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How Oceanic Trade Made The World Small

A whopping 4,000 years! That's how long it has been since mankind first  began to use the vast, expansive ocean as a means of trade and commerce. It was around 1950 BC when Hatsheput, the legendary Egyptian Queen sent a successful expedition to the Land of Punt. The story of the Egyptian vessels, so painstakingly crafted with reed and their epic journey over the Red Sea has been immortalized in the ballads of the storytellers across the world. Little did anyone, perhaps not even Queen Hatsheput herself, recognized the full implications of their actions.

The most classic example to illustrate the manner in which oceanic trade has made the world smaller and more connected is the discovery of a new sea route to India by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama on the 20th of May, 1498 a red-letter day in world history. For eons before, trade conducted between India and Europe was over the land, a painfully slow, cumbersome process. Moreover, the caravans were often frequently raided and plundered by ravaging marauders and bandits who soured the lands back then. Consider this, even by the shortest land route, the distance between France and India stretches for a whopping 9700 kilometers! It could take months on end, before a single caravan could reach India from there.

I would like to remind you'll of this age-old adage 'Necessity is the mother of all inventions.' In Europe back then there was a great demand for Indian goods and consequently, a grave and urgent need of a new route to India, a need which was satisfied first by Vasco da Gama when in a historic event, his ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope in modern South Africa and reached Calicut on the western coast of India. So what had Vasco da Gama achieved? He had reduced distances between Europe and India considerably. He paved the way for European colonialism, which dominated the world in the 19th century. The very same route which he discovered was used by Europeans to reign over large swathes of Asia, including India itself. Overnight, through means of this discovery, the world had turned smaller.

Portuguese Explorer Vasco da Gama
This also ushered in the Age of Discovery. The world, which was then restricted to Europe, Africa and some parts of Asia began to be explored more thoroughly. America, Australia and Caribbean earlier unknown and unexplored were now charted properly. The borders of the world began to expand. Connectivity increased, culture was shared, languages evolved, cuisines merged and architectural styles were borrowed. For example, we have in Bali, Indonesia a predominantly Hindu population, a speck among the country with the most Muslims in the world. The reason for this is oceanic trade, which brought the concept of Hinduism to Indonesia. In fact, it would be worth adding here that the world's largest Hindu temple is actually Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Today, we often get to hear of a global village or a world, that is so interconnected, so inter-reliant that it can realistically be boiled down to a single, vast village. This global village is all-encompassing right from the tiniest, poorest settlement in the Central African Republic to the vibrant, thrumming metropolis of New York in the United States of America. So what has enabled this lessening of the world to such a degree? Oceanic Trade!



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