tariff include Babylonian leather and shoes and belts) apparently went due west to Cilicia, where at Aegae there was a famous fair, attested in the 5th century, frequented b y western shippers from Italy and A f r i c a . 1 1 Damascus similarly is noted only for its dates and fruits; it was primarily the centre of a fertile agricultural region. Our author has again omitted an imperial arms factory, and Damascus linens and woollens are mentioned in the Diocletianic tariff. P a l m y r a having dropped out, no caravan route survived, it seems, south of the Euphrates until we reach Bostra. Maritime trade from Clysma (Suez) and Aila ( c Aqaba) still flourished with Yemen, India, and China. 1 2 11 Antioch arms factory: Not. Dign. Or. xi. 21. Antiochene linen: Vita Melaniae Jun. 8, P. Fouad, 74. Fair of Aegae: Theodoret, ep. 70, I tin. Hierosol. Theodosius, 32. There was also a great merchants' fair at Batnae, Amm. Marc, xiv, iii, 3. Babylonian wares: Ed. Diocl. viii, 1. ix, 17, 23, x, 1, 10. " D a m a s c u s arms factory: Not. Dign. Or. xi, 20. Damascus fruits: Ed. Diocl. xix, 6, xxviii, 47.

Asian Trade in Antiquity


Conditions were similar in the 6th and 7th centuries, except that almost continuous wars between Persia and Rome, and, it would seem, deliberate increase of export tariffs on the Persian side, greatly reduced the trade through Mesopotamia. There were wars, not always involving active hostilities, and sometimes suspended by partial truces, during 502-6, 527-61, 572-91 and 602-29. B y this time, and indeed much earlier, the Bedouins of the Arabian desert were divided into Roman and Persian zones. On the Roman side there were a series of paramount shaykhs (φνλάρχαι), who received honorary titles and subsidies from the imperial government, corresponding to the military commanders (duces) of Euphratensis, Phoenice Libanensis, Arabia, and Palestine III. 1 3 A central trans-desert route may perhaps have survived—we hear of a commerciarius at Tyre, who may have controlled imports into Bostra, but may have dealt with the local spinning, weaving and dyeing industry which handled silk, or with finished silk exports to the West. The Bostra route was in any case of no importance by now. Most imported oriental wares (above all silk) now entered the empire through Mesopotamia. To prevent the price being bid up by rival merchants the commerciarius bought all imports, and resold them to Roman merchants and manufacturers. But the price was so inflated that Justinian sought to stimulate the long sea route from Clysma (Suez), which had the further advantage of tapping the products of the Axumite kingdom (Eritrea), gold and ivory, and of the Yemen and Hadhramaut, frankincense, myrrh and nard. 14 The Roman empire had long been in diplomatic and commercial relations with both these countries, and Justinian reinforced these ties. He sent an ambassador, Julian, to Ella Atzbaha, king of Axum, who shortly afterwards conquered Yemen and installed a client king, Abraham, a Christian. Julian urged the Axumites to trade direct with Ceylon and India, by-passing the Arabs. Procopius says that they were unsuccessful in their attempts to do so, but as Roman shippers sailed to Ceylon it is hard to see why. The most celebrated of these Roman sea captains is Cosmas, who observed the Ocean was flat as far as India and Ceylon, and wrote a book to disprove the theory that the world was spherical. 15 It is curious that the central route through the Arabian desert via the Wädi Sirhän to Damascus or Bostra is mentioned once only in the

" P h y l a r c h s : Α. Η. M. Jones, Late Roman Empire, xvii, n. 8 (vol. iii, pp. 182-3). 14 Commerciarius at T y r e : J o h n Moschus, Pratum Spirituale, 186. For silk industry see Α. Η. M. Jones, Econ. Hist. Rev. 1960, pp. 191-2. u Justinian and A x u m : Procopius B P , i, 20, 9 ff. 2


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ancient sources. Down to the 3rd century the northerly and southerly routes via Palmyra and Petra flourished, but they also declined in importance owing to the mutual suspicion of the Roman and Persian empires, which limited contact between their respective subjects to the Euphrates route, or the long sea route via Aden. The trade with Arabia Felix, India and China has excited more interest both among ancient writers and modern historians owing to the exotic character of the goods which it handled, the high prices paid for them, and the romantic lands which it penetrated. Its volume, however, must have been small, since it catered for a minute, very wealthy minority. It was of sufficient importance to make Palmyra, which had no other economic resources, a wealthy city during the ist, 2nd and early 3rd centuries. It also no doubt accounts for the wealth of Petra, which again had no other economic resources, but was certainly a rich city in the early centuries of our era. It no doubt contributed to the wealth of Alexandria; but Alexandria had many other sources of wealth, papyrus, glass and linen. The internal trade of the empire, however, was probably more important, since it dealt with objects commanding a wider market, wine, oil, papyrus, glass ware, fine linen fabrics, and even cheap linens for the working class. Some of the merchants who were engaged in the Eastern trade were men of considerable wealth. Two of them, Odenath of Palmyra and Firmus of Alexandria, aspired to the imperial throne. B u t many were men of modest station. Antoninus, described by Ammianus, as an opulentus mercator of Mesopotamia, bettered himself by joining the provincial civil service, where he rose to the rank of protector or officer cadet. John of Ephesus tells the story of two brothers, Elias and Theodore, who went as agents for a Persian merchant in Mesopotamia. They at first received 5 or 6 solidi a year, rising to 10, 20 and 30 solidii in the course of 20 years' service. These rates of pay are comparable with those of privates and N.C.Os in the contemporary Roman army. The merchant princes of Alexandria were far richer; they are credited with fortunes of 50 lbs. of gold, 5000 solidi, and even 20,000 solidi—that is, 275 lbs. of gold. But they cannot compare with the great landed magnates of the senate; many of these enjoyed annual incomes of 1500 lbs. of gold in rents. 16

" Antoninus: Amm. Marc, xviii, ν, 1. Elias and Theodore: John Eph. Viiae Sanctorum Orientalium, xxxi. Alexandrian merchants: Palladius, Hist. Laus. 14, Rufinus, Hist. Mon. 16. John Moschus, op. cit. 193.


Bertold Spuler A n y study of the eastbound trade of the Abbasid Caliphate, it is clear, must begin with a number of introductory remarks and qualifications. There is no doubt that the commercial life of this empire cannot be divided according to its connections with the east, the west, the south or even the north. A remarkable proportion of the goods which were available to the population of Baghdad and other cities of Mesopotamia, such as Sämarrä, capital of the Caliphs between 838 and 883, did not come from the east, but from Syria, from E g y p t or from the Maghrib or had been imported from the Byzantine empire, from Spain or even from Italy. Trading activities were often not even stopped when there was a state of war between parts of the Islamic world, for instance, between the Fatimids in E g y p t and the Abbasids after 969, caravans often having a free w a y through the rows of opposed armies. Consequently, a large number of goods from the west could be consumed in Mesopotamia or exported from there to the east, and eastern goods could also be sent to the west. Thus, the commercial interchange between Baghdad and the east was on both sides not restricted to local products: it was but one sector of the overall commercial activity of the Caliphate, or rather of the whole Islamic Oecumene, al-Mamlaka al-Islämiya, as it was called by the Muslims during the Middle Ages. This remark is intended to explain why this discussion of the eastbound trade may include goods which were not local products. However, the difficulty here is not so great since we know the local industries, the mines or the products of agriculture comparatively well. But there is a more serious qualification to make: we know the economic situation of the early Caliphate almost exclusively for the 10th century A.D., the great century of Islamic geography. Without the information given by geographers, such as Ibn Hawqal, Istakhri, al-Muqaddasi or the author of Hudüd al-'älatn, our knowledge about economic life would be reduced almost to zero, as is well known. Certainly, IX


Bertold Spuler

we have geographical information on the later centuries too, for example from Y ä q ü t , Qazwini's Cosmography or Hamd Allah Mustawfl Qazwini's Nuzhat al-Qulüb. Most of these later sources (the Nuzha excluded) are based on the written tradition of earlier centuries and often represent an earlier stage of evolution, as is sometimes mentioned by the authors, but not always. Thus the information of these later sources must be handled with care. It does not always give a genuine picture of the life of the 12th or 13th centuries. In short most of what follows will be concerned with the 10th century A . D . (4th century A . H . ) . During this period, the economic life of the Caliphate is comparatively well known. One cannot exclude the possibility of omissions in the sources, but the danger, I think, is not too great, and the conspectus given here is not likely to be too erroneous. Among the emporia of the Caliphate at its zenith (the 9th and 10th centuries) Baghdad was doubtlessly the most important, however intensive the trading activity of ports like Alexandria or Basra may have been. As a matter of fact its distance from the sea was a hindrance to Baghdad's evolution. But the role of the routes to the east was more important, since all the Muslims of Central Asia, of most parts of the Iranian highlands and all the inhabitants of the countries north of the Caspian and the Aral Seas could only be reached by overland roads. Baghdad, capital of the Abbasids since 762, or Sämarrä, which took its place between 838 and 883, were both international cities. Their population was mixed: besides the Arabs and arabicized Aramaeans, there were Christians of different denominations, Jews, Persians and Turks. The commercial activity of the latter, who mostly belonged to the military, was practically zero. A s to the arabicized Aramaeans and the Christians, who were differentiated primarily b y their religion, their preference was not the international trade, yet the local Aramaean population may have engaged in retail trade. The few Greeks living there were important, if at all, for trade relations with the Byzantine empire. Later on, however, a Greek colony existed in Kirmän. The Armenians, today so important in near-eastern commercial life, were at this period not very numerous and mostly in military service. The Arabs of pure descent, who retained their racial consciousness until the 9th or even 10th century, descendants not so much of the Meccan and Medinese commercial aristocracy but rather of the Bedouins, who had become soldiers and later on settlers, were to a large extent not interested in trade. This kind of activity was little esteemed under the U m a y y a d s until A.D. 750. Of course, one cannot say that the Arabs of pure descent did not participate in commercial life, but it was not their preference.

Trade in the Eastern Islamic



However, the Arabs were more and more assimilated to the local population that had become Muslim. Thus, in the 9th century and, perhaps, the 10th century and after, a differenciation between Arabs and arabicized citizens is senseless, because impracticable. Consequently, two nationalities remained as the main bearers of trading a c t i v i t y : the Jews (more a religious community than a nationality) and the Persians. The Jews, inhabitants of Mesopotamia since the period of the " B a b y l o n i a n E x i l e " in the 7th century B.C., had their communities in all important centres of this area, as well as in Egypt, in Persia and Central Asia. Nearly always on good terms with their Muslim, and even Christian, neighbours, they were, it seems, mainly bankers with widespread contacts and the machinery for paying by cheque and bargaining on credit. Their agents often were Jews, too, sometimes with special privileges, and, evidently, the much discussed Radanites (alRädhäniya; =Rähdäniya?) whose centre, however, was Egypt and who played an important role as intermediaries in the trade between the valley of the Nile and India, based on solid connections with the Jewish communities in Western and Central Europe. Through their inter-connection with them, Mesopotamian Jews could use the contacts of the Radanites and others for their own purpose, thus furnishing wide credits and loans to the whole merchant aristocracy within the Caliphate. Apart from their activity in the banking system, they apparently were not specialized in any particular branch υί trade, with the exception, perhaps, of trafficking in wine (together with Christians, often monks), an article, which, of course, could not be sold by Muslims, at least, officially. Side by side with the Jews and much more numerous, were the Persians, the main trading nation of the eastern Islamic world, which covers also 'Iraq and, even more than that, Central Asia. There, the famous merchant nation of the Soghdians, Iranians in the larger sense of the word as they always had been, then increasingly adopted Persian (Dari) as their everyday language. Consequently they are to be regarded as Persians from that time on. Contrary to the Jews, the activity of the Soghdians was concentrated more to the north, viz. to Central Asia, with their westernmost post at Sughdaq (Sudak) on the Crimea (Surozh in Old Russian) which, I imagine, was called after them. To the east their contacts reached as far as China, crossing the territory of Transoxiana, the Tarim Basin and the kingdom of the Uighurs, later on the Kirghiz. One may assume that the whole commercial activity in the eastbound direction was concentrated in the hands of the Persians and the Jews, as the Arabs, as far as is known, played no outstanding role in this


Bertold Spuler

part of the Caliphate. Thus, production of goods and their distribution in Persia was, apart from the Jews, in the hands of the Persians themselves. Having discussed, by the way, the sphere of activity of the Jews in comparison with the Soghdians, I think we should now concentrate our interest first on the commercial routes of the eastern part of the Caliphate. The main overland road is the famous "Silk R o a d " combined with the ancient " K i n g ' s w a y " of the Achaemenids, starting from Baghdad (viz. from former Babylon or Seleucia-Ctesiphon) and entering Persia across the Zagros Mountains via the Hulwän and Asadäbäd passes. The " K i n g ' s w a y " reached Hamadän and was linked there with the "Silk Road", passing through the Iranian highlands via the following cities: Hamadän, R a y y , Dämghän, Nishäpür, Marv(-i Shähijän) and Ämul, and then, in Transoxiana, via Bukhara and Samarqand, the Farghäna valley, Ahksikath and Özgänd. A t the eastern end of this valley, the "Silk R o a d " left the then Islamic territory, crossed the T'ien-shan Mountains and entered the Tarim Basin, where it divided into two main w a y s which united again as far to the east as the Turfän Oasis. The other main road of the eastbound trade of the Caliphate was the sea. Basra was the famous port of Mesopotamia, that connected it with the Arabian Peninsula and, via the Red Sea, with E g y p t , as well as with the southern shore of Iran, India and (then a very tenuous connection) with Indonesia and China, where Muslim merchants are mentioned as early as 738. The main port on the Persian Gulf then was Siräf, to the south of Shlräz. The island of Qais (Kish), which was important during the Mongol (Ilkhanid) period, and Hormuz, the centre of Portuguese trade in the 16th and early 17th centuries, played a lesser role during this period. From there, mostly Persians sailed to Debul in Sind, the exact position of which has been discussed for a long time, to Muscat and Aden. Persians were so predominant that their idiom was a kind of lingua franca in this region. E v e n the Arabic jargon of seafaring people was full of Persian expressions. Persians had their own settlements all around the western shore of the Indian Ocean. Besides the trade on the Persian Gulf, navigation along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea had a limited importance, not to be compared, to be sure, with the transportation of goods on the "Silk R o a d " parallel to it to the south of the Elburz Mountains. Nevertheless, the Caspian Sea, with Äbaskün in the south-eastern corner as the main port, was used as a means of communication between the south, the west and the north coast, certainly not to any very large extent, however, in so far as the

Trade in the Eastern Islamic



Caspian Sea was not used by the Russians, i.e. primarily the Varangians, for their incursions into the provinces of northern Persia on its shores. Seafaring apart, rivers, with the exception of the Euphrates and the Tigris on the one hand, and the Oxus and the Jaxartes on the other, could almost nowhere serve as means of transportation, as the Persian highlands lack really important navigable rivers. Consequently, the connection between the "Silk R o a d " and the sea, between the large rivers of Transoxiana and Mesopotamia, had to be accomplished by overland roads. Here, too, very old routes were used, which often have continued in use until the present day. Let me mention only the most important ones. In the west of the Iranian highlands, Qarmisin on the "Silk R o a d " was linked via Tabriz, and Dwin (for many centuries Armenia's capital) with Tiflis in Georgia. Parallel to this route, Hamadän was linked via Ardabil with Tabriz. In central northern Persia, R a y y (with minor connections through the Elburz Mountains to the Caspian Sea) was linked with Siräf, the above-mentioned sea-port on the Persian Gulf, via Käshän, Isfahan and Shiräz. Near the south-eastern corner of the Caspian Sea, Dämghän was the point of junction to and from Gurgänj (later Urgench) in Khwärizm, and via the "Silk R o a d " to Nishäpür, which in its turn was the starting point of a route to Shiräz via Yazd, which crossed the totally waterless desert of Dasht-i Kavir with all its dangers. Another route, more to the east, linked, in the form of a huge curve, Nishäpür to Herat, Zaranj, Kirmän and Shiräz. A further route, starting from Marv (-i Shähijän), led in another curve to Marv al-Rüdh, Tirmidh and Samarqand, whereas the connection to Oträr on the Jaxartes started from the "Silk R o a d " more to the east. Along these routes, at distances of approximately a day's journey (about 15 km.), rest-houses were located, the famous caravanserais, also called aivän and, later on, ribäf, which, as is well known, could offer lodging, provisioning and opportunities for bargaining, characteristics which distinguish these institutions until the present day. Mostly, the routes were recognizable without difficulty; often, small cupolas along the way marked the track, necessary both after sand-storms and during the winter with snow in the fields. Not only the inclement climate hindered the traffic; often, the bridges were in ruins, and the rivers had to be crossed at fords, if the river-beds did not carry too much water, as was often the case, especially in spring. The construction of caravanserais as well as the repairing of bridges was, according to the Islamic system of public works, not considered the duty of the government, but left to the initiative of private persons, in which capacity rulers, etc.


Bertold Spuler

could also act. The system of pious foundations, the awqäf (plural of waqf), fostered the investment of private money, especially for the benefit of heirs, in a very effective manner. Besides, military expeditions and, very often, robbers, proved to be most serious dangers to traffic throughout the Middle Ages. Whether or not they could be driven out, depended to a large extent on the activity of the government. The means of transportation in general were, for caravans, camels guided by the famous ass with his small bell around his neck. During the winter, the path had to be opened by wild asses, driven before the camels, or protected by shelters against the snow. Thus, the daily distance from resting-place to resting-place was not more than two to three parasangs, approximately 12 to 18 km., depending on the nature of the country. Trade within Iran and her neighbourhood was based on the customs known within the whole of the Islamic Oecumene. They were well known to the men of this period and certainly not too different from the customs of present-day life in smaller towns of Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Consequently, they were not especially described by the authors of that time. As already mentioned, cheques and letters of credit were well known to the great merchants and bankers. Money transactions were used everywhere, the silver dirhem being the basis of currency: its worth in comparison with the gold dinar was fixed between 1:12 and 1:15, at least in normal periods. The gold dinar, originally the coin of the Byzantine empire (the solidus) was introduced into Mesopotamia around A.D. 900, but settling of accounts was normally based on silver and gold coins separately. Change was minted in the form of the copper fils (phollis). Hardly anything is known about special forms of commercial contracts in this period, since copies have not survived to the present day. The conditions of travel within the framework of the Islamic world were not too different from those of the traffic from Khwärizm and Khuräsän to the north, caravans and caravanserais being, here too, the basic features, at least in so far as the trade was in the hands of Muslims. As to its form, the so-called "dumb bartering" was often used, that is, depositing of goods to be sold (or, in fact, exchanged for other goods) at certain well-known places where these goods were fetched by the peoples of the north, and where the merchandise evaluated as equivalent was deposited. As to the famous northern or Varangian trade, its routes are comparatively well known, due to hoards of coins found along them, or near

Trade in the Eastern Islamic


the great Eastern European rivers which were used as lines of traffic. Unfortunately, only a very small and outdated map of the distribution of these finds seems to exist. 1 It seems that the Don and the Volga especially served as ways of traffic to and from the north. In this w a y , during the 9th and 10th centuries, an enormous number of mostly eastern Islamic coins were transported to Russia, Poland, the shores of the Baltic Seas, to Scandinavia, to northern Central Europe, England and even Iceland. These oriental silver hoards, not only of coins, but also of bracelets, etc., must have been the basis of economic life in these regions, especially in Sweden, where the Island of Gotland is the centre of finds and was evidently the centre of this kind of trade. Nearly all these coins are dated from the 9th and 10th centuries and 90% of them belong to the dynasty of the Samanids in Khuräsän. They give us a very impressive picture of the importance of this trade. The last coins found there belong to the first years of the n t h century A.D. This trade with the north was then interrupted very suddenly. I suppose that the annihilation of the Samanid kingdom in 999 and the division of Khuräsän and Transoxiana between the Qarakhanids to the north and Ghaznavids to the south of the Oxus was the reason for this interruption. A f t e r that, Transoxiana was separated from the centres of Islamic economic life for decades, and goods to be transported to the north were no longer available. W h a t were these goods, the objects of trade in the eastern Islamic countries? In this regard, we arc comparatively well informed. T o be sure, not all goods, products of a certain region or town, had to be transported to other places. A good deal of them was consumed on the spot or in the immediate environment. Consequently, the difference between goods mentioned by the geographers as products of a certain province and those mentioned as objects of trade is quite important and should not be overlooked. The articles of the eastbound trade of the Caliphate may be divided into two classes: local products of the Islamic countries, and merchandise imported from outside. A s to the local products, one should mention all kinds of cloth, coming from eastern and northern Iran, that is Khuräsän, Khwärizm, the region around R a y y and Qumm. Silk and its products, as well as carpets, were imported from the towns along the "Silk R o a d " , such as Samarqand, Marv, Nlshäpür; together with R a y y and Y a z d , they were the main centres of cotton manufacture. Products of this kind, especially silks were exported not only to the


Sture Bolin, Mohammed,

need for an improved map.

Karl den Store och Rurih

(1962), p. 160. There is a pressing




west of the Islamic world, but even to Europe. Skins a n d hides came from (or via) Transoxiana and Khwärizm or from H a m a d ä n (fox, sable). Different kinds of leather products were imported from Transoxanian towns or from Äbaskün, Ardabil and Qumm. Soap was manufactured, especially in Balkh and Arrajän, perfumes in Färs and Azarbäyjän, saffron (dyer's material) came from western and northern Persia (Hamadän, Qumm, Tabaristän), whereas indigo was partly imported from India, partly cultivated in Egypt. I n addition, Iran was the essential supplier for the Caliphate, furnishing it with foodstuffs, such as sesame-oil, grease, honey, fresh and dried fruits, especially dates (from Kirmän) a n d raisins, sugar (from Khüzistän) and spices. For good reasons the wine trade is not mentioned in the sources; one m a y assume that the famous Persian red wine was consumed mainly locally. Citrus fruits from India became known not earlier t h a n during the i o t h century and reached the eastern provinces of the Caliphate later t h a n the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Egypt. The same may be said for sheep and cattle as for grain, and Iran herself furnished to a large extent dried fish, especially sturgeon, from the Caspian a n d the Aral Seas and from Lake Van, besides fish imported from the Persian Gulf. Among the riding animals, it was not primarily the horse, but the Bactrian camel of ancient renown, which was bred in the eastern part of the Caliphate and largely imported from there. Precious metals, silver more t h a n gold, and jewels were mostly used locally and hardly ever exported as raw material. Other metals were the basis of household wares (copper kettles, etc.) or of weapons fabricated locally. The woods of the northern (Caspian) provinces and some mountainous regions furnished the timber for the construction of houses or the raw material for furniture. Sal-ammoniac came from Transoxiana, and petroleum, found around Baku or in northern 'Iraq, was used for medical purposes; its value as fuel was not yet known. At the end of this list snow must be mentioned as a very important article of trade, transported in enormous amounts from the western mountains of Iran to Baghdad and preserved in caves until the next summer, to be used not only to cool victuals but also the subterranean living-rooms of the Caliphs a n d other well-to-do people. The internal trade of the eastern parts of the Caliphate was concentrated in staple markets, m a n y of them only of local importance, others, e.g. the main sea-ports, and Isfahan, Nishäpür or Herat, were of paramount importance for economic life. The sea-ports as well as Bust (today in southern Afghanistan), Ghazna and Kabul, Bukhara, Samarqand and Khwärizm, had an even

Trade in the Eastern Islamic



higher importance as centres of the international trade. Three areas were of special importance from this point of v i e w : India, China together with eastern Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. India furnished cotton cloth, handkerchiefs and towels, silk and hemp, together with indigo for dyers, wheat, barley, millet and dried peas. She received in exchange slaves (from northern countries), weapons and cuirasses. Silk and porcelain were the main articles imported from China. Since the production of paper had become known to the Muslims after their famous v i c t o r y over the Chinese near S a m a r q a n d in 751, its fabrication was concentrated for m a n y centuries in the north-eastern parts of the Islamic world. The main importance of the trade with Eastern Europe was based on the importation of slaves. A l o n g these trade routes silver coins h a v e been found as far as Scandinavia and England. T u r k s were engaged not only as soldiers but highly esteemed in the household due to their docility and their b e a u t y . 2 Female Turks, too, were highly appreciated, their t y p e becoming more and more the ideal of b e a u t y . In addition, falcons (for hunting), w a x and honey, leather-ware and the famous furs were the so-called "northern g o o d s " throughout m a n y centuries of Islamic history. In exchange, Slavs and Varangians received cloths and fruit, cotton and silk; the Islamic silver coins were regarded in Eastern and Northern Europe as merchandise and as an important basis for saving capital together with other silver objects. Thus, the eastbound trade of the Caliphate was an essential basis of its high living standard and its importance as an economic, and political, factor within the c o m m u n i t y of nations and kingdoms. T o get a genuine impression of its importance, one has to add to this east- and northbound trade the a c t i v i t y of the merchants directed to the south and to the west. Only then can one recognize B a g h d a d ' s function as the centre of the Islamic world and the intermediary between its various parts. Moreover, in B a g h d a d and other important centres of the Islamic world, merchants from all parts of the then known world met to exchange goods, knowledge and experience. These facts demonstrate better than all theoretical reflections t h a t the Caliphate w a s the central empire of this period, and not China, which called itself the "Middle K i n g d o m " and even less

* For purposes of pederasty. Cf. T h e verse of Häfiz: agar än turki Shiräzi badast ärad dil-i märä ba khäl-i hindüyash b a k h s h a m S a m a r q a n d ο B u k h ä r ä - r ä . Häfiz, ed. Pezhmän (Tehran, 1318 a.η.), no. 6, p. 3.


Bertold. Spuler

Byzantium or Western Europe. Only the Muslim geographers possessed a reasonably good knowledge of all civilizations of the world, as the Muslims were neighbours of all of them, Western and Eastern Europe, Black Africa, India and Indonesia, China and Central Asia. As soon as the West started the exploration of the world and became directly acquainted with the nations and civilizations that have been mentioned, and with others too, the importance of the Islamic world, economically as well as politically, declined, and Europe with her outposts took its place down to the present day.



par M a x i m e Rodinson L'expose qui va suivre eüt du etre pr£sent6 par un islamisant bien plus au courant que moi des donnees de fait, poss^dant une 6rudition plus approfondie sur l'histoire des divers pays musulmans. J e ne puis apporter que des indications programmatiques etay^es ςk et lä par des notations tiroes un peu au hasard de mes lectures. Comment peut se faire une £tude sociologique du marchand musulman ? Quelles questions peut-on poser ä l'islamisant? Comment peut-on envisager de construire une typologie differentielle du commergant ? J e peux proposer des cadres r^pondant plus ou moins ä ces questions. 1 Mais j e ne puis contribuer k les remplir que de fa£on extremement fragmentaire. Ce devrait etre la täche d'^quipes importantes d'islamisants. II faut distinguer, ä propos du marchand musulman, sa fonction, son Statut et son röle. I. FONCTION DU COMMERQANT Sans entrer dans les discussions entre les diverses £cole sociologiques, on appellera ici "fonction" d'une activite ou d'une institution sa contribution sp^cifique ä la perpetuation d'une soci£t6 donnee ou de 1'ensemble des soci£t£s humaines par le fait qu'elle r£pond ä des besoins et exigences specifiques de la vie sociale. Ainsi le commerce a pour fonction de faire circuler et de distribuer les biens produits par la societe entre les membres de celle-ci et aussi entre celle-ci et les membres d'autres societes ou entre deux societes prises dans leur ensemble, partout oil cette circulation et cette distribution se font par le precede de l'echange. Par extension, on peut considerer aussi cette fonction comme caracterisant une categorie sociale lorsqu'une telle categorie est specialist dans la pratique de cette 1 J ' a i donne autrefois ä tres grands traits un portrait du marchand mediterraneen: " L e marchand mediterranean ä travers les a g e s " . Markets and marketing as factors of development in the Mediterranean Basin ed. C. A. O. Van Nieuwenhuijze (The Hague, 1963), pp. 7 1 - 9 2 ( = Publications of the I n s t i t u t e of Social Studies, series maior, vol. X I ) .





activity ou le fonctionnement de cette institution. Le commerce est le fait du commer£ant. II r&ulte de ce qui a έίέ dit que le commer9ant est de toutes manieres situe sur le terrain de l'economie, est un agent iconomique. Cela donne trois possibility selon les rapports de la fonction de circulation et distribution avec la fonction de production. Le commercant peut etre un producteur-distributeur, un agent specialise du producteur ou un pur echangiste. Dans le monde musulman classique, ce sont la premiere et la troisieme formes de l'activite du comme^ant qui dominent. (a) En Islam, le producteur-distributeur qui vend directement sa production au client (c'est-ä-dire l'artisan) joue un role tres important. L'ensemble du commerce est considere comme collant ä la production, l'^coulement des produits etant un complement naturel de la production. C'est sans doute pourquoi Ghazäli oublie les commer$ants dans sa division tripartite de la societe en producteurs, militaires qui protegent le travail productif et intermediaires, ceux-ci etant en fait les administrateurs et leurs agents. 2 Tout conscient qu'il soit de la fonction de coordination des commergants, 3 il ne pense, semble-t-il, en delimitant sa troisieme categorie, qu'ä la redistribution autoritaire (par impots, prestations, etc.) assurant une part du surplus de production ä la consommation des classes dominantes. 4 II classe done les commer?ants avec les producteurs. Ibn Khaldün, de meme, range nettement le commerce avec la production parmi les "moyens d'existence" (ma'äsh) naturels. 5 Si sa classification ivoque les physiocrates, c'est avec cette difference significative. Elle marque tres nettement en effet l'importance du producteur-distributeur dans la production. Lorsque R. Le Tourneau parle de la separation du nigoce et de l'industrie ä Fes au dibut du 20 e siecle,® il classe dans ce qu'il appelle negoce l'activite du commer^ant echangiste (la troisieme des categories evoqu^es ici) et — tout comme les auteurs arabes cites ci-dessus — bloque sous le nom d'industrie ä la fois la production et son ecoulement immediat. L'artisan vend directement au client en restant dans son echoppe1

Ihyä' ·ulüm al-din (Le Caire, 1352/1933), t. I I I , pp. 195 ff. = livre X X V I , § 6 = analyse G. H. Bousquet (Paris, Besson, 1955), § 108. • Ibid.. t. IV, p. 102 = livre X X X I I , 2' partie, 2 e rukn = analyse Bousquet, § 139 E. ' Contrairement ä ce que j'ai dit dans ma communication, "Histoire economique et histoire des classcs sociales dans le monde musulman" ä la "Conference on the Economic History of the Middle East" tenue ä Londres du 4 au 6 Juillet 1967. Elle sera imprimee dans les Actes de ce colloque. • Muqaddima, id. (,)uatremfere, t. II, pp. 272 ff.; trad. De Slane, t. II, pp. 319 ff.; id. Wäfi, t. I l l , pp. 893 ff.; trad. F. Rosenthal, t. II, pp. 311 fi. • R. Le Tourneau. Fes avant le protectorat (Casablanca, 1949), p. 306.

Le Marchand



atelier ou bien il vend ä la cri^e. 7 Les artisans sont group^s, comme il est bien connu, dans les rues d'un souk (siIq), selon une tradition pri-islamique, r6pondant aussi plus ou moins ä des necessit£s fonctionnelles. On n'entreprendra pas ici la description du m^canisme du souk urbain qui a souvent retracee. Les artisans, k partir d'une certaine epoque, s'organisent en guildes. Sous quelle influence, sous la pression de quel facteur? Peutetre faut-il invoquer le renforcement de la puissance et de la pression de l'Etat. 8 Avant l'organisation en guildes dominent, comme l'a montrö S. D. Goitein, les associations contractuelles libres oü sont associ^s en proportions variables le capital et le travail, mais £galement la fonction productrice et la fonction de distribution comme chez l'artisan individuel.· (b) D'autres civilisations nous font connaitre un autre type de commer9ant, l'agent sp£cialis£ du producteur, ce producteur pouvant etre une grosse entreprise comme le temple mesopotamien ou l'Etat. Les marchandises qu'il ecoule ne sont ni produites ni achetees par lui, mais lui sont confiees (movennant divers modes de comptabilit^) pour etre vendues. De ce point de vue, on peut assimiler ä l'agent commercial du producteur proprement dit celui qui depend d'un importateur en gros (ordinairement l'Etat). Ainsi le tamkäru sumerien (dont le nom est ä l'origine de la designation arameenne et arabe du commei^ant, en arabe täjir) qui d'ailleurs ajoutait a ses activites d'agent commercial de l'entreprise ä direction sacerdotale des operations de pur echangiste pour son compte personnel. Ainsi, au moins, ä certaines epoques, ä Byzance oil des comme^ants libres ecoulaient les marchandises provenant d'un secteur de production dirigee. Cela nous rappelle £videmment les proc^d^s a t t e s t s de nos jours dans les economies itatiques comme, par exemple, les missions commerciales sovi^tiques. Des situations de ce genre apparaissent dans le monde musulman. Ainsi, dans l'Empire ottoman, l'exportation du bois, monopole d'Etat, etait afferm£ ä des commer^ants prives. 10 En Egypte surtout, l'Etat des l'epoque ayyubide au moins agissait en tant que comme^ant. Sous les Mamelouks, le diwän pour le commerce prive du sultan (al-matjar al-sultäm) avait une grande importance. II s'occupait de vendre notamment les produits monopolisms par l'Etat comme l'alun et le natron. Les marchands d'Etat (tujjär ' Ibid., pp. 306 ff. • Cf. la communication de Gabriel B a e r , colloque de Londres citd ci-dessus (p. 22, n. 4). • Cf. S. D . Goitein, Studies in Islamic History 1 0 Halil Inalcik, " B u r s a and the Commerce and Social History of the Orient (1960), t . I l l , p.

"Guilds in Middle Eastern H i s t o r y " au and Institutions (Leiden, 1966), pp. 270 ff. of the L e v a n t " , Journal of the Economic 147.




al-khäss) vendaient ces produits ä un prix determir^. Leur nombre s'accrut avec la politique de monopolisation ä outrance decid^e par Barsbay. Une partie des commer^ants prives (notamment des Kärimt) se reconvertit en agents commerciaux du sultan. 11 (c) Enfin (last not least) vient l'echangiste, celui qui achete pour revendre. C'est le commergant musulman classique, le n^gociant, dont le type est d6fini aux döbuts meme de l'Islam, ä M£dine immediatement apres l'h£gire, par la figure de 'Abd al-Rahmän ibn 'Awf. 12 Le negociant s'integre dans des organisations complexes qui ont pour fonction le circulation et la distribution. Dans les villes, on voit fonctionner une hierarchie de marches depuis les marches de gros oil le producteur vient vendre ses produits (souvent par l'interm^diaire des commissionnaires ou dalläl) jusqu'aux petits marches de quartier oil les detaillants vendent au consommateur par l'intermediaire de grands marches desservant tout un secteur urbain. 13 Les consommateurs particuliers viennent parfois acheter dans ces derniers marchέs et les marches de gros sont aussi aliment^s par les negociants a longue distance venant y revendre des marchandises achetees ailleurs. II y a la un commerce de transit (assure par le type de negociant que, dans son manuel de commerce, Dimashq! appelle rakkäd),u extremement important dans le monde musulman, organise notamment en caravanes et, sur mer, par navires. Les faits de ce genre sont bien connus et il n'est pas besoin d'y insister. A la Campagne, se pose toute la question complexe des marches temporaires (souvent hebdomadaires) oil le producteur rural vient vendre et acheter, 15 ainsi que la question des foires. 16 L'organisation du marche commercial, plus ou moins lie au souk artisanal, a έίά traitee souvent. On se contentera d'evoquer ses fonction-


S. Y. Labib, Handeisgeschichte Ägyptens im Spätmittelalter (1Π1-1ίΠ), (Wiesbaden, 1965), passtm, n o t a m m e n t pp. 150, 164, 190, 247, 251, 314 fl., 355, 381 ff„ 386, 490; I. M. Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), pp. 122 fiE., 126 ff.

" Bukhäri, al-Jämi' al-sahih (Le Caire, 1332), t. II, pp. 2 - 3 [livre 34 (buyit'), chap, i]; I b n Sa'd, Tabaqät, ed. Ε. Sachau (Leiden. 1904), t. I l l / i , pp. 88 ff. 15 R. Le Tourneau, op. cit., pp. 368-397; S. V. Labib, op. cit., pp. 286 ff.; R. Mantran, Istanbul dans la seconde moitie du Χ VII" siecle (Paris, 1962), pp. 185 ff., etc. 14 Cf. H. Ritter, Der Islam (1917), t. VII, pp. 1 - 9 1 ; Μ. Rodinson, Islam et Capitahsme (Paris, 1966), pp. 48 ff. 16 Cf. F. Benet, "Weekly Suqs and City M a r k e t s " , Research for Development in Mediterranean Basin, a proposal, ed. C. A. O. Van Nieuwenhuijze (The Hague, 1961), pp. 86-97. " R . Brunschvig, "Coup d'oeil sur l'histoire des foires ä travers l'Islam", Recueils de la Societe Jean Bodin (1953), t. V, pp. 43-75.

Le Marchand Musulman


naires, Yamln de souk (i ne pas confondre avec Yamin de corporation) et le muhtasib sur lequel il existe une literature relativement abondante. 17 Un point extremement important qui demanderait i etre etudie de tres pres (dans la mesure oil les sources disponibles le permettent) est celui de savoir jusqu'ä quel point et comment le negotiant echangiste a pu intervenir dans la production. C'est le röle qu'^voque le terme de mujahhiz, "commanditaire", litteralement "celui qui Equipe" corame designation d'une des categories de commerijants selon la classification du manuel de Dimashqi. Ce type de n£gociant qui a ete ä la base, partiellement, du capitalisme europien, est particulierement interessant puisqu'il pousse ä la production en fonction des besoins qu'il lvalue, qu'il cree et qu'il cherche ä satisfaire. On ne fera qu'^voquer ici l'etude de la technique professionnelle du commer^ant musulman qui a ete entreprise de divers cotes depuis longtemps, mais demanderait ä etre poussee beaucoup plus loin. Elle depend evidemment dans une large mesure des exigences fonctionnelles de l'^conomie du monde musulman dans sa situation medi^vale. Mais eile adapte ä cette situation une tradition qui remonte ä l'Orient ancien et meme plus loin. II faudrait pouvoir faire la part precise de ce qui derive de cette tradition, des innovations et adaptations et aussi ecrire l'histoire de sa transmission et de son influence (notamment sur l'Europe chretienne). Les termes techniques dont certains ont ete emprunt6s par les langues europiennes (comme aval et peut etre cheque) devraient £tre etudies de plus pres dans leur correspondance avec des concepts ä definir plus pr£cis£ment. Cette etude est essentielle pour la determination des origines, des transmissions, des influences. Les poids et mesures, les monnaies peuvent aussi etre considers, jusqu'ä un certain point, du point de vue de l'intervention de l'Etat dans le commerce. De meme que les techniques de credit (billet ä ordre, traite, lettre de credit), ils dependent en bonne part de la tradition. De meme aussi, l'existence de specialisations commerciales, notamment dans le credit (changeurs, banquiers, etc.), mais le recours ä celles-ci varie suivant l'intensite de l'activite commerciale. 18 L'economie du monde musulman est une economie oil le secteur capitalistique (au sens oil j'ai employe ce terme dans mon livre Islam el Capitalisme) a pris un developpement tout ä fait exceptionnel. Pourtant,

" Mon neveu Pedro Chalmeta doit publier bientöt la thfese sur la hisba qu'il a soutenue i. Madrid. " Voir par exemple la regression attestie par L&m l'Africain au Maghreb au debut da 16° sifecle; cf. M. Rodinson, Islam el Capitalisme, p. 65. 3




le circuit capitaliste complet, allant de la production ä la distribution, ne semble se retrouver que de fa^on limitie. 1 · Le secteur capitalistique, qui recouvre le capitalisme commercial et financier, donne l'impression d'avoir έίέ plus ddveloppe qu'en Europe occidentale k la meme £poque. Mais — caract£ristique capitale —, si l'Etat est en regle g^n^rale non interventionniste, s'il laisse une grande liberty au jeu des transactions commerciales, il reste (en gros) ext6rieur ä ce secteur, il prend appui sur d'autres secteurs de la soci^tä, fond£s sur d'autres fonctions de la vie sociale, au premier chef sur la production agricole et l'activit^ militaire. Lä. meme oil la fonction commerciale joue un grand role dans la constitution de l'Etat, ce qui fut surtout le cas dans des zones marginales qui ne peserent pas d'un poids decisif sur le d^veloppement general du monde musulman, il s'agit le plus souvent 20 de secteurs commerciaux liäs ä une certaine activity militaire comme la piraterie et la traite des esclaves. De toutes manieres, de vrais "bourgeois" ne peuvent ä aucun moment — semble-t-il — s'assurer le contröle de l'Etat comme ce fut le cas dans les r^publiques marchandes europ^ennes ou dans les cit0s caravanieres de l'Arabie pr6islamique — dans la mesure oil on peut parier d'organismes £tatiques dans ce dernier cas. II est remarquable que les marchands qorayshites, conqu£rant un Empire, aient perdu leur quality de marchands, meme s'ils pouvaient se livrer occasionnellement ä des transactions. Iis devinrent essentiellement des proprietaires fonciers comme le furent leurs successeurs. Plus tard, on aboutit ä une domination de la caste militaire dont le pouvoir fut consolidi par la grande propriiti fonciere (au sens le plus large). I I . STATUT DU COMMERf ANT On appellera ici " s t a t u t " non seulement l'ensemble des droits et devoirs relatifs au pouvoir et au prestige dont est investi l'individu du fait de son appartenance ä un groupe, mais aussi l'ensemble des caract^ristiques dont il est erudite (ou d6bit6) de ce fait par sa society. En somme il s agit k la fois d'un statut juridique (en comprenant dans la notion de droit le droit diffus et informel) et d'un statut moral ou id£al.

" C.f. M. Rodinson, op. cit., p. 70. Parmi les exceptions interessantes, il faut noter les centres commerciaux arabes "coloniaux" en Afrique Orientale oil une aristocratie commer5ante a domine; cf. par exemple E . Cerulli, Somalia (Roma, 1957), t. I, pp. 24, 39, 147, 166, etc. L a traite n'en a peut-etre pas toujours έίέ l'activiti principale. De meme pour les E t a t s musulmans de Malaisie et d'Indonisie dominds par une aristocratie commenpante, la piraterie n'itant qu'un des aspects du commerce. 10

Le Marchand



On distinguera done la place que font au marchand les institutions qui organisent la societe musulmane et la place que lui font la conscience sociale et l'idiologie de cette societe. Les deux configurations sont ividemment li£es quoique de fa^on dialectique et non unilaterale. (a) La place que les institutions de la societe musulmane font au marchand est d e t e r m i n e par les exigences öconomiques du fonctionnement de la societe, mais d'une fa^on seulement partielle et mediate, non sans contradictions. La society ne peut fonctionner sans qu'il soit tenu compte de ses exigences e Cf. I. M. Lapidus, op. cit., p. 12-4; J . Sauvaget, La poste aux chevaux dans I'Empire des Mamelouks (Paris, 1941). pp. 54, 67 S . ; M. Rodinson, s.v. " 'adjala", Encyclopedic de ΓI slam, (2« ed.), t. I.


by Abraham L. Udovitch In his call to our colloquium, Prof. Das Gupta delineated three broad themes for our discussions of Islam and the Trade of Asia: a chronological survey, a glimpse at comparative Far Eastern developments, and finally its qualitative aspects. My remarks on the techniques in early Islamic trade fall within this last category. When we speak of qualitative aspects of medieval trade, we are essentially distinguishing them from its quantitative side, that is, from such questions as the volume and velocity of goods exchanged, relationship between exports and imports, total sum of monetary resources, etc. For the first three Islamic centuries (and probably for the entire medieval Islamic period), these questions will of necessity remain unanswerable, or at best vaguely answerable simply because of the lack of sufficient and suitable documentary and other sources from which we can draw the requisite data. The same, I might add, is true for the early European Middle Ages; even though some meagre archival material is available for that period in Europe. For the early Islamic period, roughly until the mid-ioth century, the all but complete absence of documentary sources effectively eliminates the possibility of investigating the quantitative aspects of trade. However, in those areas of trade which we can describe as qualitative, such as the variety of goods exchanged, the specialization of the merchant class and the complexity of business methods, legal and other literary sources provide a great deal of valuable information.1 Even in the present underdeveloped state of our knowledge of the economic history of the early Islamic period, there are certain general statements about the nature of its commerce which we can feel reasonably justified in making. That the commerce was active, cosmopolitan 1 For a discussion of this distinction with respect to medieval European trade, cf. R. Lopez. "The Trade of Medieval Europe: The South", Cambridge Economic History (Cambridge, 1952), vol. II, pp. 257-8.



Abraham L. Udoviich

and variegated is evidenced by Jäljif's (or pseudo-Jähif's) mercantile handbook dating from circa the mid-9th century. Baghdad and the port of Basra emerge as the hub of a flourishing international trade with goods as prosaic as paper and ink and as exotic as panther skins and ostriches streaming into Mesopotamia from the four corners of the globe. Here they were either sold, or transhipped by caravan to the Mediterranean coast or by caravan or ship on to the further East. 2 Sustaining longdistance trade of the kind described by Jähi?, regardless of its absolute volume, implies a fairly advanced degree of commercial techniques available to those engaged in this trade. Conversely, a clear understanding of the framework within which commerce was, or could have been carried out would offer us a valuable indicator of the level of this aspect of economic life. Medieval long-distance trade, whether it traversed international boundaries or whether it moved within the vast expanse of the medieval Islamic domain, required substantial investments of capital to cover the cost of acquiring goods at distant points, and of transporting them and caring for them until they could be disposed of. The perilous conditions of both sea and land travel, the arbitrariness of political and military authorities and the unpredictable market conditions exposed such investments to grave risks. I would like to focus my attention, then, on those institutions in early Islam which provided for the combination of capital resources for the formation of commercial investments, and also furnished the means for sharing the risks of commercial ventures. In Islam, it was the partnership and commenda contracts which were the two basic legal instruments through which these economic functions could be accomplished. We possess no documents or actual contracts of commenda and partnership arrangements for the first three Islamic centuries; in the Arabic papyri from Egypt, the term sharika—partnership—is mentioned once, and no details concerning the particular case are furnished.3 The various terms for the commenda—qiräd, muqärada, mudäraba*—are, as far as I * Al-Jähi?, Kitäb al-Tabassur bi'l-Tijära. ed. Η. Η. 'Abd al-Wahhäb (Cairo, 1935); French translation with brief introduction and notes by Ch. Pellat in Arabica (1954), vol. I, pp. 153-65; some passages in English translation are to be found in R. S. Lopez and I. W. Raymond, Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World (New York, 1955), pp. 27-9. * A. Dietrich, A rabische Papyri aus der Hamburger Staats-und Universitätsbibliotheh (Leipzig, 1937), p. 51, 1. 10. 4 These three terms for the commenda are interchangeable, with no essential difference in meaning or connotation among them. The divergence in terminology was probably originally due to geographical factors. The terms qiräd and muqärada apparently originated in the Arabian peninsula, and the term mudäraba was of 'Iraqi provenance. Subsequently,




know, not mentioned at all in the papyri. References to these arrangements in literary and historical writings of this period are scarce and sketchy. Virtually our only source of information concerning these institutions for the early period are the works of Islamic religious law. E A R L Y LEGAL T E X T S AS A SOURCE FOR ECONOMIC HISTORY Because of the nature of our sources, our methodology is in a sense the exact reverse of parallel studies of medieval European commercial institutions. For Europe, scholars have reconstructed the general outlines of major commercial institutions on the basis of actual practice reflected in archives, documents and contracts. Whereas for the early Islamic Middle Ages, we must of necessity strive to get some glimpse of actual commercial practice on the basis of generalized theoretical legal formulations. At this point we confront a methodological difficulty which is of fundamental importance for this inquiry, namely, the propriety of using treatises and formulations of the shari'a—the Islamic sacred law—as the source for the historical study of an economic institution. There is the omnipresent suspicion that these constitute an artificial and theoretical body of doctrine, the erudite construction of men of religion who were generally unmindful and unaware of the exigencies of practical life. Consequently, any assumed harmony between medieval Islamic law and the actual practice of that period has been brought into serious question and even completely denied by several eminent Islamists.5 The relationship of legal theory to actual practice is a problem deserving separate full treatment. Here I would like to summarize my own view of the relationship between the major commercial institutions of Islamic religious law and actual commercial practice, and indicate the assumptions upon which the ensuing discussion is based. While recognizing the ideal character of Islamic law, one cannot state a priori that any given institution had no relationship to practice. the difference was perpetuated by the legal schools, the Malikites and Shafi'ites adopting the term qiräd and to a lesser degree mugärada, and the Hanafites the term mudäraba. See al-Sarakhsi, Al-Mabsut, 30 vols. (Cairo, 1906-12), vol. X X I I , p. 18; al-Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtäj ilä Ma'rifat Ma'äni Alfäz al-Minhäj, 4 vols. (Cairo, 1955), vol. II., p. 390; al-Zurqäni, Shark 'aid Muwatta' al-Imdm Malik, 4 vols. (Cairo, n.d.), vol. I l l , p. 345, and D. Santillana, Istituzioni di diritio musulmano malichita, 2 vols. (Rome, 1938), vol. I I , p. 323, n. 125. ' See for example, The Selected Works of C. Snouh Hurgronje, ed. J. Schacht and G. H . Bousquet (Leiden, 1957), pp. 49, 256-8, 290; I. Goldziher, "Muhammedanisches Recht in Theorie und Wirklichkeit", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft (1889), vol. V I I I , pp. 406-423, and his Vorlesungen über den Islam (Heidelberg, 1910), chap. ii.





This is especially so in the area of the shari'a termed mu'ämalät—pecuniary transactions. For in fact, most of the material covered in these laws as, for example, the contracts of partnership and commenda does not involve any religious or moral principle. From an Islamic religious point of view these institutions might be designated as indifferent; no religious or ethical value is attached to them. The two basic Qur'anic considerations applied to commercial transactions—the bias against unjustified enrichment (which subsumes the prohibition against usury), and the exclusion of any chance or unknown element in a contractual relationship·—affected the legal treatment of these institutions in varying degrees within each of the various schools of Islamic law. In the Shafi'ite school the restrictions are most severe; whereas in the Hanafite school their effects are minimal, and there is no reason not to consider the Hanafite discussion of partnership and commenda law as a "Law Merchant" of the medieval Islamic world comparable in its character to the medieval European Law Merchant. By this I intend a law essentially created by the merchants, meeting their needs and according to which their trade relations were carried out. 7 From a functional economic point of view, the institutions of partnership and commenda as they emerge from the theoretical Hanafite discussions are both flexible and comprehensive and provided the merchants in the early Islamic period with an effective means of carrying out longdistance trade. A careful scrutiny of the early Hanafite legal texts dealing with these institutions reveals a keen awareness on the part of the jurists of the economic context of the subject matter they were discussing. Far from being unmindful or isolated from the exigencies of practical life, these texts reveal an intimate and sympathetic familiarity with the conditions of the market place. Whenever systematic legal reasoning, or the application of analogy threatened to confine the area of licit commercial activity, the Hanafite jurists were quick to resort to the exercise of istihsän (juristic preference) and suspend the application of analogy. This was in most cases motivated, and explicitly so, by "the custom of the merchants" or "the need of trade", as well as by the remarkably practical guideline that the purpose of the institutions under discussion was "the attainment of profit". Consequently any actions which fostered that end were to be brought into the pale of legitimate and condoned commercial activity. Any lingering doubt concerning the foregoing characterization of • J . Schact, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford, 1964), pp. 144-7. ' For a fuller exposition of this view of the Hanafite law of partnership and commenda cf. my "The Law Merchant of Medieval Islam", in G. £ . von Grunebaum, ed.. Law and Logic in Classical Islam (Wiesbaden, 1970).

Commercial Techniques


the Hanafite law of partnership and commenda as a Law Merchant of medieval Islam—and as a fairly accurate description of the manner in which commerce was conducted—is removed by the evidence from the Geniza documents. In the Geniza material bearing on partnership and commenda that has so far been published, there is scarcely a legal aspect which is not touched upon and anticipated in the Hanafite legal discussions of these institutions. Indeed, one can assert that the theoretical legal discussions can serve as a guide to the intricate and occasionally baffling mercantile arrangements portrayed in the Geniza. Furthermore, there is a remarkable symmetry between the Hanafite legal formulations of the late 8th century and the documented commercial practices of the ι Ith- and 12th-century Geniza merchants. The types of commercial associations outlined by the Hanafites, find their embodiment in the Geniza records. There is an almost one to one relationship between the importance of problems as reflected in the Geniza papers, and the amount of space and attention they receive in the law books. Those aspects of commerce which loomed large for the Geniza merchant are exactly those to which the legal texts devote lengthy and detailed discussions.8 I believe, therefore, that we may proceed to examine the institutions of partnership and commenda as they appear in the Hanafite legal writings of the late 8th century in the confidence that we will thus be confronting some of the major institutions by which international trade of the early Islamic period was conducted. Before we proceed, one brief methodological comment should be added here concerning the use of sources. Even though in the ensuing discussion I cite passages from Hanafite works dating from the 8th to the 12th centuries, virtually all the features of partnership and commenda law are already found fully developed in the earliest Hanafite legal compendium, Shaybänl's Kitäb al-Asl* composed toward the end of the • See S. D . Goitein, "Commercial and F a m i l y Partnerships in the Countries of Medieval Islam", Islamic Studies (1964), vol. I l l , pp. 3 1 8 - 1 9 , and also his A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (Univ. of California Press, 1968), vol. I: Economic Foundations, pp. 164 ff. • For Kitäb a!-A si, see C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Litter atur (GAL), vol. I, pp. 178—80. T o m y knowledge, o n l y one f r a g m e n t of this work has thus far been edited and published: Kitäb al-Buyü' wa'l-Saläm, ed. Shafiq Shihäta (Cairo, 1954). An edition of the c o m p l e t e Kitäb al-Asl is apparently now under w a y in H y d e r a b a d ; see The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybäni's Siyar, trans. Majid Khadduri (Baltimore, 1966), p. 72. The t w o sections m o s t relevant t o the subject of this p a p e r — t h e chapters on partnership and commenda—are still in manuscript form. Of the several e x t a n t copies, I h a v e used t h e following: A si, Kitäb al-Shariha, ms. Där al-Kutub al-Misriya, Fiqh Hanafi 34, fols. 5 7 b - 7 7 b ; a n d A si, Kitäb al-Mudäraba, ms. Där al-Kutub al-Misriya, Fiqh Ifanafi 491, fols. 4 2 a - 1 9 8 a .






8th century. There is v i r t u a l l y no substantive difference in the legal structure of the partnership and commenda contracts between the 8th and the 12th centuries. CLASSIFICATION OF ISLAMIC


In s u r v e y i n g the various forms of Hanafite commercial association we would do well, while scrutinizing them from the point of view of their economic and commercial function, to follow the system of classification used b y the Hanafite l a w y e r s themselves. Our contemporary nomenclature regarding partnership—limited and u n l i m i t e d — w h i c h refers to the extent of the liability of the members of any c o m p a n y toward third parties, 1 0 does not a p p l y to medieval partnerships in the E a s t or the W e s t . T h e notion of limited liability is of c o m p a r a t i v e l y recent v i n t a g e ; it did not gain acceptance in E n g l a n d , for example, until the middle of the last c e n t u r y , 1 1 and had no applicability whatsoever in the medieval world. In Hanafite law, and indeed in all of Islamic law, the liability in all partnerships is unlimited. In all Islamic partnerships, the partners are liable in proportion to their share of the total investment. A l t h o u g h certain arrangements do permit some restrictions on the liability of one or another p a r t y to a partnership or commenda, we cannot, strictly speaking, describe these provisions as limited liability as we now understand the term. Liability, therefore, cannot serve, as it does in modern law, as a basis for classifying the different t y p e s of Hanafite partnership. I t is rather from the perspective of the investment, both its extent and its form, and of the relationships between the partners themselves, that the different partnership forms are distinguished. MUFÄWADA—UNIVERSAL


T h e most comprehensive form of partnership, and in some w a y s the one that still reflects the family or clan nature of joint entrepreneurial a c t i v i t y is that termed the mufäwada—which one might translate as an unlimited investment or as a universal partnership. A concise s u m m a r y of its essential features is given b y Qudürl, an eminent n t h - c e n t u r y Hanafite writer:


See, for example, H. C. Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 3rd edn. (St. Paul, 1933),

pp. 1103, 1331, 1786. 11

183 fl.

L . C. B. Gower, Pollock on the Law of Partnership, 16th edn. (London, 1962), pp. 20-1,




" A n unlimited investment partnership can occur when two people of equal wealth, religion and freedom of action enter into a partnership. It is permissible between two free Muslims, both of age and in possession of their mental faculties. It is not permissible between a freeman and a slave, nor between a minor and one of age, nor between a Muslim and a non-believer. It is contracted with the full powers of agency for both partners, and with each partner serving as surety for the other. Except for food and clothing for their respective families, whatever either of them purchases is on the account of the partnership. Both partners are equally liable for any obligation undertaken by either of them in exchange for something valid within the partnership." 1 2 The all-embracing nature of the mufäwada partnership in which, as one writer puts it, " t h e communality comprehends all things", 1 3 is reminiscent of the parallel European family partnerships. 14 This made it a convenient instrument for long-term, if not permanent, family associations, or associations between merchant families. Indeed such may have been the arrangement between the two Jewish banking families of 10th-century Baghdad whose activities Fischel described in a monograph some thirty years ago. 1 5 All-inclusive partnerships closely resembling the mufäwada are also found in the Geniza, and might have been the characteristic internal form of business association for established large trading families. However, there is nothing in Hanafite law which excludes the formation of such total investment or universal partnerships by individuals between whom no family ties exists. Indeed, eventualities of this type are discussed in the earliest Hanafite texts. Thus the first distinguishing feature of the mufäwada partnership is its comprehensiveness from which follows its probable permanent or long-term nature. Its second distinctive feature is the relationship of the associates to each other and to extra-partnership parties. The mufäwada is the closest approximation found in Islamic commercial law to a corporate entity. Concerning the partners, Käsäni, a 12th-century

Al-Qudfiri, Mukhtasar (Istanbul, 1901), p. 6 3 ; (Cairo, 1955), vol. I I . pp. 6 9 - 7 1 . Al-Tahäwi, Kitäb al-Shurüt al-Saghir, ms. Istanbul, Bayazit 18906, fol. 95, 11. 1 6 - 1 7 . 1 4 F. C. Lane, " F a m i l y Partnerships and J o i n t Ventures in the Venetian Republic", Journal of Economic History (1944), vol. IV, pp. 178-96, and R . de Roover, " T h e Organization of Trade", in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe (1963), vol. I l l , pp. 7 4 - 6 . " W . J . Fischel, Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Medieval Islam (London, 1937). 11 13


Abraham L. Udovitch

Hanafite, declares: "They are in reality two persons, but from the standpoint of the principles of commerce, they are like a single person".18 All the eligible capital of the partners, as well as all their commercial activities, are comprehended by the mufäwada partnership. By virtue of this inclusiveness, each partner is fully and completely liable for the actions and commitments of the other in all commercial matters. The claims of third parties are thus actionable against either partner; and conversely, either partner can press a claim against a third party regardless of whether or not he was actually involved in the transaction which gave rise to that claim. As far as third parties are concerned, dealing with the individual mufäwada partner is equivalent to dealing with the partnership firm. In this respect, the mufäwada approaches the modern conception of partnership. Liability in the mufäwada, as well as the rights, privileges, and duties of the partners with respect to each other, is governed by two fundamental legal principles upon which this partnership is based. The first is mutual agency (wakäla),17 which in Hanafite law is the basis of all forms of commercial partnership. Within the scope of their joint undertaking, each partner is considered to be an agent of his colleague. The second principle, and the one which is unique to the mufäwada, is that of mutual surety (kafäla). 1 8 Not only is the mufäwada partner his colleague's agent; he is also the guarantor (kafxl) for all his actions connected with the partnership. In some cases, this surety extends even unto matters not directly related to their business affairs. 'INÄN—LIMITED INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP The second major category of Hanafite partnership is the 'inän association. One can best define this partnership by stating that any commercial partnership which is not a mufäwada partnership is an 'inän. Any partnership which does not include all the commercial transactions of the parties concerned and which does not demand equality in investment, personal status, and the distribution of profits and liabilities is an 'inän partnership. Unlike the mufäwada, the 'inän can take on a variety of forms vis-ä-vis each partner's contribution to the common

" Al-Käsänl, Badd'i' al-Sanai' fi Tartib al-Sharai' (Cairo, 1910), vol. VI, p. 73. Cf. also, Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. X I , p. 7 4 ; " F o r the mufäwada partners, in matters t h a t are the occupation of merchants, are like one person". " See Schacht, op. cit.. p. 1 1 9 - 2 0 . " Ibid., p. 158.




capital and the share of profit and liability allotted to each, as well as to the categories of trade and merchandise which it comprehends.1· It is not only its structural features which distinguish the 'inän from the mufäwada partnership. Each mufäwada partner is both the agent of (wakil) and guarantor for (kafil) his colleague. In the 'inän partnership, the relations of the partners to third parties and those between themselves are based exclusively on the principle of agency. Each partner is only the agent and not the guarantor of his colleague; and this mutual agency is valid only in the area of commerce covered by their partnership or to the extent of their joint capital.20 As compared to the mufäwada, this difference confines the partners' freedom of action in the conduct of business and severely curtails the rights and claims of third parties toward the partnership. Whereas the mufäwada partnership has essentially one form and is sub-divided by Hanafite jurists only according to the nature of the capital invested by the partners, that is, either cash, labour, or credit,21 the 'inän partnership is divided on the basis of its scope into two general categories: specified (khäss) and general ('ämm). Käsäni summarizes the two types as follows: "[The 'inän] is permissible in its general form, that is, when two people form a partnership for general trade; and it is permissible in its specified form, that is, when two people form a partnership for a specific category of merchandise, as, for example, cloth, or silk, or slaves, or garments, et cetera". 22 The general 'inän was formed for the purposes of general trade, with no restrictions with respect to the commodities that could be dealt with or the transactions that could be negotiated. Any legitimate trading activity designed to bring profit to the company came within its purview. This provided the merchants with a framework in which they could deal with all kinds of commodities and take advantage of all profitable opportunities that might present themselves. In the context of medieval trade, such diversification was one of the methods through which the

" See al-Qudüri, Mukhtafar (Istanbul, 1901), p. C3. Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. X I , pp. 151-2. , 0 Ibid., p. 174: "As for an 'inän partnership, it comprehends mutual agency, but not mutual surety; by virtue of mutual agency each partner is not liable for that which is upon (i.e., any obligation of) his colleague". " For a discussion of these partnerships, see my, "Labor Partnerships in Medieval Islamic Law", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (JESHO) (1967), vol. X , pp. 64-80, and "Credit as a Means of Investment in Medieval Islami'· Trade", Journal of the American Oriental Society (1967), vol. L X X X V I I , pp. 260-4. " Al-Käsäni, Badä'i' al-Sanä't, vol. VI, p. 62.


Abraham L. Udovitch

merchants could protect themselves against the risks connected with the instability and unpredictability of market conditions. 43 The specified 'inän, on the other hand, confined the partners to trade with a certain category of goods defined in the partnership agreement. This arrangement could be a continuing one, enduring over a considerable period of time and involving numerous transactions, or it could be limited to a single venture, such as the purchase of the desired merchandise and its subsequent division or resale. The mutual agency of the associates in a specified 'inän extended only to those commodities or areas of trade agreed upon and no further. This partnership is characterized by Sarakhsi, as follows: "If, after having formed an 'inän partnership in a specified trade with the condition that each partner may buy and sell for cash and credit, one of them bought something outside of this specified category, it belongs exclusively to him. By virtue of the partnership, each of them becomes the agent of his colleague; but agency is subject to specification. If they specified a certain type of goods, then each partner is as a stranger in relation to any goods purchased by his colleague other than those specified. These goods belong exclusively to the purchaser. As for the specified goods, their purchase or sale, for cash or credit, by one of the partners is binding on his colleague". 24 The specified 'inän bears a close resemblance to that form of commercial association in medieval English trade which Μ. M. Postan has described as an occasional partnership. Such a partnership "began with the purchase of a 'certain merchandise' and ended with its division or joint sale. . . . They (i.e., the parties) regarded themselves as partners in a specified deal or, as they preferred to describe themselves, 'partners in certain merchandise'". 25 Even if purely coincidental, it is nevertheless interesting that the phrase used to characterize this early form of English partnership, "partners in a certain merchandise", is identical with one of the Arabic phrases used in the late eighth century to describe For the prominence in the medieval West of parallel considerations in the formation of commercial practices and institutions, see R. de Roover, "The Organization of Trade", in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. I l l , p. 46. See also, Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, pp. 153-6. M Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. XI, pp. 173-4. " Μ. M. Postan, "Partnership in English Medieval Commerce", Studi in Onore di A. Sapori (Milan, 1957), p. 540.

Commercial Techniques


the same type of arrangement, viz., sharika β sil'a wähida.x On the basis of documentary evidence, Postan asserts that "the essential function of this partnership was financial. It had for its purpose to enable a large purchase to be made by persons who were unwilling to do it themselves or on their sole responsibility".27 In spite of the great difference, both geographical and historical, between the milieu of medieval Islamic and English trade, it would be reasonable to assume that the specific 'inän partnership fulfilled a function in Islamic trade similar to that of the single-venture partnership in English trade. According to S. D. Goitein, most of the partnerships recorded in the Geniza documents were of short duration and limited to specific undertakings.28 When these documents will eventually be published, a more definite evaluation of the role of specified short-term partnerships will be possible. COMMENDA In addition to partnership, the commenda contract was the basic legal instrument for combining resources, both financial and human, for the purposes of trade in the medieval period. This holds true for the medieval West as it does for the medieval Muslim world.28 In Islamic law and in Western commercial practice these two arrangements were the chief methods for pooling capital and for bringing together investors and managers. The commenda is an arrangement in which an investor or group of investors entrusts capital or merchandise to an agent-manager, who is to trade with it, and then return to the investor(s) the principal and a previously agreed share of the profits. As a reward for his labour, the agent receives the remaining share of the profits. Any loss resulting from the exigencies of travel or from an unsuccessful business venture is borne exclusively by the investor(s), the agent is in no way liable for a loss of this nature, losing only his expended time and effort. The commenda combined the advantages of a loan with those of a partnership; and while containing elements characteristic of both, cannot be strictly classified in either category. In all Islamic legal writings, it is treated as a distinct and independent contract with a separate section or book (kitäb) devoted to it. As in a partnership, profits and risks are " A si, Kitäb al-Skariha, fol. 69b. L 17. »' Postan, loc. cit. u Goitein, op. cit., "Family Partnerships", [p. 41, n. 8] and pp. 169-70. " See Lopez and Raymond, Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World, pp. 174-84.


Abraham L. Udovitch

shared by both parties, the investor risking capital, the agent his time and effort. However, in the commenda no social capital is formed, and the investor does not become jointly liable with the agent in transactions with third parties; indeed, third parties need not ever be aware of the investor's existence. As in a loan, the commenda generally entailed no liability for the investor beyond the sum of money or quantity of commodities handed over to the agent, and in the event of its successful completion, the agent returned the capital plus a share of the profits (the latter, corresponding to the interest in an interest-bearing loan). The agent's complete freedom under normal trading circumstances from any liability for the capital in the event of partial or total loss, and the disjunction between the owners of the capital and third parties, are novel and distinctive features of the commenda which made it a particularly suitable instrument for long-distance trade. Its introduction, probably from the Islamic world, in the Italian seaports of the late ioth and early n t h centuries was a germinal factor in the expansion of medieval European trade. Although commercial arrangements resembling the commenda were known in the Near Eastern and Mediterranean world from the earliest times, it is the Islamic form of this contract (qiräd, muqärada, mudäraba) which is the earliest example of a commercial arrangement identical with that economic and legal institution which became known in Europe as the commenda.30 It appears very likely that the commenda was an institution indigenous to the Arabian peninsula which developed in the context of the preIslamic Arabian caravan trade. With the Arab conquests, it spread to the Near East, North Africa and ultimately to Southern Europe. The commenda was the subject of lengthy and detailed discussion in the earliest Islamic legal compendia (late 8th century). Its legal treatment in these early treatises already bears the hallmark of long experience with the commenda contract which served during the early centuries of the Islamic era as a mainstay of caravan and long-distance trade. 31 In one of the very See m y " A t the Origins of the Western Commenda: Islam, Israel, B y z a n t i u m ? " Speculum (1962), vol. X X X V I I , pp. 198-207. " For the use of the commenda in pre-Islamic Arabian trade between the Q u r a y s h and other tribes, see M. J . Kister, "Mecca and T a m i m " , JESHO (1965), vol. V I I I , pp. 117 fi.; although no Arabic term denoting commenda is used, the arrangement which is described was, in effect, a commenda. For traditions and anecdotes regarding its use by the Prophet and m a n y of his prominent companions a n d followers, see A si, Kitäb alMudäraba, fols. 4 2 a - 4 2 b ; Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. X X I I , pp. 18—19; al-Zurqäm, Shark 'aid Muwatta' al-Imäm Malik, vol. I l l , p. 345; Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtäj, vol. II, p. 309; Ibn Sa'd, Kitäb aX-Tabaqät ai-Kabir, ed. Ε . Sachau (Leiden, 1904), vol. I I I , pt. 1, p. 41. For the early Islamic centuries, see Sälih al-'Ali, al-Tanfimät al-Ijtimä'iya wal-Iqtisädiya




few medieval Arabic treatises on commerce, al-Dimashqi's The Beauties of Commerce (probably n t h century), the commenda is cited as one of the three methods by which trade is carried out; 32 Ghazzäli (d. m i ) lists the commenda among the six commercial contracts the knowledge of which is indispensable to anyone seeking gain in trade. 33 The Geniza documents are replete with numerous examples of commenda agreements which account for a considerable share of the commercial activity reflected in these documents.34 Thus we can confidently conclude that not only in law, but in practice as well, the commenda constituted one of the most widespread tools of commercial activity. One of the remarkable characteristics which emerge from a careful study of the Hanafite treatment of partnership and commenda law is the keen awareness that the Hanafite religious jurists possessed of the economic context of the subject matter they were discussing. In discussing the permissibility of the commenda contract, the nth-century Hanafite scholar Sarakhsi quotes a number of traditions attributing to the Prophet and his companions the use of this contract in trade, and then goes on to justify it on the practical grounds of its economic function in society. The commenda is permissible, he asserts, "because people have a need for this contract. For the possessor of capital may not find it possible to engage in profitable trading activity, and the person who can find it possible to engage in such activity may not possess the capital. And profit cannot be attained except by means of both of these, that is, capital and trading activity. By permitting this contract, the goal of both parties is attained". 38 It would be no exaggeration to state that this summary of the commenda's economic function is as accurate and to the point as that fil-Basra fil-Qarn al-Awwal al-Hijri (Baghdad, 1953), pp. 2 4 2 - 3 ; indeed, it is likely that it was via the commenda that Medinese notables like al-Zubayr amassed their large fortunes from the amsär and other newly conquered territories. See also, Ά . Ά . Düri, Ta'rikh al-'Iraq al-IqHsädi fil-Qarn al-Räbi' al-Hijri (Baghdad, 1948), pp. 121 ff. " A b u Fadl al-Dimashqi, al-Ishära ilä Mahäsin al-Tijära (Cairo, 1900), p. 40; Η. Kitter, " E i n arabisches Handbuch der Handelswissenschaft", Der Islam (1917), vol. V I I , p. 58; quoted in English translation in Lopez and Raymond, op. cit., p. 24. Concerning the date of this treatise, see C. Cahen, "A Propos et Autour d'Ein arabisches Handbuch der Handelswissenschaft", Orlens (1962), vol. X V , pp. 160-2. " Al-Ghazzäll, Ihya 'Ulüm al-Din, 4 vols. (Cairo, 1967), vol. I I , p. 66. M Goitein, op. cit., pp. 169 fi. " Mabsüt, vol. X X I I , p. 19.




m a d e b y a n y c o n t e m p o r a r y student of medieval economic institutions. 3 * It includes the most important function of commenda in trade, and anticipates b y nine hundred years in conciseness and precision the formulation of the eminent English economic historian Postan, w h o has characterized the economic function of the commenda as " t h e hiring of c a p i t a l " on the one h a n d and " t h e hiring of trading skill", on the other. B y pointing to its economic function, Sarakhsi also provides us w i t h an explanation for the widespread use of the commenda in m e d i e v a l trade. T o paraphrase him, profit can be realized only b y the combination of capital and trading a c t i v i t y , and in certain commercial c o n t e x t s such as long-distance trade, the commenda becomes the ideal instrument to attain this profitable goal. MULTIPLICITY OF INVESTMENT


The primary function of medieval partnership was to perform economic tasks which were b e y o n d the capabilities of a single person. Certain commercial ventures might require a greater amount of capital, or might involve an amount of work, t y p e of skill or combination of skills and mobility t h a t one person alone could not provide. F r o m the point of view of the formation of social capital, and the pooling of material resources to finance trade, Hanafite law exhibits a great degree of latitude and flexibility, which ultimately encompasses almost all types of relevant resources for commerce. In addition to its structural division into mu/äwada and 'inän, partnership is also classified b y the Hanafite lawyers according to investment t y p e . T h e categories consist of cash, goods, credit, and labour partnerships. A l t h o u g h this legal division according to investment t y p e s m a y be somewhat artificial—since in actual practice various forms of capital were p r o b a b l y used simultaneously—nonetheless, an examination of the various forms of capital eligible for investment in commercial associations will highlight the versatility of these commercial techniques in their medieval Islamic setting. CASH


L e t us then first turn to w h a t was undoubtedly the most important form of p a r t n e r s h i p — t h e cash partnership. Because of their intrinsic value, gold and silver coins were considered the most acceptable of


See e.g., Μ. M. Postan, "Credit in Medieval Trade", Economic History Review (1927),

vol. I, pp. >60 fi.




currencies. Hanafite authorities are in unanimous agreement concerning the validity of dinars and dirhams, in whatever shape or form, for all commercial operations, including the formation of partnership and commenda investments. 37 The problems which did arise in connection with cash investments were a reflection of the monetary situation obtaining in the medieval Islamic world. In most Islamic countries, gold dinars and silver dirhams circulated simultaneously. While in the early period dinars were, generally speaking, of a single standard weight and fineness over large areas, dirhams varied considerably in both these respects. The simultaneous circulation of different types of gold and silver coins resulted in the establishment of an exchange rate between them which, although it might shift from time to time, was known and accepted in the marketplace at all times. Professor Goitein's recent publication of data from the Cairo Geniza on exchange rates bears ample testimony to the plethora of different currencies in simultaneous circulation and to the complexities that this created for commercial transactions. 38 In terms of the formation of partnership capital, this posed two sets of problems: first, that of a "mixed investment", i.e., one involving both dinars and dirhams; and second, that of a "mixed investment" involving different types of dirhams. Both these types of mixed investment are permitted by Hanafite law for all partnerships. The chief concern of the lawyers, as it was undoubtedly of the merchants, in such cases was the determination of the value of each partner's investment, so that at the partnership's conclusion, the profits and losses could be properly assigned. Different types of coins from the two investors would make it impossible to reckon the investment simply by the number or weight of the coins. The possibility of a fluctuation in the value of one or both types of coins made it imperative to devise rules by which the value of each partner's investment could be determined at the various stages of the partnership. Although there were some legal-religious considerations which bore on this question, especially those connected with usury and unjustified enrichment, it was nevertheless essentially an accounting problem. And contrary to the aspersions cast by Sombart on the accounting acumen of merchants during the early Middle Ages, 39

" Asl, Kitäb al-Sharika, fol. fllb-b2a; Käsäni, Badä'i' ai-Sand't', vol. VI, pp. 69-60; Asl, Kitäb al-Mudäraba, fob. 43a and 164b. *» S. D. Goitein, " T h e Exchange Rate of Gold and Silver Money in Fatimid and Ayyubid Times", JESHO (1965), vol. VIII, pp. 1-46; in a somewhat amplified form this can also be found as an appendix to Goitein's, Mediterranean Society, pp. 368-92. " See the selections from Sombart translated in F. C. Lane and R. C. Riemersma, ed.. Enterprise and Secular Change, p. 30.


Abraham L. Udovitch

the computing problems presented by diverse currencies for commercial transactions were already handled with clarity and awareness b y the Hanafite writers of the late 8th century, as they were later by the Geniza merchants of the n t h to 13th centuries. 40 The foremost difficulty created by mixed investments of different types of coins was that of determining each partner's proportional share of the capital, in order, at the proper time, to be able to calculate his share of the profit and liability. Sarakhsl, basing himself on Shaybäni, proposes the following sliding rule for this purpose. " I n short, for the purposes of the contractual provision of profit, one considers the value of each one's capital at the time the partnership is contracted. For the distribution of the ownership of goods purchased with the partnership capital, one considers the value of each one's investment at the time of purchase. For the determination of the profit on their respective shares, or on the share of only one of them, one considers the value of the investment at the time of division; because one cannot determine the profit before the investment is deducted". 4 1 Sarakhsi's formula is intended to compensate for any possible fluctuation in the value of the currencies of which each partner's investment is composed, while at the same time assuring stability in the distribution of profit and loss for the duration of the partnership contract. Sarakhsi envisages a two-stage procedure for settlement of the financial accounts at the conclusion of a partnership. A t that time, one does not simply divide the entire common fund in accordance with the stipulated share of each partner. First, each partner is to withdraw the amount of his investment, either in the form in which he originally contributed it, or in its monetary equivalent based on the exchange rate on the day of division. A f t e r this is accomplished, the remainder, which constitutes the profit, is divided according to the proportions agreed upon when the partnership was contracted. If the contract stipulated that each partner's share of the profit is to be based on his share of the total investment, this share is determined by the value of each currency on the day the partnership is contracted. Thus any fluctuation in the value of either currency 40 See Goitein, op. cit., pp. 204-9. One should also bear in mind the advice to merchants in the 'Iqd al-Farid: " F o r kings the study of genealogy and histories, for warriors the study of battles and biography, and for merchants, the study of writing and arithmetic". Quoted in P. K. Hitti, trans., Balädhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State (N.Y., 1916), p. 2. " Mabsüf, vol. X I , p. 165.




making up the partnership investment, while affecting the absolute amount of profit, would not affect each partner's share in it. B y taking cognizance of the monetary situation prevailing during the medieval Islamic period, and by making provisions for adapting the problems of commercial associations to its complexities, Hanafite law rendered virtually all forms of monetary exchange eligible for the formation of partnership or commenda capital. In addition to dinars, it included in its purview copper coins, and dirhams of all descriptions— white and black dirhams, whole and broken dirhams, and fractional dirhams, those of good quality as well as debased ones. It even included dirhams that were not dirhams at all. I refer to what the legal sources designate as darähim tijäriya—commercial dirhams. As far as I have been able to ascertain, nothing is known about the exact nature and use of these "commercial dirhams". However, from the context in which they are discussed it would appear that they refer to some sort of token based on an important local commodity whose circulation was restricted to one town or to a town and its immediate environs. They were apparently a primitive, purely local currency, in terms of exchange, just one stage beyond the level of barter, which existed side by side with a more universally accepted system of currency. 41 In spite of a number of weighty legal arguments militating against their admission for valid commercial investments, commercial dirhams are nevertheless included because as Sarakhsi put it: "they are among the most widely used currency among us, comparable to dinars in other countries". 4 3 This is not only an example of the responsiveness of Hanafite law to economic needs and realities, but is, from an economic point of view, an indication that commerce had at its disposal the entire reservoir of monetary resources of the medieval Islamic world. This fact not only facilitated the financing of trade, but could also stimulate its velocity by making available all types of currency in an age when the supply of standard, good-quality coins was not always adequate. CREDIT We now turn to the one form of partnership in Hanafite law which did not require the investment of tangible property, but in which the 4 1 These are not to be confused with the trade dirhams in Wm. Popper, Egypt and Syria under the Circassian Sultans (University of California Publications in Semitic Philology, vol. 16, 1967), pp. 6 0 - 7 ; Popper used this term to describe the Mamluk darähim fulüs (copper dirhams), and it does not, as in this case, correspond to any term in the Arabic sources.

" Mabsüf,

vol. X X I I , p. 21.


Abraham L. Udorntch

social capital could consist of abstract w e a l t h — I refer to the credit partnership. Credit fulfilled several important functions in medieval trade. It financed trade b y providing capital or goods for those who temporarily or otherwise did not have the means of carrying out trade; it provided an outlet for surplus capital to be utilized in a productive and profitable way, and it contributed to the expansion of trade b y providing merchants with a means of doing business in an age when the supply of coins was not always adequate. In long distance trade, it dispensed with the necessity of transporting large sums of money across perilous routes and, in combination with other contracts, it serves as a means of sharing the risks of commercial ventures. While a full study of the role of all the above mentioned aspects of credit in medieval Islamic trade has yet to be undertaken, one fact is certain: the legal instruments necessary for the extensive use of mercantile credit were already available in the earliest Islamic period. Credit arrangements which could both facilitate trade and provide a framework for the use of credit as a means of investment in trade are already found in a developed form in some of the earliest Islamic legal works. Islamic commercial law outlines not only methods of dealing for credit, but also makes provisions for dealing in credit. Instruments of credit such as the hawäla (transfer of debt, novation) and the suftaja (letter of credit) are prime examples of this category of credit. 44 In addition, and what is most relevant to the present discussion, credit could serve as a valid form of commercial investment. Among the various forms of commercial partnership which are recognized as valid b y Hanafite law, the credit partnership constitutes a separate category. It is an arrangement in which the capital of the parties consists not of cash or merchandise, but entirely of credit. It is the one form of partnership for which ready cash (mäl hädir) is not required for the validity of the contract. The credit partnership is already found fully developed in the earliest Hanafite sources, and its description and elaboration offer us some interesting clues and insights into its economic function. Concerning it, Sarakhs! says: " A s for the credit partnership, it is also called the partnership of the penniless (sharikat al-mafälts). It comes about when two people form a partnership without any capital in order to buy on credit 44 See Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, pp. 148-9; and R. Grasshoff, Das Wechselrecht der Araber (Berlin, 1889).




and then sell. It is designated by this name (i.e. sharikat al-wujüh) because their capital consists of their good reputations; for credit is extended only to him who has a good reputation among people". 45 It is significant to note that the two designations for the credit partnership sharikat al-mafälis, the partnership of the penniless, and sharikat al-wujüh, which we may according to Sarakhsi freely translate as the partnership of those with good reputations—reflect the two major functions of credit in trade. The first reflects a situation in which traders without sufficient resources of their own seek financing, and the second designation reflects a situation in which the capital is seeking a profitable investment outlet. The role of credit as an investment in trade is articulated in a remarkably sophisticated way by Käsäni. Most partnerships, he says, are permitted because they lead to the augmentation and increase of the capital investment, but the credit partnership is permitted because it leads to the creation of the capital itself. The institution of partnership is thus epitomized as " a method for augmenting or creating capital". 46 The credit partnership could be adapted to serve a variety of purposes, those of a single-venture partnership confined to a specific commodity or to a specified time period, as well as those of an unrestricted association. " I f two people without any capital entered into a partnership on the condition that any purchase of fine flour either of them makes is to be their joint property, this is permissible. . . . It is likewise permissible when two people without any capital enter into a partnership on the condition that whatever either of them purchases at any time is to be their joint property, or on the condition that whatever either of them purchases in the current year or month is to be their common property. This is so, regardless of whether or not any class of merchandise or type of work was specified".47 A credit partnership could be restricted either by the scope of the commodities it was to comprehend or by the term in which it was to be effective. Either of these two factors could be adjusted to meet the needs of a variety of commercial situations. One can readily envisage «· Mabsüt, vol. XI, p. 152. *' Tariq namä' al-tnäl aw tahsilihi (Badä'i' al-Sanä'i', vol. VI, p. 67). «' A si, Kitäb al-Shanka, fol. 59b.

Abraham L. Udovitch


the manifold usefulness of these arrangements, especially for long distance trade. A travelling merchant, setting out with a caravan or embarking on a voyage, could be assured that half, or some other fraction, of the cost of the shipment he returned with would be covered. This would give the merchant some measure of protection against possible adverse market conditions and provide partial insurance against loss in transit, since once a purchase is made, the loss would be borne by both partners. On the other hand, a sedentary merchant, unwilling or unable to travel to foreign parts himself, could assure himself a share in a normally lucrative import trade without at the same time tying up his capital for long periods of time. COMMERCIAL FREEDOM OF ACTION Having surveyed the various forms of commercial association from the standpoint of creating and pooling the capital necessary to finance commerce, I would now like to turn briefly to the manoeuvrability and freedom of action of those engaged in trade with their own and other people's capital. "Trade is the pursuit of profit by means of selling and buying, and not by means of crafts and industry". 4 8 Ghazzäll's view of buying and selling as the two central pillars of trade was widely shared by medieval Islamic legal writers of all schools. 4 · However, the successful prosecution of long-distance commerce, the kind of commerce that could and did reach Eastern Asia, involved more than simply buying and selling; it involved the judicious employment of a variety of other transactions which were collectively designated as "the accompaniments of trade" {min tawäbi' al-tijära). People had to be hired for the care and transportation of merchandise. Circumstances often required that goods be deposited in another person's care, either to be sold or to be retrieved at a later date. Credit might have to be extended and a pledge given to cover credit purchases for the partnership or commenda. These "accompaniments of trade" were the object of lengthy and serious attention on the part of the early Hanafite jurists. Their treatment of the numerous operations involved in the conduct of partnership " Al-Ghazzält, al-Wajiz f i Fiqh al-Imäm al-Shäfi'i (Cairo, 1899), vol. II, p. 221. · Ghazzäli was a follower of the Shafi'ite madhhab according to which industrial commendas and labour partnerships were considered invalid, thus his exclusion of "crafts and industry". The Hanafites and Malikites included industry and manufacture within their commercial purview, and admitted trade associations based on them; however, these were subsumed by, and considered as ancillary to the two primary commercial transactions—buying and selling. 4




and commenda business was informed with a sympathetic understanding of the needs of trade and a close identification with the commercial ethos of their day. The profit motive as the force underlying commercial endeavour found a prominent place in their thinking. The chief purpose of the partnership and commenda contracts, they asserted, was "the attainment of profit" (tahsil al-ribh). This was the criterion by which the actions of all parties to a commercial association were judged. Those actions which promoted the attainment of profit were permitted; those which were extraneous or inimical to this goal were excluded. Concomitant with the "profit" criterion in evaluating the legitimacy of any party's actions, was their conformity to the practices and customs of the merchants. Any business conduct of a partner or commenda agent which conformed to either of these standards, i.e., either it was conducive to profit, or was a recognized feature of customary mercantile usage, was allowed, even if it necessitated the suspension of legal analogy, or the compromise of some religious-ethical consideration. A typical illustration of the centrality of the twin criteria of profit and custom is to be found in the discussion of the rights of a partner in a limited investment (indn) partnership. In Hanafite law, an agent does not normally have the right to transfer his mandate to another agent. This limitation, if applied to partnership, would seriously confine the area of independent action allowed to each partner. It would, for example, prevent a partner from investing the joint capital in a commenda, or from giving it as a bidä'a.™ to another person, or from appointing an agent to trade with it. In the context of medieval long-distance trade, this would have proved a severe handicap. Any enterprising merchant following the injunction of the trade manuals of his day to buy goods in a market that is low, and to sell in one that is high 81 would naturally be interested in having his merchandise transported to a market in which there was an adequate demand for them, and in which they would fetch an attractive price. It was not always possible, however, for a merchant personally to accompany his goods or capital to an optimum market; thus, the possibility for members of a partnership of investing or entrusting their property to an outside party who could render this service for them was highly desirable, if not, indeed, absolutely necessary for a profitable venture. · · For the bidä'a arrangement, see below, pp. 5&-60. M For example see al-Jähi?, al-Tabasfur bi'l-Tijära (ed. Cairo), pp. 9-10; French translation in Arabica (1954). vol. I, pp. 164-5. Also, Ibn KhaldQn, The Muqaddima. trans. Franz Rosenthal, vol. II, pp. 336 fl., and Maxime Rodinson, Islam et Capitalisms (Paris, 1966), pp. 47 fl. 5


Abraham, L. Udovitch "Either of the 'inän partners may empower a third party to act as an agent with the common property. This is based on juristic preference (istihsän). By analogy, he would not have this right. Each of them is an agent of his colleague, and an agent cannot empower another agent. For the constituent," while approving of his agent's judgment, may not approve of someone else's judgment. "On the basis of juristic preference, however, empowering agents is part of the customary practice of merchants, and the partners cannot do without this right. For profit cannot be attained except by trade, both local and long-distance. 53 Each partner is personally unable to engage in both kinds [of trade]. Consequently, he has no alternative but that of empowering a third party as an agent for one of these types of trade, in order to accomplish their purpose which is profit".64

In this case, as in many others, the requirements of the law were not strong enough to withstand the pressures of the market-place. The suspension of legal analogy and the exercise of juristic preference is candidly based on the realities of commercial life, viz., the custom of the merchants and the compelling need for profitable ventures. In response to these realities, the freedom of action of those engaged in trade was significantly extended. Indeed, it extended almost unto the commercial horizons in which they functioned; it included the right to buy and sell for cash and credit, to travel with partnership or commenda property, to entrust it to others, to leave it as deposit of pledge, and to innovate and adjust their conduct to whatever unusual circumstances that might confront them. 5 5 "Arabic: muwakkil, i.e., the one who grants the mandate to the agent. For the terra "constituent" in this sense, see Black's Law Dictionary, p. 78. ·' Literally: "both that present and that absent". For a discussion of the use of this phrase to mean "local and long-distance trade", see my "Credit as a Means of Investment in Medieval Islamic Trade", J AOS (1967). vol. 80, pp. 261-2. " Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. XI, p. 75; see also, Käsäni, Badä'i' al-Sanä'i', vol. VI, p. 69. · · Illustrative of the wide range of commercial freedom enjoyed by traders is the following summary by Sarakhsi of the rights of a commenda agent in the course of his conduct of the association's affairs: "If a person entrusted to an agent capital in a commenda, then the agent may use it to purchase anything he sees fit from the categories of trade, and then to sell, because he stands in the investor's stead with regard to trade. For the investor's aim in handing over the capital to him was the achievement of profit, and this comes about by means of trade. Similarly, by the very nature of the contract, the agent possesses the right to do anything that is part of the practice of the merchants. He may, in our opinion, sell for cash and credit. . . . And he may entrust it to the care of another party, because doing this is part of the custom of the merchants, and the agent will have need for it in




Medieval trade almost always involved both venturing and travelling. Goods were frequently shipped to points in the hope that they would be profitably sold and the proceeds invested in other commodities demanded at home. However, it was not always possible for investors and merchants to accompany their goods, and even those that did so, could not always wait at each locale for the most opportune business moment. Medieval Islamic trade, therefore, had to confront and solve the problems of entrusting the disposition of goods and capital to outside parties. This is an area in which the earliest Islamic legal institutions were highly and successfully developed—probably far in advance of medieval Europe. Numerous provisions were made, which rendered possible the delegation of power and authority to associates, colleagues, and even strangers, as economic circumstances required. A case in point is the practice of ibda or bida . This was a form of quasi-agency. It involved a merchant who, unable personally to attend to a business affair, hands over some of his property to another party for the latter to take care of for him. Upon completion of his task, the outside party, without receiving any commission, profit or compensation in any other form, returns the proceeds of the transaction to the merchant whose bidding he has done. All parties to a partnership or commenda contract are endowed with the right to exercise this practice freely because " i t is one of the accompaniments of trade, and part of the practice of the merchants". M It does seem somewhat baffling that merchants, whose entire activity was directed toward making a profit, would expend time and energy overseeing transactions from which there was no prospect of gain for themselves. However, upon reflection it becomes clear that this practice order to achieve profit. For trade is of two kinds: local, in one's own town, and longdistant, in another town. And the agent cannot personally supervise both these types of trade by himself. Were he not permitted to give the capital to the care of others, and to have the power of appointing agents, and the right to leave it as a deposit, then he would have to miss out on one of the two types of trade because of his preoccupation with the other type. He may engage hired help with him to buy and sell, he may hire horses and pack-animals for the merchandise which he buys, for these are part of the practice of the merchants and the agent cannot dispense with them in the pursuit of profit. . . . And he may travel with the capital . . . because his goal is the achievement of profit, and this is usually only achieved by travelling with the capital, and the agent possesses this right by the very nature of the commenda contract". ( M a b s ü f , vol. X X I I , pp. 38-9.) For the agent's right to adjust to unusual circumstances, even to overstep the bounds of customary commercial practice in order to achieve profit, see ibid., vol. X X I I , p. 45 and Shaybäni, Afl, Kitab al-Mudäraba, fol. 61b. " S e e Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. X X I I , pp. 24 (bottom); 63 (top); and J . Schacht, G. Bergsträsser's Grundzüge des Islamischen Rechts (Berlin, 1935), p. 75.


Abraham L. Udovitch

answered to pressing commercial need. Itinerant merchants and others engaged in long-distance trade could, in the course of their business careers, fully expect to encounter situations which would call for the cooperation and aid of colleagues in distant parts. A merchant, therefore, would be willing to invest much time and effort on behalf of a colleague, in the expectation that his effort would be reciprocated when the need arose. As one merchant expressed it in a Geniza letter, "you are in my place there, for you know well that I am your support here". 57 The commenda agents and associates in partnerships had at their disposal the entire range of commercial transactions known to the medieval Muslim world. Any bona fide transaction intended to promote a profitable venture was considered within the pale of accepted and licit practice. So lenient was this attitude that it even comprehended practices not normally associated with sharp and profitable trading. Such, for example, is the case with regard to agent's or partner's right to grant loans for use ('äriya) to outside parties. B y analogy this should be excluded from the partner's freedom of action, but, as Sarakhsi explains: "Granting loans for use is one of the accompaniments of trade from which the merchant finds no escape. If someone with whom he is doing business approaches him, he has no alternative but to lend him a garment to wear, or a pillow to recline upon, nor has he an alternative to lending out a balance and scales to some of his neighbours. For he who does not grant loans for use to others, will not receive them when he is in need of them". 8 8 Use generous In those business

of partnership or commenda property for loans and for other purposes was conditioned by custom and by business expediency. days, as in our own, the good will of customers, clients, and associates was very much prized; to nurture this good will by

·* Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, p. 169. The practice which Goitein designates as "Friendship" or "Informal Co-operation" (ibid., pp. 164 fi.), and which was so prominent a form of commercial collaboration in the Geniza period, corresponds to the Islamic bidä'a, and is probably derived from it. The term is mentioned in the Geniza documents, e.g., Richard Gottheil and William H. Worrell, ed.. Fragments from the Cairo Geniza in the Freer Gallery (New York, 1927), p. 32, 1. 7, where the word abda'ü is incorrectly translated and understood. u Sarakhs!, Mabsut, vol. XI, pp. 180-1; see also, Shaybäni, Afl, Kitäb al-Sharika, fol. 66b-67b. The savings which might accrue to merchants as a result of such favours can be appreciated in the light of A. Dietrich, Α rabische Briefe aus der Papyrussamlung der Hamburger Staats-und Universitätsbibliothek (Hamburg, 1965), pp. 130-1, where there is reference to a four dirham rental fee for the use of a saddle.




means of small favours was viewed with approval. There was also an element of practical foresight involved; for if no favours were given, none could be expected in return when they might be needed. The extent of these favours and loans was ultimately determined by custom. Use of the common property by one partner for the giving of a gift is proscribed because it cannot be construed as constituting an integral part of trade. Exceptions are made in the case of bread, fruit and meat, or in the case of an invitation to a meal extended by a mufäwada partner to an outside party, since sharing food with colleagues is "a practice of the merchants". 59 The basis for distinguishing between those favours which an individual partner can dispense while still remaining within the bounds of propriety, and those which constitute a violation of fidelity, is the prevalent business custom; "the source for knowing the difference between them is common usage". 90 In connection with numerous other problems connected with trade, such as deposit, pledges, travelling and living expenses, the law and usage were guided by the same eminently practical and lenient criteria— namely profit and custom. CONCLUSION Islamic law places one major obstacle in the way of an unfettered development of commercial techniques, namely, its strict prohibition against usury. In functional economic terms, however, this was not so confining a restriction as is often supposed. Even though we possess documented instances of its practice, these are not very extensive, and there are good grounds for believing that for both religious and economic reasons usury was but little practiced. Professor Goitein has noted that in the extensive commercial records of the Geniza we find comparatively little evidence of usurious transactions. 81 The reason was simply that the economic function which interest-bearing loans fulfilled was adequately served by a variety of other licit contracts. Credit arrangements which allowed for a higher price if credit were extended than would be charged in a cash transaction, commenda investments which allowed for a return on one's capital without personally engaging in trade, and a variety of partnership arrangements in which one's share of profit was larger than one's share of investment—all these satisfied the same needs as interestbearing loans by realizing a profitable return for the investor, and pro· · Sarakhsi, Mabsüt, vol. X I , p. 193; Arabic: min sani' - Ibid. " Goitein, op. cit., pp. 263 fl.



Abraham L. Udovitch

viding a flow of capital for the trader." It is for this reason, that I do not think that the exclusion of usury from the purview of Islamic commercial law was a severe handicap to the development of trade in the medieval Islamic world. Viewed in their fullness, the Hanafite institutions of partnership and commenda emerge as versatile legal commercial instruments, capable of fulfilling a variety of functions in the economic life of the medieval Muslim world. They could be adapted to the needs of local as well as long distance trade; they allowed parties to these associations considerable freedom of action, enabling them to take advantage of any promising business situation that might arise, and to invest and otherwise dispose of the social capital in any manner intended to benefit the association. By recognizing credit as a valid form of partnership investment, and by placing a premium on any special skills of partners and agents, Hanafite partnership and commenda could serve as a means of financing and, to some extent, insuring commercial ventures, as well as of providing the combination of the necessary skills and services for their satisfactory execution. Partnerships and commenda were also of importance in the industrial sector, permitting workers in similar, complementary, or even disparate trades to combine their efforts. The versatility of these legal techniques was further extended by permitting the inclusion of workers and entrepreneurs in the framework of one association, thus combining the production and distributive aspects of manufacture. The prominence of the Muslim world in the trade of the early Middle Ages, if not attributable to, was certainly reinforced by the superiority and flexibility of the commercial techniques available to its merchants. Some of the institutions, practices and concepts already found fully developed in the Islamic legal sources of the late 8th century did not emerge in Europe until several centuries later. The efficacy and vitality of these legal-commercial institutions endured, I believe, for most of the Islamic Middle Ages. ·* See de Roover, in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. I l l , p. 50: "Moreover, legal writers tend to exaggerate the importance of their categories and they tend to overlook the fact that, in economics, partnership agreements and loans are basically alternative and interchangeable forms of investment".


John Carswell Any study of Islamic material based on style alone must be limited in its conclusions, and Islamic pottery is no exception. Although many dated Islamic pieces survive, so far it has only been possible to establish a broad chronological sequence; in the future, it will be to archaeologists that scholars will turn, to supply the necessary detail. However, before examining the role of archaeology in the study of the later periods of Islamic pottery (i.e. from the 14th century onwards), it is worth considering first what other methods are available. The basic problems connected with pottery are of chronology and provenance; subsidiary to these (and perhaps of more immediate interest to the historian) are questions of cultural contact, manifested by stylistic change and technical innovation. As far as close dating is concerned, nothing can rival a date inscribed on the pot itself, and one of the advantages of working in a literate period is that such pottery is relatively common. Besides this, more general information can be found in dated manuscript illuminations, which show pottery in use, although there is a notable tendency for artists to stylise the examples which they depict. Literary references to pottery are useful, and a glossary of Arabic, Persian and Turkish terms used for various types of vessel would be of great interest. Lastly, pottery incorporated in the fabric of dated buildings, such as tiles, can be correlated with vessels of the same period, as they are often linked by similarities of technique and decoration. Here the student must be cautious, for ceramic decoration is not always contemporary with a building's construction. The paramount difficulty in determining provenance lies in the fact that a potter may travel—and frequently did—carrying his skills with him. Providing the requisite materials are available, he can produce identical pottery at two different centres. A notable example of this was lustredecorated pottery; this appears to have been a family craft, practised first in Iraq, then in Egypt under the Fatimids, and subsequently



John Carswell

in Persia. Inscribed pottery referring to its place of manufacture may help, but how is one to interpret inscriptions such as one on the mihräb of the Ye§il Cami at Bursa (after 1419 A . D . ) , which refers to its being made by "the masters of Tabriz" ? Should the tiles be regarded as an extension of the Persian tradition, or the beginning of a new phase in the history of Turkish pottery? The origin of a certain type of pottery can be conclusively proved by the discovery of a kiln site with its attendant wasters, but this may not necessarily establish the tradition to which its products belong. From the 14th century onwards the interaction of Near and Far Eastern styles is formidable. In the Yüan period, as a result of a major technical innovation—the art of painting under the glaze in cobalt blue—Chinese porcelain changed radically both in design and decoration. Under-glaze painting was a Persian invention carried to China, as was the cobalt ore itself initially. Early 14th-century Chinese porcelain is so alien in taste to that produced in the preceeding periods, that one is led to conclude that it must have been produced primarily for export, particularly to the Near East, where many examples are still to be seen (Plates I and lie). As this coincided with the period of Mongol supremacy, it is possible that there were contacts overland, as well as by sea, which could have been responsible for its transportation westwards. In turn, Chinese porcelain betrays in its shapes the unmistakable influence of Islamic metalwork and glass, examples of which must have been carried to the Far East, perhaps as diplomatic presents. Arab historians also record the presence of Persian merchants in China, and their influence is suggested in a number of Arabic/Persian inscriptions on 14th-century porcelain. In time we may learn more about the exact role that these merchants played in the early manufacture and export of Chinese blueand-white porcelain. In turn, the imported porcelain exerted a powerful influence on Near Eastern pottery, in Persia, Syria, Egypt and Turkey (Plates IIa and b, III and IV). Not only did the potters attempt, unsuccessfully, to imitate the material substance of porcelain, but they also copied the designs. The Chinese patterns were apparently conceived with the Near East in mind, and to draw an analogy, it is as if Manchester cottons in the "native" style were so popular when exported to Africa, that they were then copied by the native manufacturers. Further, by the beginning of the 15th century a taste developed in China itself for blue-and-white porcelain, which was to dominate the Ming and subsequent dynasties. Chronologically, the David vases (A.D. 1351) are the only securely dated examples of early 14th-century Chinese porcelain, so the presence of

Archaeology and the Study of Later Islamic Pottery


Chinese sherds on any Near Eastern site is potentially important for the dating of Chinese porcelain. In the 15th century, the situation is reversed; the Chinese began to use reign-marks frequently, and Chinese sherds have almost as great a utility as coins in the dating of levels of Near Eastern sites. In the excavation of the majority of the more important later Islamic sites an initial difficulty is encountered, for most medieval towns, such as Damascus, Baghdad and Jerusalem, are still inhabited. Thus only occasionally an opportunity presents itself for the excavation of a strategic site, and then often in a limited area, although this m a y suffice for a stratified sequence of pottery. The scientific excavation of even a small area according to strict stratigraphic methods may be adequate, and a series of sondages in a group of towns may ultimately be of the most use. Excavation of an Islamic site for pottery could differ significantly from the more conventional approach to a Near Eastern site; instead of using the pottery to correlate contemporary levels, the careful elucidation of architectural phases could be used to isolate a secure chronological sequence of Islamic pottery. Pottery has an important part to play in the study both of Islamic art and of history. Because of its fragility, and also its frequency, the sherds remain as tangible evidence of cultural contact and trade, awaiting the archaeologist's spade. For a historical period, a broken potsherd can provide eloquent testimony of contacts between different parts of the Islamic world and lands farther afield. For instance, the implications of a sherd of Chinese porcelain in a Syrian town found in the destruction level dating from the conquest of Timur need not be elaborated upon.


Michael Rogers The purpose of the present note is twofold: to give a brief account of the evidence for the China trade in medieval Islam so far obtained from Soviet excavations in the Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Central Asia; and then to deal in rather more detail with two categories of Islamic artifact, mirrors and ceramic figurines which, as far as the 12th to 13th centuries are concerned, suggest, even where no Chinese prototypes have come to light, very strongly that Islamic craftsmen had first-hand acquaintance with Chinese originals from which they copied. The general problem of Islamic archaeological material, that, even where an excavation has been published this has rarely been in sufficient detail for complete records of sherd finds to have been given, is, fortunately, less severe in the case of recent Soviet archaeology. But it certainly exists. In consequence, any general survey is bound to give a somewhat unsatisfactory appearance, which closer acquaintance with the finds from these excavations might considerably modify. For even where excavation, as at örenkale in Transcaucasia 1 has been continued over a number of seasons, the amount of Chinese material is, apparently, disconcertingly small. I shall, therefore, as well as giving a list of recent articles dealing with the problem of trade with the East explicitly, discuss briefly a number of other works which might from their titles mislead the reader into thinking that significant sources were being neglected. D I R E C T C H I N E S E I N F L U E N C E S UPON T H E MIDDLE E A S T The only recent Soviet articles dealing with this subject are (1) Pugachenkova, "Buddiiskaya Kumirnya ν Merve", KratkiyeSoobshcheniya Institut a Istorii Material'noi Kul'tury (KSIIMK), vol. L I V (1954), pp. 140-6, which she also refers to more briefly in her Puti Razvitiya Arkhi-


Trudy Aurbaidshanskoi

(Orenkaiiinthoi) Ekspeditsii, ed. lessen (Moscow. 1960).



Michael Rogers

tekiury Yuzhnogo Turkmenistana Pory Rabovladeniya i Feodalizma (Moscow, 1958), which describes a 13th-century, post-Mongol, Buddhist temple discovered in the course of the excavations at Merv and illustrates a fragment of carved plaster with a representation of a Chinese dragon; (2) Shelkovnikov, "Kitaiskaya Keramika iz Raskopok Srednevekovykh Gorodov i Poselenii Kavkaza", Sovetskaya Arkheologiya (S/l), vol. X X I (1954), pp. 368-78, a survey of sites in the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, including Ani, Dwfn, Garni (less important because it appears to have been a largely isolated fortress and not a town), Örenkale and Ganja, which concentrates chiefly on showing that a certain amount of porcellaneous material, dated by him to the pre-Sung period, occurs, in small quantities, on all these sites; (3) Kondrat'yeva, "Blyudo Timuridskogo Vremeni s Izobrazheniyem Peizazha", Soobshcheniya Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha, vol. X X (1961), pp. 57-9, on a dish in the Hermitage collections, probably from Samarqand, with a duck on a pond which, though an obvious copy of a Ming blue and white piece, is in a landscape surprisingly reminiscent of Timurid painting. Work on sherd collections in the USSR is facilitated by two works: (1) Saiko, Istoriya Tekhnologii Keramicheskogo Remesla Srednei Azii (Dushanbe, 1966), chiefly a work covering the technology of medieval pottery in Central Asia, 7th to 12th centuries, but with (pp. 1 2 - 1 3 ) a comprehensive list of find sites for the material he discusses and its present whereabouts; and (2) Marushchenko, "Stary Sarakhs", in Tiirkmenistanin arkheologiyasi boyundzha materiallar (Ashkhabad, 1956), pp. 1 6 1 - 2 1 7 , which contains (pp. 171-92) an attempt at a medieval stratigraphy of Central Asia. No Chinese material is mentioned, and a number of his conclusions are, as they stand, unacceptable; but if his general chronology is acceptable, it would appear (pp. 187 ff.) that the period during and after the first Mongol invasion was one of a marked rise in pottery production. But, of course, much more detailed excavation of Sarakhs and other sites is necessary before it can be decided whether this increase is of importance for the historian of medieval trade. Consultation of the following works has not brought any Chinese material to light: (1) Arakelian and Karakhanian, Garni: Rezul'taty Raskopok 1949-56 (Erevan, 1962—-Russian resume only), the only one of the three reports on the site so far published with any full discussion of the pottery; (2) D'yakonov, "Keramika Paikenda", KSIIMK, vol. X X V I I I (1949), pp. 89-93—apparently, no full report on Paikend, in Farghäna, has ever been published; (3) Nadzhafova, Khudozhestvennaya Keramika Azerbaidzhana, an account of the better-preserved finds from örenkale and Bäkü in the Bäkü Museum. Many other excavation and

China and Islam


survey reports were consulted without result; for reasons of space it seems better to omit them. The following works, however, which I have not been able to consult, may well repay attention (1) Shelkovnikov, "Keramika i Steklo iz Raskopok Goroda Dvina", Trudy Gosudarstvennogo Istoricheskogo Muzeya Armenii, vol. IV (Erevan, 1952), which is still the most recent general account of the finds from the Dwin excavations; 2 (2) Leviatov, Keramika Staroi Gandzhi (Bäkü, 1940) and id., "Keramika Epokha Nizami", in Nizami, vol. IV (Bäkü, 1947), which deal with the material from Ganja in Transcaucasia. 3 PERIPHERAL AREAS In the otherwise interesting excavations which have been going on since the war in the territories of the Golden Horde 4 the general character of the pottery from Bulgar, Bilyar and both Stary and Novy Saray, follows, as is already well known, the pottery of Ilkhanid Persia in showing strong tendencies towards chinoiserie, very probably via the products of Ilkhanid Persia itself. In this particular archaeological area, however, we suffer severely in having no general work devoted to the pottery of these sites, and in having no complete excavation report for any one site either. On the other hand, the one area where considerable quantities of Sung wares have been found, the Mongol city of Karakorum, 5 is of no comparative help since, in contrast to the Islamic sites discussed above, almost no Islamic objects, apart from a bronze bowl, probably 14th century, ascribed to east Persia, and four spheroconic vessels, have come to light. Islamic artifacts here, therefore, are the analogues of Chinese objects further West, and the site cannot really be considered as any more than a Chinese colony, culturally speaking. However, if we accept that ögedei, as Rashid al-Din tells us, actually founded the city • The only readily accessible account of Dwin is a summary, by Khachatrian, in Reallexikon zur Byzantinischen Kunst, Lieferung 9 (Stuttgart, 1967), which has, however, no relevance to the present discussion. 3 I owe these two references to the kindness of Professor Rauf Huseinov, of the Äzarbäyjän Academy of Sciences, Bäkü [Äzarbäyjän], * Matveeva, "Polivniye Izraztsy iz Bolgara" (glazed tiles from Bolgar), SA (1969, Part 2), pp. 218-27; Voskresensky, "Polikhrommniye Maioliki Zolotoordynskogo Povol'zh'ya," ibid. (1967, Part 2), pp. 79-90. However, in the Hermitage collections there is a small group of Chinese bronze mirrors from this area, some, at least, having decoration characteristic of T'ang artifacts. I have no information as to the date at which they were acquired, and they have never, so far as I know, been published. * Evtyukhova, "Keramika Kara-Koruma", in Drevntmongol'shiye Goroda, ed. Kiselev (Moscow, 1966), pp. 216-74.


Michael Rogers

in 1235 and did not just restore an earlier site, there are a number of significant finds, notably T ' a n g polychrome drip- and champlevi wares,* which are very much after their time and which, E v t y u k h o v a suggests, m a y have been trophies from the Mongol sack of some Chinese palace. There is, of course, nothing surprising in the appearance of Chinese antiquities as trophies of w a r ; but in view of suggestions to be made below regarding the prototypes of the Islamic 12th- and 13th-century ceramic figurines, the Karakorum case is suggestive, as showing that in this period Chinese antiquities could appear outside China. The above discussion of published material, much contracted for reasons of space, gives some idea of the smallness of the purely archaeological evidence so far in Central Asia and Transcaucasia for the medieval China trade, a defect which is all the more surprising in that the survey has covered areas which, like Farghäna, are, apparently, so much more favourably placed to receive the products of the overland trade route. Of course, in the 14th to 15th centuries imitation Chinese blue and white wares are to be found in quantity in Central Asia, 7 showing that Chinese originals must have been known to local craftsmen, but in the earlier periods, before, we are led to suppose, the overland route was largely supplanted b y the sea route, we seem faced with an extraordinary blank. This is not, however, entirely due to the deficiencies of the published material, upon which I have dwelt above, nor to the failure of Soviet archaeologists to interest themselves in the medieval trade with the Far East and with its results on the products of the Islamic East, as is shown by Vakturskaya's important conclusion 8 that it is only in the postMongol levels that grey Sung celadon sherds make their appearance in Khwärizm, when they are accompanied b y coins of the Golden Horde.· When we consider other areas, moreover, there is even less room for optimism, since, for example, in the whole vast area of modern Turkey, I know of no recorded fragment of Chinese porcelain from a medieval site, and it is left to Ibn B a t f ü t a in his description of his visit to the ruler of Birge in western Anatolia to tell us that, he was offered drink from Chinese vessels. 10 • Ibid., Plate XIII. ' Pugachenkova and Rempel', Vydayushchiyesya Pamyatnihi I zobrazitel'nogo Iskusslva Uzbekistana (Tashkent, 1960), Plates 125-6, both from the Samarqand Museum. 8 Vakturskaya, "O kul'turnykh svyazyakh srednevekovogo Khorezma s Kitaem", in Materialy 2-ogo Soveshchaniya Arhheologov » Etnografov Srednei Azii (Moscow, 1959), pp. 28-36. • Ead., Trudy Khorezmskoi Ehspeditsii, I (Moscow, 1952), p. 188. The site in question is Shemakha Kale. 10 Ibn Battüta, Voyages, ed. Defr6mery and Sanguinetti (Paris, 1854), vol. II, p. 304.

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The second aim of this note is to draw attention in particular to two groups of medieval Islamic artifacts, bronze mirrors and ceramic figurines, for which evidence of a Chinese original is provided by the presence of the objects themselves or, in the case of the figurines, by very marked resemblances of form and decoration, even where no prototype has been recorded. Bronze mirrors have already attracted the attention of scholars dealing with Chinese-Middle Eastern relations. The T'ang mirror discussed by Van Berchem 1 1 which purports to date to the 2nd century of the Hijra is a notorious crux, but it is the only mirror in Islam securely datable, if we accept its inscription, to the period at which it must have been made. Other types of Islamic mirror, almost all Seljuk and almost all 12th century, follow Chinese originals very closely indeed. In particular, an unpublished mirror (Plate VI) in the Islamic Museum in Cairo (Harari Collection), showing dog-like or frog-like animals on a background of vine scrolls and swimming round a central monster which forms the boss, is an exact reproduction, perhaps after a cast, of a common T'ang type which is described by the Chinese as showing "sea animals and grapes" (Plate V). 1 2 The resemblance is so strong that we may assume the Harari mirror to be merely a recast. A further type, well-known in Islam, decorated with two addossed, scorpion-tailed sphinxes rampant, 13 is also,

11 Amida (Heidelberg, 1910), pp. 127-8 a n d n. 5. Van B e r c h e m (ibid.) p o i n t s o u t t h a t an inscription on t h e face of t h e mirror giving t h e n a m e a n d genealogy of I d r i s I I , Sharif of Morocco (A.D. 793-828) looks 11th c e n t u r y . B u t even his a s s u m p t i o n t h a t t h e b a c k of t h e mirror is Chinese w o r k m a n s h i p , t h e inscription having been a d d e d in Islam, causes trouble, since few Chinese mirrors can h a v e h a d such a conveniently broad u n d e c o r a t e d rim. N o t h a v i n g h a d t h e o p p o r t u n i t y of e x a m i n i n g t h e mirror (in t h e Mus^e Cernuschi in Paris), I c a n n o t p r o n o u n c e u p o n it, b u t I suspect t h a t , like t h e H a r a r i copy of a T ' a n g mirror (Plate 2) it is a n Islamic cast t a k e n f r o m a Chinese mirror a n d t h a t in t h e reworking t h e (bogus) inscription has been a d d e d r o u n d t h e rim. In fact, if we consider t h e inscription t o be a deliberate falsification, this does not totally discredit t h e mirror since, as W i e t has p o i n t e d o u t (Catalogue du Musee Arabe: Objets en Cuivre (Cairo, 1932), pp. 54-5), it is n o t u n k n o w n for o b j e c t s i n t e n d e d for a magical purpose t o bear inscriptions which would m a k e t h e m impossibly old, t h e p a t e n t i n t e n t i o n being t o a d d to their glamour b y giving t h e m a spurious a n t i q u i t y . 18 R u p e r t a n d Todd, Chinese Bronze Mirrors (Peking 1935/New York, 1966). p p . 45-6, P l a t e X V I and Catalogue N u m b e r s 156-63, 188-91. For a more detailed discussion of t h e t y p e , see T h o m p s o n , " T h e E v o l u t i o n of t h e T ' a n g lion a n d grapevine m i r r o r " , Artibus Asiae, vol. X X I X (1967), pp. 25-54. " Bräunlich, " D r e i Islamische Bronzespiegel", Islamica, vol. V (1931), p p . 131-64, which analyses twelve e x a m p l e s of t h i s type. T o these should b e a d d e d one in t h e E d i n b u r g h Museum, one in t h e T e r m e z Museum (cf. P u g a c h e n k o v a a n d Rempel', op. cit. pp. 162-3, P l a t e 194), a n d one in t h e D a v i d Collection, Copenhagen.


Michael Rogers

in the opinion of Basil Gray, 1 4 to be attributed to close imitation of a Chinese original. Given these close similarities, it then seems appropriate to wonder whether the zodiac mirrors with twelve roundels round a central boss ls were not inspired by the equally common Chinese type of the twelve-animal cycle, which certainly remained popular into the Ming period. 16 Further research would doubtless clarify problems of iconography, but it is the problem of transmission which is of particular interest in the present connection. Marco Polo speaks of mirrors manufactured in Kirmän, and in Maqrizi's description of the Fatimid treasures 17 mention is also made of mirrors, so that we may assume the fabrication of such metal objects to be dated firmly to the 12th to 13th centuries. But this does not explain why it is only at this period, so far as the evidence has come down to us, that we find copies of T'ang mirrors being made in Islam. 18 As in the case of the ceramic figurines to be discussed below, we are faced with a situation where the plainly Chinese prototypes seem excessively old and where it seems difficult to account for their preservation in the Middle East for the two or three centuries between the manufacture of the mirror and the appearance of copies. The most economical hypothesis would seem to be that in the 12th to 13th centuries such antique Chinese bronzes appeared in the Middle East, exported as antiques from China. However, since bronze casting allows of almost indefinite reproduction we need not postulate that the Chinese pieces ever appeared in the Middle East in quantity. One single T'ang mirror of a given type, in some royal treasury, or a Chinese Sung copy of it (in the case of the "sea animals with grapes" mirror I do not know whether 14 Remarks during discussion of T. Talbot-Rice's paper, "A Seljukid Bronze Mirror in the Edinburgh Museum", to be published in the Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of Turkish Arts (Cambridge, 1967). 14 Cf. the cast bronze mirror in the name of Artüq Shäh, ruler of Kharput, illustrated in Meisterwerke Mohammedanischer Kunst, vol. II (Munich, 1910), Plate CXL, Number 3074, and even the Topkapi Mirror discussed by Edhem and Migeon, "Les Collections du Vieux S6rail ä Istanbul", Syria, vol. XI (1930), pp. 96-8 and Plate X I X , the dating and ascription being corrected by Rice in "The Blasons of the Baptistfere de Saint Louis", BSOAS, vol. X I I I (1950), pp. 370-2, and the terminus ad. quern being now 1342. » Rupert and Todd, op. cit., pp. 5 2 - 3 and Plate X X I X . " Kahle, "Die Schätze der Fatimiden", ZDMG, vol. IXC (1935), pp. 329-62. " The varying dimensions of the twelve examples of Bräunlich's addossed sphinx type suggest that, in this respect at least, we should do better to speak of copies after Chinese originals. Bräunlich also speaks (p. 150) of a mould for mirrors in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, but its present whereabouts are unknown to me. Ghirshman ["Un miroir T'ang de Suse", Artibus Asae, vol. X I X (1956), pp. 230-3] cites a T'ang mirror found during the French excavations at Susa, but gives no information regarding the dating of the level at which it was excavated.

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it was imitated or copied in the Sung period) or imported as a gift to a ruler, would be sufficient to explain all the examples of the type known to us at present from the Middle East. Moreover, we know that certain later mirrors, engraved with Koranic texts 19 were intended for a magical purpose, and although we have no evidence that these earlier pieces served the same function, it is by no means impossible that vague reminiscences of the widespread Chinese superstitions concerning mirrors, percolated Westwards along with the mirrors themselves, giving them even more importance and conducing even more to their preservation. Similar problems are raised by a further type of Islamic medieval artifact, which appears to imitate Chinese prototypes with considerable fidelity even though no examples of the prototypes have yet been found in Islam: a group of the ceramic figurines which became popular in Persia and Mesopotamia in the 12th to 13th centuries. 20 These figurines to some extent reproduce themes and motifs well represented in the primitive cultures of these areas: the series of blue glazed animal aquamanilia, particularly those in the form of an ox, which are illustrated in the Survey of Persian Art and many other general works, are paralleled by, for example, the finds of (unglazed) oxen aquamanilia by Moortgat at Tell Khuwayrat in north Syria and which are exhibited in the Damascus Museum. However, others, figurines of camels, cranes and other birds, many of which are not objets de vertu at all and seem to have been designed purely for decoration, plainly belong to an Eastern tradition. Other types from this class are lions with wearily hanging heads and thick, puppy-like legs, horsemen, musicians, a number of women suckling a child, and models of houses or even public eating places (these latter may have served as toys). The subject matter they present is rather that of the figurines known from T'ang China, even though the wide variety of style and subject among the Islamic pieces known to us makes generalisation particularly hazardous. However, certain technical details of their manufacture are extremely significant. Firstly, the greater proportion of these Islamic pieces are on a flat unglazed base. This may originally have been intended to increase stability, though it cannot ever have been essential, as is shown by the fact that in later pieces it is abandoned, for example, with the large, cobalt-glazed camel, allegedly from Gurgän, now in the Islamic Museum in Cairo. However, this inessential feature

" Bräunlich, op. cit., p. 143 and Fig. 3. , 0 The only general treatment of these figurines is by Grube in Oriental Art (19ββ). B u t see my " O n a Figurine in the Cairo Museum", Persica (1969), which deals with the special problems raised by the suckling figurines.





is also a distinguishing mark of the vast majority of T'ang figurines,11 and at the same time is not found in animal figurines from the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia and Persia. Secondly, in some cases where this unglazed base is not present, the glaze itself is strongly reminiscent of the s/t/>-painting of some T'ang unglazed figurines, most strikingly in the case of the Raqqa Horseman,21 where what appears to be a laqabi-v/zre body is streaked with purple, green and blue in a manner unparalleled in the other figurines. These two features are so untypical of Islamic artifacts that they would appear to be conclusive evidence for Chinese prototypes—at least to the extent that they suggested a technique, which could then be adapted to Islamic tastes. However, a qualification is required since, without exception, the Persian and Mesopotamian pieces known are moulded in one piece. In the case of the T'ang figurines, on the contrary, the custom was for them to be moulded in sections, which would finally be joined together by the craftsman.23 Had the prototypes been freely available, then, this technique, which adds very much to the life-like appearance of T'ang figurines, would, we may be sure, have been imitated as well. What, therefore, is imitated is the superficial appearance rather than the exact techniques for producing figurines; and this scarcely suggests any profound acquaintance. The known distribution of the Islamic figurines is limited to Persia and Mesopotamia, none having appeared in either Afghanistan or Soviet Central Asia, and consideration of those extant suggests that the taste developed in Persia and was then imitated, as was so much else, in the North Syrian (Raqqa) potteries. With the exception of the Raqqa Horseman, which is of an exceptionally high standard of workmanship, the general quality of the Raqqa figurines is markedly inferior to comparable pieces from Persia." The Raqqa pieces use underglaze decoration, or simple self-colours, rather than the overglaze lustre decoration of the finest Persian pieces, and the unglazed bases of the more faithful reminiscences of the Chinese pieces tend to disappear in favour of freestanding figures. The glazes used for these Middle Eastern figurines are, with the exception of the Raqqa Horseman, not comparable, even in appearance, with " Mahler, The Westerners among the Figurines of the T'ang Dynasty of China (Home, 1959), where the point is true of almost all the examples illustrated. u Abdulhak, " L e Cavalier de Raqqa en Ciramique Glacis^e", Annales Archiologiques de Syrie, vol. I (1961), pp. 143-4 and fig. 9. ·> Mahler, op. cit., Plate X X X I V , showing a female head wrongly joined to a male body. M Cf. Rogers, " O n a figurine etc.", op. cit., passim.

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those of T'ang China. A s for figurines from the Sung dynasty, too little is at present known about them for any useful conclusions to be drawn, though it is, of course, true that the brilliant turquoise glazes, typical of a range of Middle Eastern pieces, are well instantiated on Sung porcelains.2® But the commonness of turquoise as a glaze may be explained without any recourse to hypothetical pieces of the Sung period, also glazed turquoise, which would then have served as the prototype. Turquoise is the commonest self colour employed on Islamic pottery of the period, and in any sample of sherds will preponderate over manganese purple, copper-iron green or even the honey colour of a plain lead glaze. Secondly, Islamic potters were by the 12th century sufficiently selfconfident to adapt foreign motifs or subjects to their own particular techniques without feeling obliged to copy slavishly: the use of lustre, or even of under-glaze painting, on some figurines cannot, obviously, be traced back to the Chinese, and there is no need to try. Glazes, therefore, are a less significant pointer to the origins of the figurine subjects than the technical details of their manufacture. In this connection it is also, perhaps, of some importance to observe that a considerable proportion of the Islamic figurines are not just decorative but function as aquamanilia, vases, etc., which shows that Islamic potters were not afraid to adapt decorative figurines to a utilitarian purpose. In this respect they come closer to a number of Han and post-Han pieces, when tomb figurines seem to have been less in fashion, where anthropomorphic or zoomorphic forms are adapted to objects of everyday use. 26 Supposing that the bare account given above be convincing, we are now faced with a problem of transmission even more acute than in the case of Chinese mirrors, since no possible Chinese prototype for the figurines has so far come to light in the Middle East. The Chinese figurines known to us from the Han period onwards mostly come from burials, where they represent the goods or the attendants of the deceased and were believed by the Chinese themselves to have replaced earlier customs of human sacrifice on the burial of a great dignitary. These figurines were most widespread in the T'ang dynasty, their manufacture, so far as we know, being abandoned under the Sungs: the conventional, though not necessarily adequate, explanation for their disappearance is the political " Gernet in La Vie quottdienne en Chine ά la Veille de I'Invasion Mongole (Paris, 1904), p. 131, remarks, however, on a prominent feature of the late Sung period, namely the widespread imitation of T'ang tomb figurines, themselves doubtless still in circulation and coming from tomb-robberies. M Cf. two 4th to 5th century A.D. green glazed lamps, in the form of women suckling a child, in a private Italian collection, referred to in my article cited above.


Michael Rogers

turmoil on the fall of the T'ang. How, then, is it possible that figurines strongly reminiscent of them should have occurred in Islam two to three hundred years later—particularly when the originals were intended to be immured in tombs and so cannot have been widely diffused ? The material evidence anywhere outside China is very small indeed. The only figurines known west of China, for example, a horseman, discovered by Pelliot at Tumchuq in the Gobi desert although following the Chinese practice of modelling part by part, are not of pottery, but of straw, with a painted plaster covering (there are many of this type, from a wide range of Eastern Asian sites, in the collections of the Hermitage). However, if we consider the area to the south of the Chinese empire, the models of houses (which bear, incidentally, a striking resemblance to the Islamic house-models known to us) found near Hanoi in Indochina in an undated tomb are, according to Grousset,27 Han and therefore must at some time have been objects of trade—either at or shortly after the time of manufacture, or at some much later date. Moreover, Jansd28 in discussing terracotta models of a farm and a quadripartite house coming from northern Annam, suggests that they are pre-Sung and, although of local manufacture, probably copies of contemporary artifacts in southern China. Although, then, no human or animal figurines came to light on these excavations, we have at least some evidence that at some (unfortunately undetermined) period such objects were known outside the confines of the Chinese empire. A second example, even more tantalizing, however, than Pelliot's find at Tumchuq, is mentioned by Bahrami 2 * as "imitating a Chinese type of ceramic figure of the Wei dynasty", a figurine of a horse, made from "burnished clay" (does he mean some form of terra sigillatal), and, in his view, proves that relations between Persia and China were flourishing at least as early as the Wei dynasty, that is, A.D. 250. The figurine is unpublished and its present whereabouts unknown, so that there is no possibility of checking even Bahrami's description. And it certainly proves nothing at all. Without an archaeological context we cannot date the period of use of the object, and, without a much more detailed description, it is even impossible to say whether the

" Gronsset, " L ' E c o l e Fran^aise d ' E x t r S m e Orient et ses röcents T r a v a u x " , Revue des Arts Asiatiques, vol. I l l (1926), p. 64. " J a n s i , " R a p p o r t Pr£liminaire d'une Mission Archtologique en Indochine", ibid., vol. I X (1935), pp. 1 4 4 - 5 3 and Plate L V I . *• Bahrami, Gurgan Faiences (Cairo, 1949), p. 38. I am very grateful to Miss Parvin Barzin, Keeper of the Islamic Collections in the Muze-i Iran Bastan, Teheran for her efforts to locate this object. I t has not come to light after a thorough search, and she assures me that she cannot recollect such an o b j e c t ever having been in the Museum's collections.

China and Islam


creature was Chinese or not; and there is certainly nothing to prevent a Chinese antique being imported into Persia long after A.D. 250. Such, however, is the quality of the evidence for early Chinese figurines in the Middle East. One important piece of literary evidence is, however, provided by a passage from al-Tha'labi's Latä'if al-Ma'ärif,30 which describes the brilliance of the Chinese musawwirin, with their ability to portray all possible ways of smiling. This has been conventionally accepted, for example, by Arnold in his Painting in Islam,31 as referring to the skill of Chinese painters, but we owe it to Kahle that it is now so evidently more applicable to Chinese sculptors. The variety and vivacity of the genres portrayed by the T'ang craftsmen, particularly in the figures of Westerners they produced, struck the Chinese themselves, of course, no less than the casual Muslim observer, and it is scarcely surprising to discover that an American author, whom there is no reason to suppose is acquainted with the passage of al-Tha'labi, should use almost exactly his words of the T'ang figurines.32 If we can conclude from the Latä'if al-Ma'ärif (alTha'labi died in 1038) that in the n t h century some Chinese tomb figurines were known to Muslims, it is also a help to discover that, in the opinion of some sinologists,33 the tomb figurines seem to have been inferior copies of those made for decoration in ordinary life, which were better produced, more highly valued and certainly would have circulated more freely. Subsequently, even at the end of the Sung period, the Chinese passion for antiquities of all kinds must have acted as a powerful stimulus to keep these T'ang figurines in circulation. Gernet 34 remarks that the terracotta feng-huangs, dragons, etc. which appeared on the roofs of public buildings were forbidden to the common people and that only high dignitaries of the empire had the right to paint images of the door gods on their houses.35 The class distinction which restricted the right of guarding oneself against nightmares and other annoyances to the upper classes may well be regrettable: but it was a consequence of the generally held view that it was only the highest dignitaries who had the E d . D e Jong (Leiden, 1867), pp. 127 ft., lucidly discussed in the Lands of Islam (with a s u p p l e m e n t a r y article), Opera 327-50, 351-61. « Arnold, Painting in Islam (Oxford, 1928), p. 64. ·» Mahler, op. cit., p. 123. " Grosse and K ü m m e l , Ostasiatisches Gerät (Berlin, 1925), " Gernet, op. cit., p. 124. " These were historical characters, s u b s e q u e n t l y deified, guard t h e a p a r t m e n t s of the first T'ang emperor.

by Kahle, Chinese Porcelain Minora (Leiden, 1950), pp.

p. 1. w h o in legend were held t o



Michael Rogers

right to associate themselves with the cult of their glorious ancestors. The craze for antiquities was, more or less, an adjunct of Chinese ancestor worship, which conveniently added the motive of duty to the greater attractions of aesthetic pleasure and pride in ownership which the possession of antiquities was felt to give. The supply of antiquities faced, consequently, an ever-growing demand, and it was not surprising that in the late Sung period36 the proceeds of tomb-robbing should have been supplemented by imitations or copies of earlier pieces. These copies which, unlike their T'ang prototypes, do not always appear to have been made in separate parts, provide, perhaps, a more probable set of originals, technique considered, for the Middle Eastern figurines which are their contemporaries. There remains the mechanism by which these T'ang originals, or Sung copies of them, could have reached Islam, and in this respect it is doubtless significant that it is in Persia that the Islamic figurines first seem to appear. Of these, the horse and rider figurines (for example, the pair in the Teheran Museum) seem to be ascribable to the Mongol period when, as is well known, chinoiserie in all the arts was an overwhelming fashion: and, in this context, the fact that they look so "Chinese" is good evidence that it was Chinese figurines that they were intended to imitate. Moreover, the fact that they are still known in comparatively small numbers may be taken as showing that the originals appeared either as booty 37 or, perhaps, less plausibly, as part of an individual present to a ruler. Whether similar methods of transmission can be postulated for the Persian figurines which it seems possible to date to the 12th century, rather than the mid-i3th century (or whether, indeed, all figurines, in spite of appearances, must be attributed to the Ilkhanid period) is not clear; though it is also true to say that Chinese influences, of other kinds, permeate the pottery of Seljuk Persia as well. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of this discussion, certain motifs among the Persian and Mesopotamian figurines are almost certainly drawn from the ancient cultures of these areas, and there must be many types of figurine which could as well have been of local as of Chinese inspiration. This note has been confined to two cases where it would appear that Chinese imports, or objects closely imitating them, came into the hands of Muslim craftsmen, so that in this case we may accurately speak of conscious imitation. This, it will be evident, is in striking contrast to the great majority of medieval Islamic artifacts where Chinese influence, if perceptible at all, makes itself felt in the form of traditions rather than " Gernet, op. cit., p. 131. " Ci. Evtyukhova's discussion of the T'ang fragments from Karakorum cited above.

China and Islam


direct copies—for example, the long series of Islamic imitations of T a n g drip-wares. Can any general conclusions, then, be drawn from the objects I have discussed? Only, it would seem, that their diffusion must have been more restricted than that of the more "everyday" luxuries, porcelains and silks, and that, if Islamic bronze mirrors and ceramic figurines do, as I have argued, presuppose Chinese originals, they can rarely have been well enough known or understood for them ever to have been widely imitated. But this, until the Mongol period at least, must have been true of Chinese imports as a whole. Lane has remarked that much of the chinoiserie decoration characteristic of 13th-century Persian pottery cannot be due to the imitation of Chinese pots and represents new applications of motifs drawn from other types of artifact. And Maqrizi's account of the porcelains in the Fatimid treasury, 38 with porcelain tubs "in the form of lions" used for washing clothes, suggests not the fine pieces of the Topkapi and Ardebil collections, but a series of vessels, more valued as curiosities, which just happened to have come the way of the Caliphs.39 That clothes should be washed in porcelain tubs shows not the unbelievable luxury in which the Fatimids lived, I think, but just that the tubs probably were rather inferior. In this respect, therefore, the mirrors and the hypothetical Chinese originals of the figurines discussed above are not so untypical of the trade between China and Islam in the medieval period, before and during the first Mongol domination. Porcelains and Chinese bronzes were much valued for their rarity, and thus were more or less well imitated, but they can never have been any more than goods of the utmost luxury. Kahle 40 cites a passage from al-Birünl describing a visit to the house of a merchant in Rayy, where he was entertained from all sorts of porcelain vessels, even the lamps (manärät) and lamp-stands (masärij) being made of this material. He adds "and I was astonished by his desire for such luxury". It is unnecessary to point out that al-Birüni was not exactly a naive man, as far as luxury was concerned, and that his remark must, therefore, be taken at its face value—as surprise that any single man who was not a ruler or a collector of curiosities should want so much. Given the skill of the medieval Islamic potters it is not surprising that imitations " K a h l e , Die Schätze der Fatimiden, c i t e d a b o v e . *· A curiously s i m i l a r case of a Chinese o b j e c t , n o t in t h e Chinese view of v a l u e in itself b u t collected a s a " t r e a s u r e " in I s l a m , is a w a t e r - c o l o u r d r a w i n g in o n e of t h e T o p k a p i a l b u m s [ I p j i r o g l u , Malerei der Mongolen ( W i e s b a d e n , 1965)] s h o w i n g genii p r o d d i n g a c o m p l i c a t e d h y d r a , w h i c h w a s a c t u a l l y i n t e n d e d as a c a r t o o n f o r e m b r o i d e r y [ M a r t i n , The Miniature painting of Persia, India and Turkey ( L o n d o n , 1912), p. 27, fig. 16], " K a h l e , Chinese Porcelain in the Lands of Islam, p . 342.


Michael Rogers

of considerable competence, as well as adaptations to local tastes and materials, should be widespread. But this, so far from suggesting that the Chinese models which inspired them were widely dispersed, suggests in fact the opposite: the exploiting of a fashion on the basis of the rare, the infrequent and the costly. I am grateful to the American University for a grant from its Research Fund which made it possible t o write this paper and t o t h e Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and t o Mme. Wafiyya 'Izzy of the Islamic Museum, Cairo, for their permission to reproduce photographs of objects in their collections.


George T. Scanlon Recent excavations at Fustät in Old Cairo have focused attention yet once more on the problem of trade with China, its durance and the force of its models, particularly pottery, on local crafts. Whereas earlier discussions1 were perforce based on the imperfect archaeological ideas of Aly Bahgat, who excavated the site between the two world wars, or on analyses of shard collections picked up from the mounds or purchased from Cairo dealers; it is now possible to gain a more precise view of the Chinese imports, to achieve a more comprehensive dating for them through more careful excavation and by the correlation of stratigraphical evidence, and, finally, to demonstrate (most tentatively) the chronological and artistic significance of local imitations of Chinese wares. Thus the following account, while by no means exhaustive, will demonstrate the on-going validity of scientific archaeology vis-ä-vis the economic history of the medieval Islamic world. It is best to begin with an example. The white porcelain waterbottle in Plate VII(a) was discovered in an undisturbed sanitation pit during the 1965 season.2 Originally thought to be early Sung, comparative evidence from Liao tombs forces one to give it a 10th-century dating.8 The pre-Sung dating is corroborated by the presence in the pit of fragments of a glass pitcher [see Plate VII(6)], whose spout-shape and incised (almost carved) decoration about the shoulder place its manufacture in the 9-ioth century.4 Together, the water-bottle and the glass fragments go far towards allowing a mid- or late 10th-century date for the lustred vase ( F E P R '65-J, Plate X X I X - 3 ) found at the same level. It is interesting to note how the shape of the vase resembles the reconstructed stonewares from Samarra, 5 and the decoration might be an attempt on the part of the Egyptian craftsman at Chinese calligraphy. In one sense Fustät complements Sämarrä and Susa in that there is a steady imitation of T'ang three-coloured wares, with the glazes For footnotes please see page 93.


George Τ. Scanion



Fig- ι porcelains. Types of ring foot, ioth century.

daubed or freely-flowing over the inner surface. In another way, it exacerbates the problem of the early celadons.® If the terminal date of Sämarrä must be taken as 883, what of the celadons discovered by Sarre, some of which were in the undisturbed sariab of the Jawsaq? Was there a gth-century celadon, unrecorded in China, which preceded those with "feather-like" incised designs which we generally assign to Northern Sung? And was there a porcelain earlier than the Ting wares of early Sung, earlier even than our Liao water-bottle ? A 10th-century plain celadon certainly existed in Egypt; the fragment in Plate VIII(a) is from the same pit as the Liao piece, its greyish tonality recalls the two larger pieces illustrated by Sarre.7 That early

Egypt and China: Trade and Imitation


Fig. 2 Fustät Fatimid Sgraffito. Green glaze. Reconstructed Section, nth century.

Ting wares did get into Egypt is proven by a small dish [Plate VIII(b) and (c)], from a pit excavated in 1965, whose situation and contents point to a 10th-century dating. Its low, straight ring foot and fold-over lip are in obvious contrast to the small porcelain bowl in Plate VIII(ii) (excavated in 1968) which has a flat bottom, a sharper cavetto and straight lip. Unlike the Liao bottle and the dish in Plate VIII(6), the paste here is greyish white and the glaze is a bluish-grey off-white. Its archaeological context is late 9th to early 10th century. However it is unlike anything yet reported from other Islamic sites, particularly Slräf, Sämarrä and Antioch. 8


George Τ. Scanion

Before leaving these 10th-century porcelains, the influence they exerted in E g y p t should be noted. The shape of the Liao bottle, which seems ultimately to be derived from a metal-work model, comes to influence the glass-makers of Fustät, particularly in the elongated neck and wide sloping shoulder and outflaring lip, aspects unencountered among the utility glass vessels of the post-Classical era. This can be seen clearly from two bottles excavated from provable 10th-century contexts, one has already been published,· the other discovered in 1968 can be seen in Plate IX(a). The former is of very light green glass, the latter of a colourless translucent metal. As the T'ang splash wares (or the imitations imported from Sämarrä, for as yet no certifiable and/or published T'ang three-coloured ware has turned up in Fustät or in any other find-spot in Egypt) begot their Egyptian counterparts [a particularly significant shard may be seen in Plate ΙΧ(ό)], so these early porcelains gave rise to some striking local imitations. Quite fortunately an undisturbed pit was uncovered in 1968; the contents confirmed a 10th-century dating. More to the point here, there came forth hundreds of shards of monochrome glazed wares, all made of a whitish buff clay, common to all the lustre and sgraffito wares of the next two centuries. White glazes predominated, in obvious imitation of the porcelains [some assembled pieces can be seen in Plate IX(c) and («· I b n B a t t ü t a , Rihla, op. cit., p. 230. H e calls t h e ruler of P a s i Malik al-Zibij (for the identification of t h e ruler a n d of t h e locality, see, for example, Schrieke. op. cit., vol. II, pp. 239, 267). m Snouk H u r g r o n j e , " L ' A r a b i e , e t c . " , op. cit., pp. 101-2; W i n s t e d t , " T h e early M o h a m m a d a n missionaries", op. cit., pp. 4—6. 129 Vlekke, op. cit., p. 85; Coedes, op. cit., p. 436; Meilenk-Roelofsz, op. cit., p p . 105110; I.. W. C. Van d e n Berg, Le Hadramout et les colonies arabes dans l'Archipel Indian (Hatavia, 1886), p. 117. T o m i Pires, Sutna Oriental, ed. a n d trans. A r m a n d o Cortesäo ( H a k l u y t Society, London, 1944), vol. I, p. 182. 1M Van den Berg, op. cit., p p . 195-6. 1,1 Coedes, op. cit., pp. 436, 440; C r a w f u r d , A descriptive dictionary, etc., op. cit., pp. 13, 19, 38, 185. Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 146. Id., pp. 107-8. 1,4 Coedes, op. cit., pp. 4 3 3 - 4 ; Harrison, op. cit., p. 52; Le May. op. cit., p. 108; Vlekke. op. cit., p. 83; F a t i m i , Islam comes to Malaysia, op. cit., p. 39. Tregonning, op. cit., p. 27; Van Leur, op. cit., p. 112. " · Tom Ibid., p. 245. 141 Ibid., p. 241; J . B a s t i n a n d R o b i n W . Winks, Malaysia, selected historical readings (Oxford, 1966), p p . 21, 33; J o a o d e Barros, Asia, Decada II, book IV, in P. E . Josselin d e J o n g a n d H . L . A. V a n W i j k , " T h e Malacca S u l t a n a t e " , JSEAH (1960-1), p. 29. Τοπιέ Pires, op. cit., vol. I, p . 45; vol. I I , pp. 2 5 4 - 5 ; see also J o a o de Barros, loc. cit., supra. 143 For Malacca's political influence in t h e Malay Peninsula and S u m a t r a , see W i n s t e d t , op. cit., pp. 3 4 - 5 ; H a r r i s o n , op. cit., pp. 66, 59, 63. 144 Since t h i s is u n q u e s t i o n a b l y c o r r o b o r a t e d [see Pires, op. cit., vol. I. p. 46] it c a n be a s s u m e d t h a t even t h o u g h t h e Ming e m p e r o r s closed their ports to i n t e r n a t i o n a l t r a d e , t h e y did n o t p r e v e n t their s u b j e c t s f r o m going a b r o a d with Chinese products, such as silk a n d porcelain, which were a l w a y s m u c h in d e m a n d . m The Bemdara ( = Bendahara), a sort of P r i m e Minister, was a b o v e all Chancellor of


Rita R. Di Meglio

the E x c h e q u e r a n d First Lord of t h e Treasury, b u t he was also Chief Justice for both civil and penal questions. H e could c o n d e m n t o d e a t h individuals belonging to a n y social class, even t h e nobility, and foreigners, too, who came under his jurisdiction. Before enforcing a sentence, however, he had to o b t a i n t h e consent of t h e Lord of Malacca and, if necessary, both h a d to confer with t h e Lahsamana or Admiral of t h e Fleet, a n d with a Tumenggung (cf. footnote 166) or legal official [Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 41]. ' " T h e Tutnunguo or Tumungam (= Tumenggung), whose a u t h o r i t y only extended to the city of Malacca, was e n t r u s t e d with t h e protection a n d jurisdiction of t h e town. H e examined penal questions, in t h e first instance; t h e y then went t o t h e Bendahara. The Tumenggung h a d a very i m p o r t a n t role in controlling commercial activities since he collected all t h e i m p o r t a n d e x p o r t dues [Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 41]. Also t h e Xabandar (= Shähbandar) was a powerful official e n t r u s t e d with t h e control of trade. Four of these officials were chosen t o represent t h e m e r c h a n t s of various nationalities : one for t h e G u j a r a t i s (the most i m p o r t a n t ) ; one for t h e Kling, Bengalis, Peguans, and t h e i n h a b i t a n t s of Päse; one for t h e Javanese, t h e i n h a b i t a n t s of t h e Molucca Islands, Banda, Palembang, and t h e Philippines; a n d a f o u r t h for t h e Chinese a n d t h e i n h a b i t a n t s of the Liu-Kiu islands. These officials h a d to oversee t h e m e r c h a n t s who h a d been allotted to t h e m a n d also were responsible for t h e m a n a g e m e n t of t h e m a r k e t s a n d warehouses. It was their d u t y also to inspect weights, measures, a n d coins, a n d to settle a n y disputes which arose between t h e captains and t h e m e r c h a n t s of t h e ships belonging to t h e nations they represented [see V. H. Moreland, " T h e S h a h b a n d a r in t h e E a s t e r n sea", J RAS (1920), pp. 517-33; G. F e r r a n d , " L ' e l e m e n t persan, etc.", op. cit., pp. 239-40]. ' « T o m e Pires, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 272^». " · Ibid., p. 255. M a h m ü d Shäh held in high esteem a learned A r a b shaykh, whose religious counsels he used t o follow. This perhaps was t h e same holy m a n whom his son kept by him during one of t h e a t t a c k s launched by t h e Portuguese against Malacca [Winstedt, Malaya and its history, op. cit., pp. 37, 41], 1.0 T o m i Pires, op. cit., vol. I, p. 104, a n d D u a r t e Barbosa, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 163-4, both s t a t e t h a t in their time t h e Arabs had also reached Siam and t h e region of Tenasserim. If the localization of Kalah a n d Qäqullah are accepted as being in t h e latter region, the presence there of Arabs in t h e 16th century might confirm the existence of their settlements in those p a r t s since t h e 10th and 11th centuries. A f u r t h e r proof of their presence a t Kalah could be t h e discovery there of two Abbasid coins, one of which was clearly d a t e d a.h. 234/ A.D. 848 [Tibbets, " E a r l y Muslim traders, etc.", op. cit., p. 33]. 1.1 Snouk H u r g r o n j e , who refuses t o accept t h e possibility of Arabs travelling t o Indonesia with t h e object of t r a d i n g during t h e period under discussion, a d m i t s implicitly t h a t some of them, either traders or priests, did go to Indonesia even if this happened " b y chance" [op. cit., pp. 106, 109]. · " Tibbets, " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., p. 44. " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., p. 43. Situated, according to P. Wheatley, t o the n o r t h of Kalah a n d Qäqullah [ The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., p. 230]. 1,4 Situated in t h e southern p a r t of t h e Malay Peninsula [P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., p. 231], >M Situated in t h e south-east p a r t of t h e Malay Peninsula or forming p a r t of t h e Archipelago of Riau-Lingga [P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., p. 228-9; Tibbets, " E a r l y Muslim traders, etc.", op. cit., p. 15; id. " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., pp. 38-9]. See Tibbets, " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., pp. 43-4. 1,8 P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., pp. 231-2. Ibid., p. 233. " · See pp. 13-4. 1,1 See Tibbets, " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., p. 44. F e r r a n d is of t h e opinion,

Arab Trade with Indonesia

and the Malay



however, t h a t the Arab sailing directions of t h e 12th c e n t u r y are based on t h e Persian ones of the Rahnämaj, b u t since (as F e r r a n d maintains) they were translated in order t h a t t h e A r a b sailors could use t h e m , it can be deduced from this t h a t they m a d e use of these later ones for voyaging to t h e f a r a w a y countries of t h e E a s t [Ferrand, " L ' e l e m e n t persan, etc.", op. cit., p. 257], 1,2 The t e x t of Shihäb al-Din ibn Mäjid is to be found in t h e Arabic Ms 2292 in t h e N a t i o n a l Library of Paris, entitled Hätiiyat al-ikhhsär f t 'ilm al-bihär. I t is d a t e d A.D. 1462 The t e x t s of Sulaymän ibn A h m a d are five in n u m b e r : two of t h e m contain sailing directions for navigation along the coasts of the Malay Peninsula, and are called al-'Umdat al-mahriya p dab! 'ilm al-bahriya (fols. l l v . - 5 9 r . ) and Kitäb ab-minhäj al-fähhir ft Ί/m al-bahr al-zdkhir (fols. 59v.-93r.). The only d a t e mentioned in these orders is 1511 (Sulaymän al-Mahri died in 1553). T h e y have been translated p a r t l y by G. F e r r a n d , " L ' e m p i r e sumatranais, etc.", op. cit., pp. 79-84; id., "Malaka, le Maläyu et le M a l ä y u r " , op. cit., pp. 389^410; id. "I-e pilote a r a b e " , op. cit., pp. 297-307; id., Relation de voyages ct textes, etc., vol. II, pp. 484541; p a r t l y by P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., pp. 233-40; and partlv by Tibbets, " T h e Malay Peninsula, etc.", op. cit., pp. 58-9. 1,5

Tri ueizvestniye lotm Akhmada ibn Madzh ida Arabshoio lotsmana lasko da-Gamy r utuftalnui rukopni Instituta Vostokovedeniya (Akademiya N a u k , S.S.S.R., Moscow, 1957). 174 Quoted by P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., p. 101. For a more detailed explanation, see P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, op. cit., pp. 240-2. " · G. F. Hourani, Arab seafaring in the Indian Ocean (Princeton, 1951), pp. 87-122; Harrison, op. cit., p. 61. See also R. B. Bowen, " A r a b dhows of E a s t e r n Arabia", American Neptune (1949), pp. 87-132; id., " T h e dhow sailor", American Neptune (1961), vol. X I , pp. 161-202; id. " P r i m i t i v e w a t e r c r a f t in Arabia", American Neptune (1952). vol. X I I , pp. 186-221. 177 Tibbets, "Pre-Islamic Arabia, etc.", op. cit., p. 188. " 8 P. Wheatley, " A r a b o - P e r s i a n sources for t h e history of t h e Malay Peninsula in ancient times", Malaysian historical sources, ed. K. G. Tregonning (University of Singapore, 1962), p. 2; see also J. Crawfurd, History of the Indian Archipelago (Edinburgh, 1849), pp. 160-2. " · W. H . Moreland, " T h e ships of t h e Arabian sea a b o u t A.D. 1500", J RAS (1939), p. 63. 1,0 The commentaries of the Great Alfonso D'Albuquerque, trans, a n d a n n o t a t e d by W a l t e r De Gray Birsch (The H a k l u y t Society, London, 1880), pp. 84-5. 181 'Ajä'ib al-Hind, ed. cit., pp. 10-1. 182 Ibn K h u r d ä d h b i h , op. cit., p. 61. >" Ibn Hawqal, Kitäb al-Masälik wa'l-Mamälih, BGA (1873), vol. II, p p . 206-7. 181 Ibn Mäjid, op. cit., fol. 74, (7-10). ' " S u l a y m ä n al-Mahri, op. cit., fols. 38v., 3Ör. a n d v., 40v.; F e r r a n d , "Malaka, le Maläyu et le Maläyur", op. cit., pp. 398-410. 186 See V. M a j u m d a r , The struggle for empire (Bombay, 1957), p. 520; Sauvaget, Akhbär, ed. cit., pp. 42-3, η. 1. W h e n later t h e m a j o r i t y of t h e Chinese ships did not go f u r t h e r t h a n Malacca, t h e Arabs sailed to China on I n d i a n vessels, if not on their own. (Moreland, op. cit., vol. II, p. 64.) 187 The Book of Duarte Barbosa, ed. cit., vol. II, pp. 76, 137. 188 Meilink-Roelosfz, op. cit., pp. 15, 343-4. 188 Tibbets, " E a r l y Muslim traders, etc.", op. cit., p. 43.


Mrs. M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz The spread of Islam in Indonesia is a subject which has been studied for so long by Orientalists only, that, with my lack of knowledge of Oriental languages, I feel more or less like an intruder in this field. However, since this expansion was closely tied up with that of trading in the archipelago, and since the European sources in particular are of exceptional importance for a knowledge of these trade communications, I have summoned up the courage to make this contribution. I shall limit my comments to this aspect of trade in a society which was not as yet influenced by Europeans, even though Europeans have passed on to us comprehensive and rather detailed records about it. For that matter, their influence only gradually made itself felt, and the forms in which native trade was organized offered the longest resistance to it. However, it is not my prime intention to present you with the picture of an historical development. I have taken as my starting point trading activities and their organization at a turning point in the history of the Malay-Indonesian area at the end of the 15th century. But for an historical explanation of this situation, I shall have to go back to an earlier period. Fortunately in doing so I shall be able to make use of the results of recent investigations of both an archeological and linguistic nature, in particular the studies of the archeologist Lamb, of Prof. Wheatley, of Wolters, Tibbetts, Wang Gungwu and Johns, to mention but a few. 1 Our knowledge of the Hinduised states of South-East Asia is still based on Coedes's masterly work, 4 of which the third edition, revised by the author, was published a few years ago. In my book Asian Trade and European influence, etc.,3 I endeavoured to trace the changes brought about in Indonesian economy as a result of

For footnotes please see page 155. 10




its contact with the West. I omit this aspect here, since it seems to me to fall outside the scope of our general theme. From time immemorial, geographical and climatic conditions had destined the Malay-Indonesian archipelago to engage in intensive transit trade between east and west. In this area, situated on the peripheries of the opposing wind systems of the Indian Ocean and the Chinese Seas, shipping was forced to wait upon favourable winds, and so in an entirely natural way there could be created a staple market and a meeting place of merchants from all four corners of Asia. Thanks to the earliest Portuguese reports, which are written with accuracy and expertise, we can form a very clear picture of this world of trade.4 The most valuable in this respect is The Sutna Oriental of Τοπιέ Pires, which is of inestimable importance, based as it is on the personal observations of the author, who was interested in and knowledgeable about commercial matters. In contrast to the native written sources, which reflect the aristocratic Malayan and Javanese tradition, Pires reproduces the oral popular tradition, when not relying on personal observation, and it is probably less distorted than the material from the native chronicles. It is also to Pires that we are indebted for invaluable data about the conversion to Islam of both Malacca and the coastal principalities in northern Sumatra and along the northern coast of Java. Just how reliable Pires is has been demonstrated by a comparison of his data, as far as possible, with that of Portuguese contemporaries in Asia, or with the scanty native sources. Even the Dutch communications from the end of the 16th century sometimes confirm his representation of affairs.6 Nevertheless, exact statistical data cannot be expected either of Pires or of any other Portuguese writer from this period. For the study of Asian trade, therefore, there are no primary sources whatsoever such as those for the later Middle Ages in Europe which can be used and consulted by the scholar of economic history in the archives of the medieval European trading towns. With regard to accuracy and exactitude, however, the Portuguese communications are certainly much to be preferred to the aforesaid native sources, legendary tales and royal chronicles, which were written from an entirely different conception of life with a pronounced mythical orientation. In these chronicles, the economic motive plays no part, or only a very subordinate one. We must therefore make do with the picture drawn by the Portuguese, naturally as seen through Western eyes and hence undoubtedly distorted, though less distorted than it would be if this Asian trade was compared with a modern world trade, a distortion which the sociologist Van Leur

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



has not always managed to avoid. The Portuguese arrived in Asia with their experience of Western, late medieval economy. Despite the enormous differences in the structure of Western and Eastern societies, certain similarities were apparently discernible, precisely in the commercial sector, even though at the moment of contact Asia was less developed in this field than the West. The similarities certainly did not escape the notice of the Portuguese; they took account of them in their communications and profited by them in practice. Mention has just been made of Van Leur; 6 Schrieke should also be mentioned as a pioneer of a new approach. 7 These scholars did not take Europe as a central point, but endeavoured to study the indigenous society for its own sake. However, they proceeded from sociological premisses and hence were not primarily concerned with describing the historical situation. Elsewhere I have paid tribute to the great merits of both these scholars, and I am grateful to them for the way in which their studies stimulated me to investigate their results more closely.8 I shall not digress further on this at present, especially since I am dealing with a period for which Van Leur in particular could not consult the sources that alone can justify drawing conclusions. In the course of my argument, therefore, my references to him will, perforce, be more critical than appreciative. The world which Τοηιέ Pires conjures up for us is that of the central market-place of Malacca and its surroundings, a highly developed commercial community, undoubtedly the climax of a long process of development.· Recently the American scholar Wolters published a study on the origin of the state of Qrivijaya, 10 the predecessor of the sultanate of Malacca, the state on the Malay Straits, which forms my main subject. The very great difference in time, however, between the period treated by Wolters and the sultanate makes a comparison hardly possible. The information available for the moment on the development of shipping and trade between the rise and decline of these two states, or on the growth of traffic, the types of commodities traded 11 and on the part played by foreign merchants is too scarce. Only a few parallel or contrasting factors can be pointed out here. Both frivijaya and Malacca were very dependent on the South China market. The prosperity or decline of this market had immediate repercussions on the trading empires in the region of the Malay Straits. 12 Very important for the rise of the trading empires in this region were the wandering Malays. When there were no stable governments they roamed the seas as pirates. The trading empires, however, could not afford such piracy in the periphery of their harbours; therefore they tried




to incorporate these Malays into their states. As well-trained and capable seamen they strengthened the mercantile marine and contributed to the prosperity of the trading empires. 13 Therefore Wolters sees more continuity in this region, an adaptation of the Malays to changing circumstances, than a rise or decline of maritime commerce.14 In contrast to the current view that the trade of ^rivijaya must not be conceived as concentrated in one centre, but distributed over a number of ports scattered throughout a vast region, which was under the sovereignty of one ruler, Wolters underlines the fact, that there was only one harbour, Palembang, for the international trade. The other ports had only to collect the local products. But those isolated settlements could easily be attacked and usually experienced a short period of prosperity and a rapid decline. This development is confirmed by archeological discoveries. I refer here to the investigations carried out by Alastair Lamb. 15 But in spite of this loose bond between the settlements a certain amount of authority must have been exercised over both sides of the straits, by which the centuries-old piracy of the maritime nomadic peoples in the straits 16 was temporarily ended. According to Wolters the shipping of Qrivijaya should have been chiefly in the hands of the Malays. They were the skippers and the crews, but were they also the merchants? Wolters supposes that this was the case, especially in the beginning, in view of the commodities from the Indonesian region that were shipped, but already in a rather early phase the foreign merchants in long-distance merchandise must have played a certain part and Wolters wonders to what extent the foreign ships gradually took a larger share in ^rivijaya's trading and shipping.17 In Malacca their share was undoubtedly considerable.18 The monopoly of £rivijaya was extorted by forceful means and thus provoked strong resistance. The monopoly of Malacca on the contrary was based on a more favourable geographical situation with regard to international commerce. Moreover, in Malacca there were good provisions for a central market, because the merchandise had to be stored for a part of the year for resale to customers arriving later, there were harbour facilities and legal security for those, who visited the market. 19 In a critical analysis of my Asian Trade, etc., which Wolters published some years ago,20 he raised the interesting question, to what extent was the conception of monopoly an alien tradition in Indonesian waters. Indeed, with respect to Malaccan trade, there is definitely no question of an enforced staple, nor of the monopolization of certain goods, even though Malacca demanded tribute of subject territories in the form of products, particularly tin from Malaya and gold from Sumatra. Self-

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



supporting, independent shipping and trade continued to be possible, however, even in the immediate vicinity of Malacca. During the entire period of the sultanate, the ports of northern Sumatra were able to pursue their trade undisturbed. 21 The archeologist Alastair Lamb developed the theory—interesting in itself—that there was no essential difference between the dominion of £rivijaya, the Malaccan sultanate and European rule in the MalayIndonesian archipelago. In all cases there is a question of the control of trade-routes from some permanent bases and the monopolization of those routes. 22 This is a thesis which in my opinion is untenable, at least as far as the Malaccan sultanate is concerned. Here we touch the problem of how far the Europeans formed a new element in this Asian world. Monopolization was, of course, known in Asia; reference need only be made to the monopoly exercised by Egypt in the Red Sea. The staple market in the Malay Straits, whatever might have been the reason of its origin, was in the first place the collecting of the local products from the Malay-Indonesian archipelago. But on its long voyage from Western Asia to the Far East and back again, international shipping must have also found a resting place here, already at a rather early stage. Though according to Wolters the shipping of the early trading empires on the Sumatran east coast was mainly in Malay hands, one wonders, whether in the heyday of frivijaya the goods brought by Persians, Indians and Arabs from the west and by Chinese from the east were transhipped, considering the tradition of very long sea-voyages of Western Asians and Chinese, which brought these peoples into each other's territorial waters, voyages which appear to have ceased in later times. As for that matter, what must our conception of this long-distance traffic be ? In that early period, and even later on, was it a staggered traffic involving transhipment? Other questions which arise concern internal traffic in the archipelago. Did J a v a already have a surplus of rice, was part of this product sent to the Moluccas in exchange for spices and was rice exported to the Straits? Who shipped the products in the archipelago? Was this carrying trade in the hands of foreign merchants, Western Asians and Chinese, or did the Javanese transport their own products and were the Malayans also engaged in this trade ? The same questions occur for the long-distance traffic outside the archipelago. According to Wolters there was an extensive Malay trade to China, but was there also a long-distance traffic by the Javanese? An affirmative answer to these questions would imply that the Javanese must also have disposed of ships capable of both short- and long-distance voyages. It is remarkable, however, that when the Europeans first




became acquainted with Java, there was nothing left of a long-distance trade b y sea. 23 A t that time both the Javanese and Malayan shipping was limited to the archipelago and the immediate vicinity. Perhaps this was a consequence of the important role played by foreign merchants in Javanese and Malayan trade ever since the 14th century, in which the rise and prosperity of Malacca, the centre of these foreigners, could certainly have exercised great influence. Already at that time, the ports of Qrivijava were meeting places for many foreign merchants from East and West, merchants of different cultural backgrounds which had their influence on the indigenous population. A s I have already said, the same questions which can be posed about the trade traffic of f r i v i j a y a , can also be posed about Malacca. Fortunately we have more written sources for it at our disposal and can answer these questions in part. 24 After the disintegration of the state on the Straits of Malacca in the 13th century, piracy once more became rampant. Nevertheless this period also witnessed the rise of the little pepper-exporting states of Pas£ and Pedie in northern Sumatra. 28 One wonders whether there is any relationship between the rise of the state of Majapahit in J a v a and these little states, which apparently engaged immediately in trading relations. But if the sea passages did indeed become safer, this would imply a maritime preponderance of the Javanese state in the entire Indonesian archipelago, resulting in piracy being more or less suppressed. However, this supposition is radically at variance with the recently published views of Prof. C. C. Berg, who ascribes to Majapahit no authority whatsoever outside Java. 2 6 Serious criticism has been raised of Berg's views, in particular by Bosch, an expert on Hindu-Javanese culture. 27 In spite of the methodological significance which Berg's studies can perhaps have for the interpretation of the indigenous Indonesian sources, his studies take too little account of the investigation of sources of other provenance. Hence his pronouncements sometimes contradict factual data from Chinese sources. In the latest 1964 edition of Coedes's Les etats Hindouises d'Indochine et d'Indonesie, this scholar in a critical annotation does not support Berg's views, 28 even though he admits the significance of Berg's studies for sociological and psychological research on the ancient Javanese. With respect to the rise of the little northern Sumatran states, the question once more arises whether there was any relationship between the creation of an extensive pepper culture and the simultaneous dissemination of Islam. W a s the black pepper plant indigenous in Sumatra 2 *

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



or was it introduced from southern India along with the religious doctrine of the Muslim trading communities of southern India ? It is an established fact that Indonesia's first conversion to Islam did not take place directly from the homeland of the Prophet, which is quite remarkable considering the very early presence of Arabs and Arab settlements in the M a l a y Indonesian archipelago. 30 But equally remarkable is the fact that all trace of these Arab settlements had vanished by the end of the 15th century, though, of course, Arab merchants and preachers continued to visit the Indonesian area. Was this influence replaced entirely by that of the Indians? Diverse attempts have been made to explain the rather late dissemination of the doctrine in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago, the most recent of which is that of A. H. Johns. 31 According to him, Sufi preachers are supposed to have propagated Islam, a view shared by Fatimi in his study Islam comes to Malaysia 32 Other scholars of Islam will probably find points in it to criticise, since the rather scanty sources leave much room for speculation. As an economic historian, however, I must stay clear of such speculations. My aim is simply to demonstrate the close connection between trade and the expansion of Islam. I am not competent to judge the religious and philosophical backgrounds against which this conversion must be viewed. No matter how this conversion took place, it was in close relationship with trade traffic. Sometimes the merchant and preacher were one and the same person. And here I refer to the first Muslim apostle of J a v a ; Mälik Ibrahim (d. 1419), a merchant who became Shahbandar, the first step on the road to political dominion. 33 Sometimes, too, holy men probably followed the long-established trading-routes, and then became assimilated in the trading settlements already founded by fellow-believers. Since ages long past, southern India had maintained close relations with Sumatra, and this is testified by archeological data. B u t according to a remarkable passage in Pires, to which I have already referred in Asian Trade, etc., Pas£ was not converted to Islam b y the southern Indians, but by Bengalis. 34 Some time later and independently of me (at least, he does not quote me), Prof. Fatimi further elaborated on this fact. 35 He likewise refers to the relation between the state of Qrivijaya and Buddhist Bengal and discusses them in greater detail. And yet I believe Prof. Fatimi attaches too much value to this passage in Pires. As Prof. Teeuw has demonstrated in a recent article, 38 it is precisely a Southern Indian influence which can be found in the indigenous chronicle of Pasai, contrary to what Pires says. In any case the southern Indians from the Coromandel coast appear to have occupied an incomparably




more important position in the port of Malacca than the Bengalis, 37 regardless of how important the trade between Malacca and Bengal may have been. B u t the Bengalis who settled down permanently in Malacca were mainly simple folk who earned their living as fishermen and artisans. Hence, just like the majority of the Gujaratis, they probably formed the crews of the ships which came to Malacca from those parts and then stayed there, but they were in no way comparable with the powerful Southern Indian personnages from Coromandel, who are described so vividly by both Pires and Duarte Barbosa. 88 Nevertheless conversion to Islam from Bengal, which had already adopted Islam at the end of the 12th century, is more plausible than from Gujarat, where Islam did not gain a foothold until the end of the 14th century, in spite of the extent of Gujarat's commercial influence later on in the archipelago.3® Pas£ was probably visited by Chinese, who obtained pepper there even before the rise of Malacca. The Arab writer Ibn BattGta, whose reliability is not, however, beyond all doubt, states that in Pas£ gold ingots from China were as current as the indigenous tin coins, and his description of a domestic interior is similarly indicative of Chinese influence. 40 For centuries, too, relations had been maintained between China and Java, as is testified b y numerous archaeological finds of Chinese earthenware and coins. 41 Javanese missions visited the imperial court with the tributes which China exacted from the southern barbarians, and Chinese merchants and colonists went to Indonesia in search of pepper and valuable kinds of wood. A Chinese punitive expedition sent against eastern J a v a at the end of the 13th century did not disrupt these relations. To Java the Chinese brought porcelain, silks, gold, silver, iron, beads and enormous quantities of small copper coins. Many Chinese took up permanent residence in Java, where they helped to found new settlements. The rise and expansion of these towns was so strongly influenced by them, that such an important port as Grise is attributed entirely to the enterprising spirit of the Chinese. 42 Strangely enough, however, they are also said to have done much to promote the dissemination of Islam. The majority of the founders of the Muslim principalities around the northern Javanese seaports, the homines novi so vividly portrayed by Pires, 43 were also of Chinese descent, although the second generation in particular made every effort to become assimilated to their Javanese environment. A s Pires has it: "However, brought up among the bragging Javanese, and still more on account of the riches they have inherited from their ancestors, these men made

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



themselves more important in the Javanese nobility and state than those of the hinterland and each of them was revered in his land as though he were something much greater." 44 Although the Gujaratis were probably neither the first nor the foremost propagators of Islam, it was nevertheless owing to the vast expansion of their shipping and trade that direct and close relations were created between Western Asia and the archipelago. To quote Pires once more: "Malacca cannot live without Cambay, nor Cambay without Malacca, if they are to be very rich and prosperous . . ," 45 The Gujaratis not only visited the pepper ports of Pas6 and Pedie in northern Sumatra, they also followed their route along the west coast of this island, where they put in at the camphor port of Baros, and on through the Sunda Straits to the ports of Java. The tradition of this trade was known to Pires, as was the fact that the Gujaratis evidently stopped making these voyages after the rise of Malacca. Pires relates that in his times the remains of Gujarati ships had been lying in Grise "as objects of unusual interest for a century already". 46 Possibly the Gujaratis also sailed the route through the Malay Straits, but this must certainly have been more risky than the roundabout sea-route. Indeed, both Tumasek on the Malay Peninsula and Palembang on the east coast of Sumatra are described by Chinese sources as nests of pirates, although the Chinese had a large share in that piracy as well as the indigenous seafarers. In this period Palembang was a Chinese settlement with a Chinese headman. According to the Chinese scholar Tan Yeoh Seong, these Chinese were Muslims, and they were responsible for the settlements on the northern coast of Java. 47 Despite the lack of one central trading-centre in the Malay Straits, trade communications definitely developed and expanded. This is clearly evidenced by the foundation of new trading-settlements in both northern Sumatra and on Java. I have already mentioned the stabilizing influence which the state of Majapahit possibly exercised.48 With the rise of Malacca we arrive on less controversial ground, although here, too many questions still await an answer. The most reliable tradition about Malacca's obscure beginnings is again Pires, whose presentation of the matter reflects the oldest version of the native accounts of its foundation. In it a close connection is suggested between the founding of Malacca and the decline of £rivijaya. 49 I shall not go into details about this not particularly commendable past, in which a small pirate state, a tributary of Siam, developed into a trading settlement under a usurper who was a fugitive of Palembang and possibly of Javanese descent. The important thing, however, is that




the founder of the Malaccan dynasty made the seafaring people, or Celates, his faithful adherents. They were absorbed into the new state, and so their piracy could more easily be restrained. According to Pires, the nobility of the new state was recruited from the Celates, whose headquarters were in Bintang, an island off the coast. 50 This area and the straits of Singapore very soon were subjected to Malacca's authority. The king of Malacca forced the Celates to serve in his fleet with their rapid, light boats for a period each year. Hence order and safety were promoted and the requisites for international trade created. Malacca failed to suppress completely the piracy in the Straits. Its trade was hindered particularly b y the piratical raids operated from almost inaccessible marshy land b y the people of Aru, a little state on the east coast of Sumatra. Neither the sultanate, nor later the Portuguese, ever succeeded in subduing these pirates. 61 T h e new settlement soon experienced a great influx of newcomers, who mingled with the original inhabitants. The port had hardly any hinterland, however, and only a very limited area around the town itself was farmed. Consequently, during its entire existence, the town had to depend on foreign imports for its food supplies, and to a large extent its policy towards the surrounding states was determined accordingly. Thanks to the reports in Chinese sources, we can form some idea of this, as yet, very primitive community, which differs so vastly from the flourishing trading metropolis of almost a century l a t e r . " In this early-i5th century Malacca, as yet the only export article was tin, which was mined in the mountains of the interior and smelted down into blocks. The impression conveyed by Pires's description of the early history of Malacca is that the settlement developed into a central market according to a certain plan. Prerequisites were peace and order and a more or less satisfactory understanding with its neighbours. But of prime importance was the control over the Malay Straits. This policy was determined as much b y strategic aims as b y a desire to obtain products for the export trade and to safeguard the import of food supplies. It is in this light that Malacca's expansion on the Malay Peninsula and on the opposite coast of eastern Sumatra must be seen. Pahang was brought under Malacca's domination as an advanced base against Siam, and treaties were concluded with various tin-producing states. On Sumatra, Malacca was mainly concerned with pepper and gold. There Kampar, Siak and Indragiri were made tributaries, and via these states Malacca gained control over the export of products from the Minangkabau hinterland. Instead of products the seafaring inhabitants of the Straits provided able-bodied men for Malacca's fleets.

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



The new settlement endeavoured as far as possible to remain on friendly terms with its powerful neighbours Siam, China and Majapahit. Not very long ago, the Chinese scholar W a n g Gungwu carried out new research work on its relations with China, using Chinese sources recently made available. 53 His remarkable results show that the MalaccanChinese relations were initiated by Muslim merchants from Southern Indian ports, a fact which is undoubtedly of great value for the knowledge of the Islamization of the archipelago. 54 Much has already been published about the visits made by Chinese missions to the West, along with the inevitable speculation about the reasons for these journeys. 55 Again it is W a n g Gungwu who puts forward a very plausible explanation.5® He believes the missions went out at the express wish of the Chinese government, the aim being to expand China's trade and by doing so to deprive private trade, which was usually accompanied by piracy, of its right to existence. China is said to have taken the initiative in approaching Malacca, and the ruler of this state was wise enough to seize the opportunity offered. 57 The result was a very intensive trade with China and the settlement of Chinese immigrants in Malacca. Intermarriage between the Malayans and Chinese took place mainly in the higher social classes. 58 Relations with Siam were much less friendly but, dependent as it was on food supplies from the land of the Thais, Malacca had to treat this neighbour carefully. Despite the state of war which often existed between these two states, no complete break in commercial relations ever ensued. 5 · Relations between Malacca and Javanese Majapahit were extremely delicate. In view of Malacca's completely insufficient production of food for its rapidly increasing population, it was literally a matter of life and death that Javanese traders were induced to supply Malacca with rice, especially when supplies from Siam were interrupted. Besides, if Malacca wished to attract international trade to its port, it had to be sure of a regular supply of spices, and these products were in Javanese hands. Its efforts in this direction determined Malacca's attitude towards the port of Pas6, which up to that time had attracted the major part of Javanese shipping. There rice and spices were traded for pepper, which the Javanese then sold to the Chinese. There appears to have been a sort of feudal relationship between the little pepper state and Majapahit, reinforced b y an entente cordiale, though the ruler of Pas£ was a Muslim. Pires gives us a detailed account of the privileged position of the Javanese in Pas£, for example, they were exempt from import and export duties. 60 It is remarkable to read in Pires's account how the rulers of Malacca tried to lure these Javanese and Chinese a w a y from Päse to their own




port without getting involved in a conflict with the pepper port, and at the same time without endangering the friendship of the ruler of Majapahit, who could easily place his veto on Javanese shipping. According to Pires, Pass's religious enthusiasm prevailed over commercial interests. The price which had to be paid for Malacca's share in the trade of Pas6 was the conversion of its ruler. Pires's rendering of this story clearly reveals how much resistance and hesitation on the part of both the ruler and the Malayan aristocracy had to be overcome before they accepted the new faith, and it was certainly not merely the attractive prospect of a share in Pas£'s trade which ultimately decided the issue of conversion.®1 Even before the definitive conversion of Malacca's ruler, Javanese junks had begun to set course for Malacca, which had a more favourably located and sheltered port than that of Pas£. Very soon the population of Malacca outnumbered that of Pas£, which meant a larger market for Javanese food supplies. Part of the Chinese trade likewise shifted to Malacca. Wealthy Muslim merchants from India who had taken up their abode in Päse now moved to the new trading-centre. Nonetheless, because of their pepper export, Pas£ and the more northerly Pedie remained indispensable to Malacca. Besides, Pas6 was a port of call for traders who did not touch at Malacca, 62 and so via Pas6, Malacca was able to profit from the commercial activities of these merchants. Malacca's ruler must have been converted to Islam even before the second quarter of the 15th century. The Malaccan population soon followed the example of its ruler, and Malacca became a focal point for the propagation of Muslim culture. Because of Malacca's policy of expansion, this culture was disseminated throughout subordinate territories on the Malay Peninsula and along the east coast of Sumatra. The intensity of conversion was proportionate to Malacca's political influence. In a country like Indragiri, for example, where political ties with Malacca were much looser than in other subordinate countries, the permeation of Islam took a much longer time. e s Malacca's trading activities enabled Islam to spread out over a vaster area than merely politically dependent territories, and this proves how important trade and shipping were as factors in the Islamization of the archipelago. Malacca was probably also concerned in the conversion of the Spice Islands, though in view of their close contacts with these islands, the Javanese seaports certainly must have exercised a more direct influence. 64 B y the middle of the 15th century, Malacca's lines of communications extended as far as Western Asia, to such ports and regions as Aden,

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



Hormuz, Cambay and Bengal, and these relations were both of a commercial and religious nature. And as I have already noted, eastwards there was direct contact with China. It is very fortunate indeed that we are given such a vivid picture of this most important commercial centre in South-East Asia as it was immediately before the arrival of the Europeans, a picture we owe to the indelible impression made on them by this commercial town. From all points of the compass foreigners flocked to Malacca, and as a result many foreign elements intermingled with the original Malayan population, which was mainly comprised of fishermen. Some foreign traders remained only temporarily in Malacca, but others took up permanent residence there. Thanks to its well-situated harbour and good trading facilities, the markets of Malacca were visited by Chinese and Javanese, Klings and Bengalis, Persians and Gujaratis, to mention only the prominent races. The Gujaratis in particular came in large numbers. 65 Reputed to be the most accomplished seamen of this period, they manned the Gujarati ships of this important trading-centre on the west coast of India. In addition to these seamen, real traders also came, bringing along with them considerable capital or valuable cargoes. Similarly there came factors of leading foreign merchants, who themselves stayed at home and had their business affairs seen to in this way. Finally there were the small-time traders with their modest supplies of commodities. Since slavery was a feature of the Muslim world, it is important in this connection to point out that slaves sometimes acted as the factors of merchants who stayed at home, and that when foreign merchants settled down elsewhere they often surrounded themselves by a number of armed slaves. Thus was formed the nucleus of a force which could be used to seize political power. This was a process which took place in the ports of northern J a v a , as is also testified by the description given by Barros and Pires of an eminent Javanese merchant who lived in Malacca in his own fortified district. 66 Of the traders who lived permanently in Malacca, the wholesale traders came primarily from southern India. But the Javanese were equally indispensable to Malacca. Sometimes these wholesale traders acquired leading positions if they succeeded in becoming the representatives of their compatriots, who were subject to their own jurisdiction. The original population and the foreign merchants lived in separate districts. As I have already mentioned, that of the Javanese, who controlled the supplies of rice and spices, developed into a fortified settlement.



Since merchants from East and West did not arrive simultaneously and were dependent on favourable winds for continuing their voyages, the goods brought in had to be stored for part of the year for resale to traders arriving later. This state of affairs enabled the merchants who resided in Malacca to set up a flourishing business as middlemen. Y e t the economic basis of the town was a narrow one. As we have seen, the immediate surroundings produced practically nothing on a scale sufficient to feed the population of the town. It is difficult to say just how large that population was. Albuquerque's figure of 100,000 inhabitants must have been very much overestimated, although the Malay annals give the even higher figure of 190,000.87 A more reliable figure would seem to be that of the Portuguese, R u y Araujo, who was in Malacca as a prisoner of its sultan, that is, before the town passed into the hands of the Portuguese. He estimated that there were 10,000 homesteads in 1510. Reckoning four or five to a family, we arrive at a total of 40-50,000 people. This figure corresponds with Araujo's other estimate, that Malacca could raise a fighting force of 4000 in the event of war. The figure of 40-50,000 also fits in better with the more exact data available for a later period, when the Portuguese were masters of the town. Now for this population of 40-50,000 people, trade was practically the only means of existence, since industry and craftmanship were not of any great importance. Fish was the only domestic product apart from gold and tin, which were produced mainly as tribute b y the subordinate states. After being dried and salted, this fish was traded throughout the entire archipelago. The salt required for processing the fish was exported b y the towns along the coast of Java, where salt pans were located here and there. The east coast of Sumatra, however, exported an even greater quantity of fish than Malacca. 98 There was some shipbuilding in Malacca, but mainly of small, light and fast-sailing ships for waging war. The larger cargo vessels or junks with holds came mainly from Pegu, which also supplied J a v a with j u n k s . " The obvious conclusion would seem to be that the Malaccan shipbuilding industry was not geared to construct vessels capable of making long ocean voyages. When the sultan Mansür Shäh decided to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, he had special junks for the voyage made in Pegu and Java. In any case, at the beginning of the 17th century there was no trace left of an industry which built long-distance ships. 70 Admittedly, there was intensive trade between Malacca and overseas regions in the time of the sultanate, but the majority of the junks employed were

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago


probably of foreign make and owned by foreign merchants, resident in Malacca. On the other hand, the crews for these ships were probably recruited from the Malayan population. Malacca's prosperity was based exclusively on trade, and fortunately its rulers fully appreciated the advisability of creating conditions which facilitated that trade. Reference has already been made to the suppression of piracy. In addition there was a well-run bureaucracy, even though corruption did occur, and the administration of justice guaranteed a certain degree of legal security. Numerous measures were taken to regulate port activities, there were good warehouses, fixed customs duties, standard measures, coinage and weights. 71 The accepted coinage was tin, but gold and silver were also used for bartering, though more as a commodity than a coinage. Foreign coins, for example those of the Indian seaports, were also current in Malacca, where, no doubt, many money-changers were to be found. Whether the codification of the Malaccan port regulations should also be seen within the framework of these measures for the promotion of trade is a question which certainly would require further research. 72 It may be that there is some Western influence on this codification. The very fact that there was such a rare thing in East Asia as a codification gives cause for reflection. Nonetheless, this code comprises many elements which are confirmed by data recorded by Pires and other writers, and indeed on some points it provides a valuable addition to what Pires relates about the structure of Asian trade. He gives us a detailed account of the procedure followed on the arrival of a ship with cargo, the payment of import duties and the evaluation of the goods, in which the local merchants had a say. 7 3 Unfortunately there are no data about any form of organization of the merchants themselves. The whole pattern of trade was concentrated on expediting matters as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our only source of information on the organization of the purely Malaccan trade, that is on board at sea and on arrival in a port, is the Malay maritime code. 74 A remarkable feature is the important position of the captain or Nakhoda, but we also find in the code a good deal of information about the relationship between the captain and passenger merchants, and also between the captain, crew and merchants. In spite of the mass of details about this branch of trade, many points pertaining to mutual relationships are still vague. One thing is clear, in Asia at the end of the 15th century, shipowning was not yet distinct from trade. The shipowner was not yet in an independent position, and the costs of transport were not yet entirely his responsibility. The captain did not receive a salary from the people who commissioned his services, instead


Mrs. Meilink-Roelofsz

he shared in the profits. Nor were the members of the crew employed by the owner of the ship. They too had a share in the trade. On occasion, the captain could also be the owner of the ship. It is also clear that trade on a scale such as that suggested by the maritime code cannot be termed peddling trade. On the contrary, it forms a richly variegated pattern in which huge quantities of bulk goods, such as foodstuffs and textiles, alternate with smaller—sometimes very much smaller—quantities of valuable or even cheap commodities. The long-distance goods, luxuries, took up little space and were shipped to or from Europe, to or from the Far East. But in addition there was considerable traffic in bulk goods over relatively long distances throughout the entire Indian Ocean and China Seas, to mention only the Indian textiles and Chinese porcelain and earthenware. The value of the luxury products must have far exceeded that of the bulk goods, and this raises the question whether a trader in such luxury goods can properly be termed a peddler, as Van Leur calls him.75 The pattern of trade revealed by the maritime code, according to which the owner of goods could rent cargo space, or the Nakhoia could rent goods and money in commenda for bartering, is also to be found in Pires.76 Moreover he informs us very precisely about the exceedingly high profits which were usually made from these transactions, profits dependent on the intensity of demand for the goods and the length of the voyage. Considerable capital was required for fitting-out and loading the ships, which accounts for the important part played by the rulers and highly placed officials. Nevertheless, the passive form of commenda was most common, although the sultans sometimes fitted out ships themselves. In that event, the actual business of trading was carried out by merchants representing the sultan's interests or by Nakhodas commissioned by the ruler. Shipowning and trade in both the active and passive form brought the sultans of Malacca great fortunes, which were further increased by copious receipts from customs duties. In Malacca there must have been a certain amount of tension between the indigenous warlike and feudal nobility of Malayan descent and the mercantile community to which the town owed its prosperity. Sometimes the latter group contained very wealthy and powerful members. Nevertheless their position is in no way comparable to that of the contemporary, late medieval merchant magnates of Europe. In Malacca as elsewhere in South-East Asia, the merchants were entirely at the mercy of the ruler, who could dispose capriciously of their property.

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



Although the merchants of South-East Asia sometimes were able to seize political power by means of force, they were bereft of all those autonomous rights and civil freedoms which are such an intrinsic feature of medieval European society and which consequently exercised a definitive influence on the development of European politics. This is not the place to try to give you even an approximate impression of all the shipping and commercial communications in the Malay archipelago pertaining to both Malacca itself and the trade independent of Malacca. 77 From Pires and the other Portuguese writers it is clearly manifest that both in and beyond the archipelago maritime traffic was conducted along fixed routes, with fixed ports of call where transhipment took place. Hence shipping was divided up into several stages. In conclusion here are some brief comments on Javanese trade traffic, since here, too, trade and the propagation of Islam were closely intertwined. 78 I have already referred to the great importance of the export of Javanese foodstuffs to Malacca. In return the Javanese were largely dependent on Malacca for the import of Indian textiles for the satisfaction of their own needs and also for bartering, along with foodstuffs, for spices in Banda and the Moluccas. The Banda group was the only part of the Spice Islands which had any merchant shipping. But both these islands and the Moluccas proper were almost entirely dependent on imports for their supplies of food and clothing. Consequently, even before the rise of Malacca, there must have been close economic ties between these islands and the Javanese seaports, from which later originated Java's intermediary trade in spices with Malacca. There is no doubt that the expanding export of rice and spices was related to the rise and prosperity of a state like Demak and seaports like Japara and Grise. Demak with its surplus production of rice in the interior and Japara with its export of rice and spices. But Grise was the main spice port, one which maintained particularly close relations with the Spice Islands. These relations were not merely of an economic, but also of a religious nature, since it was mainly from Grise that Islam spread throughout the Spice Islands. 7 · Malacca was also directly concerned with the spice trade of Grise. There was probably a combined merchant shipping to Banda and the Moluccas. Alongside this trade on a larger scale there was also a peddling trade carried on by small-time traders who went from one Javanese seaport to another bartering their little cargoes for other goods. Via 11




the island of Sumbawa, one of the Lesser Sunda islands, they ended up in the Moluccas. This peddling trade was probably older than the largescale trade operated from Grise and Japara, and when the Dutch appeared in the archipelago it was still being carried on in the same way. 80 Both business and family relations existed between the merchants of J a v a and of Malacca. Many Javanese settled temporarily or permanently in this seaport. Here they learned their trading methods and from here they maintained their contacts with their homeland. Most of the merchant communities on the Javanese seaports were of foreign origin, but thanks to their establishment on this part of the periphery of the Hindu state, whose centre lay inland, these communities probably enjoyed a large degree of freedom, with the possibility of seizing political power. The local Hindu ruler could then easily be replaced, for to a large degree the Muslim rulers in the Javanese ports were descended from the foreign merchants. Only in the northern Javanese town of Tuban was the ruling dynasty of Javanese origin, though converted to Islam. The pattern of conversion as depicted by Pires is largely similar to that known from other sources. 81 Once power was acquired, there followed the recruiting of religious preachers, the building of mosques, the expansion of the Muslim group through immigration, assimilation to the Javanese environment accompanied by the conversion of the indigenous population. But resistance was offered by the Hindus, as appears from the development of trade in western Java. 82 This was not a peripheral region; the capital of the western Javanese Hindu state lay only two days away from the main port of the land of Sunda Kalapa. Nevertheless it had a very flourishing trade focused on Malacca with, again, rice as the main export product and already a rather significant pepper export. Only exceptionally were Muslim merchants admitted to the Sundanese ports. Not until the 16th century was this land converted to Islam, and then Bantam became the most important port in the archipelago. 83 Unfortunately, we have practically no data whatsoever pertaining to the organization of the Javanese trade, nor to the other regions of the Indonesian archipelago. However, the more primitive the society, the greater the ruler's share in trade appears to have been. He conducted this trade, however, in close cooperation with foreign merchants of Western Asian or Chinese descent. Undoubtedly the importance of those merchants is greater than described by Van Leur. I could conclude by making further critical remarks about Van Leur's views, for example, about his overestimation of the luxury character of Asian trade and, in particular, his overestimation of the peddling element

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



in it, but this would create a wrong impression, for my appreciation of Van Leur's brilliant insight exceeds all possible criticism. Elsewhere I have analysed Van Leur's significance in greater detail than is possible here.84 Here I have merely endeavoured to illustrate a few facets of the so richly variegated subject of Islam and Asian trade in Indonesia. 1 Alastair Lamb, "Early History", in Malaysia. A survey, ed. Wang Gungwu (London, 1964); Id., "Takuapa, the probable site of a pre-Malaccan entrepot in the Malay Peninsula", in Malayan and Indonesian studies, essays presented to Sir Richard Winstedt, eds. John Bastin and R. Roolvink (Oxford 1964), pp. 76-86; P. Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese, Studies in the historical geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500 (Kuala Lumpur, University of Malaya Press, 1961); O. W. Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce. A study of the origins of Srvjijaya (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966); Id., "Srivijayan expansion in the seventh century", Artibus Asiat, vol. X X I V , 3-4 (1961), pp. 417-24; G. R. Tibbetts, "Early Muslim traders in South East Asia", Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. X X X (1957), pp. 1-45; Wang Gungwu, "The opening of relations between China and Malacca 1403-1405", in Malayan and Indonesian Studies, essays presented to Sir Richard Winstedt, eds. J. Bastin and R. Roolvink (Oxford, 1964), pp. 87-104; A. H. Johns, Sufism as a category in Indonesian literature and history, unpublished (typewritten copy in the Sociological-historical Seminar for South East Asia of the University of Amsterdam); A. H. Johns, "The role of structural organisation and m y t h in Javanese historiography", Journal of Asian Studies, vol. X X I V (1964), pp. 91-9; A. H. Johns, "Muslim mystics and historical writing", in Historians of South East Asia, ed. D. G. It. Hall (London, 1961), pp. 37-49. I

C. Coedfes, Les etals Hindouisis d'Indochine et d'Indonesie (3rd ed., Paris, 1964). M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague, 1962). 4 Tome IHres, The Suma Oriental and the book of Francisco Rodrigues, tr. and ed. Armando Cortesäo (Hakluyt Society, Second series, no. L X X X I X & XC, London, 1944), 2 vols. » M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 109. • J. C. van Leur, "On early Asian Trade", in Indonesian Trade and Society, Essay in Asian social and economic history (The Hague-Bandung, 1955); Id., " T h e world of South East Asia", in Indonesian Trade and Society, etc. ' B. J. O. Schrieke, Indonesian Sociological Studies. Selected writings of B. Schneke, parts i and ii (The Hague-Bandung, 1955 and 1957). • Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 1 fl. • Tom£ Pires, Suma Oriental II. 10 O. W. Wolters, Early Indonesian Commerce. A study of the origins of Srivijaya (1966). II Wolters gives chiefly the products imported from Indonesia to China and only in the early period. 12 Wolters, op. cit., p. 224; Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 26, 31, 35-8, 42-4, 74-9, 102. " W o l t e r s , op. cit., pp. 222, 224, 341, n. 154; Meilink-Roelofsz, pp. 27-30. 14 Wolters, op. cit., pp. 347, 348, n. 107. 14 Lamb, "Early History", loc. cit., pp. 108-10; Id., "Takuapa, etc.", loc. cit., pp. 76-86. "Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 14. " Wolters, op. cit., pp. 248, 249. 1β Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 36 fi. » Ibid., pp. 28, 29, 38 fi. s




44 The Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. VII, fasc. iii (1964). pp. 320-2. " Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 20, 32-4. 8». 90. 44 L a m b , " E a r l y H i s t o r y " , loc. cit., p. 110. " M e i l i n k - R o e l o f s z , op. cit., p. 105. 44 Ibid., pp. 27 fl. " Ibid., pp. 19-21. " C . C. Berg, " D e Geschiedenes van pril M a j a p a h i t " , Indonesie, vol. IV (1950-1951), pp. 481-620. a n d vol. V (1951-1952), pp. 193-233; Id.. " D e Sadeng-oorlog en de m y t h e van Groot M a j a p a h i t " . Indonesie, vol. V (1951-1952). p p . 385-422. *' F. D. K . Bosch, "C. C. Berg a n d Ancient J a v a n e s e H i s t o r y " , Bijdragen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenhunde, vol. C X I I (1956), pp. 1-24. 44 Coedes, op. cit., pp. 337-8. 44 Only c u b e b pepper was listed in Chinese sources as one of £ r i v i j a y a ' s m a r k e t products, see Wolters, op. cit., p. 281, n. 21, 25. 10 Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 20-2. 31 A. H . J o h n s , Sufism as a category in Indonesian literature and history, unpublished (pp. 1 - 1 2 of typescript, see η. 1 supra). 44 S. Q. Fatimi, Islam comes to Malaysia (Singapore, 1963), pp. 22 fl. " Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 108. 44 Ibid., p. 21; Τοιηέ Pires, Suma Oriental I. p. 143. 44 Fatimi, op. cit., pp. 14 fl. 44 A. Teeuw, " H i k a y a t R a j a - R a j a Pasai and Sejarah Melayu", in Malayan and Indonesian Studies, essays presented to Sir Richard Winstedt, eds. J. Basti η and R. Roolvink (Oxford, 1964), pp. 222-34. " Meilink-Roelofsz. op. cit.. p. 56; T o m e Pires, Suma Oriental I, p. 93. 18 The Book of Duarte Barbosa. An account of the Countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants A.D. 1518, tr. by Mansel L o n g w o r t h Dames. H a k l u y t Society, X L I V , X L I X , 2 p a r t s (London, 2nd edition, 1918, 1921), Book II, pp. 176, 177; Τοπιέ Pires, Suma Oriental I, p. 214; I I , pp. 255, 272. 44 Id., Suma Oriental I, pp. 4 5 - 7 ; II, pp. 269, 270. 40 Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.), vol. I l l , p. 1112. 41 E . W . v a n Orsoy de Flines, "Onderzoek naar en van Keramische scherven in de bodem van noordelijk midden J a v a 1940-1942", in Verslag van de Oudheidhundige Dienst in Indonesie (1941-1947). See also H. J . de Graaf, De regering van Panembahan Senapati Inga lag a (1954), p. 18. 44 W. W . Rockhill, " N o t e s on the relations a n d t r a d e of China with t h e E a s t e r n Archipelago a n d t h e Coasts of the Indian Ocean during the F o u r t e e n t h C e n t u r y " , T'oung Pao, vol. X V I (1915), p. 241; W. P. Groeneveldt, " N o t e s on t h e Malay Archipelago a n d Malacca compiled f r o m Chinese Sources", Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Künsten en Wetenschappen, vol. X X X I X (1880), p. 47. " T o m e Pires, Suma Oriental I, pp. 179, 199, 200. 44 Ibid., p. 182. 44 Ibid., p. 45. 44 Ibid., p. 46. 47 T a n Yeok Seong, " T h e Chinese element in the Islamisation of Southeast Asia. A s t u d y of t h e strange story of N j a i Cede Pinatih, t h e G r a n d L a d y of Gresik", in International Association of Historians of Asia (Proceedings Taipei, 1962), p. 408. 44 See p. 142. 44 Τοιηέ Pires, Suma Oriental I I , pp. 230-2. 50 Ibid., pp. 233-5. 61 Ibid., I, pp. 147, 148; II, pp. 245, 251; Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade, pp. 29, 30. " W . W . Rockhill, "Notes, etc.", loc. cit., pp. 115-18.

Trade and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian



" W a n g Gungwu, " T h e opening of relations, etc.", loc. cit., pp. 87-104. »• Ibid., pp. 93 ff. " Ibid., p. 87; Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 337, n. 37. 14 W a n g Gungwu, op. cit., pp. 99 ff. 67 Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 31. " Ibid., pp. 42, 44, 51, 74-80. " Ibid., pp. 31, 32, 43, 50, 51, 72, 73. " T o m e Pires, Suma Oriental II, p. 239. ·> Ibid., pp. 241, 242; Meilink-Reelofsz, op. cit., pp. 33, 34. « Ibid., pp. 89, 90. " G. P. Rouffaer, " W a s Malaka emporium νόότ a . d . 1400, g e n a a m d M a l a j o e r - " , Btjdragen Komnhlijk InsUtuut toe* Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, vol. L X X V I I (1921), pp. 550-3. 44 Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 93 ff., 103 ff. " Ibid., pp. βΐ ff. 44 J o a o de Barros, Da Asia, Dos feitos que os Portugueses fizeratn 110 descubrimento das terras e mares do Oriente (new ed., Lisbon, 1777-1778), Dec. II, Liv. IV, chapter iv, p. 405; Ibid., Dec. I I , Liv. V I , c h a p t e r iii, pp. 52, 53; T o m i Pires, Suma Oriental II, pp. 280-2. 47 Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 339, n. 11. " Ibid., p. 81. · · Tom£ Pires, Suma Oriental I, p. 195; Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 39, 69, 70. 70 Manuel Godinho de Hredia, "Description of Malacca a n d Meridional India a n d C a t h a y " , tr. with notes J. V. Mills, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. V I I I (1930), p a r t 1, chapter xiii, p. 26. 71 Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 40 ff. 71 E d o u a r d Dulaurier, Institutions maritimes de l'archipel d'Asie, t r a d , en fran9ais . . . T e x t e s Malay et bougui (in J . M. Pardessus, Collection de lois maritimes anterieures au XVIII* siecle), vol. VI (Paris, 1845); Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 40, 46-9. 73 Τοιηέ Pires, Suma Oriental II, p. 273, 274, 283-5; Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit.. pp. 42-6. 74 Pardessus, loc. cit., p. 439, 380 ff; Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., pp. 42, 46-9. " Ibid., pp. Ö-9. 7 · Τοιηέ Pires, Suma Oriental I I , pp. 283-85. 77 See Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., chapters iv and v, pp. 60 ff. 78 For m o r e details see ibid., pp. 83-4, 103-15. Ibid., pp. 108, 109. " Ibid., p. 84. " B. J. O. Schrieke, " R u l e r and realm in early J a v a " , Indonesian Sociological Studies, p a r t 2 (The H a g u e , 1957), pp. 230 ff. 8S Meilink-Roelofsz, op. cit., p. 115. »» Ibid., c h a p t e r x, pp. 239 ff. 84 Ibid., Introduction, pp. 1 ff.


G. F. Hudson In the centuries between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500 it is probable that well over one-third of the total population of Asia lived in China. This great area of dense human habitation provided a demand for various kinds of commodities from abroad and also a supply of products for which there was a market elsewhere. In purely economic terms there was thus a basis for a large and flourishing commerce between China and the comparably civilized lands of West and South Asia. The geographical obstacles to such trade were, however, very great. The mountain system formed by the Himalayas, the high plateau of Tibet and the ranges which shut in Assam and Burma to the east interposed most formidable barriers to direct communication between India and China. From Persia it was possible to go to China via Balkh or Samarqand by high passes over the Pamirs and caravan-routes across the deserts of East Turkestan; this was the ancient "Silk Road" between West Asia and China, and it was easier to travel by this route also between India and China than by any more direct line, even though it involved going from the Ganges to the Yellow River by way of what is now Afghanistan. A t best, however, the Central Asian overland route was restricted and dangerous; in addition to the usual difficulties and hazards of long-distance animal transport over mountains and deserts, there was interception, except during brief periods of imperial order, by warlike and predatory nomadic tribes who either plundered or levied toll on the caravans. The alternative to overland trade was, of course, a traffic by sea, and there was the possibility of a continuous voyage round the southern coasts of Asia from the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, or the Bay of Bengal to the ports of China. But a very long detour was imposed by the southward projection of the land mass of South-East Asia, with the Malay Peninsula reaching within five degrees of the Equator. Moreover, the long narrow strait between Malaya and Sumatra was exposed to human interventions not unlike those which so often afflicted the caravan-routes of Central Asia; it was either infested with pirates or subject to tolls


Geoffrey Hudson


imposed by a power holding both sides of the strait. The long voyage round Malaya could be avoided by using a portage across the Isthmus of Kra or even further north through Tenasserim, and a busy traffic grew up on these bypasses, but they involved a loss of the advantage of continuous voyage and were themselves liable to interruption through local political disorder. In ancient times the most important product of China entering into long-distance international trade was raw silk, and the Chinese derived the name of Seres, by which they were usually known to the Greeks and Romans, from the Chinese word for silk—the alternative name of Sinae, which in its modern form as "Chinese" has been more enduring, being derived from the dynasty of Ch'in or Ts'in which gained a temporary ascendancy over the whole of China in the 3rd century B.C. China originally had a monopoly in the production of silk, and the demand for this luxury material which grew up in West Asia and Europe was sufficient to keep the trade going on a fairly large scale in spite of all difficulties. But in the 6th century, as a result of the smuggling of silk cocoons from China, silk began to be produced in Syria and its production soon spread throughout West Asia and the Mediterranean countries of Europe, so that the import of the raw material from China became superfluous. Certain specialized forms of Chinese silk textiles continued to find a market abroad, but in medieval times China's main contribution to international trade was no longer silk, but porcelain. The Islamic world developed an enormous appetite for Chinese ceramic wares, and their remains are found everywhere, even as far west as Morocco—-at first the celadons of T'ang and Sung China and later the characteristic blue and white pottery of the Ming dynasty. The substitution of porcelain for silk as China's principal export also meant a change of emphasis from land to sea transport. Silk, as a commodity of high value but slight bulk, was suitable for carriage on mules or camels along the caravan-routes, but the more bulky ceramic goods were better served by the space available on large ships. According to a Chinese work of the early 12th century, 1 traders on such ships divided the space by lot among themselves, each getting a share and sleeping on top of his goods by night; "the greater part of the cargo consists of pottery, the smaller pieces packed in the larger till there is not a crevice left". Of goods imported into China by sea we have a valuable listing in the Chu-fan-chi written by a certain Chao Ju-kua, who was Inspector of Foreign Trade in the province of Fukien towards the end of the 12th 1

T h e P'ing-chou-h'o-t'an

by Chu Yu.

Medieval Trade of China


century. Leaving aside the maritime trade with Korea and Japan, these goods fall into two main categories, those which came to China from South-East Asia and the Malay Archipelago and those which were brought from the countries of the Indian Ocean—India, Persia, Arabia and East Africa. The geographical knowledge exhibited by Chao Ju-kua is considerable; it extends westward to Egypt and Morocco and distinguishes between the "Western Sea of the Ta-shih (Arabs)", i.e. the Mediterranean, and the "Eastern Sea of the Arabs", which is the sea between India and Arabia together with the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, mistakes are sometimes made with regard to countries of origin of various commodities because the author depends largely on information given by foreign traders, who in some cases had an interest in not disclosing to the Chinese the real source of their merchandise because of a fear that attempts might be made to obtain it by other routes. Thus putchuk, known to the Chinese as mu-hsiang, is stated in the Chu-fan-chi to come from southern Arabia, whereas in fact it came from Kashmir and was carried by Muslim merchants from Surat and other Indian ports; they were doubtless afraid that if the Chinese were correctly informed of its origin they might try to get it through Central Asia, and therefore thought it safer to assign its origin to an area inaccessible except by way of the Indian Ocean. The Chinese were late in navigating the Indian Ocean; in the early centuries of the Christian era their shipping appears to have been confined to the East and South China Seas and most of the voyaging round South-East Asia was done in Indian ships; it was closely connected with that expansion of Indian influence which produced the great development of semi-Indian civilization in Sumatra, Java and Cambodia. Indian shipping reached as far as Haiphong in Tongking—which was Chinese territory from the 2nd century B.C. to the ioth A.D., when its Vietnamese inhabitants threw off the Chinese yoke—and Canton. When in A.D. 414 the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa Hsien was returning to China from India, he embarked in Java for Canton in a large ship manned by sailors from the west coast of India. At that time Indian seafarers, like Indian settlers in South-East Asian countries, would have been Hindu or Buddhist by religion and thus hardly distinguishable in religious cult and practice from the Buddhists of China, who by the 5th century formed a major part of Chinese society and were no longer regarded as merely converts to a foreign faith. But by the 8th century, when maritime trade had greatly expanded and we have much more information about it, we find a situation in which foreign merchants trading to China are classified primarily according to religions regarded as alien to China. The main


Geoffrey Hudson

body of them are now Ta-shih, a term which originally meant an Arab by ethnic origin, but came to be used as a synonym for Muslim, so that Indian converts to Islam, of whom there were many, could be included under it. The break between the Indian and Islamic eras in the history of maritime enterprise in South-East Asian waters is thus not as sharp as it might seem; although the rise of Islam was followed by a great growth of maritime commercial activity based on the Persian Gulf, with voyagers who were Arab or Persian by ethnic origin, the Indian seafarers who were already sailing the Far Eastern seas were not so much eliminated as absorbed into the new Islamic community, so that in Chinese eyes they were all Ta-shih, a people united by a common worship, custom and law. Four other alien groups defined by religion were recognized in China in the time of the T'ang dynasty—Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Manicheans; the Zoroastrians tended to take over the name of Persian after the great bulk of the inhabitants of Persia had been converted to Islam. But the Muslims were by far the most numerous of the foreign maritime traders and they were so powerful that in 758, when they were involved in a clash with the local authorities in Canton, they momentarily captured and sacked the city and put to sea with their plunder. After this for some time the Muslim-Chinese trade was carried on indirectly through entrepöts in Malaya and Sumatra, but soon the Muslims were again trading in Chinese ports, and in the 9th century it was their turn to be the victims of conflict with the indigenous people, for when Canton was taken in 879 by a rebel army led by a certain Huang Ch'ao many thousands of foreigners were massacred. The later years of the T'ang dynasty were indeed marked by various manifestations of xenophobic feeling in China—in contrast to the welcome accorded to foreign immigrants during the earlier T'ang period—and this may be attributed to the fact that the external trade of China was so largely carried on by foreigners and that as a result so much of the wealth of the country was in their hands. Apart from the merchants of Arab, Persian or Indian origin, there was in the commerce of the South China Sea an important Malay element known to the Chinese as Kunlun, which seems to have been based mainly on the coasts of Borneo; it was not at this time Muslim and was engaged chiefly in the carrying of trade between China and J a v a ; China, like West Asia and Europe, was a great consumer of spices, and J a v a exported thither not only great quantities of pepper but also cloves and nutmegs from the Moluccas, which reached J a v a from the east. In the period of the T'ang dynasty (618-907) the Chinese themselves seldom sailed into the Indian Ocean and Malabar seems to have

Medieval Trade of China


been the western limit of their direct knowledge, for although they had information about the coasting route from Malabar to the Persian Gulf, they were ignorant of the use of the monsoons for direct sailing between Malabar and Arabia, of which they must have been aware if they had been in the habit of sailing beyond the southern extremity of India. In T'ang times the political and economic centre of gravity of China was still in the north, and the imperial government was little interested in promoting the commercial interests of its subjects in the southern ports; it was sufficient to let foreign ships come to China and impose customs duties as heavy as the traffic would bear. But in the period of the Sung dynasty (960-1280) there was a great change; the emperors of this line, having lost their northern provinces to the Jurchit invaders from Manchuria, withdrew to the south of the Yangtse and concentrated on developing the resources of their reduced domain, which included the littoral from the mouth of the Yangtse to the border of Tongking. There was a great increase in Chinese maritime enterprise and an extension of Chinese geographical knowledge of the Indian Ocean reaching as far as East Africa. This external commercial expansion corresponded to a significant internal economic development; there was a great increase in agricultural production and an advance in various handicrafts, especially ceramics, which stimulated domestic trade and at the same time provided both an enlarged demand in China for foreign luxuries and also an increased supply of goods for export. China was a great market for spices and perfumes, but the Chinese medieval market differed from the European, partly because China was herself self-sufficient in certain spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and partly because those items of which the sources of supply were in Indonesia, and thus the most remote from Europe, were relatively near at hand for the Chinese while on the other hand, products such as frankincense and myrrh, obtainable only in southern Arabia and East Africa, were for the Chinese rarities from the furthest limits of the known world. The fact that this area was also the source of what the Chinese considered to be the best ivory made it commercially important for them, and by the 12th century they had a good knowledge of the ports of the Hadhramaut and Somalia. This group of commodities—ivory, frankincense and myrrh—entered only into the maritime trade of the Indian Ocean, and the same was true of goods coming from south India or Bengal, but there were many items of trade, coming from the north-west of India, Iran, Träq and Syria, which could reach China either by sea or overland b y the Central Asian caravan-routes via Balkh or Samarqand. In this category were Syrian glassware and Mediterranean coral (highly prized


Geoffrey Hudson

in China), pearls from the Persian Gulf and, above all, cotton textiles, then produced principally in Persia and Soghd. Although cotton seems to have been grown in China sporadically from the 12th century, there was no large-scale production before the 15th, so that medieval China was a considerable importer of cotton goods, and these came both by the sea and land routes. In the overland trade of China the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Central Asia played a large part, exchanging wool, furs and horses for Chinese silk textiles and manufactured goods, but merchants from Bukhara and Samarqand travelled to China along the same routes as those used by the nomads, and brought wares from all parts of West Asia. During the Sung dynasty large numbers of Chinese from the southern coastal provinces not only went to the countries of the Nanyang or "Southern Ocean" on trading voyages but also settled down there, in Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Malaya, and a further impetus was given to this emigration by refugees from the devastations involved in the Mongol conquest of China. It was not traditional Chinese policy to give protection to Chinese settlers overseas or to try to control them as subjects of the Chinese emperor. The imperial government nevertheless did have a political interest in the countries to which its merchants sailed, though this was not one which was evoked on behalf of the Chinese in those countries or had the kind of economic purposes normally associated with the idea of colonial imperialism. It was the political interest of the rulers of China in the so-called tribute system, a system which far from being one of economic exploitation of alien peoples was normally of greater economic advantage to the payer of tribute than to the receiver of it. The Confucian ideal of the Chinese emperor as the rightful supreme ruler of the world, the unique bearer of the "Mandate of Heaven", meant that he should not only govern directly the "central land" of China, but also receive a formal homage and payment of tribute from the kingdoms of the outer barbarians in recognition of his supremacy. The more envoys arrived at his court to present rare products of far-off lands and prostrate themselves before him in the ceremonial ko tou, the greater the prestige of an emperor within China; conversely, the absence of such envoys reduced the prestige of an emperor and indicated that the mandate of heaven might be withdrawn from his dynasty. It was therefore a very important consideration in Chinese statecraft to ensure that tributebearing missions frequently arrived from foreign countries, and especially from very remote ones, for it was these which most enhanced the emperor's glory. In some cases the pressure of superior armed power could be used to persuade the rulers of countries adjacent to China to enter

Medieval Trade of China


into tributary relations with the Chinese imperial court, but even in these cases measures were taken to make it economically worth while for the country in question to offer tribute, and for peoples far away from China's borders attractive inducements had to be provided. The tribute missions were given presents by the emperor comparable in value to the tribute paid (though, of course, without the formal political implications of the latter) and were allowed, while in China, to engage in private trade; on the other hand, the Chinese market could be closed altogether to subjects of rulers who declined to pay tribute. In this way monarchs and their courtiers who did not object too strongly to a formal acknowledgment of Chinese suzerainty—and it was no great humiliation for a small state thus to submit to an empire so vast as that of China—could make a very good thing out of sending tribute missions to the Chinese capital. Moreover, there were unscrupulous merchants who falsely represented themselves as tribute-bearing envoys from kings of remote countries and went through the rituals of homage in order to obtain the commercial privileges accorded to tribute missions; Chinese officials sometimes suspected the credentials of such alleged envoys, but since the purpose of the system was to glorify the Chinese monarchy in the eyes of its own subjects, officialdom usually turned a blind eye to these pretences as long as they were outwardly convincing. The Yuan dynasty set up by the Mongols in China in the 13th century added the stick of armed naval power to the carrot of commercial inducement. The Mongols as conquerors of most of Asia and part of Europe were accustomed to collecting by force tributes which were real taxes from the countries they subdued, and as rulers of China they also took over the idea of the formal submission due to the emperor of China as the unique Son of Heaven. They therefore sought to supplement their military ascendancy on the continent of Asia with a sea-power based on fleets of ships constructed and manned in the ports of South China and to use it for overseas conquests. Under the Sung dynasty Chinese naval strength had increased with the growth of the mercantile marine and advances in shipbuilding and navigation, but it had been used only for the suppression of piracy in Chinese waters; the Mongols developed it on a large scale and used it for expeditions of intended conquest against Japan, J a v a and Ceylon. After the collapse of Mongol rule in China the policy of overseas expansion was for a time renewed by the indigenous Chinese dynasty of the Ming, and early in the 15th century Chinese naval-commercial maritime enterprise reached its zenith. The third Ming emperor, Yung Lo, was a usurper, having seized the throne from his nephew, and he was not only a man of great energy and ambition, but


Geoffrey Hudson

also specially in need of prestige from tribute missions to compensate for the weakness of his title. He himself led victorious military expeditions against the Mongols, while his principal courtier, the palace eunuch Cheng Ho, who was a Muslim from Yunnan, organized naval expeditions to the "Southern Ocean" to show the flag and induce local rulers to send tribute to the Ming court. The first fleet, of sixty-two ships carrying 28,000 men, set out in 1405 and sailed as far as India; two further voyages in 1407 and 1409 also reached India; the fourth, in 1413, went as far as Hormuz and Aden. Further voyages again reached the coasts of Arabia and East Africa, and the showmanship of the tribute system for Chinese domestic politics achieved its greatest triumph when envoys from Africa presented ostriches, zebras and giraffes in Peking. The diplomacy carried on by the commanders of these great expeditions was for the most part peaceful, but the size of their fleets enabled them to negotiate from a position of strength and on occasions force was actually used—in Sumatra and in Ceylon. A lucrative trade was carried on in which Chinese private merchants had a share, but the enterprises were primarily governmental and inspired by political aims; hence there was no continuity of overseas expansion when official quarters lost interest in it. The rise of the Oirat Mongol power in Central Asia brought a new threat to China's inner land frontiers, and the transfer of the capital from Nanking on the lower Yangtse to Peking within fifty miles of the Great Weill—which was brought about by Yung Lo himself, though without loss of interest in maritime enterprise during his lifetime—meant an increasing concentration on continental rather than oceanic affairs. The later Ming emperors were content if they could administer China and hold the northern frontier against Mongols and Manchus; they were no longer willing to strain a seriously harassed treasury with the burden of sustaining a great seapower as well as an indispensable army, and in any case after the arrival of the giraffes it seemed that anything else in the way of tribute from abroad could only be an anticlimax. B y the end of the 15th century, when the coasts of China were harassed by Japanese pirates, the Chinese authorities had moved so far in spirit from the spacious days of Yung Lo that instead of organizing an active naval defence of the coastline they evacuated the population of the coastal districts so that the pirates would have nothing to prey on without penetrating inland. When the Portuguese arrived in the Indian Ocean they found all the seaborne trade as far east as Malacca in the hands of the "Moors". Malacca by this time had become the westerly limit of Chinese navigation, and Chinese junks in the Persian Gulf or on the Somali coast were a thing of the past, hardly even remembered. The last of the great Ming

Medieval Trade of China


expeditions to the Indian Ocean returned to China in 1433; it was in 1434 that, after several unsuccessful attempts, a Portuguese expedition sent down the African coast by Henry the Navigator first passed Cape Bajador. The voyage of Vasco da Gama to India in 1498 began the era of European maritime ascendancy in the Indian Ocean, and early in the 16th century this was extended to waters east of Malacca. Chinese junks continued to sail from Canton and Amoy to the south as far as Java and Sumatra and Chinese settlers remained in countries round the South China Sea, but the "China Trade" became increasingly one carried on by European ships in Chinese ports—and ultimately in the single port of Canton, where it was confined by Chinese law. China reverted to its older character as a huge continental empire sustained by taxes on land, bureaucratically governed with minimal concern for the interests of its own mercantile class, and willing to let foreigners skim the cream of its external trade if only they paid substantial customs dues into the imperial treasury.



A U X i6e ET I7e SIECLES par Robert Mantran L'histoire de l'Empire ottoman ä son apogee, c'est-a-dire aux i6e et 17ε siecles, semble essentiellement tourn^e vers la Mediterran6e et l'Europe centrale: guerres, relations diplomatiques, relations commerciales avec les Occidentaux tiennent la plus large place dans les recits, les chroniques et meme dans les livres d'histoire contemporains. C'est lä une tradition chere aux Occidentalistes qui ne con^oivent d'histoire qu'en fonction de l'Europe. On se saurait oublier qu'au i6e siecle, sous les regnes de Selim Ier et de Soliman le Magnifique, 1'Etat ottoman s'est enrichi des provinces arabes du Proche Orient: Syrie, Palestine, Egypte, Irak, Arabie. La conquete de ces pays, et notamment de l ' E g y p t e et de l'Irak, correspondait, dans l'esprit des Ottomans, ä de multiples preoccupations. D'abord des preoccupations politiques, car eile permettait au sultan de se poser en successeur de fait des califes omeyyades et abbasides. Elle affirmait en outre la Suprematie du sunnisme triomphant sur les shi'ites d'lran, repr^sentfe par les souverains s(ifdivides, avec lesquels les Ottomans etaient en conflit depuis le debut du i6e siecle: en 1514 Seiim Ier avait ecrase les armees sefevides ä £aldiran et s'etait ouvert la route de l'Azerbeydjan avec la prise de Tebriz. L a conquete de Bagdad en 1534, suivie de celle de Basra en 1535 puis en 1546, mirent l'lrak sous l'autorite de Soliman le Magnifique. A cette derniere date, done, les Ottomans sont maitres d'une part de tous les ports mediterraneens musulmans (ä. l'exception de ceux du Maroc), d'autre part des ports servant de debouche sur la mer Rouge ou sur le golfe Persique; enfin ils contrölent la mer Noire et les routes caravanieres en provenance de l'Iran du Nord. Pour la premiere fois depuis la dislocation de l'Empire byzantin au ye siecle, un seul E t a t contröle toutes les routes de l'ocean Indien ä la Mediterranee. II faut noter qu'ä la meme epoque, le sultan Soliman a accorde son attention ä l'ocean Indien. Selon certaines sources, en 1531, le sultan 12



Robert Maniran

aurait ordonni au gouverneur de l'Egypte de construire une flotte en vue d'une expedition vers l'Inde. En 1536, alors que Soliman se trouve ä Andrinople, il τεςοίί un envoyέ du sultan Bahadour, souverain du Goudjerat, attaqu£ par Humayoun Shah, sultan mogol, et par les Portugals. Bahadour avait, en 1535, demand^ l'appui des Portugals contre Humayoun Shah et l'amiral Nuno da Cunha etait arrive ä Diu avec une flotte, venant de Goa, et avait retabli Bahadour dans son royaume de Cambaya. Mais l'ann£e suivante, la rupture se produit entre Bahadour et les Portugals; Nuno da Cunha revient ä Diu et Bahadour est tue (1537). Auparavant celui-ci avait envoye son tr6sor ä La Mekke et, ä la suite de l'assassinat de Bahadour, Soliman a fait transporter ce tresor ä Istanbul. II est possible que Soliman ait έίέ sollicite ä l'instigation d'un rindgat italien, conseiller de Bahadour, que les sources portugaises nomment Cojecpafar (Kodja Safer). Celui-ci a pu echapper au massacre de Diu et s'est refugie aupres du nouveau roi de Cambaya. Une expedition est montee contre les Portugals de Diu. C'est alors que se place I n t e r v e n tion ottomane: le 27 aoüt 1538 apparait devant Diu la flotte turque, command^e par Hadim Suleyman Pacha et venant de la mer Rouge. Suleyman Pacha entreprend le blocus de Diu, mais au bout de 20 jours il leve l'ancre et retourne en Egypte. Aucune explication satisfaisante n'a ete donn^e ä ce repli. II y eut un 2e siege de Diu en 1546, mais il ne semble pas que les Ottomans y aient pris une part importante. Cette intervention ottomane au Goudjerat a done έίέ trfes limit^e et n'a pas donne de risultat positif, sauf une main mise plus etroite des Ottomans sur Aden. Peut-on mettre au seul compte de l'int£ret politique (et religieux) cette expansion ottomane au Proche et au Moyen Orient? N'y a-t-il pas des visies d'expansion economique que, d'ailleurs, la conqu£te aurait quasi automatiquement entrances? Expansion politique et expansion economique ne sont-elles pas dues en partie aux bouleversements survenus depuis les grandes d^couvertes de la fin du 15ε siecle, en particulier l'utilisation de la route du Cap de Bonne Esperance? En fait, personnellement, je ne crois pas que, pour la majeure partie du i6e siecle, cette route du Cap ait eu une importance süffisante pour ruiner les routes anciennes de l'oc£an Indien, du golfe Persique et de la mer Rouge. Par suite, il me semble que les sultans ottomans n'ont pas fait entrer dans leurs entreprises de conquete des considerations sur les faits exterieurs au monde musulman ou m&literraneen. lis ont cherche d'abord ä etre les seuls chefs du monde musulman traditionnel, chefs politiques, chefs religieux par suite, et enfin detenteurs des cies du


Ottoman and le Commerce Asiatique


commerce entre l'Asie et 1'Europe en devenant les maitres des passages terrestres, du golfe Persique ou de la mer Rouge k la mer M£diterran£e. II convient de voir maintenant si les Ottomans d'une part riunissent les conditions indispensables k une expansion £conomique, en d'autres termes s'ils ont des traditions commerciales d'ordre international, d'autre part s'ils ont su utiliser les avantages que leur apportaient les conquetes. Prenons le premier point. II faut ä ce sujet faire un retour en arriere. Dans les siecles qui ont prec&te la grandeur ottomane, les Turcs paraissent, sur le plan commercial, n'avoir joue qu'un role d'interm6diaires entre les pays de l'Extr£me Orient et les pays du Proche Orient, notamment un role de caravaniers en Asie Centrale, mais ils ne paraissent pas avoir detenu les sources ni les d£bouch£s du grand commerce asiatique, et particulierement du commerce de la soie. Plus tard maitres de l'Irak et de la Syrie, au temps des Seldjoukides, ils doivent etre consid&^s comme des dominateurs politiques, non comme des agents actifs du commerce du Proche Orient. Limites ensuite ä l'Anatolie, ils ont conclu des accords avec les Wnitiens et les G^nois pour assurer le transit des marchandises entre la M^diterran^e et la mer Noire. Ils ont organist un r^seau des routes caravanieres bien £quipees de relais (khans, caravans^rails, villes-itapes ou villes d'ichanges) mais l'Anatolie ne constitue au 13c ou au 14ε siecles qu'un march6 restreint et qu'une possibility limine de communications. Constantinople demeure encore le grand centre, le grand emporium du commerce vers la mer Noire, l'Iran, l'Asie Centrale, et les Grecs sont aussi ä Tribizonde, les G£nois et les Wnitiens ä Caffa ou ä la Tana, voire sur la cote de Palestine. On η'a pas connaissance de grandes organisations marchandes chez les Turcs ä cette ipoque et il parait bien que le commerce auquel ils se livrent soit limits ä l'Anatolie: c'est un commerce intirieur, pouvant occasionnellement, gräce aux G6nois, aux Vinitiens, aux Pisans, d^boucher sur un commerce d'exportation pour quelques produits (laines, tapis, bois, alun, etc.). L a situation est-elle modifi^e par le d^veloppement de l'Empire ottoman ? On sait que des le lendemain de la conquete de Constantinople, les Turcs ont accord^ des privileges commerciaux aux Ginois, aux Florentins, puis aux Venitiens, se riservant cependant pour eux-memes le commerce maritime en mer Noire. Toutefois ce commerce n'est alors guere actif en raison des conditions politiques en Anatolie Orientale et en Iran. Lorsque, au i6e siecle, les Turcs occupent tout le Proche Orient arabe, ils ont en mains des atouts considerables pour s'emparer du commerce vers le monde asiatique. II est possible que S^lim Ier ait songe k




utiliser les avantages qui s'offraient: n'a-t-il pas fait preparer un projet de canal ä travers l'isthme de Suez (projet mort-ne, d'ailleurs); mais peut-etre ce projet £tait-il fait dans des intentions plus politiques qu'iconomiques. Quoi qu'il en soit, Soliman, nous l'avons vu, s'est un moment preoccupy de l'lnde. Mais sans lendemain. D'abord ä cause de l'impossibilite pour les Ottomans de combattre sur deux fronts: MediterraneeEurope d'une part, Ocean Indien-Asie d'autre part. Ensuite ä cause des difficult6s & entretenir une flotte dans Γocean Indien; enfin les Ottomans ne sont guere sürs de leurs iventuels allies ou proteges locaux qui tantöt misent sur les Mogols, tantöt sur les Portugals, tantot sur les Turcs. Malgr£ leur puissance militaire, les Ottomans ne sont pas assez forts, assez solidement organises dans le domaine du commerce; ils ne possedent pas ces röseaux de marchands, de negociants que les Arabes ou les Iraniens, puis les Portugals, les Hollandais ou, ailleurs, les Italiens, ont su mettre en place. Et Ton peut dire, en conclusion de ce premier point, que les Turcs n'ont pas de dispositions marquees pour le commerce, tout au moins ä cette £poque. Venons-en au deuxieme point. Ont-ils d'une maniere ou d'une autre, su profiter des avantages que leur apportaient leurs conquetes ? Un fait apparait nettement au travers des documents: les Ottomans ont, g6n£ralement, repris ä leur compte les r£glementations antdrieures, qu'elles fussent arabes, iraniennes ou grecques, c'est-a-dire que, notamment dans les echelles, ils ont impost des droits de douane et des taxes sur les marchandises d'importation et d'exportation, droits et taxes qui existaient du temps de leurs pr6decesseurs. Quelques amenagements eventuels ont 6te apportes, mais dans l'ensemble on peut dire que les modifications sont rares et minimes. En ce qui concerne le commerce asiatique, je peux donner un exemple, en l'espece le reglement du port de Basra, dont j'ai retrouve deux copies inedites du i6e siecle, dans les Archives d'Istanbul. J'y reviendrai plus tard, mais je peux d^ja dire que, ä suivre les textes de pr£s, on constate que ce reglement ne fait que reprendre des textes anterieurs tout au moins pour l'essentiel. A mon avis, c'est la le principal avantage tire par les Ottomans: la perception de sommes provenant du commerce effectu6 sur leur territoire; il apparait bien que, du fait de l'accroissement de celui-ci, ces sommes n'ont pas ete minimes. Elles ont, sous forme de fermes, aliments le Tr6sor imperial mais aussi les gouvernements provinciaux. II ne semble pas que, dans les pays conquis et notamment en Irak ou en Egypte, des marchands turcs soient venus s'6tablir. Ceux-ci ont

L'Empire Ottoman and le Commerce Asiatique


continue ä faire du commerce interieur ou du commerce de cabotage en mer Noire ou en mer Egie, exceptionnellement entre l'Egypte et Constantinople. Dans ces pays passes sous contröle et administration des Ottomans, les commer^ants et negotiants locaux ont continue leur negoce, en particulier leur n^goce avec l'Asie ä partir de Suez ou de Basra, ou encore k partir de Tr^bizonde, de Sivas ou d'Erzurum. Ces commer9ants indigenes avaient sur les Ottomans la superiority de l'anciennete, la connaissance des pratiques commerciales dans l'ocean Indien ou en Iran; ils avaient leurs relais, leurs agents et travaillaient en liaison avec les Iraniens, les Indiens ou autres, voire avec les Portugals lorsque ceuxci arriverent en Goudjerat et dans le golfe Persique. Les Ottomans comprirent qu'ils etaient des intrus dans ce monde nouveau pour eux et surtout des intrus sans grandes possibilit6s: il est quasi certain que l'etablissement de liaisons commerciales par des marchands ottomans aurait rencontre d'enormes difficultes et une concurrence bien sup^rieure, sans compter des risques de conflits, avec les Portugals par exemple. II eüt fallu proteger eventueUement les navires marchands turcs par une flotte de guerre: nous en avons vu dejä l'impossibilite ä peu pres totale. Toutes ces raisons expliquent done l'absence de marchands turcs dans l'ocean Indien et meme, je crois, au-delä des frontieres orientales de l'Anatolie. Cela est confirme par les retits de nombreux voyageurs europeens, par des memoires de consuls et je citerai en exemple cet extrait d'un memoire de septembre 1669 qui se trouve aux Archives Nationales ä Paris: "On ne voit point les Turcs aller pratiquer chez les Estrangers, si ce n'est certains Turcs avanturiers qui se hazardent d'aller aux Indes et en Perse d'oü les principales caravanes viennent par terre, au Caire, en Alep et ä Smirne, et avec elles quelques Persiens et Armeniens qui viennent trafiquer ä Constantinople." Cette remarque est aussi valable pour le 17ε siecle que pour le i6e siecle. S'il n'y a pas de Turcs ou peu de Turcs sur les routes marchandes asiatiques, il n'en existe pas moins un commerce ä destination ou en provenance de l'Empire ottoman. Ce commerce est aux mains des Grecs, des Iraniens, des Armeniens et des Arabes: tous les documents que j'ai trouves k ce sujet confirment ce fait. D'autre part ce commerce s'effectue essentiellement par deux routes: une route du nord qui, ä travers l'Anatolie, gagne l'Iran et, au-delä, l'Inde ou l'Asie Centrale, voire la Chine, une route du sud qui part de Suez ou de Basra et par la mer Rouge ou le golfe Persique rejoint l'Inde Centrale ou Meridionale et le Sud-Est du continent asiatique. La premiere est une route caravaniere, la deuxieme une route maritime.




Ce commerce d'Asie a un double röle: d'abord alimenter en certains produits l'Empire ottoman et plus pricisiment les tr£s grandes villes: Constantinople, Alep, Damas, Bagdad, Le Caire, Alexandrie, qui sont des centres de consommation, mais aussi des centres de transformation de certaines matieres premi£res, les textiles en particulier; ensuite faire transiter ä travers les territoires ottomans les produits et marchandises destines ä l'Europe. L'Empire ottoman, surtout au i6e si£ck, est un client important et riche: les importations de produits de luxe destines surtout ä la classe dirigeante de l'Empire, atteignent alors un haut niveau; on recherche les £toffes de soie et autres Stoffes de luxe, les parfums, les fards, les perles, les pierres precieuses, les porcelaines de Chine. Les Apices constituent aussi une part importante de ce commerce; (cf. les reglements publics par Jean Sauvaget et moi-meme sur les provinces syriennes); les produits de teinture, l'indigo en particulier, sont £galement demand^s. Tous les produits se retrouvent au 17ε si£cle parmi les objets du trafic marchand, mais en quantity moindres du fait d'une part de leur d6tournement vers l'Europe par la route du Cap, et d'autre part du fait de la concurrence europeenne. Les Stoffes sont import^es en plus grand nombre des manufactures d'Angleterre, de Hollande, de France. Les dpices ont έίέ £galement l'objet d'une transformation commerciale: jusqu'a. la fin du i6e siecle, Orientaux et Portugals s'en sont partag£ le commerce, et l'Empire ottoman s'est toujours trouv6 bien plac£ d'autant que jusqu'ä cette 6poque Venise est le grand march£ europ^en des Apices. Mais au 17ε siecle, les Hollandais sont intervenus et, d^tournant ä leur profit le commerce des Apices, ont emprunt^ la route du Cap et fait d'Amsterdam le premier march£ europ^en, supplantant Venise. Une partie des epices vendues dans l'Empire ottoman vient meme maintenant de Hollande! Cependant Basra et Suez constituent toujours des ports d'importation de produits des pays de l'oc6an Indien. A Suez un nouveau produit s'est ajout^ ä la liste: le cafe, qui va prendre une place de plus en plus grande. Achet£ au Yemen et dans la region d'Aden, il transite par Suez ä destination de Constantinople ou de l'Europe, et compense en partie les pertes subies ä Suez sur le transit des Apices. Sur la route caravaniere du nord, l'objet essentiel du commerce est la soie, dont les Armeniens ont un quasi-monopole, ainsi que Γ a montr£ M. Carswell. II est int£ressant, ä ce sujet de constater la progression des Armeniens vers l'Ouest aux i6e et 17ε siecles. Des provinces arm6niennes d'lran occidental et d'Anatolie Orientale, on les voit s'installer successivement dans toutes les villes-itapes de la route menant ä Constantinople: Erzurum,


Ottoman and le Commerce


17 5

Sivas, T o k a t , Ankara, Brousse; ils passent meme en Europe et s'^tablissent ä Andrinople; on les voit aussi k Alep, k Tribizonde et k Smyrne. Tous les documents concordent ä ce sujet: ils supplantent de plus en plus les Iraniens et (je cite ä nouveau Μ. Carswell) pour ce faire ils ont ficie de l'appui de Shah A b b a s qui, m^content de l'insucces rencontr^ par les Iraniens dans leurs tentatives d'introduire la soie iranienne en Europe, a confiö cette täche aux Armeniens. D'autre part Shah Abbas, au debut du 1 ye siecle, alors qu'il menait la guerre contre les Turcs, a d£plac£ nombre d'Arm£niens des provinces frontieres dans la r6gion du Gilan (particulierement ä Julia), productrice de soie. Ces deux facteurs ont permis aux Armeniens une progression considerable; des voyageurs europeens du 17ε siecle, Tavernier, Tournefort, le P. Raphael du Mans, etc., les considerent comme les agents primordiaux dans le commerce entre l'Est et l'Ouest. Lorsque les grandes compagnies europ^ennes de commerce se cr£ent, c'est tout naturellement qu'elles se tournent vers eux comme intermediaires, et leur role devient alors de plus en plus important. Puisque j'en viens ä parier des compagnies europ^ennes de commerce, je signale au passage leur role grandissant dans le commerce ext^rieur de l'Empire ottoman. J'ai dejä not6 ailleurs — et je n'insiste pas — la responsabilit£ de ces compagnies dans le processus de d£sint£gration de l'Empire ottoman. Je voudrais encore noter un point qui me semble important dans les questions touchant au commerce de l'Empire ottoman: celui du commerce de l'argent. Lorsque l'Empire est au sommet de sa puissance et de sa richesse, il n ' y a pas de probl£me: les revenus des provinces, le butin pris ä l'ennemi, les tributs des provinces ou des £tats qui y sont soumis fournissent aux dirigeants turcs de quoi satisfaire leurs d^sirs d'achat de produits de luxe importis d'Asie. Les marchands et les negociants n'ont pas de peine k se procurer l'or ou l'argent n6cessaire k ces achats: il en risulte neanmoins une fuite de la monnaie — surtout de la monnaie d'argent — vers l'Est, car si les Turcs sont acheteurs, ils sont peu vendeurs, et il est bien connu que l'Iran (et l'Inde ä un moindre degr6) sont d'importants marches de l'argent-monnaie. Lorsque, au 17ε siecle, l ' E t a t ottoman est moins riche, son role d'interm£diaire lui est pr^cieux car les marchands europeens lui apportent cet argent indispensable a leurs achats dans les 6chelles du L e v a n t , argent qui ensuite sert a u x negociants de l'Empire ottoman k se procurer des produits de l'Asie plus lointaine. L'Empire ottoman n'est qu'une zone de passage de l'argent. Les caravanes k destination de la Perse et de l'Inde emportent des lingots d'or et d'argent qui leur sont nicessaires

Robert Mantran pour leurs achats dans les pays de l'ocdan Indien. Mais, ainsi que je l'ai montri, d'une part les marchands europöens introduisent en Orient des monnaies de moindre valeur que les Ottomans ne peuvent riutiliser ailleurs que sur leurs propres marches, d'autre part la concurrence hollandaise, anglaise et portugaise aux Indes contribue ä r&iuire le role b£n6fique d'interm6diaire qui 6tait celui des Turcs au i6e siecle. L'Empire ottoman est done alors plac6 dans une situation de d£s£quilibre financier et il est certain que le commerce turc vers l'Asie subit une diminution sensible, qui est l'une des causes du d^clin ottoman au i8e et au ige siecles. Je viens de vous donner les grandes lignes du commerce de l'Empire ottoman avec les pays asiatiques. On peut conclure que les Turcs n'ont pas jou£ un role primordial dans ce commerce, si ce n'est un role d'interm Mi aire. Les ^changes sont assez l i m i t s et portent surtout sur des produits de luxe, secondairement et ä un niveau local, de zone frontiere ä zone frontiere, sur des produits de consommation courante. Ce dernier point est mis particulierement en Evidence par le reglement de Basra, dont je vous ai d£jä incidemment parl£, et sur lequel je vais vous donner maintenant quelques renseignements. II s'agit de deux documents tir6s des Archives d'Istanbul, Tapu defteri n° 282 et n° 534 (ces documents seront publics dans un prochain num£ro du J ES HO). Le Ier n'est pas dat£, mais une r6f6rence ä une mesure prise par le Gouverneur de Basra, Koubad Pacha, est situ£e en Rabi' II 958 (milieu avril 1551), done environ 5 ans apres la conqu£te effective de la ville. Le 2e document (n° 534) a un pr6ambule dat£ de Ramadan 982 (janvier 1575); ce dernier document est dans l'ensemble plus complet. Son titre g6n£ral est symptomatique: "Reglement du port de Basra. Sont indiqu£s ci-dessous les droits per£us sur les marchandises, venues des Indes par bateau, k l'6poque des Arabes." En fait le texte d^passe ce cadre et donne des renseignements precis sur toutes les marchandises arrivant ä Basra ou en partant, de toutes les regions voisines ou plus ou moins lointaines. II y a lä un tableau d£taill£ et important de 1'activity £conomique de Basra dans la seconde moiti£ du i6e siecle. Je vais revenir sur certains aspects du contenu. Les deux documents comprennent en outre un relevi des fermes de la province de Basra. Enfin le document 282 comporte en annexe les reglements des liväs de Garrak et de Z£kiy£, de ΙΥ-chelle de Kourna, du district de Sadr-i Souyab, de l'ile de Mahrazi, du district de Kapan, du bac de Karoun et du port de Qatif. De l'examen de ces deux documents, il ressort que Basra re£oit des


Ottoman and le Commerce



marchandises d'Iran: tapis, toiles, Stoffes diverses, fil de laine, coton, orge, moutons, chevaux. II en re9oit aussi de l'lnde: voile "indien", indigo, epices. Les exportations portent sur des produits de consommation courante, sur des chevaux (ä destination de Hormouz), de la mousseline vers l'Iran, de l'indigo vers l'lran interieur, indigo qui vient probablement de l'lnde. Un article du reglement est particulierement conceme les Portugals. Le texte stipule ce qui suit:

interessant car il

"Bases des f a c i l i t y accordees aux capitaos et feytores (facteurs) d'Hormouz: ä Hormouz, chaque capitao commandait pendant trois ans. A cette £poque des feytores r6sidaient aussi ä Basra, dependant des capitaos. On ne percevait rien ä Basra sur leurs marchandises, conform6ment ä la lettre munie du sceau, venant de la part du capitao: ceci etait absolu. De m6me on ne percevait rien sur les chevaux, marchandises et Stoffes achetes ä Basra pour le capitao: ceci etait absolu. Qu'il en soit de nouveau ainsi." Cet article se trouve dans les 2 documents, done dans celui de 1551. Cela t^moigne des relations anterieures etablies par les Portugals dans le golfe Persique, relations que les Turcs ont enterndes, en d6pit du fait qu'ils se soient opposes aux Portugals quelques ann^es auparavant. Cela semblerait montrer que les Ottomans n'ont pas cherchö ä. poursuivre une lutte hypothetique dans l'oc6an Indien et ses annexes contre les Portugals et, qu'au contraire, ils ont voulu donner ä Basra, r^cemment tombie en leur pouvoir, toutes f a c i l i t y de commercer non seulement avec les pays voisins, mais encore avec les negotiants Strangers, cela pour le benefice de l'Empire ottoman. C'est, je crois, une illustration de la politique opportuniste des Turcs, qui ont su voir lä, comme ailleurs, ou etait leur avantage: la conquete doit etre source de profit. Au terme de cet expose, je voudrais insister sur certains elements qui me paraissent poser quelques points d'interrogation. Tout d'abord il faut bien consid£rer que le nombre des documents exploites, concernant le commerce asiatique de l'Empire ottoman, est tres limite; ä leur rarete s'ajoute le fait que leur contenu n'est pas toujours d'une precision süffisante: si l'on peut, en gros, cerner certains aspects de la question, il s'en faut que tous les aspects soient mis en lumiere, et surtout nombre de details demeurent le plus souvent inconnus, tels les quantites de marchandises importees et exportees, les prix de ces marchandises; il n'y a rien non plus sur la nature des intermediaires, sur leur


Robert Mantran

role exact: dans ce domaine, seuls quelques dliments d'information nous sont donn£s incidemment par les voyageurs europ^ens, mais ces Aliments, pour interessante qu'ils soient, sont n6anmoins fragmentaires. De meme les donnöes sont rares et peu precises en ce qui concerne les zones d'achat et de vente: les documents ne nous fournissent ä ce sujet que des renseignements tr£s g^neraux; seuls sont indiqufe les pays ou les grandes regions, rarement des points de localisation plus pröcis; il est ainsi difficile d'itablir exactement le cheminement des ^changes. Peut-etre d'autres documents ä d6couvrir et ä Studier nous donneront-ils un jour les informations qui nous manquent pour ^tablir un tableau aussi precis que possible du commerce de l'Empire ottoman vers le Moyen et l'Extreme Orient. Un autre probleme doit-etre pos6: j'ai fait tout ä l'heure allusion au commerce de l'argent; cette question ne saurait etre complete sans parier des capitaux engages. Pour une part, les capitaux proviennent des E t a t s europiens mais qu'en est-il pour les capitaux proprement ottomans? On sait qu'une grande partie du commerce int^rieur est effectui avec des capitaux ριϊνέβ; en est-il de meme pour le commerce international vers l'Asie? Y a-t-il participation du capital d'Etat? Et s'il y a participation du capital ριϊνέ, d'oü provient celui-ci? Des benefices tir£s par les commer9ants ottomans du commerce e f f e c t s avec lOccident, des benefices tirfe par les responsables des waqfs, ou des revenus de grands propri6taires fonciers int6ress£s par le commerce? Autant de questions actuellement sans r£ponse. Pourtant la position d'interm^diaires tenue par les Ottomans a du inciter certains d'entre eux ä en tirer parti: ainsi que je l'ai fait remarquer, ces Ottomans ne devaient etre que rarement des Turcs; une preuve, minime mais n^anmoins certaine, en est la raret6 des mots purement turcs dans la liste des produits objets d'£changes, dans le vocabulaire commercial: les mots arabes ou persans sont de loin majoritaires et tendent ainsi ä prouver la permanence d'une situation ant6rieure dans laquelle les Turcs n'ont pu intervenir comme dements transformateurs; ils n'ont pas pu ou pas voulu provoquer un bouleversement des traditions commerciales έίablies. A cela s'ajoute le fait qu'aux i6e et I7e sifccles, le commerce vers l'Asie Centrale, ou en provenance de cette region, ne reprisente qu'un faible pourcentage des ^changes, en dipit du fait que les K h a n s de Crimöe sont places sous la suj^tion ottomane. Je ne crois pas qu'il faille penser qu'ä cette 6poque la Russie exerce une pression considerable, bien qu'une partie du commerce de l'Asie Centrale puisse d6jä etre d£tourn6e vers eile. Par ailleurs les relations politiques tres souvent mauvaises

L'Empire Ottoman and le Commerce



avec les S£f£vides n'ont certainement pas encourage un d^veloppement du commerce avec le nord de l'Iran et, plus loin, l'Asie Centrale; c'est dans cette optique qu'il faut penser au röle des Arminiens entre l'Iran et Γ Empire ottoman. Mais, quoi qu'il en soit, et aussi longtemps que nous ne disposerons pas d'informations plus completes, nous devons mettre en avant l'impossibiliti de siparer le commerce fait par les Ottomans avec l'Occident du commerce fait avec l'Orient; des renseignements plus precis nous meneraient d'ailleurs probablement ä accentuer la liaison entre les deux grands courants d'ichange et ä mettre davantage en lumiere le role d'intermediaire des Ottomans au i6e et, de fagon plus riduite, au I7e siecle. II est certain que le diveloppement du commerce europ6en, l'utilisation de plus en plus generalis^ de la route du Cap ont constitui les facteurs essentiels du declin ottoman dans le domaine du commerce: de lä a d6coul£ un d£clin politique dont les seules causes ne doivent pas etre d'ailleurs cherchies dans le declin £conomique; mais tout se tient et, pour conclure, je dirai qu'il reste encore beaucoup ä faire, aux historiens de l'Empire ottoman, pour bien connaitre revolution historique, politique et öconomique de cet Etat.


by Ashin Das Gupta India's trade with other Asian countries underwent several important changes in the course of the 18th century. Traditional centres of trade like Surat, Calicut, Hughli and Masulipatam which had been in existence for a long time, gradually declined and gave place to new towns like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. The orientation of export trade, which had previously been toward Western Asia, going in the main to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, changed toward the east, directed more and more to China. In this process, the indigenous merchant class which had developed at the traditional centres of trade, suffered considerable losses, elements of it being virtually wiped out. Some managed to survive by migration to the new towns, where a trading structure developed through collaboration between the English and Indians. This new trade which developed in the second half of the century was dominated by the servants of the English East Indian Company trading as private merchants. A major element behind these shifts was the general crisis which overwhelmed the Indian empire of the Mughals during this time, and I shall contend that the decline of the older ports and the undermining of the mercantile classes were to a significant extent the results of the political breakdown, understood in its broadest sense. Before this discussion can be taken up in its details, it is essential to note the limitations imposed upon us by the nature of available source materials. The major source for an enquiry of this kind—the customs records of the Indian administrations—have totally disappeared. The second possible source—the papers of the Indian merchants—are, again, almost totally lost. The only surviving major document of this kind in our period is the diary kept by a Tamil merchant of Pondicherry, Ananda Ranga Pillai, which is available, with some gaps, for the years 1736-61. 1 Persian chronicles are available to students of political and administrative history, but they contain little on trade. The major source for For footnotes please see page 207.



Λ shin Das Gupta

us, therefore, has to be the papers of the various European companies and some private papers of their officials in India. It is necessary to realize that for the 18th century these papers are extremely voluminous and comprise a wide range of materials. Studies of the European companies trading in India have so far been based, by and large, upon the letters written to and from India and Europe. This is as it should be but it should be noted that letters written from India to Europe tended to concentrate less upon local affairs and more upon things of general concern to the company in question. Apart from such letters an interesting range of documentation is available on day-to-day developments in various parts of India, which were naturally not summarized for the managers of the companies. Thus, Gujarati news-letters written by two Indian scribes, Dakhniram and Sampatram, in Dutch translation are available for the first two decades of the 18th century, giving in detail the developments in Delhi. 2 The Dutch company had an excellent regulation that, wherever its factors were settled, a dag register or a diary would be kept to note the events in the town as they happened. Unfortunately much of this series has been destroyed but extremely important material on towns like Surat and Hughli can still be found.* Account books and family histories of the Indian merchants are sometimes to be found in the legal records of the European settlements, which also provide a detailed source for commercial practices of the period. 4 Lastly, many details about Indian shipping can be pieced together from the various kinds of shipping lists available in the European papers. 6 When all this has been said, there are two difficulties about these sources, which have to be recognized. First, with all the local detail, these papers never penetrate far enough into the Indian society and a large number of Indian merchants remain only names. Secondly, the enormous volume of the documentation and the fact that the kind of enquiry we have set for ourselves in this paper is relatively recent in Indian historiography, mean that there are wide gaps in our knowledge even so far as the European sources are concerned.® It is also necessary to be clear about some of our concepts in this subject. Although we are concerned with "Indian trade", it is not very easy to say what this meant in the 18th century. Towards the close of the 17th century the Mughal empire by its acquisition of the two southern kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda became more or less co-extensive with what came later to be known as British India, including the socalled native states. Thus for a time, and in a rather loose manner, India existed politically at the close of the 17th century, although the important trading area called the coast of Malabar, including the famous port of

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


Calicut, was not in it. However, by the time the Mughal empire had reached its territorial limits, it had already been successfully challenged by the Marathas, based roughly around the city of Poona in western India. And within the first two decades of the 18th century Mughal central control had broken down over much of the empire. There was therefore no "India", in the political sense, in the 18th century.7 Economically and socially the position was even more intricate. There were areas in the subcontinent which were commercialized and where one would find clusters of trading cities and ports. Such areas were Gujarat, Malabar, Coromandel, Bengal and the two axes of the Mughal empire, the river Gangä (Ganges) laying down the broad artery of communication between the east and the heartland, and the roads connecting Surat in Gujarat and the region of Delhi and Agra. There were parts of the coastline where trade was less in evidence and the ports, naturally, smaller. Such was the area of the Indus basin with its old cluster of Thatta and Lahri Bandar, ports which had seen better days. Between Gujarat and Malabar, there was the area called Konkan, with its numerous roadsteads. And along the coast as it turned north and east after dipping its furthest at Cape Comorin, and before it became Coromandel, there was Tinnevelly of sluggish but ancient trade. Beyond Coromandel and before Bengal, there was Orissa, only briefly alluded to in documents of trade and still something of a mystery. 8 This rough quadrilateral of trade—the two coasts and the two axes which connected the extremities of the coasts with the heartland of imperial cities like Delhi and Agra— was further connected with Central Asian trade via Lahore and Kabul. Major Indian cities crowded round these routes and the hinterland of each felt the pull of the market to a certain extent. But this pull naturally disappeared after a point, as the cost of transport over land was prohibitive. Thus interior India with its innumerable villages remained distinct from these other areas of trade and administration. The relation between the two must have varied from region to region and has yet to be worked out in detail. Granted the existence of these two different "Indias"—in terms of society and economics—we are still to decide the extent to which the commercial areas formed one unit. Trade, of course, was itself a major link. Flow of trade was regular and continuous and these different areas had come to be interdependent to a significant measure. Thus the produce of the heartland of the empire, its indigo and cloths of Lucknow, found their primary outlet through Surat, the port of Gujarat. And the cotton grown in Gujarat fed the weaving industry in Bengal.· The structure of money and credit, without which such trade would be impossible,


A shin Das Gupta

reinforced the links forged by the flow of goods. There are innumerable examples of how each major city was linked with the other, and I shall only cite one to show how sensitive the network was. In 1738, when news had come through of the fall of Peshawar to the advancing Persian army, the English were trying to remit a large sum of money from Surat to Bengal and they called on the leading shrof! (sharaf) in the former city who specialized in such remittances. This man, Tarwary Arjunji Nathji [Erjunjee Nautjee, in the document], informed the English Council "that the present rate of exchange was 104^ Surat rupees for one hundred sicca [coin current in Bengal], that if we had an inclination to remit a sum, he offered it as his advice that we should take bills in three or four days for that as Shaw Nadir advanced the exchange would rise or rather that it would be so precarious taking any bills that we might lose our money, that two considerable shroffs were already gone off from Muxadavad [Murshidabad, capital of the Mughal province of Bengal] and that as Judda Seit [Jagat Seth, leading financier in Bengal] was withdrawing all his money from the Europeans as well as natives, others might become Bankrupts". 10 Needless to say, cities in the same region were more closely linked through trade. Thus Madras and Pondicherry, although under hostile administrations were twin cities from the point of view of Indian merchants. Arunachala Chetti in a letter to Dupleix, governor of Pondicherry, said, " A s regards my mercantile dealings, I need hardly say more than that my food was there [Pondicherry] and water here [Madras]." 1 1 In addition, there was considerable social cohesion within each region, sometimes a trading community, dispersed in different areas, kept in social touch with each of its groups so scattered. 12 Thus it is possible to speak of some integration among these scattered towns along the sea coast and the major arteries of communication. There were, however, major differences, and trading between them was often far from easy. The growth of political diversity meant separate customs arrangements as between the cities of different regions. B y the fourth decade of the century trade had become difficult even between Bengal and Gujarat, two of the major Mughal subahs. The movement of money from one region to another was regulated by considerations similar to those governing transfers to "foreign" parts, as, for example, transfers between Surat and Mocha. 13 So the conclusion one comes to is that it would be a mistake to regard the

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


different towns as totally unconnected splinters, growing and dying in isolation, and it would be equally unwarranted to make too much of the links which bound them together, and to speak of India or the Indian economy as an integral whole. The only method that is left to us, therefore, if we are to form some idea of trade in India during the 18th century, is some kind of a tour de horizon, starting in Gujarat and covering the main trading areas of the country. It is, however, necessary to take a brief look at the nature of the political crisis which overwhelmed the Mughal empire and which affected trade in some form or other everywhere in the country. The classical accounts of the decline of the Mughal empire have accustomed 11s to the picture of a decrepit dynasty, overmighty subjects and the revolt of the Hindus against Muslim rule. All this still remains very true, but recent research has suggested that there may well have been something more to it than just that. This is a complex subject, still unresolved in several aspects. Here I must put it briefly, accepting all risks attendant on brevity. The mainstay of the empire was its system of nobility, the mansabdäri system. These noblemen of the Mughal empire, the mansabdärs, were assigned their respective personal ranks (zat) by the emperor, which carried with them an obligation to maintain a specified number of troops (sawar) and an assignment of revenues (jägir) to enable the officer to do so. Now, for various reasons the number of imperial mansabdärs increased spectacularly in the course of the 17th century, so that the total of mansabdärs of 1000 zat and above which had stood at 137 at the end of A k b a r ' s reign (1605) climbed to 537 in the year of Aurangzeb's death (1707). It is true that the empire had also expanded in this time, so that there were more jägirs to take care of the fresh recruitment. B u t the rise in the number of jägirs had fallen greatly short of the expansion in the number of mansabdärs. So a time came towards the end of the 17th century when there were not enough jägirs to go round. Inayatullah K h ä n , the Imperial P a y Master General, is once said to have remonstrated with the Emperor Aurangzeb, saying: " T h e list of officers who are daily paraded before Your Majesty is unlimited, while the land for granting jägirs is limited. How can an unlimited quantity be equal to a limited q u a n t i t y ? " 1 4 The Emperor himself would say often about this problem: "There is one pomegranet and a hundred sick men (yak anär sad bimär)." Added to this there was the problem of getting a good, that is a paying, jägir. From early in the 17th century it was officially acknowledged that the valuation of a jägir often fell short of its actual yield. In the reign of Aurangzeb it was decreed that the actual yield would be taken as no more than half the official calculation of its 13


A shin Das Gupta

value. It had also to be considered whether the jägir was in a revenueyielding tract or in a rebellious part of the empire. Thus there was a struggle not only for jägirs but for well-placed and remunerative ones. Socially and ethnically the Mughal nobility was an extremely heterogenous group, comprising Iranis, Turanis, Afghans, Hindustani Muslims, Rajput and other Hindu chieftains. In a situation of this sort internecine strife among such a body was inevitable and intense. Further, as the income of the noblemen fell steadily they put more and more pressure upon the zatnindärs, that is the class of gentry who actually and permanently held much of the land in the empire. Naturally, much of this pressure was passed on to the peasant and in several cases the zatnindärs led their peasants into rebellion against the imperial administration. Khafi Khän, a historian who wrote in the 1720's, summed up the situation in these words: " I t is clear to the wise and experienced that now, according to the ways of the time, thoughtfulness in managing the affairs of State (and the practice of) protecting the peasantry and encouraging the prosperity of the country and increase in produce, have all departed. Revenue collectors, who take the revenues on farm, having spent considerable amounts at the Court [to obtain it], proceed to the mahals and become a scourge for the revenue-paying peasantry. . . . Since they have no confidence that they will be confirmed in their office the next year, nay even for the whole of the current year, they seize both parts of the produce (State's share as well as the peasant's) and sell them away. It is a God-fearing man, indeed, who limits himself to this and does not sell away the bullocks and carts (of the peasants), on which tillage depends, or, not contenting himself with extorting the amount of his expenses at the Court, of his troopers and of the deficit on his pledge, does not sell away whatever remains with the peasantry, down to the fruit-bearing trees and their proprietary and hereditary (rights in the) land. . . . Many parganas and townships, which used to yield full revenue, have, owing to the oppression of the officials (hukkäm) been so far ruined and devastated that they have become forests infested by tigers and lions; and the villages are so utterly ruined and desolate that there is no sign of habitation on the routes." 15 Another contemporary, Shäh Waliulläh (1703-62), the theological writer of Delhi, thought that the "ruin of countries (or towns)" in his age was due, first, to the strain on the Treasury from maintaining a

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


large class of idlers. "The second cause", he wrote, "is the imposition of heavy taxes on the peasants, merchants and artisans, and then the oppression inflicted upon them, as a result of which the submissive ones flee and are destroyed and those who have got the power rise in rebellion". 1 · Thus the political collapse had produced strains which were engulfing all sections of the society. It is against this background that the details of the decline of Indian trade are to be seen. The most important trading area in the Mughal empire was the subah of Gujarat with its chief port at Surat, from where the pilgrims for the Hajj sailed every year to the Red Sea. Although Surat was the main port, it was not in any important way a centre for production. The chief export of Gujarat, its various kinds of textiles, were in the main produced in villages in the neighbourhood of its capital city of Ahmadabad, 140 miles to the north, north-west of Surat and near Broach, Baroda and Cambay, other towns in between these two. Two varieties of indigo, Sarkhej and Jamboser, were also produced in, and exported from, Gujarat, besides a host of other minor items. Surat was also the principal outlet for the whole axis connecting Gujarat with the heartland of the imperial cities. Thus particular varieties of cloth, manufactured in the neighbourhood of Lucknow, and the best kind of indigo, grown near Agra, were among the important items exported. 17 Naturally, merchants from all over northern, central and north-western India were to be found at Surat, Multanis, Kashmiris and northern Khatris, forming major groups among the local mercantile communities. The city itself was the home of wealthy Muslim merchants of the Bohra community. At the end of the 17th century the principal merchant among the Bohras, an old man called 'Abd al-Ghafür, was the richest merchant at Surat, if not the whole of India. Beside this there were merchants simply called Muslims and others called Mughals. There was also an important clan of merchants called the Chellabies, always referred to as Turks. The Chellabies were the most important shipowners after the family of 'Abd al-Ghafür. The most numerous among merchants were of course the banias of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In the main they conducted the business of trading in money as well, exchanging different currencies and remitting from one place to another. They also took charge of all kinds of marine insurance and were brokers for respondentia loans at sea. Apart from such "Indian" merchants, there lived at Surat "foreign" merchants who came from the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf areas, but it was not always easy to pick them out from the rest.18 At the turn of the 18th century, trade at Surat would appear to have been in a fairly favourable position. Indian shipping in particular seemed

A shin Das Gupta to be doing extremely well at the time. consultation, 19 April 1701, noted,

The English Council in their

" T h e Inhabitants of this Citty having built such a number of shipping, that unless the Europeans interfear (sic), m a y in a little time make themselves by their frugallity (sic) the sole traders in India, they having of late sent two or three ships a year into the South Seas, the most profitable trade from this place w[hi]ch can't well be preserved, the Dutch employing double the stock as formerly to this place." 1 9 In the four months, February to May, in 1707, after the Dutch had lifted their two-year-old blockade of the port, as many as fifty-seven Indian ships obtained their passport for the season, their declared total tonnage being 31,296 khandies, that is about 10,400 tons. Of these, fourteen with a total declared tonnage of 10,875 khandies, that is about 3500 tons, belonged to 'Abd al-Ghafür and twenty-two of the fifty-seven were destined to the Red Sea. 20 It is impossible to form an idea as to the total value of cargo these ships carried, but in the season 1698-9 the revenue from sea-customs is known to have yielded Rs. 816,000/-, which calculated at 5 % , the maximum rate for customs, would give Rs. 16,320,000/for the total turnover. 21 These years at the turn of the 18th century would thus appear to have been exceptionally good for trade at Surat, that is, for trade in Gujarat, and much of northern India. But serious troubles began immediately after the death of the Emperor Aurangzeb. In a letter from Surat, dated 4 February 1708, J. Grootenhuijs, the Dutch Directeur, noted that "trade that had been hampered (gestreemt) after the death of Aurangzeb, was now [as the war of succession developed] at a standstill throughout the country, because the routes round about Agra are too unsafe; in the lower lands [mainly to be understood as Gujarat] and about A h m a d a b a d things are somewhat more peaceful". 2 2 The shroffs who remitted money to Agra had already suspended business and all merchants trading to that area were in trouble. 23 In 1710, however, it was again noted that trade was normal at Surat, Cambay, Broach and Ahmadabad. 2 4 All available evidence indicates that the first serious breakdown affected the heartland of the empire, and within the first two decades security of transport disappeared in the region of Delhi and Agra. Simon Diodati, a young Dutch factor, who travelled from Agra to Surat towards the close of 1716, after closing down the Dutch factory at the former place, has left us an interesting and detailed account of his experiences on his w a y down this most important trade-route. Although he travelled in the entourage of Kasem K h ä n ,

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


the son of Haidar Quli Khän, the then governor of Surat, the journey proved perilous. The party decided to travel via Ujjain which, though longer, was deemed safer. But after a week of travelling, once they had crossed the river Chambal, they were repeatedly attacked by bands of "armed peasants" (gewapende boeren) who were being led by their zamindärs. Diodati estimated that the largest group to attack them comprised about five thousand men of whom about two thousand carried small arms. As many as three attacks came in the course of one day on 2 January 1 7 1 7 , and on 16 January the party came to know of a Maratha advance immediately to the south. They then changed their route, cut across virtually trackless forests to Udaipur in the west, and then made their way to Gujarat. The impression that one gathers from this account is that tracts of the countryside, specially in the area inhabited by the Jats immediately to the south of the Mughal capitals, had gone over to brigandage.28 The outcome of this, as far as trade was concerned, was twofold. On the one hand the export of the major products from the interior of India gradually died out, and on the other a glut developed at the port of Surat in those commodities which had a market in the upcountry towns. In 1720, the Dutch Council at Surat informed Amsterdam that the Dariabadi chadar [bedspreads from the neighbourhood of Lucknow] and the indigo biana [best quality grown in the vicinity of Agra] were not to be procured till security of transport had been reestablished. Those consignments which were now luckily coming through cost about 50% of their purchase price more in transport, and to it was added a loss of 1 0 - 1 5 % on remittance from Surat to Agra.2® At the same time it was found extremely difficult to sell any Indonesian spices at Surat. These depressed conditions in the market were repeatedly noted in the 1720's, and in 1726 Abraham Weijns recorded the specific case of the Kashmiri merchants, who were the largest exporters of spices to the interior, suspending business.27 The first consequences of the political breakdown were thus the cutting-off of Gujarat from the centres of production in north and central India as also the loss of these markets to the Gujarati traders. This was almost simultaneously followed by a breakdown within Gujarat itself. The first major Maratha inroad occurred in 1721, and the city of Surat was besieged for several weeks in November 1723. The Maratha army plundered up to the suburbs of the city, and Piloji Gaikwad, their general, arranged to have a fourth part of the revenues of the neighbouring villages collected for the Maratha treasury. 28 A struggle now developed between the Mughal forces and the light Maratha cavalry for the landrevenue of Gujarat, and it gradually went against the Mughals, who,


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however, retained control over the main urban centres in the province. The position of the Mughal officers in Gujarat was therefore as follows: they had to spend a considerable amount of money at the imperial court in order to retain their various mansabs and ward off other competitors, they were forced to maintain much larger contingents of troops in order to fight off the Marathas or their brother nobles roving in search of jägirs and they lost much of the income which used to come from their revenue assignments. In this desperate situation their thoughts turned to the revenue to be extracted from trade and this process soon took on the aspects of a barely concealed plunder of the merchants of Gujarat. The story was the same in the different Gujarati trading centres like Ahmadabad, Cambay, Broach and Surat, but the documentation is much more complete in the case of the last-mentioned town. In the papers of the Dutch East India Company, however, have been preserved a remarkable series of letters from a Gujarati bania called Purushottamdas written from Ahmadabad in the years 1 7 2 1 - 6 and then carried on after his death by his son Daaldas which chart the course of the crisis in the capital of Gujarat from 1728-32. In 1721 Purushottamdas wrote of a 2 5 % rise in the prices of goods at Ahmadabad and noted that he was working without eating or sleeping, day and night, to get the qäfila for the Dutch ready in time while the merchants for the Red Sea were strenuously busy. 29 B u t this sense of an extremely busy trading metropolis disappears from his letters in four years time. In 1725 he spoke of a terror-stricken mercantile community, repeatedly forced to pay contributions to the governor Hamid Khän, paying 100% more in export duties, shut of! from their sources of supply, meditating flight from the accursed city. 3 0 IJamid K h ä n was succeeded by Sarbuland K h ä n , but the position only became worse. In his letters written in 1728, Purushottam's son Daaldas noted Sarbuland's misdeeds. In 1729 the Sunni Bohras of Ahmadabad defied the government and locked themselves in a masjid (mosque). A large number of merchants took to flight and government troops began to plunder their empty houses. 31 T h e approach of a new governor, Maharaja A b h a y Singh, was hailed in 1730 as a great deliverance, and most of his initial measures were aimed at restoring confidence. B u t the fact was that what had broken down was a system and individual effort, however well-meaning, was fruitless. A b h a y Singh was recalled from Gujarat in 1731, and he was also guilty of similar oppressions immediately before he left. 32 A t Surat itself the old age and death of the Emperor Aurangzeb had brought spells of anxiety but had produced no breakdown. Thanks to the firm action taken by the governor Amanat K h ä n , law and order

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


had remained unaffected at the time, and three years after, in 1710, trade in the neighbourhood was reported as normal. It is useful to note that the conception of "normal" would always make provision for local difficulties which never disappeared. Thus in the years immediately following we read in most letters from Surat of difficulties due to a scarcity of cash and increasing banditry. But the government continued to act against all threats to order, and in 1 7 1 6 when Josua Ketelaar, the outgoing Dutch Directeur, summed up the situation for his successor, he drew attention to the collapse at the imperial court and the slump in trade this had caused, but in his description of Gujarat he had nothing much out of the ordinary to chronicle. In fact he wrote optimistically about the prospects of trade for the Dutch and advised his successor to live in peace with the local government.33 In the 1720's, however, the situation took a sharp turn for the worse. It is of importance to note that the dilemma of a conscientious Mughal official was made clear early on in the course of the collapse at Surat. Amanat Khän himself was known to rely heavily on his connections at the Imperial Court, but this had never been noted as a cause of distress at Surat. His able successor Haidar Ouli Khän, however, became a topic for comment as his resolve not to rely on corruption in maintaining himself in power broke down and he stooped to familiar and unjust demands on the citizens. These two men, Haidar Quli at Surat in 1 7 1 8 - 1 9 and Abhay Singh at Ahmadabad in 1730— i, were both known and admired as honest officials, but neither could maintain the posture of integrity they obviously valued. Honesty and integrity were the most prized of virtues, but clearly, by themselves, they were not enough.34 The first important attack by the Marathas, as distinct from occasional glancing forays, came, as we have seen, in November 1723. Within a short time of this the revenue of the twenty-eight parganas (Mughal revenue units) which had been the mainstay of the administration at Surat virtually ceased to come in to the governor of the port any more. In the 1730's the city itself was obliged to agree to the payment of a fourth part of its own revenues to the Marathas. Thus the Mughal officials of Surat were deprived of their means of subsistence.38 To add to these difficulties, which were common to much of the empire, there were certain features of the administration of Surat which threw extra burdens on the meagre resources of the town. The administration of the city was divided between the port-officer (mutasaddi), whom the Europeans always called the governor, and the officer in charge of the castle, who had nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the town. According to Mughal theory these two functionaries were to keep each other in


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check. But as the central control over the province weakened, conflicts between the two became frequent and on several occasions led to pitched battles in the streets of Surat. 3 · Apart from the mutasaddi and the qaladär (the commander of the fort), the revenues of Surat had also to support a third functionary called the admiral of the Mughal fleet. This office was held successively by the chiefs of a clan of Africans settled at Danda Rajapuri to the south of Bombay. They were called the Sidis [probably a corruption of Sayyidis] and by virtue of a firman issued by the Emperor Aurangzeb they were to receive Rs. 300,000/- a year out of the sea-customs of the port. In exchange for this they were to protect the shipping of the port from piracy and maintain the security of the seas.37 To these may be added the fact that for a long time before this, the Indian trading fleet of Surat had been regarded by anyone with a naval force as a suitable hostage for obtaining money and other privileges from the governor of the port. The Europeans had made a habit of it, but others, such as the Arabs of Muscat, took recourse to it whenever necessary. In the thirty years from 1720 the merchants of Surat and the trade they carried thus came under tremendous pressure from all the local officials, who now had their backs to the wall, the Sidis, who for different reasons were fighting for their existence, and the English Company, which wished to share in the customs of the port and expand trade under threats of blockade. The most menacing for the merchants of the city among the three was, of course, the governor of the port. The impossible situation in which the governor was placed and the kinds of measures he would be likely to adopt in these years were seen fairly typically in the career of young Sohrab 'All who became the mutasaddi in 1725. His father had died shortly before this, fighting a curious combination of the Marathas and some of his fellow noblemen in the streets of Ahmadabad. Sohrab, who was seventeen years old at the time, was dismissed from his post in 1727 by the machinations of Teg Bakht Khän, a relation and a candidate of the governor of the castle. Teg Bakht was, however, unable to rule without unprecedentedly high taxation, and the unpopularity that he thus courted enabled the patrons of Sohrab to bring their young prot£g£ back the next year. For the next four years Sohrab 'Ali hung on desperately, till he was forced out by a general rebellion of the merchants in the town. This was a unique kind of event in Indian history, when merchants recruited troops and fought pitched battles in the streets of the town. They were forced into this because they knew that Sohrab 'Ali had perfected plans for a general plunder of the wealthier among them, and that without it he could not possibly meet his financial obligations. But the tragedy of the situation was evident in the fact that

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


when the merchants had won and it was for them to choose their own ruler, the man they selected was Teg Bakht Khan. 38 Thus the upshot was a temporary relaxation, and the character of the administration remained what it was. The oppression upon the merchants, the continuous quest for revenue, all remained as they were, and the leading mercantile families of Surat went under one by one. The rebellion of the merchants at Surat was victorious in 1732, and within two years of it the port was blocked by the warships of the English East India Company. Mr. Henry Lowther, the chief of the English Factory, acted from complex motives. He was in the first place acting to protect the network of private trade that he and Robert Cowan, governor of Bombay, had built up over the last few years. He was also acting in order to protect all British private trade from being taxed by the Mughals. There were accounts outstanding between Teg Bakht Khän and Seth Jagannathdas Parak, son and successor of Seth Laldas Parak, the principal business associate of Lowther. And finally there was the intent to make a gesture of suitable strength in order to cow the local administration at a time when the central power in the empire had crumbled. The official excuse was that the action had been undertaken to preserve the English Company's "privileges" which had been granted by the Mughals. Teg Bakht Khän was persuaded by the merchants to capitulate and it was agreed that English trade, public and private, was to be henceforth under no official scrutiny. In the process, however, almost the whole of the season 1733-4 was lost to the traders to the Red Sea, and Ahmad Chellaby, the leading merchant in town after the downfall of the family of Mulla 'Abd al-Ghafür, calculated that his losses alone were about Rs. 100,000/-. But more than that, the episode demonstrated the helplessness of the merchant caught between a totally unsympathetic and oppressive administration on the one hand, and a ruthlessly expanding trading structure on the other.39 The fact of this helplessness at a time when men who possessed some physical power were struggling desperately to keep alive, and the danger of it, were demonstrated yet again immediately after. The attack this time came from the African Sidis, who were in theory the naval guardians of the port. This peculiar clan of men were hopelessly divided among themselves by the 1730's and were engaged in a deadly encounter with the Marathas, who were steadily, and literally, driving them into the sea. The only source of income they were left with was the tankha, the assignment from the sea-customs of Surat. The fact was, of course, they did little to earn it, and the hard-pressed administration of Surat had long been defaulting in making this annual payment. In 1733 the


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Sidis had an acknowledged claim of Rs. 600,000/- due to them. 40 A f t e r various attempts, including naval demonstrations against the port, had failed to produce satisfactory results, the fleet of the Sidis swooped down on Surat Bar in March 1735 and arrested all the ships standing fully laden for the Red Sea. It was known at Surat that the English had a close understanding with the Sidis and were assisting them against the Marathas. Henry Lowther was therefore called to the darbar and it was explained to him how "their [i.e. of the administration] great poverty, the diminution of the revenues and the great expence they are at in maintaining their soldiers and complying with their engagement at Court" would not allow them to meet any "high demand" from the Sidis. 41 Terrified merchants went into virtually non-stop sessions of consultations among themselves and all other interested groups, including the pilgrims waiting to set off for the Hajj. In a week's time, when it seemed there was some slight chance of a settlement, the stupified town learnt that the Sidi's fleet had made off in the night with six of their richly laden vessels. 41 In view of the close contact between the Sidis and the English, Henry Lowther considered it unwise to remain any further in town and retired on board a ship at the mouth of the river. He was, however, deeply disturbed at what had happened. On 15 March 1735 he wrote to his friends at the English Factory in town: "None lament their [the merchants'] loss more than ourselves who have had nothing but plague and troubles for two months past on their account and had our advice taken place with T e g Beg Caun [Teg Bakht Khän] all might have been easy but instead of consulting this essential step, Interest has been the only motive that had any weight with him and it is such views as these that have brought on so many calamities upon the back of one another upon the back of the Inhabitants and the greatest of all is the impending storm, for without the ships are returned Surat can never recover itself again". 4 3 After months of agonized waiting and ceaseless negotiations involving Surat, Bombay and Danda Rajapuri, the vessels were finally returned on 29 January 1736, but most probably much of their valued cargo had by this time disappeared. The merchants appear to have lost between Rs. 100,000/- and 300,000/- in direct payment and the whole season in 1735 and much of it in 1736. 44 This episode of a struggle between the administration of the port and the admiral who was to look after its safety, showed how exclusively these two sets of men had come to rely on the revenue from trade and the inevitable plunder which followed.

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


These characteristics of the situation remained unchanged through the 1740's, and through many alarums and excursions the city of Surat went steadily to its own destruction. At the end of the decade the situation was described in a detailed memoir by the outgoing Dutch Directeur Jan Schreuder.45 Delhi and Agra had by now virtually lost all their trade. The breakdown in security had not been mended and there was very little transport going up to the heartland of India. Ahmadabad, Schreuder noted, had been the capital and the largest city in Gujarat, with an impressive population. There was a very considerable trade there in textiles, especially in chintz and pieces worked with gold and silver threads. Now three-quarters of the city had been laid waste, and it was difficult to procure even a few pieces of cloth. The major reason for the decline, he thought, was the joint rule of the city by the Mughals and the Marathas and the plundering of its inhabitants by both. Both Cambay and Broach had also by now received Maratha officials to share in their administration. The results were more deadly for Cambay than for Broach, which retained some of its old network of procurement and, Schreuder thought, would retain these as long as there was some trade left at Surat. This last-mentioned town was the only one "which had retained some traces of its previous prosperity". But even then the losses had been grievous. The Muslim shipowners, for example, had by now lost much of what they once possessed. Now only about five ships sailed every year from the port where before these men had sent out at least forty. In an appendix to this memoir, Schreuder provided a list of the remaining "capitalists" of Surat and their approximate fortunes. The usual figure ranged in the region of Rs. 100,000/- and no more than thirty people appeared on this list, with the predominance going to the banias. It is interesting to note that Mulla Fakhr al-din, the great-grandson of the famed millionaire Mulla 'Abd al-Ghafür, was credited with a fortune of exactly Rs. 100,000/-. The total trade of the port had come down in 1740, the year Schreuder arrived at Surat, to Rs. 5,000,000, of which the English carried about half and the Dutch about a tenth. Thus, in course of the first fifty years of the 18th century India lost much of her trade in textiles and indigo which used to be channeled through the ports of Gujarat, principally to the Red Sea. The commercial fleet, comprising about sixty sails in all, which had spanned the Arabian Sea every year, virtually disappeared. The strong links with Western Asia which had been maintained through the port of Surat were gravely weakened. The shipowners of Surat, who had been almost exclusively Muslim, were virtually wiped out. Although all figures must be regarded with some scepticism, the total trade of Surat appears to


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have dwindled to a third of its previous volume. The fact that one-third was retained has to be credited to a large extent to the expansion of English private trading. Down the coast in Malabar, the other important trading area in western India, developments were in some respects quite different. This area of about 400 miles of green coastal belt, neatly sealed off from the interior at about a distance of forty miles by the western Ghat, had never formed a part of the Mughal empire, or, for that matter, any other state of the interior. The most important port was Calicut, which was the oldest of the traditional centres of trade. In the 16th and again in the 18th century Cochin, to the south of Calicut, acquired considerable importance, although it never could measure up to its ancient rival. The Dutch East India Company had their Indian headquarters, as it were, at Cochin and the developments of this area as seen from Cochin are therefore well documented. 48 Unfortunately the port of Calicut itself is virtually without any documentation as, throughout much of the century, the European companies stayed away from it. Some documentation of less value is available from the archives of the English Company, which had two small establishments at Tellicherry and Anjengo in the north and south of Malabar. The main export of the coast was pepper, although there was a modest trade in textiles as well and some export of timber, sandalwood and coconut products. Because we do not have even a set of approximate figures relating to Calicut, it is impossible to estimate the total production of the coast at any time in the century. But to the south of Calicut available figures suggest that between 1760 and 1770 about 9000 khandies of 500 lbs. each were exported every year. It seems possible that this was an increase over exports earlier in the century and it may have stayed at this level till the end of the century. All available evidence repeatedly refers to the dominating influence of the port of Calicut in Malabar, and if we posit a similar quantity exported from that port in the middle of the century we have a figure of about nine million pounds. 47 This must have been reduced from the 1760's onwards as the decline of Calicut began with the invasion of the coast from Mysore. Of these nine million pounds not more than a third was ever claimed by the European East India Companies, and in fact they never received as much as they wanted. The rest was sold, especially from the 1730's, to a heterogenous group of Indian and Arab traders and private Europeans. The networks of supply were in the hands of Indian merchants of the coast, and their two important concentrations were, of course, at the two ports of Calicut and Cochin. We do not know very much about the business groups of Calicut, apart from the facts that they were the wealthiest in

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


the area, owned ships and were predominantly Muslims. The two men about whom information is available were Isaac Surgun, a J e w , and Hajji YGsuf, a Mopla, that is a man of Arab descent. At Cochin the dominating groups were the Konkani brahmans who had migrated down the coast in the 16th century from the environs of Goa and a strong community of Jewish traders led by the family of Ezechiel Rahabi. Although the Rahabis owned a few vessels, shipowning was by no means a major element in their business enterprise. Like other merchants of Cochin they concentrated on buying Indonesian spices from the Dutch and selling these, along with local produce, to the visiting Indian and Arab traders. Politically the coast had always been fragmented into little principalities, and this had been a blessing for the merchants of the coast, because the princes had tended their commerce for the transit revenues of customs. There was no land revenue in Malabar till the 1760's, when it was introduced by the Mysorean conquerors. The princes lived in the main off their own lands and there was never any significant pressure on trade from the landed gentry. This somewhat idyllic picture changed sharply from about 1730. The first upsetting development was a boom in the pepper market at Calicut, which occurred in the late 1720's. The price of pepper, which had remained between Rs. 60 and 62 for a khandi of 560 lbs., shot up to between Rs. 105 to 125 in the 1750's. The reason for this sensational upsurge was the collapse of the Safavid dynasty in Persia and the ensuing dislocation of trade in the Persian Gulf. To this must be added the collapse of Surat and the closing of the main routes to the north. Businessmen who had previously found their pepper in the Gulf and at Surat were now presumably seeking their supply at Calicut. The dispersal from Surat may also have strengthened other centres in the area like Porebander. At any rate it seems most probable that this new demand for Malabar pepper was at the expense of the Indonesian variety which the Dutch used to supply at Surat and then in the Gulf. 48 The second development, which followed almost immediately the first and was in some ways linked to it, was the transformation of a modest principality well to the south of the coast, by the name of Travancore, into an important kingdom which embraced all the coastline to the environs of Calicut. The emergence of this strong kingdom meant the end of the political fragmentation of Malabar, and it also meant the end of the coastal mercantile class in the area where the new kingdom stretched. The reason for the demise of the coastal merchants was that the kings of Travancore, Martanda Varma (1729-58) and Rama Varma (1758-98), built up their new kingdom with the help of a standing army and a


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bureaucracy which in the absence of land revenue could only be maintained out of the profits of the trade in pepper. A strict monopoly in this commerce was thus established which turned the merchants into officers of the state, and the commercial department of the kings of Travancore succeeded in establishing a control over both the production and distribution of this commodity in Malabar. Some of the merchants attempted to put up a fight against this menace, but pressure from the bureaucracy, which soon changed into summary executions, prevailed over all opposition. The distinction between what happened in Gujarat and the developments in southern Malabar were twofold. First, the merchants of Malabar were faced with a ruthless and efficient government, which saw its only salvation in the revenue it could have from trade and coolly proceeded to exploit this possibility. The struggle here was not against the crumbling administration of desperate, frightened men but against a new centralizing structure. Secondly, and following from it, the collapse of the mercantile classes did not therefore mean a decline in trade. It only stood for a new way of trading in which the profit went to the state. In the north of the coast—that is, the area dominated b y the famous port of Calicut—developments followed a more familiar line. The merchants of Calicut exploited the new boom in pepper to the full between 1730 and 1770, but then fell victim to the advancing armies of Mysore. Mysore, one of the several successor-states to the Mughal empire, was embattled with most of its neighbours and was desperately straitened for money. Haidar 'All, the Mysorean ruler who first conquered Calicut in 1766, left the trade of the city unfettered in consideration of a large bribe which the merchants offered. But his son Tipu was unable to content himself with this arrangement and ruined much of this historic trade by following contradictory and capricious policies. In the first place he wished to establish a monopoly, probably on the model of Travancore, but was unable to obtain full advantage from it because the bureaucracy which had succeeded so brilliantly in the south was not available to him. Secondly, he followed the policy of concealed plunder as was done at Ahmadabad and Surat, and there is evidence of the wealthy merchants of Calicut undergoing similar tortures in the 1770's. In the third place, he attempted at times to destroy all trade by destroying the production of pepper and sandal, which he thought would inconvenience his deadly enemies, the Europeans. In the last decade of the 18th century there is thus enough evidence to show a considerable stagnation and decay in both the major ports of Malabar, Calicut and Cochin. To some extent their place was taken b y Alleppey, the new port of Travancore,

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which was managed by the commercial department of that kingdom. In the absence of relevant and adequate statistics it would be impossible to answer the question how far these developments denoted a total decline in the trade in pepper, but it seems clear that the direction of the trade was changed irom northern India and Muscat to China. The number of vessels which called at Cochin from the north and west fell from 146 in 1774-5 to twenty-two in 1797-8 and it was noted at the end of the century that much of the pepper was being exported eastwards. Thus India's links with Western Asia through the trade in pepper would also appear to have been weakened in the 18th century.49 At the other end of the country, in eastern India, trading-centres clustered along the two banks of a southern stretch of the river Gangä, and the dominating port was Hughli. This was the main port of the Mughal province of Bengal, and at the turn of the 18th century it had become the home of a large group of Indian and Asian traders, among whom the Shia Muslims, with Persian connections, were predominant. As Ghuläm Husain Salim writing in the 1780's noted of this earlier phase: "The port of Hughli, in his time [that of the governor Murshid Quli Khan, 1701-26] became more populous than before. And merchants of all the ports of Arabia and Ajam [that is, the non-Arab world] and English Christians who were shipowners and wealthy Mughals made their quarters there; but the credit of the Mughal merchants was greater than that belonging to other classes."80 Although Salim knew of only the English as shipowners—and this certainly would appear to have been the case for about fifty years before Salim wrote—in the early years of the century a fairly large number of Muslim ships operated from and called at Hughli. Dr. Abdul Karim has counted nineteen ships for the season 1705-6, relying on English data. 81 According to the Dutch list for departing vessels, twenty Muslim ships sailed in the season 1709-10. In the three months November 1719 to January 1720, the Dutch list comprised eighteen such vessels.62 In 1729-30 the number was fifteen and in 1734 it was eleven.83 These falling numbers tell a tale which seems in its outlines acceptable. Muslim shipping which used to frequent the port dwindled, and there is some reason to believe that the port itself was damaged in the first half of the century. The details of the process are, however, unknown at present, and all conclusions have to be strictly tentative. It is known for certain that the political collapse which affected Gujarat and other Mughal provinces in the early years of the century did not affect Bengal till the


A shin Das Gupta

1740's. On the contrary, a local process of consolidation under Murshid Quli and his son-in-law Shujä' al-din (Shuja Uddin) (1727-39) gave stability to this area. 84 It has been strongly urged that there was no economic decline in Bengal before Plassey, 88 but there is some evidence to the contrary. Salim noticed that " w h e n oppression and extortion of the Faujdars increased, the port of Hughli declined, and Calcutta owing to the liberality and protection afforded b y the English, and the lightness of duties levied there, became populous. , , s e This memory of past oppression was present in other writers as well, and there are two important contemporary documents which seem to bear this out. One is a memoir written at Hughli in 1732 b y Jacob Sadelijn and the other, a similar document, drawn up in 1750 by Jan Huighens, both in the service of the Dutch East India Company. Sadelijn emphasized " t h e decline of trade in this country", and as a major cause for it drew attention to the "continuously increasing" oppressions of the local officials, "which had so much impoverished the inhabitants that enterprising merchants of former years now scarcely earned their daily bread and leading families had been reduced to poverty". In his opinion it was the " b r u t a l " and "exhausting government" (uijtputtende regeerings wijze) of Shujä' K h ä n which had unleashed a spree of similar extortions among the lesser officials, that was the cause of it. 87 In the i74o's Bengal was attacked by the Marathas and the western part of it overrun. Hughli itself fell to the invaders and was under their control for a time. There was, however, no permanent annexation, and probably no lasting damage, as a result of it. However, when Huighens wrote in 1750, these events were very much present in his mind. He noticed the steady impoverishment of the Indian merchants and the problem this was creating for the procurement of merchandise for the Dutch. He also noticed that the pressure of the Maratha raid was to an extent being passed on to the merchants by the administration. Of the officials at Hughli he wrote "the naib fauzdar Sheik Hedaytullah and his dewan Lahorimal are both reasonable men . . . but the latter had recently been called to Murshidabad [the capital of the province] and compelled to supply Rs. 200,000/-. He will now certainly not scruple to extort this amount from the local inhabitants and we must be careful that none of our men [Indians living under Dutch jurisdiction] fall into his hands." 8 8 Apart from these strains developing within Bengal, the collapse in other parts of the country must have had repercussions on the trade of the area. This would seem to be borne out in the case of Gujarat, with

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


which Bengal maintained a close trading connection. A major element in the Muslim shipping which used the port of Hughli every year was Gujarati, and much of the shipping was destined to the west of India. Thus in 1709-10 out of twenty vessels six were owned by merchants of Surat and nine were destined to that port.69 Of the eighteen ships recorded from November 1719 to January 1720, eight were for Surat, and it was noted that in the season 1720-1 eight ships belonging to Surat could not be ready in time and thus missed their passage.·0 Data collected from the list of passes issued by the Dutch at Surat bear out the importance of this link between Bengal and Surat in the early years of the century. Thus in 1707-8 the shipowners at Surat took out passes for nine of their vessels destined for Bengal and the total declared tonnage was 4425 khandies (about 1500 tons).®1 The collapse of Surat and the virtual disappearance of the Indian fleet based at that port would thus have been an event of major importance for Hughli, irrespective of local developments. It is interesting to note that in 1757 this was noticed in an account of Bengal compiled by a Dutchman called P. van den Velde at Batavia. "The merchants of Gujarat", wrote Van den Velde, "had for many years past [carried on their trade with Bengal] through a society they had set up under the name of Muhammad 'Ali but it fell into misfortune when its directors were arrested on a charge of rebellion against lawfully constituted authority."62 In the last "list of passes" to be found among the Dutch papers relating to Surat, sixteen vessels are listed for the season 1735-6, of which five were destined for Bengal, and the total of their declared tonnage was 2600 khandies (about 850 tons). It is of great interest to note that all five of these were destined ultimately for China but were calling at Hughli on the way.®* This decline of Muslim shipping in general, and Gujarati shipping in particular, was made up to an extent by the remarkable development of English private shipping, and the decline of Hughli was matched by the growth of Calcutta. In the first decade of the 18th century Calcutta had been the home of about ten ships owned by resident Englishmen. This figure grew to forty in 1722-3 and the figures for tonnage duty, which all such private shipping had to pay, show about thirty vessels operating in the early 1730's. There was a decline in the late 1730's and the number twenty-five in 1736-7 remained the highest till the 1750's, when it rose again to thirty and above. No figures are available for the 1760's and 1770's, but a great spurt in these years took the figures for English private ships using the port of Calcutta to 128 in 1783 and 591 in I79I. 64 Throughout the first half of the century much of this shipping was destined for the West, carrying Bengal's textiles, sugar and silk to 14


A shin Das Gupta

Gujarat and Western Asia. With the decline of Muslim shipping Indian merchants began to freight their goods on English bottoms. Dr. Marshall notes that in 1731 "the Guzzeratteers" complained to the Nawab that "they should be very great sufferers" from any interruption in British shipping. 65 B u t political difficulties in Gujarat, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea area, together with a surfeit of supplies to these markets, made the Western trade less attractive by the i75o's, and the great new shipping turned more and more toward the East. B y the end of the 18th century only a few of the English ships were destined to the Western markets, while China, on the other hand, attracted most of them. In the years 1773-84, ninety-four private British ships arrived at Canton, while the figure for the following decade was 217. 68 What is known about Bengal, and what can be reasonably conjectured, suggest three different phases of developments in the 18th century which should be distinguished one from another. In the first place we have the decline of the dominating traditional port and its replacement by the newly developing English trading-centre. We do not yet know with any certainty the nature of this decline, but it would appear that the political pressures, so prominent elsewhere, played their role in this area as well. The kind of catastrophe which overtook Surat does not, however, seem to have taken place in Bengal. Secondly, the trading structure which developed in the second half of the century was dominated b y the English private trader, and only those Indian merchants were allowed to operate who did not challenge this domination. The trade of Bengal was preserved in its old way, but the free play of demands which used to come from all quarters was resolutely turned back. During this phase the great turning of trade from the West to the East took place and the trade in textiles declined. Thirdly, the effects of the industrial revolution began to be felt from the 1780's onwards. It must be clearly realized that the industrial revolution did not break up a growing healthy structure of trade. It delivered the coup de grace to a languishing commerce. In a large measure the switch from the manufacture and trade in textiles to one in agricultural products had already taken place. Now the industrial revolution took away the remaining trade with Europe and for the first time broke into India's home market. It seems at present impossible even to suggest this kind of a conjectural pattern of development for the coast of Coromandel because of the paucity of our knowledge about it during the 18th century. In several important ways this coast appears to have differed from the other Indian trading areas. For one thing the political weakness which developed elsewhere at a certain time in the 18th century was present

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


in Coromandel from about a hundred years before that. There was little in this area which could be called centralized political control either under the Muslim state of Golconda or the remnants of the once powerful Hindu empire of Vijaynagar, which shared the coast during much of the 17th century. Farming of revenue, a feature which developed late in the Mughal empire, was the prevalent form in Coromandel at the beginning of the 17th century. W. H. Moreland in introducing a collection of travelogues wrote in an oft-quoted sentence: " I n essence, the administration was a scramble for immediate gain, without thought for the future, and this condition furnishes an adequate explanation of most of the difficulties experienced by Dutch and English merchants in establishing their trade in the seaports." 67 An examination of the Dutch evidence relating to the 17th century has in general confirmed this verdict. 68 Thus the omnipresent political pressure was a reality the merchants of Coromandel had had to live with for a much longer period than their fellows elsewhere in the country. Possibly following from this, European settlements acquired an importance in this coast in the 17th century which they did not attain elsewhere before well on into the 18th. The best example of this would be the English settlement of Madras which, founded in 1640, was a flourishing port by the end of the century. 69 This prosperity was steadily maintained, and in the 1740's Ananda Ranga Pillai, the diarist of Pondicherry, described it as the "city of Kuvera", the god of wealth, and noted: " I t is not like other towns, where you may find ten rich men and all the rest beggars". 70 In connection with this early emergence of European influence we should note the third peculiarity of the Coromandel coast, which consisted in some sort of a rough division between the northern and southern parts of the coastal belt. In the north, where the Muslim dynasty of Qutb Shäh ruled, there was the only major port of the area at Masulipatam, known for its shipping, the home of Mughal and Komati merchants. In the south, political power was fragmented among the local vassals of the Hindu kingdom ruling from the interior city of Vellore. It was in the south that the patterned textile goods were made which were the main exports of the coast, and they went, in the main, to South-East Asia. The north produced plain textiles which were in demand elsewhere in Asia. The south had no important trading-centres when the English and the Dutch arrived early in the 17th century. This, presumably, was the reason of their flying start in spite of local vexations. An unexplored problem is the relationship between Masulipatam and the centres of production in the south, which presumably supplied its exports to Indonesia. From the evidence which has so far been examined it would seem


A shin Das


that there was an expansion in Indian trade in the second half of the 17th century. "The mass of evidence provided by the factory records", writes Professor Raychaudhuri, "proves beyond doubt that in the latter half of the 17th century the trade of the Coromandel merchants had become one of the major facts in Asian commerce. They explored not only the regions directly or indirectly familiar to the Indian traders, but at least one new field—the Philippines. In the last quarter of the century this expansion of trading activities continued steadily in the face of immense problems thrown up by wars, famine and pestilence— a testimony to the resilience of the Indian commercial and production organization". 71 The continued prosperity of Masulipatam and this resurgence of Indian trade suggest the important conclusion that, although administration upon the coast was geared to thoughtless and immediate gain, this placed no insuperable difficulty in the path of merchants, although it may well have set a limit to individual wealth. The real problem is to account for the decline of this growing trade in the course of the 18th century. Professor Raychaudhuri suggests tentatively that the competition from a resourceful and well-organized concern like the English East India Company may well have proved too much for the merchants of Coromandel. 72 If it did, then this is another respect in which Coromandel is unique in the history of Indian trade, because commercial competition from the English Company caused no concern to Indian merchants elsewhere. As we have seen, their competition was much more with the private trade of the Company's servants, and the enemy they dreaded was their own government. It is, however, possible to argue that the political weakness which had always been present in Coromandel broke down into total anarchy in the 18th century, and what should cause surprise is that some trade survived at the end. There were three major conflicts which simultaneously engulfed the coast from about 1730. At one level the Muslim power in the north of the coast reached down to the south and attempted an extirpation of the Hindu principalities. At another, the conflict between the Mughal empire and the Marathas, which had already touched the coast in the later years of the 17th century, broke out afresh in the 1740's. A t a third level, the French and the English intervened decisively in the confused fighting which was going on and the whole of the coastline became an embattled area. Again, the contemporary evidence about the exact effects all this had on the trade of the coast has not yet been looked at. But evidence which is strongly suggestive of a general conclusion similar to that I have maintained in relation to other areas is available. Thus there is a series of memoirs written by the Dutch governors of

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


Ceylon which illuminate the process of the collapse in Madura immediately to the south of Coromandel. The Dutch had a factory there at Tuticorin and they were interested in the trade in textile. As late as 1734, Jacob Christian Pielat noted: "The trade in cotton goods on the coast of Madura is in a fairly flourishing condition, as is proved by the fact that 1 5 1 0 bales of various descriptions of cotton were sent this year to the Fatherland; while the year before only 945 bales were sent." 73 Six years later, when Madura had already experienced its first agonies, Baron Imhoff was more inclined to put down the decline in the profits of the Dutch Company to the dishonesty of its officials than to "the troubles in the country", which, however, he was obliged to note.74 Joan Gideon Loten in 1757 had to write extensively on the sustained political convulsions in the kingdom and the flight of the weavers due to official oppression, but he was still not sure that the Dutchmen at Tuticorin were not "exaggerating" the difficulties. 75 All such doubts disappeared by the time J a n Schreuder came to write his appreciation of the situation in 1762. He was convinced that the country had been plunged into anarchy with the overthrow of its Hindu dynasty in 1736, and this anarchy was the central fact of the situation. "The country", he wrote, "is disturbed on all sides by (everyone, even its own) subjects . . . and ravaged and plundered till it has gradually become (much smaller) and nothing but continual quarrels and dissensions exist among the lesser chieftains of which sometimes no true idea can be formed." 79 The comments noted almost daily by Ananda Ranga Pillai also bear out the fact of an overwhelming collapse in Coromandel. Every year his diary becomes more gloomy, and all of it cannot be explained away by the failure of the French or his personal frustrations. Typical laments in the year 1757 portray the physical breakdown at Pondicherry, where the French were forced to resort to large collective fines from the inhabitants in order to keep their wars going. It drove the peaceful men of Pondicherry nearly into rebellion and made Pillai often compare the i73o's most favourably with what was happening in the late-1750's In typical style he summed up the situation on 1 May 1759: " I n times of decay order disappears giving place to disorder and justice to injustice. Men no longer observe their caste rules but transgress their bounds, so that castes are confused and force governs." 77 It is possible that Masulipatam had retained some of its famed prosperity till the i74o's. In the 1750's, however, it became one of the focal points in the AngloFrench struggle upon the coast. The French captured it in 1750 and the English took it over in 1759. Even before this the renters of revenue in the area had attempted to turn themselves into hereditary zamindärs,


A shin Das Gupta

and had in effect become the actual rulers of the neighbourhood. It was noted that when the British took over the administration they found that "the aims of government in the area immediately to the north-east of Masulipatam stopped short generally at the raising of revenue by heavy taxes on land and continuous and oppressive exactions on trade for the purpose of maintaining armed men. The agents of the Government were the zamindars who may be said to have combined military and executive functions." 7 8 For a long time after the English took over the administration, the miseries of misrule continued. In 1783 the Masulipatam Council considered a report on the flight of weavers toward the interior. 79 In 1789 the Report of the Committee of Circuit drew attention to the bleeding of the countryside by the renters, and noted that they left only that much to the cultivator which would prevent large scale desertion. The Report also characterized the rate of customs at Masulipatam as "ruinous". 80 Thus from the far south to the north of the coast, war and its attendant dislocation are the central facts of 18th-century Coromandel. It is but natural that Indian trade, which was totally unprotected, would not weather a crisis of this order. It is equally natural that those elements of Indian trade which had found their footing at Madras, the principal centre of the ultimate victors, would, however, continue to flourish. Unlike Bombay and Calcutta, Madras had attained its prosperity early, and in an area where there was no pressure from a neighbouring indigenous port. It is therefore safe to suggest that the Indian merchants at Madras, who made good, represented a net addition to the world of Indian trade. In the case of Bombay, prosperity came only with the break-up of Surat, and was based on the stragglers from that city. Thus Bombay and Madras would seem to have represented two different ways in which the new structure of Indo-British trade came into existence. We have, however, to note that whether at Bombay, Madras or Calcutta, prosperity was possible only in cooperation with the Englishmen. It has been said that the relationship between the dubash and the Englishman was more of a kind of "partnership between two young and ambitious merchants, each using one another for their mutual advantage", than one of master and servant. 81 But the exclusion of all independent trade, which competed with the trade of the English, was a fact, and so was the ultimate English control over the general directions of trade. Thus Indian merchants who had faced total extinction at the hands of Indian administrations exchanged

Trade and Politics in 18th century India t h a t d a n g e r o u s position f o r a c o n s t r i c t e d e x i s t e n c e .


T h e E n g l i s h , in s o

f a r a s t h e y p r e s e r v e d i s l a n d s of s e c u r i t y , m a i n t a i n e d a n essential t i n u i t y in I n d i a ' s t r a d e .


the trading structure which grew


E n g l i s h d i s p e n s a t i o n l a c k e d t h e q u a l i t y of f r e e d o m w h i c h , w i t h all i t s w i l f u l n e s s , t h e M u g h a l a d m i n i s t r a t i o n h a d p r e s e r v e d in t h e 1 7 t h c e n t u r y . T h e c l a s s w h i c h a p p e a r s t o h a v e b e e n w h o l l y s w e p t o u t in t h e p r o c e s s w a s t h a t of t h e M u s l i m s h i p o w n e r s of S u r a t , C a l i c u t , M a s u l i p a t a m Hughli. of

the desperate,

local officials, a n d a s t h e o b v i o u s c o m p e t i t o r s

s t o o d n o c h a n c e of c o l l a b o r a t i o n w i t h t h e E n g l i s h . trade







T h u s m u c h of M u s l i m




I n d i a , a n d t h e close links t h e y h a d s t o o d f o r w i t h W e s t e r n A s i a


I t w o u l d b e w r o n g t o t h i n k , h o w e v e r , of a t o t a l b r e a k d o w n in

t h i s W e s t e r n t r a d e , a s s o m e of it, of course, still c o n t i n u e d . e m p h a s i s o n it, so m a r k e d earlier, w a s t h e r e no longer. that


A s the o b v i o u s l y w e a l t h y e l e m e n t , t h e y a t t r a c t e d t h e a t t e n t i o n

for the







T h e strong

One might say



m i s t e d o v e r w h i l e old l a n d m a r k s in t h e E a s t w e r e p i c k e d o u t w i t h a n e w brightness.

1 The Private Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai, eds. J . F. Price and Η. H. Dodwell, 12 vols. (Madras, 1904-28). Another interesting, though short, document of the same genre is the biography of the Parsi merchant of Surat, Rustamji Manakji, written by Mobed Jamshed Kaikobad. private tutor to Rustamji's son Nowroji in the year 1711: " R u s t a m Manock and the Persian Qisseh", full Persian text and extensive translations in English by J . J . Modi, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay (1930), pp. 1-221. Attempts have been made by later scholars to reconstruct the history of some of the outstanding merchants and financiers of 18th-century India, the most important being J . H. Little, The House of Jagat Seth, originally published in Bengal Past &• Present (1920-1), now available as a publication of the Calcutta Historical Society, ed. Professor Ν. K. Sinha. * In 1720-1, in all eighty three letters were received from Delhi and Agra of this kind: K(oloniaal) A(rchief) at The Hague, no. 1855, pp. 58-158. These decreased in volume later. In 1732 there is only one letter from Dakhniram desperately appealing for help: K.A. 2185, pp. 632-3. ' For Surat the whole diary is available for the two years 1730-1, but extracts are available for most other years, as is also the case with Hughli. These notes were made by the Secretary to the Dutch Council but there is no doubt that he obtained much of his information about what went on in town from the bania merchants who frequented the Dutch Lodge. • Much information about the Konkani family of the Prabhus and the Jewish family of the Rahabis, both prominent in the trade at Cochin, are to be found in the documents dealing with a legal suit between them in 1772. I have dealt with it in Malabar in Asian Trade, Π40-1800 (Cambridge, 1967), pp. 118-19. The quality of such documentation can be gauged from the series Pleadings in the Mayor's Court at Madras, which are available in print with some gaps for the years 1731-45 (Record Office, Madras, 1936-43).

' This is a very important source of information for Indian shipping, especially the data available in the Dutch papers. These are of two kinds. On the one hand there are the list of passes which the Dutch issued and which specify the name, the name of the


A shin Das Gupta

owner and the tonnage of the ship, together with its destination, number of guns it carried and the name of its nakhoda. These lists, however, say nothing about the cargo carried, and it is entirely possible that the declared tonnage was short of its actual capacity. There are also available lists of incoming ships and an annual summary of their imports. These were obtained from the customs officials of the local administrations. The lists of imports are virtually unusable, because the units of measurement are innumerable and mostly totally obscure. For example, the import of bullion at Surat are usually given in "sacks" and "chests", leaving it to conjecture how much these may have contained. The lists of the incoming vessels also varied in that some would only note ships above a certain size (e.g. at Surat) while in others (e.g. at Masulipatam) everything which sailed would be listed. The English never made proper lists but they usually noted arrival and departure of shipping. These provide useful checks on the Dutch data. • As far as the 18th century is concerned there is no study of the Coromandel coast at all and none has so far made use of the Dutch documentation relating to Bengal. I have set out my findings about Malabar in the book cited above and I shall summarize some of the data on Gujarat in this paper. ' The standard account of these political developments are in Sir Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, 4 vols. (Calcutta, 1912-19); William Irvine and Jadunath Sarkar, The Later Mughals, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1922), and Jadunath Sarkar, The Fall of the Mughal Empire, 4 vols, (revised ed., Calcutta, 1949-52). • The most useful account of the Indian coastline is in William Milburn, Oriental Commerce (London, 1825), pp. 110 fl. 18th-century topography as seen by Indian writers is discussed in Sir Jadunath Sarkar, The India of Aurangzeb (Calcutta, 1901). One of the best discussions of the roads between Surat and Agra is by Dr. J . P. Vogel in his introductory essay to the Journaal van J. J. Ketelaar's Hofreis Naar den Groot Mogol te Lahore, 1711-1713 (The Hague, 1937). • All relevant documents of the early 18th century, of course, speak of the export of Lucknow cloths and Agra indigo through Surat. A convenient assessment of the importance of this trade for Surat is in the memoir of J . J . Ketelaar written in January 1716 at Surat: K.A. 1777, pp. 99-102. The trade in cotton between Bengal and Surat, always of some importance, grew considerably in volume in the 1740's. In his letter to the Governor General at Batavia, J a n Schreuder noted in April 1742 that the price of cotton at Surat had risen by 23%, not merely because of a bad harvest but through a considerable export to Bengal by the English, French and Indian merchants: K.A. 2474, pp. 210-11. This complaint was repeated next year: K.A. 2502, p. 60. And the year after, the export to Bengal by the English alone was estimated as 16000 bales: ibid., p. 114. Silk, on the other hand, was imported into Gujarat from Bengal and employed a large number of weavers. As early as the 1650's this was an established commerce. In 1659 the land-routes were closed for a time by the wars of succession which brought Aurangzeb to the throne. Immediately after they were re-opened, Gujarati merchants in Bengal sent a large quantity of silk overland to Ahmadabad via Agra: Pieter Van Dam, Beschryvinge van de Oostlndische Compagnie, ed. F. W. Stapel (The Hague, 1932), Book I I , part ii, pp. 10-11. In the 1750's the Dutch made an unsuccessful attempt to take part in this trade. They were defeated by strong competition of the English and the Gujaratis as also their own inexperience. The story of this failure in H(ooghe) R(egeering) te Batavia at the Algemeen Rijksarchief, no. 856, especially pp. 18-19. 1 0 S(urat) F(actory) R(ecords), vol. X X I I I , p. 83, at the India Office Library, London. Tarwary maintained a correspondent at Delhi who acted as a pivot in such transactions: ibid., p. 190. Such financial transactions between Gujarat and Bengal via Delhi were quite common and merchants in course of their regular business took recourse to it, in addition to professional remitters like Tarwary. Thus Seth Laldas Vitaldas Parak undertook to transfer Rs.200,000 for the English in 1732 and did so through his trading connections at Delhi: S.F.R., vol. X V I I , pp. 67, 80.

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


» The Private Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai (henceforth Pillai), vol. I l l , p. 172. Similarly the sons of Maliappa Chetti who had been in the employ of the French East India Company a t Pondicherry moved to Cuddalore under English administration and set u p in business, Pillai, vol. IV, p. 106. " Considerable but scattered evidence of this can be found in the European archives as well as in the diaries of Pillai. A good example would be the correspondence between the Gujarati bania Jivandas Haridas at Delhi with his nephews at Surat, in K.A. 2060, pp. 104-5, and K.A. 2094, p. 296. " In 1744, for example, Sorabji and Ratanji, two Parsi merchants of Surat offered to buy a small ship from the Dutch and employ it in the trade to Bengal provided the vessel was given the necessary papers for it to pass as a Dutch vessel. The Parsis pointed out that although they were the subjects of the Mughal and Gujarat and Bengal were both Mughal subahs, nevertheless they were liable to pay taxes at both ends and were likely to be victimized: K.A. 2646, pp. 69-70. Transfers between Mocha and Surat figure prominently in the papers of both the English and the Dutch in the 1720's and 1730's, as every year the merchants of Surat transferred their profit in the Red Sea trade partly by bills through the Europeans. No doubt all major merchants in this trade would do the same. It is a sobering thought that Joseph Price, a free merchant in Bengal, could write in the 1770's that China had in the last few years robbed Bengal of its trade with Gujarat. J . Price, Five Letters front a Free Merchant in Bengal (London, 1778), p. 193. 14 In discussing the features of the crisis within the Mughal empire, I am following: Satish Chandra, Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, 1707-1740 (Asia Publications, 1959), Irian Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (Asia Publications, 1963) and M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb (Asia, 1966). " Quoted by Irian Habib, op. cit., p. 326. " Irian Habib, op. cit., p. 329. " The best available discussion of Gujarati textiles in the 17th century is in John Irwin and P. R. Schwartz, Studies in Indo-European Textile History (Ahmadabad, 1966), pp. 15-27. Documentation in the 18th century usually omits the non-Gujarati places like Burhanpur and Sironj mentioned by Mr. Irwin and concentrates on Cambay and Broach. For the trade in indigo: W. H. Moreland, India, From Ahbar to Aurangzeb (London, 1923), pp. 109 ff. Pieter Van Dam has a short discussion on the exports of Gujarat in Beschryvinge etc. (The Hague, 1939), Book II, part iii, p. 100. " I have discussed some of these merchants in "The Crisis at Surat, 1730-32", Bengal Past and Present (Calcutta, Diamond Jubilee Number, 1967), pp. 148-62. As to the Turkish family, it has to be noted t h a t the European documents which were careful to distinguish between Mughals, Bohras, Arabs and even Arabs from Muscat, always spoke of this clan as Turks. These notes kept from day to day, year after year, by Europeans living at Surat are of course qualitatively different from occasional traveller's tales. It is interesting to note that Kaikobäd in his life of Rustamji Manakji calls the Chellabies "Turki by caste (jot)", J . J. Modi, "Rustam Manock and the Persian Qisseh", Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay (1930), p. 38. 'Ali Muhammad Khan, the last of the Mughal Dewans of Ahmadabad in his history, Mirät-i-Ahmadi (English translation in Gaekwad Oriental Series, no. 146) (Baroda, 1965), spoke of the 'Rümi' mercenaries in connection with this family, p. 522. As to the "foreign merchants", they come up occasionally in the contemporary papers. Thus for example in 1706 when the Dutch were blocking the port of Surat " t h e Turkish and Arab merchants" claimed full liberty of movement, as they were no "subjects of Hindustan". Among them of course none of the local Arabs or Turks were included: Letter from Risidas and Bhagwandas to Brindabandas, 29 Dec., 1706: K.A. 1611, p. 125. " S.F.R., vol. VI, p. 92. " " L i s t of Passes": K.A. p. 1611, 125. 11 This information is contained in an important daily diary kept by Joan Diodati,


A shin Das Gupta

the Independent Fiscal of the Dutch Company a t Surat, for the years 1698-1700. He noted it on 6 May, 1699 and added "it was what was said". There is, therefore, the possibility of a considerable exaggeration. This figure was repeated in the Directeur Pieter Ketting's general letter to Batavia. We have to notice on the other hand that all the local merchants kept in close touch with the administration of customs and usually were remarkably well informed as to what went on: Κ.Λ. 1528, p. 221. " Surat to Amsterdam: K.A. 1629, p. 28. " Surat to Batavia, 12 May, 1707: K.A. 1638, p. 250. " S u r a t to Amsterdam, 19 March, 1710: K.A. 1660, p. 1953. Slight difficulty was reported about customs at Cambay but this had nothing to do with the political collapse. " Diodati's travelogue is in K.A. 1805, pp. 86-129. The party set out on 26 Dec., 1716 and reached Surat on 24 Feb., 1717. It is of some interest to note that Diodati was regarded as an able young man by his superiors and had been commended for his knowledge of the local languages: K.A. 1694, p. 85. " K.A. 1839, p. 209. The suspension of the procurement of Dariabadi chadar had been noted as early as 1708: K.A. 1645, p. 162. After this it was almost ritually repeated every year. This was also the case with biana indigo which was stopped in 1710: K.A. 1689, pp. 224-5. " In the season 1722-3, no bids at all were made for the imported spices for three months after the arrival of the ships and brokers reported that no merchant had the confidence to make purchases and that last year's imports were still in the city: K.A. 1891, pp. 44-5. On 26 April, 1723 the Dutch Council at Surat wrote to the High Council of the Indies at Batavia: "Surat at the moment is more than ever filled with imports and none of it can be sent out [to the north]": K.A. 1891, pp. 135-6. In 1725 the continuation of similar conditions was noted and it was said that the selling prices for imported commodities "were now the lowest in many years": K.A. 1925, p. 33. The Kashmiri merchants of Surat were instructed by their principals, living in northern cities, to suspend their trade in Indonesian spices after a qäfila worth about Rs.200,000/- had been plundered by the Marathas in spite of the fact t h a t a safe-conduct for it had been obtained from them at a cost of Rs.1100/-: K.A. 1946, pp. 57 and 82-3. A rupee at this time was worth between 2s. 3d. and 2s. 6ii. The gross profit of the Dutch East India Company which in 1709-10 had stood at f.613,461 on an import valued at f.425,063 (K.A. 1704, p. 37) had fallen in 1722-3 to f.268,171 on an import of f.564,775 (K.A. 1946, p. 83). 28

The first attack of the Marathas drove a large number of the villagers from the surrounding villages into Surat, but as the governor prepared for the defence of the town itself, the plunderers withdrew: K.A. 1855, p. 50 and K.A. 1875, p. 10. In the attack two years later, the Marathas trapped and destroyed some of the best officers and men of the governor Mu'min Khän, who was supposedly contemplating suicide. Many among the wealthy prepared for flight and Muhammad 'All, the leading merchant in town, removed to one of his own vessels at the bar. However, after he had arranged for the collection of chauth (i.e. one-quarter of revenue) from the suburban villages, Piloji broke camp on 3 December, 1723: K.A. 1907, pp. 14-17. Evidence about these first raids, as available in English papers, can be seen in J. H. Gense and D. R. Banaji, The Gaikwads of Baroda, vol. I (Bombay, 1936). " Letter received a t Surat 26 May 1721: K.A. 1875, pp. 98-9. " L e t t e r received at Surat 9 September 1725: K.A. 1946, pp. 132-9. He described the development of the crisis in two more letters received respectively 28 October, 1725 and 3 March, 1726: ibid., pp. 149-52, 172-3. 31 Three letters from Daaldas were received by the Dutch Council a t Surat and entered in their papers between July to December, 1729: K.A. 2060, pp. 134-6, 151-3, 162. Besides these Daaldas wrote several letters to his brother Bhukendas at Surat which were also noted in the Dutch dag register·. K.A. 2094, pp. 758-9, 767-8.

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


" The approach of Abhay Singh and the hopes it aroused a t Ahmadabad were described by the Dutch diarist from time to time. For example on 14 August 1730 he noted that the leading citizens had fled and joined the van guard of the Maharaja: K.A. 2094, p. 768. On 30 September 1730 he referred to the stories of Maharaja Abhay Singh's generosity to the people of the cities he was passing through and the punishment he was meeting out to the oppressive officers of the previous administration: ibid., p. 799. On 8 November 1730 he noted the news that Abhay had reduced the duties on silk weaving to the customary 7% from the extortionate 13% under Sarbuland: ibid., pp. 834-5. However, on 7 November, 1731 he noted t h a t Abhay Singh had extorted Rs.800,000/- from Seth Gosalji and a further Rs.200,000/- from his nephew. The agent of Muhammad 'Ali of Surat in the city was being molested for money: K.A. 2143, pp. 921-2. " In his letter to Batavia of 2 April 1707, Grootenhuijs gave high praise to Amanat Khän for preserving law and order in town after the death of Aurangzeb: K.A. 1638, pp. 46-7. The relevant portions of Ketelaar's memoir are in K.A. 1777, pp. 87-109. This memoir contains a very helpful discussion on Gujarat's imports and exports at the time. It is interesting to note that in addition to the breakdown in the north Ketelaar commented on the decline of the trade to Persia and the difficulties beginning to be felt in the trade to Mocha. He also noted that the English private traders sent only an occasional ship to Surat and these mostly laden with freight from Indian merchants. " In January, 1719 Haidar Quli asked for Rs.100,000/- from the Dutch for his attempts on their behalf to obtain a piece of land for them at Surat. Daniel Hurgronje, the then Directeur, noted sadly how very changed the governor was through constant pressure upon him to furnish money to Delhi in order to maintain his office. When he first came he would hear nothing of illicit gratification (corruptie penningen) of this kind: K.A. 1820, p. 72. ,6 An account of the revenues of Surat is in Mirät-i-Ahmadt, Khäiima (Gaekwad's Oriental Series, vol. L X I I I (Baroda, 1928), pp. 188-9. 'All Muhammad Khän gave the revenue of each pargana separately and the total was Rs.872,724/-. This was of course the official expectation in normal times. In 1730, the Raja of Mandavi, a neighbouring prince, took over the farm of these revenues from Sohrab 'All at Rs.400,000/-, although Piloji Gaikwad announced that he would see to it that the Raja derived no benefit from it: Dag Register, 15 Sept., 1730 and 23 Sept.. 1730: K.A. 2094, pp. 787-8, 793-4. In the thirties as the Maratha control tightened over the countryside the administration a t Surat had in fact t o be content with what they allowed them to collect. " A typical example was the street fighting in Surat in 1725 between Sohrab 'Ali Khän and Teg Bakht Khän in 1725: K.A. 2060, pp. 50-1. " Indian historians usually call the "Sidis" Ethiopians, but I believe it would be better to think of them as having come at some point of time from the " H a b a s h " coast of the Red Sea without identifying them with present-day Ethiopians. For an account of the Sidis, see D. R. Banaji, Bombay and the Sidis (Bombay, 1932). The family tree of the Sidis is in Bowring's Portfolio at the India Office, London. 39 For this rebellion see my article "The Crisis at Surat, 1730-2", Bengal Past and Present (Calcutta, 1967), pp. 148-62. " T h e English blockade was begun in January, 1734 and ended in early March: S.F.R., vol. XVIII, pp. 61-232. " S.F.R., vol. XIX, pp. 75-7. " S.F.R., 9 March, 1735, vol. X I X , p. 105. " Ibid., pp. 105-8. " Ibid., pp. 111-2. 44 Again a day to day account of the stresses and strains in the town is available in S.F.R., vol. X I X , pp. 108 fl. and S.F.R., vol. X X , pp. 1 fi. Several payments were made in the course of the negotiations and the two figures I have cited appear to represent the minimum and maximum limits. 44 Memoir of Jan Schreuder, Hooghe Regeering, 838, pp. 17 S. In this as also in another


A shin Das Gupta

memorandum which he wrote in 1746, Schreuder emphasized the growth of English private trade especially between Bengal and Surat and to China. H.R., 837, especially pp. 309-11. 44 In what I say about this coast I am briefly summarizing what I have said in Malabar in Asian Trade, 1740-1800 and I shall not make any further specific reference to it. A very great deal of information about the coast in the 18th century is available in Padmanabha Menon, K. P., A History of Kerala, 4 vols. (Ernakulam, 1924-37). An excellent discussion, especially of t h e imports and exports of the area, in Galletti, Α., The Dutch in Malabar (Madras, 1911), in which two informative 18th-century memoirs have been edited with considerable care. For the estimate about southern pepper, see Malabar etc., pp. 58-9. In 1736 Ezechiel Rahabi estimated t h a t "in a period of complete peace and given a good harvest" the coast would produce 28,000 khandies that is 14 million pounds of pepper: K.A. 2516, pp. 62-63. Thus the figure I have suggested is certainly a conservative estimate. " In addition to the shipping lists of Cochin, we have copies of the passports which were issued to the Indian and Arab vessels by the Dutch for the years 1749-54, now preserved a t the Madras Record Office. Our knowledge of these is therefore a little more complete than the ships of Surat or Hughli. More than half of them came from Porebander, a small port a little to the west of Surat, and were owned by bania merchants there. They were small vessels, the usual declared tonnage being about fifty tons. The declared cargo never included pepper, but this was probably a little arrangement with the local Dutch officials, as pepper was on the Company's list of prohibited goods. In this connection we should note t h a t from the papers relating to Surat it is clear that from the 1740's merchants at Surat were looking for other home-ports and the Dutch themselves were interested in developing their trade with Porebander. " The first figure is from the shipping list a t Cochin and includes all kinds of vessels owned by non-Europeans: K.A. 3327, pp. 321-51. The second figure is from the Report of Mr. James Drummond on the Financial Position of the Dutch Possessions at Cochin, 1804, at the Record Office, Madras, under Collectorate Records, no. 2557. M Riyazu-s-Salatin by Ghuläm Husain Salim, tr. and ed. Mawlavi Abdus Salam (Calcutta, 1904), p. 30. " A. Karim, Murshid Quit Khän and His Times (Dacca, 1963), pp. 230-1. Dr. S. Chaudhuri cites the higher figure of twenty-three in "The Rise and Decline of Hughli", Bengal, Past and Present, vol. L X X X V I , especially note on p. 62. " K.A. 1677, pp. 289-92 and K.A. 1854, pp. 36-9. M K.A. 2057, pp. 296-301. The figure for 1734 is cited by Professor Holden Furber in "Glimpses of Life and Trade on the Hugli 1720-1770", Bengal Past and Present, vol. L X X X V I , pp. 14-23. He notes t h a t the list for 1745 was "shorter". 44 The standard book on political history is History of Bengal, ed. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, vol. II (Dacca, 1948). " This is the view held by Professor Ν. K. Sinha in his Economic History of Bengal, 1757-1793, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1956 and 1961), which provides the standard text for the second half of the century. " Salim, op. cit., p. 30. For further evidence see the article by S. Chaudhuri, at. supra. " K.A. 2088, pp. 421-3. " This memoir dated 20 March 1750 is in K.A. 2655, which is unfortunately not paginated. " K.A. 1677, pp. 289-92. Of the six ships two belonged to 'Abd al-Ghafür. 40 K.A. 1854, pp. 36-9, 187-90. Of the eight ships which missed their passage, four belonged to Muhammad 'Ali, the grandson of Ghafür. In the article cited above Professor Furber noted that of the eleven ships in 1734, five were from Surat. 41 K.A. 1611, pp. 268-81. " Beschryvinge van Bengale was one of many such collections which were done from

Trade and Politics in 18th century India


time to time from the papers of the Dutch Company at Batavia: H.R. 244, p. 18. Muhammad 'AJi was arrested at Surat after the rebellion of the merchants. The names of the other "directors" of this "society" can only be conjectured. " K.A. 2282, pp. 1208-9. Two of these ships belonged to the great grandsons of Ghafiir. " For these figures and some of the references relating to Bengal I have used a paper called "Private Enterprise and Company Monopoly: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century" by Dr. P. J. Marshall of King's College, London, which he presented at the Conference on Modern South Asia at Cambridge in July, 1968. I am grateful to Dr. Marshall for his kind permission for this. The figures for private shipping at the end of the century are given by Η. T. Colebrooke in Remarks on the Present State of the Husbandry and Commerce of Bengal (Calcutta, 1795), p. 154. It is necessary to note t h a t Colebrooke added up the figures for arriving and departing shipping to obtain his totals. The source for this as for several other figures cited by Dr. Marshall is the Bengal Public Consultation series at the India Office Library, London. " This great turning of trade in the Indian Ocean was first charted by Professor Holden Furber who, quite justifiably, hailed it as a "commercial revolution": John Company at Work (Harvard, 1948), p. 162. Η. T. Colebrooke noted: "To the gulphs of Arabia and Persia, Bengal sends grain, sugar, silk and cotton piece-goods, etc. This trade was formerly so considerable t h a t the annual returns were estimated a t thirty lakhs of rupees (Rs. 3.000,000/-), but owing to anarchy which has prevailed in Persia since the death of Kherim Khan the successor of Nadir Shäh, and in Egypt since the overthrow of 'Ali Bey, with a variety of other causes, it has greatly declined of late". Op. cit., p. 165. Colebrooke's figures for shipping to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea showed two ships from Bengal in that direction in 1783 and two in 1793. The corresponding figures for China were thirteen and thirty-three: ibid., pp. 150-1. · ' W. H. Moreland, Relations of Golconda (London, Hakluyt, 1930), p. xvii. In this introductory essay Moreland gives one of the best available summaries of evidence about the coast in the 17th century. *8 See T. Raychaudhuri, Jan Company in Coromandel (The Hague, 1962). Based on a detailed examination of the Dutch evidence this book is now the standard text for the 17th century. " The prosperity of Madras at the end of the 17th century is well brought out by the relevant volumes of Diary and Consultation of the English Council at t h a t town, available in print. See especially: Diary and Consultation Book of 1701 (Madras, 1922), pp. 29, 88-96; Diary and Consultation 1702, p. 43; Diary and Consultation 1704, p. 29 (for a description of the large Indian mercantile community at Madras). This comment comes in a discussion of the sack of Madras in 1746 when an enormous booty was had by all including most of Pillai's friends: Pillai, vol. IV, pp. 64-5. " T. Raychaudhuri, op. cit., p. 128. " Ibid. He also notes t h a t the establishment of overall control by the British may have had something to do with it. " The Tinnevelly coast was Madura to the Dutch because political control came from t h a t interior city: Memoir of J. C. Pielat, 1734 (Colombo, 1905), p. 25. '« Memoir of Gustaaf Willem Baron Van Imhoff, 1740 (Colombo. 1911), p. 41. 76 Memoir of Joan Gideon Loten, 1757 (Colombo, 1935), pp. 12-3, 32-3. " Memoir of Jan Schreuder, 1762 (Colombo, 1946), p. 33. This memoir contains the Dutch text along with the English translation and I have slightly amended the translation, in brackets, from the text. " Pillai, vol. XI, p. 318. For comments on deterioration: ibid., pp. 23-4, 95, 295-6. For the collective fine: ibid., pp. 371 fif., and Dodwell's editorial remark on p. xvii. '· Guide to the Records of the Masulipatam District, 1682-1835, vol. I (Madras. 1935), p. 3.


A shin Das Gupta

** Ibid., p. 67. Also see Gordon Mackenzie, A Manual of Kistna District (Madras, 1883), pp. 40 fi. n Guide to the Records of Masulipatam, vol. I, pp. 153-4. " John Gurney, The Debts of the Nawab of Arcot, 1763-1776 (unpublished D.Phil. dissertation at the University of Oxford, 1968), p. 44. In this work Dr. Gurney has discussed t h e rise of a community of dubashes (literally "interpreters" in fact "agents") and their dominance in the trade of Madras. I am most grateful to him for letting me consult his work and to quote from it.


Ann K. S. Lambton In this paper 1 I shall confine my examination of Persian trade to the first half of the 19th century, not because there were during this period any striking changes in the pattern of Persian trade, but because certain trends which were to influence developments in the later years of the century were beginning to take shape. These developments had their origins in political rather than economic events. In this paper, therefore, some attention will be devoted to diplomatic history as well as to economic. The paper is not concerned, except incidentally, with the internal trade of the country. The Persian sources for the period concentrate on political events and personalities and provide little evidence of how these events affected the day to day life of the people. European sources—the accounts of travellers and diplomatic and consular records—supplement the Persian sources, and, indeed, in some respects give fuller information than the Persian sources so far published. There is little statistical information available. Customs duties were farmed and the records are neither complete nor reliable; and a further complication in their interpretation is introduced by the fluctuations in the importance of the ports of entry. Population statistics for the period are incomplete, and the demographic and economic consequences of wars and periodic plagues and famines can only be roughly estimated. Between the rise of Islam and the 19th century, Persian trade underwent numerous vicissitudes. Some of these were brought about by the rise and fall of dynasties, and some were consequent upon changes in the limitrophe countries, which affected the distribution of population and markets and the alignment of the trade-routes. Outbreaks of plague, cholera and famine also resulted in changes, but usually of a minor and

1 Unpublished Crown Copyright material in the Public Record Office has been reproduced in this article by permission of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office, to whom I would like to express my thanks.



Ann Κ. S. Lambton

more temporary nature. On the whole the methods and purposes of government and the nature of society continued broadly unchanged. During the disorders which prevailed at the end of the Safavid period and the anarchy which succeeded their fall, foreign trade came to a virtual standstill. In the time of Nädir Shäh (1736-47) the East India Company "found themselves exposed to repeated instances of oppression". 8 From the assassination of Nädir Shäh until the establishment of Karim Khän (1750-79) the empire was again plunged into confusion. In 1763 Bushire was selected as the headquarters of the Gulf trade of the East India Company, and an agreement was made in that year with Shaykh Sa'dün. 3 Karim Khän, who wished to extend and encourage commerce, gave the English in the same year a farman for a factory in Bushire and the trade of the Persian Gulf. 4 Commerce began to revive, but confusion and disorder were renewed on the death of Karim Khän in 1779. His nephew, Ja'far Khän, assumed the government of Shiräz and its dependencies in 1784. In 1788 he gave the English a farman for unrestricted trade throughout Persia,® but this was of little value, since Ja'far Khän's writ did not run even throughout the province of Färs. Bushire was temporarily relinquished by the East India Company in 1770 in favour of Basra, but reoccupied three years later; commercial residents were retained at both places under the Government of Bombay. Meanwhile by 1789 Äqä Muhammad Khän Qäjär, the founder of the dynasty of that name, had made himself master of Gurgän, Mäzandarän and Gilän. He then extended his authority to Tabriz, Hamadän, Tehrän and Isfahän. Marching south, he defeated Lutf 'Ali Khän, the son of Karim Khän, outside Shiräz, and took Kirmän in 1794. Under Fath 'Ali Shäh, who succeeded his uncle in 1797 and ruled until 1834, Persia was drawn into the Eastern Question because of her proximity to Georgia on the one hand and to India on the other. As a result, her relations with Europe assumed an importance and character quite different from the preceding period. Further, because of internal weaknesses, there developed a great dependence upon both Great Britain and Russia. This affected almost all aspects of the life of the country, including trade. The rise of the Qäjärs, thus, marks a watershed in the * Three reports of the Select Committee, appointed by the Court of Directors to take into consideration the export trade from Great Britain to the East Indies, China, Japan, and Persia ·, laid before the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council ( L o n d o n , p r i n t e d f o r J . S. J o r d a n , N o . 166 F l e e t S t r e e t ) , p. 113. I a m i n d e b t e d t o Mr, R . F e r n e r f o r b r i n g i n g t h e s e r e p o r t s to m y notice. * C. U . A i t c h i s o n , A collection of treaties, engagements and sanads relating to India neighbouring countries ( C a l c u t t a , 1933), vol. X I I I , p p . 4 1 - 2 . * Ibid., pp. 42-4. » Ibid., pp. 44-5.


Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


political, social and economic history of Persia. Already during the reigns of Fath 'Ali Shäh and Muhammad Shäh (1834-48) government and society were profoundly affected by the intrusion of European powers into Persia. So far as trade was concerned changes began to take place in the pattern of foreign trade and in the position of the merchant. The reasons for these changes were political and strategic rather than economic. It was perhaps partly for this reason that changes in the organization of industry and trade did not begin to take place until later. Throughout the 19th century, agriculture was the main economic activity. The great majority of the population derived their living from agriculture or stockraising. In the absence of reliable statistics it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of either the area under cultivation and the crop yield or the fluctuations in these. Nor is there much information on the relations between the rural and urban population or between the semi-nomadic and the settled population. Many of the towns were market-towns or collecting centres for the produce of the neighbouring villages and tribes. Much of the land was in the hands of large landowners; crown lands (khäliseh) constituted an extensive and important category of land; and a considerable acreage belonged to religious endowments (awqäf). Such lands were for the most part worked by peasants on a crop-sharing system, with or without the interposition of an intermediary tenant. The unit of cultivation was the ploughland, or in some cases a number of ploughlands grouped together. Methods of farming were primitive, and the surplus available for sale or barter was in most cases small. The revenue of the state was basically derived from the land, though many districts were alienated from the control of the central government in the form of tuyüls, or assignments. These made no direct contribution to the national revenue, though the inhabitants were not exempted from the payment of taxes and dues to the tuyüldär or assignee, who was sometimes the owner of the land but more often a third person. Taxes on trade were levied mainly in the form of customs dues and road taxes and tolls; merchants were subject to the payment of poll taxes and special levies, and to taxes on their premises. The heaviest concentration of population b y the 19th century was within an obtuse-angled triangle, of which a line drawn from Tabriz on the west along the southern shore of the Caspian, to Mashhad on the east, would form the base, and of which lines drawn from Mashhad and Tabriz respectively to Isfahan, would form the other two sides.® Tabriz and • On the size of the population, see further G. Harably, "An introduction to the economic organization of early Qäjär Iran", Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies (1964), vol. II. pp. 69 fi. 15


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

Mashhad were important commercial centres. The former, which was the capital of the most populous provinces of the country and was usually the seat of the heir apparent, ranked as the first commercial city of Persia. Its main importance was in the transit trade. Goods from Constantinople, Trebizond and Georgia all came to Tabriz, whence they were forwarded to Qazwin, Tehran and other cities. Mashhad, in addition to being a pilgrimage city, was a flourishing entrepot. The prosperity of the town depended mainly on trade in goods of European manufacture, silk and cotton goods, glass, porcelain and delf, which were brought from Tehran to be forwarded to Central Asia, whence the merchants received in return Kashmiri shawls, lambskins from Bukhara, asafoetida (a resinous gum), camels' hair cloth (barek), püstins from Käbul, camels from Khiva and Turkoman horses. Sugar was brought from Yazd and formed a considerable article of trade. There was also a large sale of articles manufactured in the province of Khuräsän, notably carpets and shawls, and some trade in felts, silk goods (the produce of the silk of northern Persia) and arms, especially swords.7 The trade of Tehran at the beginning of the century was due almost entirely to the presence of the court and was not large. Qazwin at that time had a larger community of merchants and more commercial activity, but was in due course displaced by Tehran. Olivier, writing about 1796, states that Qazwin was an entrepot for silk from Gilän and Shirvän destined for the interior of Persia, Baghdad and even Surat. Part of the rice of Gilän and Mäzandarän was also brought there. Silk and cotton materials and carpets were made in Qazwin. 8 Travellers in the early 19th century all emphasize the decay prevailing in southern Persia. Mirzä Abü'l-Hasan Khän Shiräzi passing through Äzarbäyjän on his way to Russia in 1813-14 notes with surprise the flourishing condition of Äzarbäyjän, which he compares favourably with the disorder in Färs, where, he alleged, decay and depopulation prevailed because of the oppression of ministers.· Although Isfahan had gradually recovered from its sack by the Afghans in 1722, misgovernment and insecurity in the surrounding countryside militated against the return of trade on a larger scale. 10 Yazd, on the other hand, in the early ' J . P . Ferner, Caravan journeys

and wanderings

in Persia,



and Beloochistan, tr. Captain W. Jesse (London, 1856), pp. 124-5. • Voyages dans Vempire Ottomane, l'Egypte et la Perse (Paris, 1807), vol. I l l , p. 49. • Sa/ar-nämeh-i Mirzä Abü'l-Hasan Khän Shiräzi bi-Rüsiyeh, ms. in t h e library of

the National Consultative Assembly, Tehrän. 10 See Public Record Office, F.O. 60:165.—Notes on the Trade, Manufacture, and Productions of various cities, and countries of Persia, visited by Mr. Consul Abbott, in 1849-50.


Trade under the Early Qäjärs


years of the 19th century was one of the most prosperous towns of Persia. Situated mid-way between the northern routes and the Persian Gulf, it was one of the great entrepots between East and West. James Baillie Fräser stated that caravans from Kabul, Kashmir, Bukhara, Herat, Mashhad and Kirmän were met in Y a z d by merchants from Isfahan, Shiräz, Käshän and Tehran, and a great interchange of commodities took place. Its manufactures of silk and other stuffs, felts, sugar-candy and sweetmeats commanded a ready market everywhere in Persia. 11 Scott Waring also mentions that Y a z d was an emporium for all the trade of Persia. Coarse perpets were sent there and sold to the Uzbegs and the people of Khuräsän, the merchant taking on his return journey silks, carpets, felts and Kashmiri shawls. 1 2 Trade from Europe and the East came along a variety of routes, all, or nearly all, of them long and difficult. They were as follows: (i) from Constantinople via T o k a t , or Trebizond to Erzerum and thence to Tabriz; (ii) via the Caucasus from Poti to Tabriz; (iii) from the line of the Volga across the Caspian Sea to Rasht or Astaräbäd; (iv) from Karachi via the Qandahär line to Farrah, and thence either through Herat to Mashhad or through Qä'in to Nishäpür; (ν) from Bandar 'Abbäs through Y a z d or K i r m ä n ; (vi) from Bushire via Shiräz and thence through Isfahän or Y a z d ; (vii) from some other port on the Persian Gulf; (viii) along some line between the head of the Persian Gulf and Baghdäd, and thence into the Persian plateau via Kirmänshäh or Shushtar or northward through Kurdistan; and (ix) from Central Asia via Mashhad. Constantinople was the main collecting centre for the trade coming from Europe and the Trebizond route grew in importance towards the end of the reign of Fath 'Ali Shäh. Most of the merchandise coming from and going to India and the Far East passed through the Persian Gulf; the relative


An historical

and descriptive


of Persia

( 2 n d e d . , E d i n b u r g h , 1834), p. 64.

A tour to Sheeraz (London, 1807), p. 70. Pelly writing in 1863 also states that Yazd was one of the wealthiest and most enterprising towns in Persia (Report on the Tribes, etc. around the shores of the Persian Gulf (Calcutta, 1874), p. 22). When Curzon visited Persia in 1889-90 Yazd was still an important trading centre, although certain changes had taken place. Silk-weaving had declined and its place had been taken by the cultivation of the opium poppy. Other exports from Yazd at that time included cotton, wool, carpets, felts, madder roots, henna, almonds, and pistachios. Its chief imports were English and Anglo-Indian goods from the south and Russian wares from the north. Cotton fabrics, prints, copper, tin, lead, iron, drugs, and spices, and Indian and China teas were among the former; Russia sent oil, candles, sugar, furs, crockery, and some piece-goods. A number of Russian Armenians were engaged in the import-export trade of Yazd with Russia; the trade with India was largely in the hands of the Parsis. Much merchandise also passed through Yazd in transit for Mashhad and Sabzavär, and some for Käshän and Tehran [Persia and the Persian question (London, 1892), vol. II, pp. 241-2], 11


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

importance of the ports of entry varied according to the policy of the customs farmers and security in the hinterland. Goods brought via Russia and Turkey were subject to customs dues in those countries, and those which came through Afghanistan were subject to dues and charges as they passed through that country. Customs duties at the Persian frontier were, on the whole, not heavy. At the beginning of the century there was no regular tariff differentiating between different goods or different nationalities. Much depended on custom and the issue of farmans by the reigning Shah. The duty was sometimes levied ad valorem, sometimes by weight, sometimes by muleload; and certain goods were from time to time exempted from the payment of customs dues. For example, Fath 'Ali Shäh issued a farman in 1823 to Husayn 'Ali Mirzä, governor-general of Färs, in consequence of representations made by the British mission over the levy of duties on the export of horses via the Persian Gulf, ordering him to give instructions that no duties should be levied on horses and other property and goods belonging to British subjects "excepting such as long-established usage authorizes". 13 At the beginning of the century the duty on goods imported via Bushire amounted to about 5 % . It was nominally more, but goods were usually passed below their real value. A t Shiräz there was a customshouse where caravans were examined and valued and a duty of 2 levied. There was often much delay; it was the concern of the customsmaster to over-rate and the interest of the merchant to undervalue his merchandize. The matter was often terminated by a bribe, which was sometimes the only payment imposed on the merchant's property. 14 There were numerous customs-houses which levied duties on goods at varying rates. The fact that duty had been paid at the place of entry was no guarantee that it would not be levied again. Smuggling was neither difficult nor rare. 15 Once inside Persia, there was a long land haul, often through difficult country, which was sometimes impassable from snow in winter, and most of which was insecure from robbers and raiding bands. Road taxes and tolls were levied at every city through which the merchandise passed. The rates were not high but on a long journey the total might amount

" For the text of this farman, see Aitchison, op. cit., vol. X I I I , p. 64. There were later several negotiations over the export of horses and the duty upon them. 14 Scott Waring, A tour to Sheeraz (London, 1807), p. 79. " J . B . Fraser, Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan, in the years 1821 and 1822 (London, 1825), p. 213.


Trade under the Early Qäjärs


to a considerable sum. 1 · The road t a x (rähdäri) was originally levied for the purpose of defraying the expenses of road guards, who were responsible for the security of the district entrusted to them. Its levy was arbitrary. B y the 19th century the tax was no longer devoted to its original purpose, and it was a h e a v y burden on Persian merchants. Morier writing in 1808-9 states that 5 rials (about 10s.) were levied on each mule-load between Tabriz and K h w u y . 1 7 Scott Waring in 1802 counted nine rähdäri stations between Bushire and Shlräz. 18 B y the time goods reached Mäzandarän or Mashhad from the Persian Gulf road taxes might amount to as much as 20-30%. All internal trade was transported by camels and mules. The load carried depended upon the size of the pack-animal. The average camel load was about 400 lbs., that of a mule 240 lbs., and that of a donkey 130 lbs. The expenses of the baggage animals en route were small, and varied with the price of forage. Straw and barley were for the most part obtained in caravanserais cheaply; and in spring and summer the animals grazed en route.19 The absence of good roads for wheeled vehicles was a major obstacle to the transport of goods in large quantities and to an increase in trade. Individuals often expended large sums on the construction of caravanserais for the accommodation of travellers. Occasionally merchants would build a bridge over a particularly difficult torrent or repair a piece of road. 20 B u t in general there was a reluctance both on the part of the government and of merchants to spend money on undertakings unproductive of immediate return. W e are forced to rely largely on the records of foreign companies supplemented b y the accounts of travellers for detailed lists of goods imported and exported to Persia. Their accounts give a good indication of the variety and volume of the trade, but the company records are concerned only with the trade which they themselves carried on and do not, therefore, give a complete picture. They do not, for example, cover the Central Asian trade. A report of the Select Committee of the Court of Directors of the East India Company 011 the export trade of Great Britain to Persia dated

" S e e Pelly, op. cit., pp. 2 0 - 1 ; Scott Waring, op. cit., pp. 79-80; Morier, A journey through Persia, Armenia

and Asia Minor

(London, 1 8 1 2 ) , p. 237.

" Op. cit., p. 297. 19 Op. cit., p. 79. " C f . Olivier, op. cit., vol. I l l , pp. 22-3. 20 Cf. J . B. F r ä s e r , Narrative of a journey descriptive account of Persia, p. 2 8 6 .

into Khorasan,

p. 7 6 ; and An historical


Ann Κ. S. Lambton


1792 states that imports into Basra (which went mainly to the Ottoman empire) and Bushire from the sea consisted of "Bengal piece goods, chintz from the coast, long cloth, Porto Novo blue cloth, Malabar, Surat, and Guzarat piece goods, Cuttanees, Cambay, Chanders, Broach and Sundy cotton, cotton yarn, shawls, bamboos, China ware, sugar, sugar candy, pepper, ginger, cardamums, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon, cassia flowers, musk, lack, camphire, turmerick, indigo, tootenague, red lead, coffee, tobacco, British woollens, iron, lead, steel, tin and a variety of drugs." 21 Olivier, writing a few years later, states that there was little trade between Turkey and Persia and that it was confined mainly to spices, drugs, and gums, a small quantity of lambskins from Shiräz, and tobacco, gallnuts, shawls, camels, and horses. The main import from Turkey was dates and from Arabia coffee and some European goods via Aleppo. 22 Captain (later Sir) John Malcolm, however, in 1801 considered that Turkey held second place in Persia's foreign trade (see below). Olivier comments on the low prices at which stuffs from India were sold.43 The imports into Persia in the early years of the 19th century as given in the account of M. Jaubert, who was sent on a mission to Persia by Napoleon in 1805, were as follows: from Bengal and the Coromandel Persia imported blue and white cloth, silk and cotton stuffs, muslins, sugar, indigo, ginger, safflower, sandalwood, aloes, benzoin, lacquer, tin, lead, iron, porcelain and tea (from China), cloth (from Europe), diamonds (from the Deccan), rubies, topaz and sapphires; from the Malabar Coast, cardamom, pepper, teak, and bamboos for lances; from Surat, gold and silver stuffs, muslin for turbans, indigo, and steel for swords; from Ceylon, nutmeg cloves, cinnamon and coffee (from Java); from the Yemen and South Arabia, coffee and dates; from the coastal districts of the Persian Gulf negro slaves, emeralds, gold dust and ivory; from Bahrein, pearls; from Turkistän and Kashmir, shawls, felts, carpets, furs, rubies, turquoises, lapis lazuli, asbestos, rhubarb (from China and Tibet), worm seed (semen-contra), lamb-skins (from Bukhara) and heron feathers; and from Russia, caviar, dressed hides, cloth, cochineal, jewellery and copper money. Exports to India included copper (from Asia Minor), wheat, Shiräz

Three reports of the Select Committee, etc., p. 118. " O p . cit., vol. I l l , p p . 179-81. " O p . cit., vol. I l l , p. 176. 11

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


wine, dates, asafoetida, rose-water, henna, gold, silver, raw silk, wool, goats' hair, carpets, dried fruit, turquoises, lapis lazuli, sulphur, tobacco for water-pipes and reeds for writing; to Russia, silk, cotton, rice, gallnuts and dried fruits; and to Turkey various local products, especially sheep, cattle, horses, Kirmän shawls, cherry-wood pipes, lamb-skins, wool and rice.24 B y far the most important export was silk. Among other goods, asafoetida was in great demand in India; pearls were also sent in large quantities to India; and horses were an important export going by sea to the different ports of India. 25 Persian foreign trade prior to the 19th century was conducted under the protection of farmans issued by the Shah. When trade between Persia and India via the Persian Gulf began to increase from about 1790 onwards, consideration was given to the desirability of placing this on a more stable footing. Finally, when a mission under Malcolm was sent to Persia in 1799 by Wellesley, the governor-general of India— political relations had been opened between the government of India and Persia in 1798 when Wellesley sent Mihdi Khan to the court of Fath 'All Shäh—he was instructed to conclude not only a political but also a commercial treaty. Instruments were duly concluded in 1801. B y the commercial treaty most of the privileges of the old factories were to be restored and several additional ones granted. English and Indian traders were to be permitted to settle in Persian seaports and cities and no duties, taxes or requisitions were to be collected on any goods which were in the possession of either government. No duties were to be taken from the sellers of iron, lead, steel, broadcloth and perpets that were exclusively the property of the English government and a duty not exceeding 1 % was to be levied upon the purchasers. All the duties, imposts and customs established at that time in Persia were to remain fixed and not to be increased.28 For reasons connected with political events, the treaty was never ratified; and British trade continued to be carried on with no protection other than the general friendship existing between the two powers. For the most part, British goods on entry into Persia became the property of Persians, who circulated them inside the country. 27 Towards the end M P. Amid^e Jaubert, Voyage en Armenie ei en Perse fait dans les annees 1805 et 1806 (Paris, 1821), pp. 286 ff. See also M. Tancoigne, A narrative of a journey into Persia (London, 1820), pp. 152-3. 35 Scott Waring, op. cit., pp. 76-7. 86 See Aitchison, op. cit., vol. X I I I , pp. 49 S. for the text of the treaty. ST Cf. F.O. 60:32.—Capt. Campbell, No. 55, camp at Ästärä, 20 September 1831, in answer to letter of the Court of Directors of the 17 June.

Ann Κ. S. Lamblon


of 1807 or the beginning of 1808, General Gardane, who had been sent to Persia at the head of a French mission after the signing of the Treaty of Finkenstein (1807), persuaded Fath 'Ali Shäh to repudiate the English treaty; and he succeeded in January 1808 in negotiating for France a commercial treaty, which reaffirmed the capitulatory arrangements in favour of the French under a farman granted by Shäh Sultan Husayn on 7 September 1708 and the Franco-Persian Treaty of Commerce of August 1715. 28 The treaty of Finkenstein, however, had already been abrogated by the peace of Tilsit (July 1807), and General Gardane's mission withdrew. Meanwhile in 1807 Sir Harford Jones was appointed envoy to the Persian Court by the British government, though he did not reach Tehran until February 1809. The instructions which he received from the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors for the regulation of his conduct in the execution of his mission stated inter alia that " I t will be a very great satisfaction to us, if during your stay in Persia, you can discover any means of extending in a greater degree the sale of British manufactures there, and can improve the commercial relations and intercourse between Persia and India. We recommend it to you particularly to ascertain, as accurately as possible the commercial state of Persia, its productions, exports and imports, and the practicability of increasing there the use of European commodities, such as woollens, metals, China Ware, etc.".2® Commerce, however, was only of peripheral interest to the British government and in the preliminary treaty which Sir Harford Jones concluded in March 1809 there was no mention of trade. When the ratification of the treaty was referred to the Secret Committee, the question of commerce was again raised; and on 22 February 1810 the Chairman and the deputy chairman of the Secret Committee wrote, "In such a Treaty it appears reasonable, and we presume must be easy to comprehend Commercial objects. The Treaty made by Lord Wellesley with the Persian Court in 1801, may serve as a basis with any improvement which may be derived from the Commercial 18

For t e x t s see J. C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, vol. I, pp. 3 2 - 8 ,

and 40-2. " F.O. 60:2.—Board's Draft of a letter of instructions from the Secret Committee to Sir Harford Jones, Bart., His Majesty's Envoy at the Court of Persia dated 8 September 1807, in Mr. Dundas' note 28 December 1908.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


Treaty which we know was, during the prevalence of French counsels at that Court, obtained by General Gardane for his nation." 30 In the summer of 1810 Sir Gore Ouseley was appointed to succeed Sir Harford Jones. One of the tasks entrusted to him was the negotiation of a treaty of commerce. Paragraph 14 of his instructions read "Whereas in the event of a commercial Treaty being concluded between Us and The King of Persia, many of our subjects may be disposed to settle in Persia. It is expedient that you should immediately inform yourself of the principal Towns and cities in which it would be most advisable to encourage the establishment of a factory or other mercantile body, to appoint Agents, consuls or Residents for the preservation of good order among our Merchants, and for the maintenance of the privileges which shall be granted them, and to make any other arrangements of that nature which may tend to promote the commerce and place in security the persons of Our Subjects." 31 Ouseley reached Tehran in November 1811. A preliminary treaty was ratified by Fath 'Ali Shäh on 3 January 1812 and a definite treaty was concluded by Ouseley on 15 March 1813. The question of a commercial treaty was left for subsequent negotiation. The Perso-Russian War, which had continued intermittently throughout the reign of Fath 'Ali Shäh, was brought to an end temporarily by the Treaty of Gulistän on 24 September 1813 (see below). In the following year the AngloPersian treaty of 1812 (which had never been ratified) was emended, the new instrument being known as the Treaty of Tehran. In its preamble provision was made for the subsequent conclusion of a commercial treaty, but when the Persian government rejected a proposal that British trade under the new treaty should remain virtually on the footing of the 1801 treaty the matter was left in abeyance. For the British government the question of trade was unimportant compared with political considerations. Its main object was to strengthen Persia so that she might form a barrier to the advance of a hostile power towards British possessions in India. Similarly, the Persian government was not primarily interested in trade, which played little or no part in 3 0 F.O. 60:4.—Chafrles] Grant and William Astell to Dundas, East India House, 22 February 1810. 3 1 F.O. 60:4.—Instructions for Sir Gore Ouseley, His Majesty's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at The Court of Persia, 13 July 1810, endorsed by the King.

Ann Κ. S. Lambton


determining government policy. Its main concern so far as foreign policy was concerned was to obtain military and pecuniary help to enable it to withstand Russian pressure. It had no specific trade policy nor did it have any consistent policy for the development of the internal resources of the country; and insecurity and maladministration militated against their development by private individuals. Russian influence in Persia was foreshadowed from the time of Peter the Great. The Treaty of Gulistän made the Caspian Sea into a Russian mare clausuni. Article 7 provided for the residence of mercantile agents of either party in different cities of the empire of the other for the purpose of assisting merchants in carrying on their trade. Merchandise brought to Persian ports was to pay a duty of 5 % ad valorem, which, having been paid at one city, the goods might be conveyed to any part of Persia without any further demand of duty being made. A similar duty was to be paid on exports. Import and export duties were to be levied on Persian merchants in Russia at the same rate. 38 Although the Persian government was not opposed to the extension of commerce on economic grounds, it entertained a very lively fear, induced partly by the example of Great Britain in India and partly by Russian action in northern Persia, that a commercial settlement might be a prelude to political domination. This fear made them resist the consular articles in the Treaty of Gulistän and later those in the Treaty of Turkomänchäy (see below), and reluctant to conclude a commercial treaty with Britain. Between 1822 and 1824 the Russian envoy, Mazarowich, pressed under the Treaty of Gulistän for the residence of a Russian consul at Rasht, accompanying his demands with thinly veiled threats. Fath 'Ali Shäh finally directed that the Russians be told that rather than admit of a Russian consul's residence in Rasht he would depopulate the province. Three days later Mazarowich had an audience with Fath 'All. On being told that there was no change in the answer which had already been given him, he said that the Russian emperor had commanded that the consul-general should reside at Rasht and had given him authority over the ports on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. Fath 'Ali is reported to have turned black with rage at this and to have replied that a state of war was preferable to peace on such conditions. On the following day Mazarowich, alleging that his interpreter had misunderstood and misinterpreted his statements, said that he would not press the matter any further and that the consul-general should remain at Tehran. 33 32

For full text of the treaty see Aitchison, op. cit., vol. XIII, pp. 15-18. " F.O. 60:24.—Willock to Canning, Tehrän, 1β September 1824.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


Attempts by Russia to establish a footing at the mouth of the Gurgän River near Astaräbäd in 1823 and 1826 were similarly resisted both by Fath 'Ali Shäh and the Turkomans and temporarily abandoned. The Perso-Russian War was renewed in the summer of 1826. The results were disastrous for Persia. On 21 February 1828 the Treaty of Turkomänchäy was signed. It sealed Russian ascendancy in northern Persia. Article 10 gave Russia the right to appoint consuls or commercial agents wherever the good of commerce might require. It further laid down that "all the arrangements relative to the protection of commerce and the security of their respective subjects" should be regulated in a separate act which should form an integral part of the treaty. In this act the two parties agreed that Russian subjects provided with passports should be allowed to trade throughout the whole extent of Persia. Persian subjects in return were to be allowed to import their merchandise into Russia by the Caspian Sea or the land frontier separating Persia and Russia, to barter them or make purchases or exportation, and were to enjoy the rights and privileges accorded to the subjects of the most favoured nation (Art. 1). Merchandise imported into or exported from Persia by Russian subjects and Persian produce imported into Russia by the Caspian Sea or the land frontier separating Persia and Russia and Russian merchandise exported by Persian subjects by the same routes was to be subject to a duty of 5 % levied once and for all at their entrance or exit and was not thereafter to be subjected to the payment of any other customs duty (Art. 3). Russian subjects in Persia were permitted by Article 5 not only to rent, but also to acquire, by every right of ownership, houses, warehouses and places in which to deposit their merchandise. The servants of the Persian government were not to enter such places without recourse to the authority of the Russian minister, chargi d'affaires, or consul. Article 7 laid down that all lawsuits and litigations between Russian subjects were to be investigated and decided by the mission or the consuls of Russia in conformity with the laws and customs of the Russian empire and also disputes between Russian subjects and those of another power, if the two parties consented to such a course. Disputes or lawsuits between Russian and Persian subjects were to be brought before the häkim (i.e. the local judge) and were not to be investigated and decided except in the presence of the dragoman of the Russian mission or the consulate. B y Article 8 in the case of a crime committed among Russian subjects the investigation and decision was to come within the exclusive province of the Russian authorities in Persia. In the event of a Russian

Ann Κ. S. Lambton


subject being implicated with individuals of another nation in a criminal suit, the Persian tribunals were not competent to proceed with the trial and judgment of the crime except in the presence of a delegate of the Russian mission or consulate. If the accused was convicted and sentenced he was to be handed over to the Russian authorities who would send him back to Russia, there to receive the punishment awarded by the law. 34 Although the commercial treaty gave great advantages to Russia, it was some time before this was reflected on a long term basis in PersoRussian trade returns. In 1828-30 there was an increase in the volume of Russian trade, but this was in part, at least, due to the breakdown of European trade with Persia via the Caucasus and the Batum-Tabriz and Trebizond-Tabriz routes owing to the Russo-Turkish War. 35 The treaty was, nevertheless, of great importance: it set the pattern for Persia's foreign trade and regulated the position of foreign merchants. The fact that it was largely protective of Russian subjects furnished frequent occasion for representations to the Persian government, which were often enforced with asperity by the Russian minister and emphasized Persia's position of inferiority. 38 The insecurity of the frontier regions also aggravated the situation: robberies and quarrels were of frequent occurrence and gave opportunity for intervention. The immunities granted to the Russian envoy and his suite also led to numerous clashes between his servants and Persian subjects. The special privileges enjoyed by Russian subjects under the terms of the commercial treaty were in due course claimed by other foreign states on behalf of their nationals. British trade, as stated above, had meanwhile been carried on without the protection of a treaty. With the signature of the PersoRussian treaty of 1828, the need was felt for some arrangement by which British traders should receive at least most favoured nation treatment. But it was not till 1833 that 'Abbäs Mirzä, the heir apparent and governorgeneral of Äzarbäyjän, to whom the conduct of foreign relations had been entrusted by Fath 'All Shäh in 1810, issued a raqam giving protection to British trade in northern Persia.


For full text see Aitchison, op. cit., vol. XIII, pp. 35-41. " See Marvin L. Kntner, Russo-Persian Commercial Relations, 1828-1914, "University of Florida Monographs, Social Sciences, No. 28" (Florida, 1965), pp. 7 fl. See also F.O. 65: 233.—Communication to the Minister of Finance from the Moscow Exchange Brokers Agapit Elaroff, incl. in Durham to Palmerston No. 30, St. Petersburg, 14 February 1837, which shows that purchases increased between 1823 and 1829 to the annual amount of upwards of 20 million roubles in value. 36 Cf. F.O. 60:40.—Ellis to Palmerston, Tehran, 2 January 1836.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


Persian trade, however, was still only regarded by the British government as being of peripheral importance. As much, or more, attention at this time was being given both by Britain and Russia to Central Asia. Here again, the reasons were political rather than economic. The Russian envoy, Muraviev, visited Khiva in 1819-20, and wrote that the possession of Khiva would give Russia command of all the riches of Asia, that "it would become the point of reunion for all the commerce of Asia and would shake to the centre of India the enormous commercial superiority of the dominators of the sea". 37 After the signature of the Treaty of Adrianople in September 1829, the British government and the government of India began to regard the Russian threat to British possessions in India via Central Asia seriously. Ellenborough at the Board of Control was accordingly anxious to get full information as to conditions in Kabul, Bukhara, and Khiva and to open up Central Asia to British commerce and influence in order to counter the Russian advance. 38 In 1832 Alexander Burnes made his journey into Central Asia. There were, however, commercial as well as political reasons favourable to a British attempt to enter the Central Asian market and to increase her trade with Persia. Between 1830 and 1843 there was a period of rapid industrial expansion and an increase in the export of cotton piece goods.39 In 1831 Captain (later Sir) John Campbell, who had become British charg6 d'affaires in Tehran in 1830 on the death of Sir John Macdonald, urged the desirability of opening British commercial intercourse with Persia via Trebizond. 40 He suggested a British consul be appointed to Erzerum to further this plan. 41 The Privy Council for Trade supported the proposal to open the Trebizond route.42 In the following year Auckland in a private letter to Palmerston mentioned the growing demand in

" Journey in Turkmenia (1822), quoted by J. A. Norris, The first Afghan war 1838-42 (C.U.P., 1967), p. 19. M Political Diary (Bentley and Sons. 1881), vol. II, pp. 122-3, 29 October 1829, quoted by J. A. Norris, op. cit., p. 30, and see also pp. 35 fi. 3 · Sec J. A. Norris, op. cit., p. 59. 40 Sir Harford Jones had already earlier drawn attention to the possibility of opening trade with Persia via Trebizond (F.O. 00:2.—-Harford Jones to Canning, No. 25, Tabriz, 14 December 1809). Willock in 1820 and again in 1824 also raised this question (F.O. 60:18.—Willock to Castlereagh No. 40, Tabriz, 13 October 1820). See also paper by Thomas Moberly dated 1823 in which he argues the superiority of the route through Mingrelia over that via Trebizond for goods to Persia (F.O. 24:60.—Paper by Thos. Moberly, Tiflis, 20 December 1823, incl. in Willock to Canning, No. 4, Tabriz, 1 February 1824). 41 F.O. 60:32.—Campbell to Secret Committee, camp near Tabriz, 10 August 1831. See also Campbell to Secret Committee, No. 55, camp at Ästäri, 20 September 1831. " F.O. 60:32.—Thomas Lack to J. Backhouse, Offices of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, Whitehall, 18 November 1831.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

Persia for English manufactures and stated that he would be glad to co-operate in discovering and encouraging new means of intercourse. Piracy in the Persian Gulf was an obstacle to the increase of trade with Persia via the Gulf; but he hoped that goods could be got to Persia in one way or another via Russia, Trebizond, Constantinople, or Bombay. 43 The growing interest in Persian trade was shown by the fact that in September 1832 trade with Persia was taken before the East India Committee of the House of Commons. Meanwhile on 4 September 1832 Campbell had addressed a despatch to the Secret Committee drawing attention to the Russian threat, in the course of which he mentioned that Russia, if she succeeded in establishing her ascendancy in Persia, might inflict mortal injury on British trade by interdicting the importation of British and Indian produce into Persia.44 As part of the renewed interest by the British government in Persia, it was decided to raise Campbell to the position of envoy. In the instructions prepared for him he was instructed to negotiate certain changes in the Treaty of Tehran. He was also to endeavour to get the immunities and privileges conferred on British commerce by 'Abbäs Mirzä's raqam (which had automatically expired with that prince's death in the autumn of 1833) granted in the form of a treaty; and was empowered to negotiate a treaty giving most favoured nation treatment to both parties. 45 The threat of a Russian advance between the Caspian and the Aral Seas and along the Oxus continued to give rise to anxiety and to consideration of how Russian influence could be countered in Persia and Central Asia. Among other measures James Baillie Eraser, who had travelled extensively in Persia, was despatched to that country early in 1834 on behalf of the Foreign Office to investigate the condition of Russian intercourse and political and commercial influence in Persia and the countries between the Russian dominions and the Indus. In 1833 the Russian demand for the establishment of a Russian consul in Gilän had been reiterated, and again resisted by Fath 'Ali Shäh.46 Fräser was accordingly also instructed to visit Mäzandarän and Gilän to ascertain "the extent of the commerce carried on by the Russian Subjects therein, in order to estimate the justice of the suspicion which has " F.O. 60:32.—Auckland to Palmerston, Grosvenor Place, 14 August 1832. 44 F.O. 60:33.—Campbell to the Secret Committee, Tehran, 4 September 1832. " F . O . 60:33.—Sketch of Instructions to the Envoy (Sir John Campbell) in Persia on supposition of alterations being made in the existing treaty of Tehrän, F.O. 4 December 1833. Endorsed by the King. M See F.O. 60:35.—Campbell to Secret Committee, Tehrän, 18 November 1833.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


been openly expressed by the Shah himself, and by His Minister, that the establishment of Consuls so repeatedly urged by the Court of St. Petersburgh for the protection of Russian trade, is a pretext covering ulterior designs of conquest and occupation." 47 Fraser, as the result of his investigations, wrote a series of memoranda and reports dealing mainly with the political situation. Muhammad Shäh, who succeeded his father Fath 'Ali Shäh in 1834, also resisted the appointment of Russian consuls in Gilän. He was forced, however, to compromise and permit the residence of an official attached to the Russian mission for three months of the year in Rasht to protect the interests of Russian trade in Gilän. The consular question also materially affected relations with Britain, which deteriorated after the death of Fath 'Ali Shäh. There was fear and suspicion of both Britain and Russia. As a result no progress was made in the matter of the emendation of the Treaty of Tehrän and the conclusion of a commercial treaty. Eventually Campbell suspended the negotiations in March 1835. The discussions with regard to the commercial treaty had been limited to the consular article, and the refusal of the Persian government to conclude a treaty rested on their refused to agree to the residence of British consuls in Persia. Campbell, reporting his actions, stated that Muhammad Shäh was said to be resolved, after the payment of the indemnity due to Russia under the Treaty of Turkomänchäy, "to make strenuous efforts with the assistance of England to erase from the Russian Treaty the article respecting Consuls, a point which he believes would be impossible to accomplish if a similar privilege were now granted to England." 48 Qä'im Maqäm, Muhammad Shäh's first minister, also opposed the establishment of British consuls on the ground that Russia would, if this principle was accepted, insist upon the fulfilment of the stipulations in her own treaty. Campbell, reporting an interview between Fraser and Dr. Riach (the physician to the British mission) on the one hand and Qä'im Maqäm on the other, on 25 February 1835, quotes the latter as stating that "Persia would inevitably be destroyed as a Nation if Russia put on single consul in Ghilan and . . . would never consent to give England a right equally injurious to his country"; and that

4 ' F.O. 60:33.—Instructions to Mr. Fraser, F.O., 4 December 1833, signed Palmerston and endorsed by the King. " F . O . 60:37.—Memo. No. 6 by Campbell, incl. in Ellis to Palmerston, No. 8, nr. Khwuy, 6 October 1835.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton "if both Russian and the English consuls were placed in any one part of Persia, that those functionaries would quickly absorb all the power and authority of the Persian government into their hands, and that that portion of his country would be lost to his government, and in this way would commence a system of seizing piece meal on his weak, and divided and poor country, which would end in its being entirely partitioned between two powerful lions that had fastened upon its members." 49

In J u l y 1835 Campbell was recalled to report on conditions in Persia. With a view to the adoption of a more active policy in Persia to counter the spread of Russian influence, it was decided to transfer control of the Persian mission to the crown, and to send Henry Ellis to Persia as envoy extraordinary to announce this and to compliment Muhammad Shäh on his accession. From the instructions given to Ellis for the guidance of his conduct in Persia, it is clear that the main issue which disturbed the British government was the likelihood that Persia would be made a Russian tool and pushed into war with Afghanistan. In view of the recent refusal to agree to the appointment of British consuls, it was thought that the negotiations for a commercial treaty would be better left to the permanent envoy who was to succeed Ellis, but the latter was given discretion to open negotiations should he see fit to do so.60 When Ellis reached Tehran at the end of 1835, expeditions were being planned against Herat and Qandahär. On 9 February Ellis raised with Häjji Mirzä Äqäsi, who had replaced Qä'im Maqäm as first minister, the question of the commercial treaty. He was told that the Shah and his ministers had come to an understanding with the Russian government that the latter should not press the right of establishing consuls throughout Persia, provided that the Shah did not conclude a commercial treaty with the British. The need to obtain for British merchants the security and equality of a commercial treaty was, however, becoming more pressing. 51 There " F.O. 60:38.—Campbell to Backhouse, Tehran, 12 March 1835. ,0 F.O. 60:36.—F.O. to Ellis, No. 3, F.O. 25 July 1835. Instructions for the guidance of his conduct in Persia. Part of this is quoted by J. A. Norris, op. cit., pp. 76-7. "Cf. F.O. 60:37.—Memo, by Ellis, incl. in Ellis to Palmerston, 3 June 1835. This was shown by the case of Charles Burgess, who had set up in the Persian trade in 1830, working through a Persian merchant, Sadiq Beg, in Constantinople and the firm of Hanson of London and Constantinople. During the next few years his trade gradually increased. He obtained a raqam from 'Abbäs Mirzä allowing him to import goods to the value of 10,000 tümäns annually at 2% (F.O. 60:37.—Burgess to Ellis, Oriental Club, 29 June


Trade under the Early Qäjärs


had been a rapid increase in the direct trade in British manufactured goods via Trebizond. 52 This was likely to lead to Russian efforts to curtail the trade. An attempt was accordingly made to claim the execution of the 1801 treaty, Ellis suggesting that the provisions of 'Abbäs Mirzä's raqam should be included as an additional article annexed to the treaty. The Persian ministers refused, alleging that it had been superseded by later treaties, and the Shah, on the grounds that he had recently succeeded to the throne, announced that he was not prepared to conclude a treaty. 53 Häjji Mirzä Äqäsi again told Ellis in confidence in April that the Russian government had made the refusal of a commercial treaty to Great Britain a sine qua non of moderation on their part in enforcing the articles of the Treaty of Turkomänchäy and more especially in exercising the right of establishing consuls throughout Persia.64 Nevertheless, almost immediately afterwards, in May 1836, the Shah issued a farman placing the trade of British subjects with Persia on the same footing with respect to customs and duties as Russian subjects and ensuring to British merchants security and protection in the admission and sale of their property. 55 This lessened the urgency of the need for a commercial treaty. Ellis went home in 1836 and Sir John McNeill arrived in Tehran as minister in September of that year, and presented his credentials to Muhammad Shäh in December. Conditions for the conclusion of a

1835). In 1835 he reached Tabriz with a caravan of goods worth £45,000. He effected some sales in Tabriz but forwarded his best goods to Tehrän with his clerk. The latter offered the goods for sale immediately and in three days sold nearly 4000 tümäns' worth (circa /2000). Suddenly he was virtually boycotted and informed that the Shah had ordered that nobody should purchase European goods. (F.O. 60:40.—Charles Burgess to Ellis, Tehrän, 20 January 1836, incl. in Ellis to Palmerston, No. 10, Tehrän, 21 January 1836.) Burgess' affairs eventually declined and an inability to satisfy his creditors prevented his return to Persia. His brother, Edward, whom he had associated in the business, was held virtually a hostage for his return to Persia with the money. Edward Burgess eventually became chief interpreter to Näsir al-Din Shäh and later editor of the official gazette, Rüznämeh-i vaqäyi'-i ittifäqiyeh. See also Letters from Persia written by Charles and Edward Burgess 1828-1855, ed. Benjamin Schwartz (New York, 1942)]. ** Burgess attributed this to the unwise attempt of Russia to force her own manufactures upon the Persian market to the exclusion of other nations (F.O. 60:37.—Ellis to Palmerston, 59 Welbeck Street, 3 July 1835 and inclosures). 5 3 F.O. 60:40.—Ellis to Palmerston, No. 16, Tehrän, 15 February 1836 and inclosures. " F.O. 60:40.—EUis to Palmerston, No. 41, Tehrän. 29 April 1836. " F . O . 60:41.—Ellis to Palmerston, No. 43, Tehrän, 6 May 1836 and inclosures. For text of farman, see Aitchison, op. cit., vol. X I I I , p. 66. See also F.O. 65:222.—Transl. of a farman issued by the Shah of Persia with relation to British Commerce, incl. in Durham to Palmerston, No. 108, St. Petersburgh, 2 July 1836.



Ann Κ. S. Lambton

treaty, political or commercial, continued to be unfavourable. Muhammad Shäh had not abandoned his schemes for conquest in the east, and the Russian envoy, Count Simonich, was encouraging him in these, in spite of the acute disorder into which Persia's financial and military organization had fallen. The threat implied b y these activities to Herat dominated Anglo-Persian relations between 1836 and 1841, and eventually led to the withdrawal of the British mission in January 1839. One of the conditions for its return, which did not take place until October 1841, was the signature of a commercial treaty. This was signed and ratified by the Shah on 28 October less than two weeks after McNeill's return to Tehran. B y the terms of the treaty the merchants of either state were permitted to trade in each other's territories and accorded most favoured nation treatment. The treaty also provided for the establishment of commercial agents to reside in stated places, and arranged that on the part of the British government one should reside in the capital and one in Tabriz. Permission was also granted for a resident of the British government to reside in Bushire as heretofore. 56 The two Persian commercial agents were to reside in London and Bombay respectively. In December 1841 Mr. Bonham, a British merchant living in Tabriz, was made British consul in that city. 67 The conclusion of the commercial treaty did not immediately affect the volume of Anglo-Persian trade or bring about any change in the levy of customs duties, but by giving merchants the protection of a treaty and according them most favoured nation treatment by treaty it laid the basis for a future increase in that trade. In the absence of complete and reliable statistics it is difficult to estimate the quantity and value of Persian trade under the early Qäjärs, though a detailed analysis of the India Office Records would no doubt throw considerable light on some aspects, at least, of Persian trade. A t the beginning of the 19th century the balance of trade was probably in Persia's favour except for her trade with India, but this situation did not continue for long. Malcolm estimated in 1801 that the value of Persia's trade with her neighbours was approximately 134 lakhs of rupees, i.e. some £1,340,000 (the rupee then being worth at least two shillings). Of this he calculated that the trade with Afghanistan and Turkey, at 40 lakhs and 35 lakhs

" T h e commercial residencies oi Bushire and Muscat were amalgamated in 1810; and in 1812 the commercial residency was abolished and a political agent left in its place (Curzon, op. cit., vol. II, p. 553). " F.O. 60:79.—McNeill to Aberdeen, No. 55, Tehran, 27 December 1841.


Trade under the Early Qäjärs


respectively, made up over half the total of Persia's foreign trade. The Indian trade he put at 30 lakhs; the Russian trade at 20 lakhs; that with Bukhara at 5 lakhs; the Persian Gulf trade at 2 lakhs; and the trade with the Red Sea littoral also at 2 lakhs. 58 Imports into Persia on British bottoms of British, Indian and China merchandise in 1817 via Bushire amounted in value to about £225,296. They increased in the next few years, except in 1821, and amounted in 1822 to about £582,715. 59 The following year, however, they were only £233,685 on British bottoms, but imports in that year on ships belonging to the port of Bushire and native boats of the Gulf amounted to £435,887, giving a gross import of some £669,572. It seems that a considerable part of the carrying trade was passing at this time into the hands of the local inhabitants, who could do it cheaper. The import trade of the minor ports in the Persian Gulf probably amounted to about half the trade of Bushire. 60 Fraser states that the principal raw exports were silk, cotton, tobacco, rice, grain, dried fruits, sulphur, horses, w a x and gall-nuts. Few manufactured goods were exported and those which were, consisting of silk and cotton stuffs with some gold and silver brocade, went almost entirely to Russia. He states that the balance of Persian trade, except with India, was in Persia's favour, and that the excess in the value of her exports was returned in ducats, dollars, German crowns and silver roubles, and was transported to India in return for the large surplus produce brought thence annually entering b y w a y of the Persian Gulf or K a b u l and Herat, part of which was destined to supply the demand in the further countries to the west. He reckoned the total amount of exports for the year ending 31 May 1821, on the basis of official reports and information given b y merchants, to be rather under a million and a quarter sterling in value, a rough estimate of the value being as follows:

'· See G. Hambly, op. cit., pp. 77 if., who quotes a report on the commerce of Persia written by Malcolm and enclosed in his letter of 10 April 1801 to the President of the Board of Control of the East India Company, printed in the Journal of the Central Asian Society, vol. X V I (October 1929) and vol. X V I I (January 1930). " The total value of the trade of the three Presidencies of Bombay, Fort William (Bengal) and Fort St. George (Madras) with the Arabian and Persian Gulfs in 1802 was just over 112 lakhs of rupees. In 1813-14 it was 110 lakhs. By 1817-18 it had risen to 242 lakhs. See J . B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf 1795-1880 (Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 137, n. 2. 40 F.O. 60:24.—Willock to Canning, Sultäniyeh, 7 July 1824. These figures were based on figures provided by Lt. Col. E . G. Stannus, the resident in the Persian Gulf.

Ann Κ. S. Lambton


Exports to India from the port of Bushire (according to official reports) Exports from Bärfurüsh (estimated by the merchants at about £215,000) together with the remaining exports from Gilän and Mäzandarän Exports from the smaller ports on the Persian Gulf, including the Islands The commerce with Baghdad, including silk Commerce with the rest of Turkey Commerce with Tiflis and Georgia Exports to Bukhara and the states to the eastward Commerce with Arabia


£250,000 £10,000 £200,000 £200,000 £200,000 £50,000 £10,000 £1,225,000

For the same year the official return of gold and silver shipped from Bushire to India was 3,417,994 new Bombay rupees, equal to about £290,000 sterling. It was said that at least 300,000 golden ducats about this time were annually brought into Tabriz by the Tiflis merchants alone. A considerable amount in ducats and manats, or silver roubles, was also imported from Astrakan; besides which a large amount of French and German crowns and Spanish dollars was received from Baghdad for goods. A considerable stream of precious metals thus flowed into Persia; and though the greater part passed on to the eastward, there remained at the beginning of the century a sufficient quantity to provide for or supplement the currency needs of the country. Much of the gold which came into Persia continued to circulate in the shape of ducats, while the rest was converted into tümäns and the silver coined into rials.*1 Fraser's account may perhaps be more favourable than the actual situation warranted. The reports of the Select Committee quoted above mention the constant drain of specie to India from Persia, βϊ and Morier, writing in 1809, estimated that Persia exported annually 350,000 tümäns in specie to India. He thought that this drain was not adequately covered by trade with Russia, which purchased the silk of Gilän with gold, and Turkey, which also paid gold for the shawls and silk which it imported from Persia. 63 Towards the end of the reign of Fath 'Ali Shäh, mainly owing to

" J . B . F r ä s e r , An historical and descriptive account of Persia, p p . 2 9 0 ff. " Three reports of the Select Committee, etc., p . 118. 63

Morier, op. cit., p. 239. Cf. also Scott Waring, op. cit., p. 129.


Trade under the Early Qäjärs


the lengthy and disastrous wars with Russia, reserves were depleted and there was a growing scarcity of coin in the country. The defeat b y Russia was followed b y outbreaks of disorder in the provinces and a progressive weakening of the central government. Revenue failed to come in from the provinces and there was a great shortage of funds. Unrest and banditry prevailed in many districts. In 1830 a cholera epidemic greatly reduced the population of Mäzandarän and Gilän and reduced the volume of trade carried on through Enzeli; 64 and in 1831-2 bubonic plague ravaged south Persia. 65 In 1833 there were crop failures which exacerbated the difficulties of the country. From the reign of Muhammad Shäh (1834-48) onwards there were repeated financial crises. B y the middle of the century there was a difficulty in finding Persian products in return for British goods and the deficiency in bullion in which returns had formerly been made was an impediment to Anglo-Persian trade. 66 One of the main reasons, apart from the consular question, which led Muhammad Shäh and his ministers to oppose the conclusion of a commercial treaty with Great Britain in 1836 was, in fact, the "scarcity of coin in Persia, the want of mines of the precious metals, the unprofitability of making returns in produce and the discouragement of domestic from the influx of foreign manufactures". 6 7 British commerce, because of the great quantity of precious metals which it annually took out of the kingdom, was regarded b y the Persian government with some jealousy. 68 B y the middle of the century, in spite of prohibitions and penalties, there was still a large export of gold and silver from Persia to Turkey and India and money was scarce. The trade via Constantinople and Russia became increasingly paid for in bullion, although this trend was temporarily somewhat reduced by an increase in the produce of silk in Gilän about 1840 and to some extent by the export into Russian territories via Ardabil of manufactures from the south of Persia. 89 Some gold still, it is true, entered Persia from Russia, but it did not

M F.O. 60:92.—Abbott to Aberdeen, No. 8, Tabriz, 10 May 1842. An additional reason for the decline in trade through Enzeli was the fact that a new channel had been opened through Ästärä and Ardabil. " See J . B . Kelly, op. cit., pp. 249-61, who shows that trade in the Persian Gulf fell off between 1820 and 1835. " F.O. 60:75.—Memo from Sir J . McNeill to Mr. Backhouse. · ' F.O. 60:40.—Ellis to Palmerston, No. 2, Tehran, 16 January 1836. " F.O. 60:75.—Memo from Sir J . McNeill to Mr. Backhouse. " F.O. 6 0 : 7 5 . — B o n h a m to Bidwell, No. 3, Tabriz, 10 November 1840.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

remain in Persia: it was sent to Constantinople to purchase foreign manufactures. 70 The rapid fall in the value of the tümän, which took place during the first half of the 19th century was presumably connected with these changes which were taking place in Persia's trade and the movement of specie. In 1809 the tümän was worth about £1 sterling. 71 B y 1811 it had fallen to about 15s., 72 and by 1845 to 10s.73 Prices rose sharply, on an average 70-150% between 1843 and 1861. Wheat, barley, charcoal and the hire of mules were three times as high in 1861 as in 1843.74 The drain of specie from the country alarmed both Fath 'Ali Shäh and Muhammad Shäh. The former attempted to put a stop to the export of specie to India by offering a reward to whoever should weave cloth similar to Madras long cloths. 75 No substantial results appear to have been achieved by this. Muhammad Shäh also discouraged the consumption of European goods in order to promote Persian manufactures, to effect which he advanced money and offered rewards to the makers of chintz and insisted that his courtiers should gradually substitute Persian woollens and Kirmän shawls for the broad cloth used in their dresses.76 These measures were not consistently pressed and proved abortive. Fraser, writing about 1822, noted that chintzes and printed cottons imported from India had in great measure been superseded by English, French, and German stuffs introduced from the ports of the Levant from India and by way of Russia. 77 B y the middle of the century there was an increased consumption of European goods and a decline in many

"> F.O. 6 0 : 1 5 8 . — S h e i l to Palmerston. No. 4, Tehran. 8 J a n u a r y 1851. Edward Burgess writing on 10 J a n u a r y 1846 stated t h a t the returns from Persia were made in great measure in Russian gold and silver coin which came in to pay for Persian silk, dried fruits and other merchandise. About one-third of the imports of European manufactures were probably paid for in raw silk and other Persian produce and the rest in Russian gold and silver (Letters from Persia, etc., p. 85). " Morier, op. cit., p. 409. 1 1 Morier, A second Journey through Persia, Armenia and Asia Minor to Constantinople 1810-16 (London, 1818), p. 155. " See F.O. 60:118.—Correspondence on Persian claims over the subsidy. There was similarly a fall in the rate of the Turkish piastre to the pound sterling at this time. I t fell from 23 in 1814 to 104 in 1839. See B . Lewis, The emergence of modern Turkey (O.U.P., 1961), p. 109. '* F.O. 2 5 1 : 3 9 . — M e m o , by Edward B . Eastwick on comparative prices 1843, 1853, and 1861. 7 5 S c o t t Waring, op. cit., p. 8. " F.O. 6 0 : 4 0 . — E l l i s to Palmerston, No. 2, Tehran, 16 J a n u a r y , 1836. " Travels and Adventures in the Persian Provinces, p. 367.

Persian Trade unier the Early Qäjärs


local manufactures because of European competition.™ This was the case, for example, in Käshän, which had been prosperous in the early years of the century. 79 There appears, however, to have been a temporary increase in the demand for fabrics woven in Yazd and Käshän in 1848 owing to a decline in the quantity of goods imported from Manchester.80 A contributory cause to the decline of silk weaving was the introduction of Russian regulations prohibiting the entry into the Caucasus provinces of silk piece goods having gold embroidery or figuring. In the reign of Fath 'All Shäh there were alleged to be in Isfahän alone some 12,000 looms for the manufacture of silk piece goods, but as a result of the increased import of European manufactures and changes in the fashions at court only a few remained by 1845.81 While trade with Europe was increasing, Persian trade with Afghanistan, which Malcolm had ranked second in Persia's foreign trade, probably declined during the reigns of Fath 'Ali Shäh and Muhammad Shäh because of the wars over Herat and the depredations of the Turkomans. But in the absence of reliable figures this can only be guessed at. During the reign of Muhammad Shäh changes also began to take place in the relative importance of the trade-routes to Persia. The southern route via the Gulf declined partly owing to the insecurity prevailing in southern Persia and because of the long land haul to the more heavily populated regions in the north. B y the middle of the century traffic from Europe was coming mainly via Turkey and northern Persia. Abbott, writing in 1850, notes the decline in the commerce of Bushire during the previous twenty years consequent upon this change, though part of the decline was due to the fact that some of the Indian commerce had been diverted to Bandar 'Abbäs where customs duties were lower. Imports from India to Bushire, which was still the main port of Färs, ran at about £500,000 per annum; and exports, including specie, at about £400,000, a figure considerably higher than the estimate given by Fraser in 1821. These figures were, Abbott thought, probably low and the real figure about one-fifth more. Imports from India via Bandar 'Abbäs were about " S e e F.O. 60:117.—Various reports of trade by Consul Abbott for the year 1845. See also F.O. 60:165.—Notes on the trade, manufactures and productions of various cities and countries of Persia visited by Mr. Consul Abbott in 184&-50. '· Cf. W. Ouseley, Travels in various countries in the East more particularly in Persia (London, 1819-25), vol. I l l , p. 92. See also Morier, A second Journey through Persia, etc., p. 161, in which he describes the bustle and business being carried on in Käshän because of the great trade in copperware as well as silk. >° F.O. 60:141.—Abbott to Palmerston, No. 15, Tehran, 8 November 1848. 81 F.O. 60:117.—Sheil to Aberdeen, No. 3, Tehran, 31 March 1845. See also F.O. 6 0 : 1 1 6 — S a m e to same, No. 127, Tehrän, 14 March 1845.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

£300,000 and exports probably not more than one-eighth of this sum. 8 ' A trade of some magnitude was also carried on between Java and Bushire in produce exclusively Dutch or Persian.8® In 1836 there was a large import of European goods via Constantinople to Tabriz. The effect of this was to reduce prices in Persia to what they were in Constantinople; and as a result many Persians who had bought goods in Constantinople were ruined.84 Between 1839 and 1845 the annual importation of European goods into Tabriz rose. In 1839, 7891 horse-loads came in; in 1845, 17,511. The value, however, was not increased proportionally because of the fall in the price of English manufactures and because a higher proportion of goods of an inferior quality were sent. 80% of the goods were English. Some of these imports went on to the Caucasus. There was also contraband trade with the neighbouring Russian provinces.85 B y the middle of the century English goods coming into Persia via Trebizond were running at about £500,000 sterling; it is probable that part of these importations found their way into Russia and that payment for them was made in gold.86 Persia by this time was becoming increasingly susceptible to fluctuations in international trade. This was illustrated about 1843 when a decline in prices of manufactures in England resulted in an influx of cheap goods on to the Persian market. This had already been supplied with goods at a higher cost, and consequently many local traders in Tabriz suffered loss and some ruin; and there were a succession of bankruptcies in that city in 1843. At the same time, because of the depressed state of commerce in England there was a decrease in the demand for Persian silk. The drain in coin to Constantinople was therefore greater, though offset to some extent by an increased demand for silk from Russia and the consequent greater influx of precious metals from Russia to Persia.87 Persian trade with Russia had continued after the fall of the Safavids on a small scale. In 1812 William Ouseley reported that the Russians sent cloth, paper, thread, iron, steel, gunpowder, locks, deal-wood and ·* F.O. 60:165.—Notes on the Trade, Manufactures and Productions of various cities and countries of Persia, visited by Mr. Consul Abbott, in 1849-60. ·» F.O. 60:171.—Sheil to Malmesbury, No. 80, camp near Tehran, 10 July 1852. 84 F.O. 60:117.—Tables of European Imports through Turkey to Tabriz and Persian exports to Turkey through Tabriz year ending March 20 1845, incl. in Abbott to Aberdeen, No. 25, Tabriz, 27 November 1845. " F . O . 65:233.—Report to the Minister of Finance, dated Tabriz 23 October 1836 by M. Hagemeister, incl. in Durham to Palmerston, St. Petersburgh, 14 February 1837. ' · See Lady Sheil, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia (London, 1856), p. 378. · ' F.O. 60:100.—Abbott to Bidwell, No. 5, Tabriz. 3 May 1843.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


Russian leather via Bärfurüsh to Persia, and took back in return silk, cotton, rice, fish, wood, shawls and other articles.88 As stated above, the conclusion of the Treaties of Gulistän and Turkomänchäy, although they placed Russia in a potentially favourable position, did not lead immediately to a persistent increase in the volume of Perso-Russian trade. In 1844 the Russian import trade with Persia through the ports of the Caspian coast was estimated at approximately £126,000, and exports to Russia via the same ports at £235,75ο.8· Silk, the staple article of Persian commerce, was the main export. Some silk still went to Constantinople, but the major part went to Russia and was partly paid for in gold. Some grain and cotton goods also went to Russia, but the amount was small. In 1847 when the grain crops of Georgia were destroyed by locusts, wheat and barley from Äzarbäyjän were exported to Georgia.90 In 1849 large quantities of raw sugar were sent to Russia from Mäzandarän. 91 The main silk-producing area was Gilän. The fact that the silk was of inferior quality—the skein was too long and the thread uneven and knotty—made it unsuitable to the markets of France, England and Italy. Attempts by English merchants to improve the winding met with little success. Consequently by the middle of the century most of the silk went to the Russian market. The quantity produced annually about 1846 was over a million pounds in weight, and its value more than £450,000. The duty paid to the government, at the rate of 5 % by foreigners and 2 b y Persians amounted to over £10,000. In addition to the reeled silk on which duty was paid, some was carried out of the province without the payment of duty, and also a certain amount of wound silk not far short of the quantity of reeled silk, but greatly inferior in value. The total value of the silk produced in Gilän therefore amounted probably to nearly £600,000. Silk was also produced in Mäzandarän and many other parts of Persia, but not in quantities approaching the amount cultivated in Gilän. 92 Attention has already been drawn to the interest which Britain and

" Ouseley, op. cit., vol. I l l , pp. 293-4. ·· F.O. 60:108.—Journey along the shores of the Caspian Sea by Consul Abbott, incl. in Abbott to Aberdeen, No. 8, encampment near Tehran, 29 June 1844. M F.O. 6 0 : 1 3 3 — Stevens to Palmerston, No. 21, Tabriz. 1 July 1847. " F.O. 60:152.—Thomson to Sheil, camp near Tehran, 15 June 1850, incl. in Sheil to Palmerston, No. 70, camp near Tehran, 17 June 1860. " Lady Sheil, op. cit., pp. 375-8. See also F.O. 60:122.—Taylour Thomson to Sheil, Tehran, 15 April 1846, incl. in Sheil to Aberdeen, No. 50, Tehrän, 4 May 1846.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

Russia showed in Central Asia. Russian commerce with Khiva, Bukhara and Khokand was carried on under conditions of insecurity, and many of her subjects were carried off into slavery. In order to remedy this situation Russia determined towards the end of the reign of Fath 'Ali Shäh to assert control over the country inhabited by the Kirghiz, Turkomans, and Karakalpaks. In 1836 an expedition was sent to the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea; and coupled with this there were repeated attempts to establish a factory at Astaräbäd, whence the trade to Turkistän, Khiva, Bukhara, Balkh and Khwärizm could be tapped.· 3 There were also frequent disputes between the Persian government and Russian officials on the subject of the trade carried on between the Russians and the Turkomans, who, the Persian government claimed, were rebellious subjects of the Shah;· 4 and over the fisheries at the mouth of the Atrek.* 5 The Persian government were much alarmed at the growing interest shown by the Russian government in an establishment at Astaräbäd and Muhammad Shäh refused the construction of a Russian factory there in 1842.·· In the same year Russia occupied Ashurada and erected permanent buildings on the island. Persian requests for a withdrawal were refused.97 Demands for a Russian consul in Astaräbäd were renewed with threats in 1845 and 1846.·® Persian fears that Russia would try to annex part of the Persian coast and Gilän grew. B y the middle of the century Russian control over the Turkomans along the shores of the Caspian was being effectively asserted, and the right of navigation towards the Persian coast forbidden to Turkomans unless they had passes

" F.O. 65:226.—Extract from a report made to General Chevkin by Kareline, incl. in Durham to Palmerston, No. 206, St. Petersburgh, 19 December 1836; and F.O. 65:234.— Durham to Palmerston, No. 63, St. Petersburgh, 8 April 1837 and Report by Kareline to the Minister of Finance dated 1 July 1836, incl. in above. " F . O . 60:78.—Riach to Sheil, No. 17, Tehran, 17 June 1841, incl. in McNeill to Palmerston, No. 3, Trebizond, 4 August 1841. " F . O . 60:86.—McNeill to Aberdeen, No. 26, Tehrän, 17 March 1842, and same to same. No. 28, Tehrän, 18 March 1842. · · F.O. 60:87.—McNeill to Aberdeen, No. 39, Tehrän, 6 April 1842. ·' F.O. 87.—Abbott to McNeill, No. 6. Rasht, 29 March 1842, incl. in McNeill to Aberdeen, No. 43. Tehrän, 9 April 1842; McNeill to Aberdeen, No. 48, Tehrän, 21 April 1842; and F.O. 60:106.—Sheil to Aberdeen, No. 124, Tehrän, 30 November 1844; F.O. 60:112.—Same to same, No. 23, Tehrän, 28 February 1845; and F.O. 60:113.—Same to same, No. 32, Tehrän, 27 March 1845. " F.O. 60:115.—Sheil to Aberdeen, No. 101, Tehrän, 12 September 1845, and same to same. No. 109, Tehrän, 26 September 1845; F.O. 60:123.—Same to same, No. 70, camp near Tehrän, 24 June 1846.

Persian Trade under the Early Qäjärs


from the Russian commodore.·· In these circumstances the Persian government, preoccupied with political anxieties, had little opportunity to foster Persian trade on the Caspian, which fell increasingly into other hands. The fisheries were virtually monopolized by the Russians under the security afforded by their men-of-war.100 B y the middle of the 19th century Persian trade was thus dominated by political considerations arising from the change in her relations with Russia and Great Britain, which took place in the first half of that century. The crucial step in the new political alignment was marked by the conclusion of the Treaty of Turkomänchäy in 1828. PersoRussian commercial relations were at the same time established on a treaty basis, which laid down the lines along which Persian foreign trade was to develop. In the conditions of the 19th century the protection of a farman issued by the ruler of the day was no longer sufficient security to induce merchants to enter the trade on a large scale. The conclusion of commercial treaties was a necessary preliminary to the extension of Persia's trade with European countries; but it was not until 1841 that a commercial treaty was finally negotiated with Britain. Fear of political domination, however, prevented Persia from encouraging normal commercial intercourse with either Russia or Britain. Moreover, the differential customs duties depending not upon the goods but upon the nationality of the owner imposed by the treaties of 1828 and 1841 respectively were an obstacle to the development of a consistent trade policy by Persia. Coupled with the practice of farming the customs, they afforded numerous opportunities for fraud. The absence of any satisfactory legal procedure or regulations concerning certificates of ownership and origin also opened the way to bribery and corruption. Neither the Russian treaty nor the British had an immediate effect on the volume of trade, but the political influence of Russia and Britain in due course led to their domination of Persian commerce. They were the only two European powers which were interested in Persian trade and in a position to participate on a large scale. Their mastery of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf respectively was decisive, and much of the trade to and from Persia was carried in Russian and English holds. The merchants of other countries who had earlier played a part in that trade had disappeared from the scene by the 19th century. »· F.O. 6 0 : 9 9 — Sheil to Aberdeen, No. 91, Tehran, 22 November 1843; F.O. 60:106.— Same to same. No. 118, Tehrän, 1 November 1844; F.O. 60:136.—Farrant to Palmerston, No. 3, Tehran, 18 January 1848 and incls. 100 F.O. 60:225.—Memo. Russian territorial acquisitions from Persia 1813 to 1856, F.O. 14 January 1857.


Ann Κ. S. Lambton

Germany, France, and Austria, it is true, had a share in the import trade, but they were not serious competitors. Already under Fath 'Ali Shäh and Muhammad Shah Persia was becoming increasingly sensitive to international trade, not only with regard to the import and export trade, but in respect of internal industries also. The drain of specie became heavier, and presumably contributed to the prevailing shortage of money, thereby hindering the payment of taxes, and, perhaps, leading to a growth in credit transactions. This aggravated the existing financial weakness. Bigger revenues were needed for the payment of the army and the establishment of a modern administration, but there was no tax reform to provide these, and because of financial weakness, technological backwardness, and above all chronic insecurity, there was no development of Persia's internal resources or of roads and transport, which was necessary both for the movement of trade and the establishment of public order. There are many questions still to be answered. The fact that I have concentrated in this paper on Persian trade with Great Britain and Russia is partly due to the limitation imposed by the sources used. Further, because I have mainly used diplomatic sources, I have, perhaps, overemphasized the diplomatic aspect and subordinated economic affairs to political. But, it is clear, that in the period under consideration the diplomatic aspect has a greater importance than at any earlier time in the history of Persia, and that the weight of the British and Russian presence in Persia, first felt during the reign of Fath 'Ali Shäh, profoundly affected not only political but also economic and social affairs. A more detailed examination of European records will doubtless provide more information on commercial trends, the trade in different commodities, and prices. Persian chronicles and local histories are also likely to repay examination, though the information to be obtained from them on economic matters is, at best, likely to be fragmentary. Government archives for the period are virtually non-existent, and unless family papers are made available— and it is by no means certain that there are in existence collections of any magnitude for the early Qäjär period—it will not be possible to provide a full picture of Persian trade in all its aspects or of the economic life of the country.



Charles Issawi1 The decline of Middle Eastern trade is one aspect of the economic and cultural decay of the region. From the 12th or 13th century until the 19th, a process of economic deterioration took place, interrupted only by such rallies as those in Egypt and southern Syria in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Anatolia in the 15th and 16th, northern Syria in the 16th and Iran in the 16th and early 17th. And, except in Iran and very briefly in Turkey, this economic deterioration was accompanied by intellectual and cultural decline. B y any economic criteria, the Middle East stood far lower in the 18th century than in the 10th or n t h . What made this process still more disastrous was that, during the same period, the other major civilizations were on an upward course, with relatively brief set-backs. This was true not only of Europe, the closest neighbour and main rival. In China, following what has been called the "commercial revolution" under the Tang and Sung (8th-i3th centuries) that made it "the most advanced country in the world", 2 "from the fourteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, the Chinese economy seems to have grown in almost all its aspects—population, area of cultivated land, volume of foreign trade, production of handicrafts and industrial goods, and even, perhaps, in the use of money". 3 In Japan, the Ashikaga and Tokugawa periods (i4th-igth centuries) saw an even more impressive growth, which laid the foundations for the country's

1 I am indebted for valuable comments and criticisms to Professors Robert S. Lopez, Aziz S. Atiya, Gerson D. Cohen, J e a n e t t e Wakin, Thomas Goodrich and A. Abu Hakima. 1 Edwin O. Reischauer and J o h n K . Fairbank, East Asia: The Great Tradition (Boston, 1958), p. 220. F o r further details, see R o b e r t Hartwell, "Markets, Technology and T h e Structure of Enterprise in the Development of the Eleventh-Century Chinese Iron and Steel Industry", Journal of Economic History (March, 1966), where it is pointed out t h a t , by 1078, per capita production of iron was 3-1 lbs.; in Western Europe as late as 1700 it was only 3 · δ - 4 · 3 lbs.

' Reischauer and Fairbank, op. cit., pp. 333, 393.


Charles Issawi


remarkable modernization and development. 4 As for India, its history in this period is both too complex and too obscure to permit generalization. However, Moreland's careful and conservative description of conditions around 1600 suggests considerable prosperity—a population of about 100 million, agricultural production per head of rural population "probably not very different from what it is n o w " and very flourishing handicrafts, especially textiles.® Indeed, the latter not only supplied Middle Eastern and other Asian and African markets, but successfully competed in Europe and the Americas until the close of the 18th century. The breakdown of the Indian economy does not seem to have occurred until the latter part of the 17th century, or even during the 18th. 6 I. E X P O R T S O F M I D D L E E A S T E R N


A country's export trade consists of its own produce and of reexports of goods imported from other countries. For the Middle East, the latter category was very important, and this paper is accordingly divided into two parts, dealing with export trade and transit trade, respectively; carrying trade is studied under the latter heading. Following the time-honoured practice of economists, the first question will be examined under the two sub-headings of supply and demand; first the factors which diminished the supply of Middle Eastern goods (or, more precisely, shifted the supply curve upwards), and then those that diminished the demand for those goods (or, more precisely, shifted the demand curve downwards). (A) SUPPLY

From the 12th century to the early 19th, several forces operated to reduce the Middle East's capacity to produce goods, and therefore to export. Among the more devastating wars mention may be made of the

* Ibid., pp. 557-63, 626-42. See also M. Miyamoto, et al., "Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Japan", Journal of Economic History (December, 1965) and Thomas C. Smith, Agrarian

Origins of Modern Japan

(Stanford, 1959).

' W . H. Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar (London, 1920), pp. 22, 136, 180-4. This judgment is confirmed by Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Moghul India (Bombay, 1963), p. 23: "Taking the area of the Moghul Empire as a whole, and assuming that cultural practice has not changed, the average acre sown cannot be as productive now as in Moghul times". •See Irfan Habib, op. cit., chapter ix, W. H. Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb (London, 1923), Ashin Das Gupta, Malabar in Asian Trade (Cambridge, 1967), Ν. K. Sinha, Economic History of Bengal (Calcutta, 1956) and Shiva Chandra Jha, Studies in the Development

of Capitalism

in India

(Calcutta, 1963).

The Decline of Middle Eastern Trade


later Crusades and the "scorched earth" policy of the Mamluks against raids from Cyprus and Rhodes; the Mongol and Tatar invasions, which caused havoc in Iran, 'Iraq and Syria; and the Ottoman-Persian wars which ruined much of north-eastern Anatolia, north-western Iran and 'Iraq. Plagues were recurrent and took a heavy toll. According to al-Maqrizi, the Black Death carried off one-third of Egypt's population, and other countries may have suffered as much. In the following centuries there were several, not so spectacular but nonetheless devastating, epidemics. 7 And then there was the breakdown of government. In Egypt, Mamluk rule weakened in the mid-i4th century and Bedouin incursions began to disrupt agriculture; the deterioration continued until government control was re-established under Muhammad 'Ali. 8 In Syria, the unrelenting pressure of the desert on the sown carried the Bedouins, in the 18th century, to the sea near Acre and north of Tripoli. In 'Iraq there was a steady, almost unbroken, decline until the second Ottoman conquest of 1831. In Anatolia, government control broke down in large areas at the beginning of the 17th century and was not restored until the time of Mahmüd II. And in Iran, the end of the 17th century saw the collapse of Safavid rule and devastating Afghan, Ottoman and Russian invasions, and even under the Qajars government hold over the country remained precarious. Agriculture Middle Eastern agriculture was more vulnerable to such shocks than was that of other regions. The Middle East has been aptly compared to an archipelago, with small islands of cultivation surrounded by enormous seas of deserts, and the islands have often been submerged by the desert. The region contains no large continuous stretches of thickly populated areas comparable to those of China, India or Europe. And where, as in ' T o take two examples from the end of this period. In the plague of 1773, according to the representatives of the E a s t India Company in Basra, "for near a month the daily deaths in the town alone amounted from 3000 to 7000", and it was left "almost destitute of inhabitants". Their estimate of the loss of life on the Arabian coast was 2,000,000, an improbably high figure—see Ahmad Abu Hakima, History of Eastern Arabia (Beirut, 1966), p. 87. And in Cairo, an outbreak of plague started in November 1783 and continued throughout the winter, causing up to 1500 deaths per day—see C. F . Volney, Oeuvres (Paris, 1825), vol. I I , p. 152. 8 Following the Ottoman conquest, there was a short reprieve from about 1530 to the beginning of the 17th century, when government control increased and an effort was made to "restore to cultivation the lands which had been devastated during and immediately after the Ottoman conquest". See Stanford J . Shaw, The Financial and Administrative Organisation and Development of Ottoman Egypt (Princeton, 1958), p. 68.


Charles Issawi

'Iräq or Iran, cultivation was dependent on elaborate and rather fragile irrigation works, it was even easier to disrupt and much more difficult to restore. Hence, the result of the catastrophes enumerated above was a great shrinkage of population and area under cultivation, leading to a sharp drop in the region's capacity to export agricultural produce. In 'Iräq, Adams· estimates that the population of Lower Diyäla reached a peak of 800,000 around A.D. 800, fell to below 400,000 by 1100 and then dropped sharply to around 60,000 after the Mongol invasion had destroyed the irrigation works, staying at that level for the next five centuries. By the beginning of the 19th century, systematic cultivation in 'Iraq was confined to a few small areas.10 In Syria, the contraction of population and cultivated area was not so drastic, since its rain-fed agriculture was more resilient than 'Iraq's, with its delicate irrigation network. But Volney, writing at the end of the 18th century, pointed out that in the pashalik of Aleppo, whereas early defters showed "upwards of three thousand, two hundred villages, at present the collector can scarcely find four hundred"; the continued deterioration is vividly described in the reports of British consuls in the first half of the 19th century. 11 The same process can be traced in Egypt. According to al-Maqrizi and other historians, the number of villages fell from 10,000 under the Fatimids to 2170 in the 15th century. Concomitantly, land-tax receipts diminished sharply, from ιο·8 million dinars in 1298 and 9-4 million in 1315 to ι·8 million in 1517. These figures cannot be accepted uncritically. Thus, the 10,000 figure for the Fatimid period is probably greatly exaggerated.12 Again, the unit of account used in land taxation may not have been constant, and the fall in receipts was probably not as great.13 Moreover, the 1517 figure reflects the disruption caused by the Ottoman conquest, and land-tax receipts did in fact rise again in the 16th and early 17th centuries.14 But the general decline was nonetheless real. • Robert M. Adams, Land Behind Baghdad (Chicago, 1965), graph on p. 115. Even if one does not accept Adams's figures, there can be no doubt about the trend he indicates. 10 For details see Charles Issawi, The Economic History of the Middle East, 1800-1914 (Chicago, 1966), p. 130. 11 Ibid., pp. 258-61. For the history of Syria in the medieval and early modern periods see Ira M. Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), Jean Sauvaget, Alep (Paris, 1941) and Philip K. Hitti, History of Syria (London, 1957). 11 Ahmad Darrag, L'Egypte sous le rigne de Barsbay (Damascus, 1961), pp. 64-5. It is worth pointing out that the number of villages in Egypt today, on a larger cultivated area and with a far bigger population, is only 4000. " Ibid., pp. 59-60. 14 Shaw, loc. cit.

The Decline of Middle Eastern Trade


The evidence for Anatolia is less clear. According to Ö. L. Barkan, the 16th century seems to have witnessed a period of population growth, followed by a decline towards its end. " B y 1653 Haci Halifa reports that people had begun to flock from villages to the towns during the reign of Süleyman, and that in his own day there were derelict and abandoned villages all over the Empire." 1 6 This does not necessarily imply that the total population of Anatolia was declining, since at least some of the major towns were growing, but one can accept the evidence of rural depopulation. 16 Conditions seem to have deteriorated further in the course of the 18th century. For Iran, by contrast, the effects of the crisis at the beginning of the 18th century on population and economic activity are only too clear from reports by eyewitnesses and travellers, such as Krusinski and Hanway. If the figures compiled by Lord Curzon are at all accurate, the silk production of the northern provinces fell to only a small fraction of its former size. 17 A decline in population, even if accompanied by an equal shrinkage in cultivated area, does not necessarily imply a fall in the level of living. In fact, given diminishing returns and assuming that the least fertile lands are abandoned first, it may lead to higher average and marginal productivity per man. This allows real wages to rise, and shortage of labour may induce landlords to offer higher wages. This process occurred in Europe after the Black Death, and may well have done so in parts of the Middle East. But even so, such a shrinkage must lead to a decline in the surplus available for export or other uses, unless it is accompanied by an improvement in technology or greater use of capital (which obviously did not take place in the Middle East) or unless the marginal product of labour is lower than the consumption of the worker and his dependents, which is very unlikely to have been true of that period. 18 Such a hypothesis may partly explain why the Middle East, a large exporter of foodstuffs Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London, 1961), pp. 32-3. The population of Istanbul probably rose from about 500,000 in the middle of the 16th century to 600,000-750,000 towards the end of the 17th. See Robert Mantran, Istanbul dans la seconde moitie du XVII« Steele (Paris, 1962), pp. 44-7. Bursa also seems to have been prosperous in this period, see Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.) s. v. "Bursa". For the general growth in urban population, see ö m e r Lufti Barkan, "La Mediterranie de Fernand Braudel", Annales, vol. I X (January-March, 1954). 17 George Ν. Curzon, Persia and The Persian Question (London, 1892), vol. I, p. 367. " To illustrate, suppose 5,000,000 men farm 5,000,000 acres and produce 10,000,000 bushels, giving an average output of 2 bushels per man; then assuming household consumption is 1 bushel per year, the surplus is 10,000,000 minus 5,000,000, i.e. 5,000,000 bushels. Now suppose population shrinks to 3,000,000, cultivated area to 3,000,000 acres and production to 7,000,000. Average output per man has risen to 2J bushels, but the surplus is only 7,000,000 minus 3,000,000, i.e. 4,000,000 bushels. 17 16 16

Charles Issawi


in Roman times, gradually ceased to be one and resumed its former role only with the expansion that began in the 19th century. 1 9 Handicrafts In both the Roman and early Muslim periods, the Middle East's exports of manufactured goods, westwards and eastwards, seem to have been at least as important as its exports of agricultural goods. The subsequent decline of the handicrafts, and hence of the Middle East's capacity to export, is clear. Thus, the number of weavers in Alexandria is said to have fallen from 14,000 in 1394 to 800 in 1434, and that of sugar mills in Fustät from sixty-six in 1325 to only nineteen in working order around 140ο.20 Generally speaking, in the Arab countries the decline in both quantity and quality seems to have continued until the 19th century, with a few exceptions as in Syria. In Turkey, the influx of foreign workers in the 16th century (Jews, Iranians, Syrians, Egyptians) improved techniques, but this was followed by stagnation or retrogression in the 17th and 18th. 21 And in Iran, even at the height of Safavid splendour, Chardin was struck by the softness and laziness of the craftsmen and their lack of desire to innovate or even to imitate. 22 The subsequent breakdown must have disrupted Iranian crafts very severely. This general decline is partly attributable to the above-mentioned shocks, whose effect on the crafts was often even more adverse than on agriculture. 23 But there are several other factors which explain why Middle Eastern crafts failed to develop as did those of Europe. First, one must note the weakness of the resource-base of the Middle East, and its " "Sifting the available evidence, one must conclude that the Ottoman Empire was a state enjoying agricultural surpluses until the last quarter of the sixteenth century. In the decade following the death of Sultan Suleiman (d. 1566) there are numerous reports of drought and famine. Shortly thereafter, the long wars with Persia (1578-90) and with Austria (1593-1606) placed a tremendous burden on all of the productive resources of the Empire". Carl M. Kortepeter, "Ottoman Imperial Policy and the Economy of the Black Sea R e g i o n in t h e S i x t e e n t h Century", Journal

of the American




L X X X V I (April-June, 1966). 10 Subhi Y. Labib, Handelsgeschichte Ägyptens im Spätmittelalter (Wiesbaden, 1966). pp. 420-1. 21 Mantran, op. cit., pp. 420-1; Η. A. R. Gibb and Η. Bowen, Islamic Society and the West (London, 1950), vol. I, pp. 295-6; Traian Stoianovich, "The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant", Journal of Economic History, vol. X X (June, 1960). 28


Voyages du Chevalier Chardin en Perse ( A m s t e r d a m , 1735), vol. I l l , pp. 9 7 - 9 .

Thus the plague was more devastating in the cities than in the villages, and craftsmen were more difficult to replace than peasants; Alexandria never recovered from the Crusaders's raid of 1365, and the deportation of its craftsmen by Tamerlane was a severe blow to Damascus; the breakdown of government, although far less complete in the towns than in the countryside, was also a major blow.

The Decline of Middle Eastern Trade


deficiency in wood, the basic material of the Eotechnic period; in navigable rivers and water-power; in minerals, which in Europe gave rise to very large enterprises in the late medieval period; and, in view of its use in China from the time of the Han and in Europe since the late medieval period, one is tempted to add, in coal. And secondly, there was the lack of mechanical inventiveness and the failure to develop non-human sources of energy; examples of this are the disappearance of the windmill, which seems to have been invented in Iran; the limited number of watermills and the continued use of the "Greek" rather than the "Vitruvian" type; the failure to improve harnesses, etc. 24 Thirdly, there was the structure and policy of the various governments—Mamluk, Ottoman and Safavid. In all of them control lay in the hands of the military, who were generally of alien stock, and the bureaucracy ; the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, consisting of merchants, craftsmen and their guilds, never had enough power or organization to force or persuade the government to take its needs and interests into consideration. As a result, private property was always more precarious than in Europe, and any developing enterprise was more liable to be taxed out of existence. The same considerations partly account for the almost uninterrupted debasement of the currency and rise in prices in the Middle East from the 14th to the 19th centuries, a trend which seems to have been much more marked than in Europe, which cannot be fully explained by the influx of American bullion, since Europe was even more exposed to its impact, and which must have caused severe injury to the economy. 25 And these considerations also help to account for the fact that the Middle East did not outgrow what Hecksher, describing medieval Europe, expressively termed "the policy of provision". The main objectives of government policy were not to promote local production but to ensure that fiscal needs would be met and that the principal towns, and in particular the capital city, would be adequately supplied.26 Hence, long after such


For a fuller treatment, see Issawi, op. cit., pp. 4 - 6 . Traian Stoianovich, "Factors in the Decline of O t t o m a n Society in the B a l k a n s " , Slavic Review (December, 1962), estimates t h a t b e t w e e n 1550 and 1790 grain prices increased more t h a n sevenfold, the rise in 1 6 0 5 - 1 7 0 0 being particularly sharp. W a g e s of unskilled labour rose o n l y half as much, a fact t o w h i c h t h e author attributes m u c h of t h e social disorders of this period. See also Issawj, op. cit., pp. 520-4, Labib, op. cit., pp. 4 2 3 - 3 8 , Darrag, op. cit., pp. 9 1 - 1 0 7 and Mantran, op. cit., Book II, chapter ii. " See Kortepeter, op. cit.; S. Ülgener, Iktisadi Tarihimizin Ahlak ve Zihniyet Meseleleri (Istanbul, 1951); Bernard Lewis, "Some Reflections o n the Decline of the O t t o m a n Empire", Studia Islamica (1958); and W . Hahn, " D i e Verpflegung Konstantinopels durch staatliche Zwangswirtschaft", Beihefte zur Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftgeschichte, vol. V I (1926). 17» M




statesmen as Cromwell and Colbert had shown how far the state was prepared to go in backing national industry, shipping and export trade, the Middle Eastern governments continued to tax local enterprises heavily, to impose higher duties on exports than on imports, to let coastal shipping fall into foreign hands and even to exempt foreigners from certain internal duties (e.g. the mürüriye) paid by nationals. 27 To what extent can this stagnation in technology, and this unfavourable government policy, be attributed, as has so often been done, to Islam, with its prohibitions on interest, its ban on speculation and its contemptuous attitude to agriculture? Maxime Rodinson, in his very interesting Islam et Capitalisme (Paris, 1966), has argued convincingly that both the doctrines and the practice of early medieval Islam were favourable to economic activity in general, and capitalist forms in particular. 28 Nevertheless, three adverse effects on economic activity may be noted. First, following the development of rational and scientific thought in the gth-i2th centuries, which threatened to undermine the religious basis of society, there was a swing to Sufism. This gave much spiritual vitality but "intellectual standards declined first, as Sufi speculation more and more replaced the objective criteria of orthodox reasoning and Hellenistic science. Then moral standards. . . ," 2 9 One aspect of the decline in moral standards was the arrogance of Muslims towards other

" M a n t r a n ' s a u t h o r i t a t i v e s t u d y m a y be q u o t e d in s u p p o r t . " P e r s o n n e d a n s le g o u v e r n e m e n t O t t o m a n ne s ' i n t i r e s s e d i r e c t e m e n t k la p r o d u c t i o n 'nationale', encore moins k la c o n q u i t e des m a r c h e s e x t ^ r i e u r s " (p. 214). "II n ' e s t done p a s question d ' u n integral capitalisme d ' i t a t , mais p l u t o t d ' u n dirigisme qui a p o u r b u t d ' a s s u r e r ä la capitale d e l'empire son r a v i t a i l l e m e n t et ses moyens de vivre mais aussi d e fournir a u t r i s o r des r e n t r i e s d ' a r g e n t " (p. 287). " E n T u r q u i e le g o u v e r n m e n t semble se disinteresser de ces q u e s t i o n s et ignorer les consequences de la s t a g n a t i o n i c o n o m i q u e " (p. 423). T o which of course should be a d d e d t h e power of vested interests (p. 510). See also Issawi, op. cit., p p . 38-40. T h e insecurity a n d d e p o p u l a t i o n of t h e c o u n t r y s i d e m a d e it impossible to escape t h e power of t h e guilds a n d o t h e r c o n s e r v a t i v e forces by s e t t i n g u p workshops in t h e rural areas, as was done in E u r o p e . (This last p o i n t w a s suggested by E r v a n d A b r a h a m ian, a g r a d u a t e s t u d e n t a t Columbia University.) In t h e 16th c e n t u r y , O t t o m a n economic policy h a d been s o m e w h a t more enlightened, a i m i n g a t e x t e n d i n g t r a d e with t h e West, a t reserving t h e Black Sea for O t t o m a n ships, a n d a t building new t o w n s a n d reviving those t h a t h a d declined. B u t t h e m a i n beneficiaries of this p r o v e d t o be t h e B a l k a n Christians, t h e J e w s a n d t h e A r m e n i a n s . See, for example. Cecil R o t h , The House of S'asi (Philadelphia, 1948); Stoianovich. " T h e Conquering Balkan O r t h o d o x M e r c h a n t " , loc. cit., a n d K o r t e p e t e r , op. cit. For t h e economic policy of t h e Mamluks, see Labib, op. cit a n d Lapidus, op. cit.; for t h e Safavids, see V. Minorsky, Tadhhirat al-Mulük (London, 1943). ·» See also S. D. Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden, 1966), c h a p t e r s xi-xiii. *· H . A. R . Gibb, " T h e C o m m u n i t y in Islamic H i s t o r y " , Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. C V I I (April, 1963).

The Decline of Middle Eastern



faiths and cultures, a quality which was of course by no means peculiar to them but which became fatal when it persisted long after their decline and Europe's upsurge. Their lack of curiosity and their parochialism, born of a feeling of superiority, may be measured b y the tiny number of Muslim travellers to Europe in the i 6 t h - i 8 t h centuries, and b y noting that the Turks and Arabs did not think of going to infidel lands for trade, at most allowing the Europeans to come to them. 30 Lastly, the fusion of religious and secular authority in Islam m a y have been one of the factors inhibiting the development of independent centres of power checking the central government. Islam, like most other non-Western civilizations, never had bodies enjoying power comparable to those of European feudal landlords, the Church, city-states, universities and other corporate groups, even making allowance for the influence of such groups as the 'ulamä and the ashräf. More specifically, as noted before, its guilds and bourgeoisie failed to make their weight felt, and to have their interests recognized, as did their European counterparts.

(b) demand In the course of the centuries under review, European demand for many goods exported by the Middle East was successively deflected, in part or in whole, to other producers, who could supply cheaper or superior products. For agricultural produce, this came about through the opening of new areas, with more favourable soil, climate or economic organization, e.g. centrally managed estates in Europe and slave plantations overseas. For industrial goods, this was due to the transfer of technology to Europe or the development of new techniques in that continent and India. First the situation in the Mediterranean area will be studied and then that in the Indian Ocean area. Mediterranean area Demand may be examined for three broad classes of goods: (a) manufactured goods; (b) raw materials and foodstuffs; and (c) textiles and textile materials. (a) Until the 10th century, papyrus was a major item exported by the Middle East to Europe, after which it was replaced by paper, exported directly or through Constantinople. However, by the 12th century, paper

5 0 Mantran, op. cit., p. 604. A very iew Turks did go to Vienna for trade, see Stoianovich, op. cit., and a few Moroccans to Marseilles and Genoa, see Jean-Louis Mifcge, Lt Maroc et L'Europe (Paris, 1961), vol. I I , p. 28.


Charles Issawi

was being produced in Spain and in the following century in Italy. 81 B y the 14th century the tiny city of Fabriano had "become the [Western] world's largest centre for the production of paper". 32 And soon after that the Middle East began importing paper from Europe and has continued to do so until the present day. 33 High quality glass was produced in Syria and elsewhere, and some glassware was exported to Europe, as well as to the East. 34 But after the Crusades, there is some evidence that Middle Eastern "workers moved westwards to revitalize the Western industry at Venice and elsewhere".3®· B y the end of the Middle Ages, the Middle East was importing window glass and other glassware from Europe and continued to do so, while its own production went on deteriorating in quality. 34 Sugar was exported in large quantities, especially from Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. 37 But the Crusaders introduced the sugar-cane to Europe, and soon it was grown in several Mediterranean countries. 38 However, the real blow came when sugar was raised in plantations in virgin lands in Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde in the 15th century, and a still harder blow when it was grown in Brazil, after 155ο. 39 Various chemicals were exported from the Middle East, as is clearly shown in the Geniza documents, but Europeans gradually began to make or mine their own. Thus, alum was an important item of export from Egypt. In the 13th century between 5000 and 13,000 qintär were shipped

11 Philip K . H i t t i , History of the Arabs (London, 1943), p. 564; Thomas F. Carter an