Indian Ocean c. 1580


Map Code: Ax01042

In 1497, Vasco da Gama’s expedition past the Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of Africa opened up a new trade route with the Indian Ocean and began an era of Portuguese and European dominance of maritime trade. The Portuguese soon established fortifications and trading outposts along the coast of East Africa and India to facilitate their trade in spices and other valuable products from the East. By focussing their forces on key straits and vital points along the trade route, the Portuguese were able to establish a hold on trade that was much stronger than such a small nation should have been able to manage. Their superior military technology allowed them to fend off much larger Muslim empires in the region. Having gained control of all the western exits of the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese then moved to establish themselves in the eastern entry points at cities such as Malacca.

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