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The Colonization Exploration Trade And Colonization History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016


The focus of this scholarly paper is to emphasis a historical understanding of the explorations of the Europe such as Portugal and Spain including the motives of exploration and the geographical mapping of explorers’ route that led them to the discovery and exploration of East Africa which they found the spice trade in India. The Portuguese and Spanish set journeys in searching unknown lands such as India for colonization and resource supply meanwhile introduced the poor savages to a proper religious and civilized way of life during the Exploration Age. This had also established countless negative impacts compare to benefits as much native knowledge, culture and history were destroyed as possible in the places they found from the discovery. An argument is stated along about the reason why Europe started their exploration to the East and why the Europe’s extension influenced on the spice trade greater than India itself. The trade routes especially the spice trade were first taken over by the Portugal following by the Spain and later the British in India and other Spice Islands. The Portugal established their business network in order to trade goods with other countries and kingdom especially the spice, silk and tea that gained from their colonies and this caused the spice trade route expanded and spread. Furthermore, this paper also discussed about the benefits and negative impacts of the Europe’s colonization on the spice trade in India, affecting a diverse groups of people. For drawing some conclusions to the motives of exploration, spice trading routes and impacts of the colonization process, the overall discussion is to organise and refine the argument about the reason of Europe’s influence in spice trade in India were inevitable compared to India itself.


The first European country to sponsor voyages into unknown lands and face exploration in a serious manner was the Portugal before it led to the way for the ‘Age of Discovery’. Portugal began their journey and sailed to discover new lands as their main motives for exploration was the desire to find new trade routes to the Far East to gain wealth and resources.

Motives of European Exploration

The initial motive of exploration was the thought of Prince Henry, the son of King John I who was known as “The Navigator”. Henry heard many stories about great centers of trade in the East, especially India where many valuable spices were traded, e.g. nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, etc. [1] As spices were as valuable as gold during that period, Prince Henry established a school of navigation with lots of expertise such as geographers, navigators, mapmakers, astronomers, boat mechanical engineers to find a shorter sea route that could directly trading with India for sources especially the spices in addition to break the Arab monopoly on trade.

Every time the Europeans merchants wanted to trade with China or India, they had to pass through the Ottoman trading posts such as Tripoli that organized by the Arabian, this meant that they had to give money to them. In addition, European found that the power of the Arab Muslim was very much greater than was commonly supposed, and that there were no Christians nor another race of men among them. [2] Thus, the Europeans wanted to migrate some of their populations to the realm of those infidels so that they could established a ready market there and would be possible to bring profits and the merchandise back to their countrymen without peril. In this way the Portuguese decided to sail to place like India to gain direct spice trade route without giving any profits to the Arabian merchants. Vasco da Gama was the first explorer succeed in direct sailed from Europe to India in 1498. This was an important step for Europe because it created a sea route from Europe that would allow spice trade with the Far East instead of using the ‘Silk Road Caravan’ route. [3] 

Capabilities were the main initial elements that allowed the Europeans to cross oceans. The Portugal achieved recent advanced in shipbuilding and navigation. The Portuguese wisely invented several manoeuvrable ship designs such as the caravels and cross staff ships outfitted with square and triangular sails, deep keels and rear rudders. These ships gave them stability to cope with the open ocean efficiently which allowed them to best exploit the oceanic winds. [4] Moreover, the Portuguese were capable to take the helm with the aids of better maps, navigational instruments such as compass and the astrolabe in sailing to India. The European explorers were also able to sight the sun at noon and determine their latitude by using the sextant to measure celestial objects in relation to the horizon.

Figure 1. The ‘Santa Caterina’, one of the large merchant carrack of the Portuguese East Indies trade Lord Caird. The Santa Caterina. 15th Century. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Annone The Elephant. (1st October 2012) (http://annonetheelephant.com/tag/portuguese/).

These advance shipbuilding and navigations skills were far beyond the local Indian traders and that was one of the main reason why European could later took over the whole spice trade route from the Indian, and the Indian could only chose the side to work for them.

Exploration Led to Colonization in India

Most of the exploration motives resulted the Europe’s expansion and slowly they established colonization on the spice trading route in India. Due to the result of high profits they could gained through the spices and also the rivalries among the European states, the Portugal started to use military forces to take over Calicut and most of the other prosperous spice ports in the Malabar Coast in India.

Figure 2. The Battle of Assaye, a war between the European and Indian

Cental India. September 1803. Obsidian Portal (1st October 2012) (http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/yorkshire/wikis/selected-battles)

They owned powerful firearms such as the ship borne cannons, rifles and guns that gave them the ascendancy in their early encounters with natives and also other trader companies in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese military sources were relatively full compare to India during that era. The local Indians acquired no firearms but spears, swords, low quality shields and armours that could merely used as weaponry to fight against with the Europeans. This was one of the main convincing argue that described the superiority of their countries compared to India, in addition made the Europe’s colonization on the spice trade in India inevitable.

The European, so it is argued, took the lead in overseas exploration and expansion because they had better ships, a more sophisticated economy, better organized states, and more effective weapons than anyone else in the world. [5] 

Another key element that drives the European to control the spice trade in India was their greediness and self arrogant to rule over other uncivilized countries. The European thought that a country’s power is directly related to their wealth, forasmuch they began to reap profits from the overseas expansion which in this case they took most of the spices in India, and brought them back to their capitals. [6] Once the amount of spice and merchandise increased, the European commenced to exploit the indigenous people in India as labours or their crews in order to transport goods such as gold, spice, silk and other valuable trade items back to their capitals. As slavery was also as profitable as the gold and considered as a main source of finance for the expeditions of discovery, Prince Henry ordered his sailors to kidnap most native Indians to be sold in Europe as slaves. [7] This resulted the aim of Europe’s exploration deteriorated and slowly developed into colonize based as the European which in the earlier the Portuguese began to use military forces to conquer whichever territory they desired. The Europeans’ aim was currently not only rule over the spice route but in the purpose of enslaving the native people, selling them to other European states such as French and also the Dutch.

The Portuguese in India cannot be seen in isolation; their action, policies and prejudices were a result of a world view derived from their own European milieu. [8] 

Countless negative impacts to the native Indians cannot be avoided. Much of the native knowledge, culture and history were destroyed and most of those who forced to be slaves were failure in surviving or never had their chances to go back to their countries once they were sold to the Mediterranean. However, there were also positive impacts remained to the indigenous people. The European actually took their responsible and introduced the poor savages into a better and civilized way of life. They trained those local Indians in ability such as trading skills, shipbuilding, transportation, building firearms, battle strategies and proper way to store their goods. In this way, the Indians learned their way to established their own business, architectural designs, forming rules and laws to protect their people rights. Furthermore, the European also educated them on their languages in order to gain better communication with the natives and led them into proper religious.

Figure 2. Old catholic church in Goa, Heritage of Portuguese colony

123RF (2nd October 2012) (http://www.123rf.com/photo_13081374_old-catholic-church-in-goa-heritage-of-portuguese-colony-india.html)

One other important factor that clearly explained about the reason why European began to colonize the spice trade in India was their long-standing religious goals. Although the Indians themselves had their own religion and culture, however they could not gained much of the believers from their own people as the influence from other cults were too strong. The European aimed to break the Muslim-dominated trade in the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean so that they could overcame the power of those infidels. [9] Hence, the European found that India was the most suitable country for them to spread Christianity as there were lot of trading posts in the Malabar Coasts. The European then took over the spice trade and spice routes and they took this opportunity to influence the natives and traders from various countries to be their followers. The religion such as Muslim and Hindu had successfully been converted into Christian and lots of churches were built over most of their territory. The old catholic church in Goa considered as one of the heritage of Portuguese colony in India that is still remained as a proof in present day. Lots of the evil cults were then destroyed as the people not anymore in believing on the witchcrafts and the sorceries. The European gained advantages on their way to control the spice trade without peril. On the other hand, the Indian also gained more natives in believing and respecting their local religion and less conflicts occurred since most of them were influenced by proper religious to show them the correct way to treat and communicate with each other.


The European exploration and spice trade routes contributed to the growth of the European colonization over the India. As a conclude of the conference, justification was obtained on the reason of why European could take over the whole spice trade from the Indian, but not the Indian spread influences to the European countries. This is due to the motives of their exploration, powerful firearms compared to the Indian, and their greediness to reap profits from the resources they gained from India. Apart from this, the long-standing religious goals also the main key to drag the European colonized the spice trade route in India.

Only by taking this argument into account can gain an understanding the background of European influences on Indian and the advantages of the impacts from their spice colonization in India.


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