Trade Routes and Empires c. 1500

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Map Code: Ax01036

With the Americas yet to figure on the international stage, the Ottoman Empire sat at the hub of world trade at the time of Columbus. The central Asian Silk Road, Indian Ocean spice route, the river routes from the Baltic to Black Sea and trans-Saharan routes all converged on their dominions or vassal states. In the Mediterranean, they were beginning to vie with the maritime city-states of Venice and Genoa for dominance. However, a change was impending because of Portuguese penetration of the Indian Ocean. From 1466, when they established a base in the Cape Verde Island, to 1511, when they conquered the sultanate of Malacca, they initiated the European maritime supremacy over the old trans-continental trade routes. But for the time being, the bulk trade of gold, slaves and salt still reached the Mediterranean by caravan, and Indian Ocean ports like Aden, Muscat and Kambaya prospered through commerce in incense, textiles and spices.

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