Spices and cotton: Indian Economy 1500-1800 AD
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Spices and cotton

white and black men on a ship with bales of cargo
Japanese painting of Portuguese
bringing Indian cargo to Japan (1500s AD)

Under the Mughal Empire, India continued to make a lot of money by trading things back and forth between East Africa and West Asia to their west, and South-East Asia and China to their east. Mostly Indian traders sold pepper and cinnamon and other spices to West Asia. They sold glass beads and cotton cloth to East Africa and got gold and furs and ivory in return.

cloth with flowers and leaves on it
Cotton cloth from Gujarat, India (1600s AD)

When Portuguese, Dutch, and British ships began to show up in Indian ports in the 1500s, Indian traders sold them cotton cloth and spices too. The Portuguese traded Indian ivory and ebony to China, and brought back gold, silk, porcelain, and copper. By the 1600s, traders wanted tons of cheap Indian cotton cloth and glass beads to trade to West Africans for slaves, and to North American people for furs.

Around 1700 AD, though, people in England began to want to buy a lot of Indian cotton cloth too. British ships now carried cotton cloth to England as well as to Africa and Asia. British trading posts in India at Madras, Bombay (modern Mumbai) and Calcutta started to grow into big cities.

But British traders began to push Indian people around to make more money for themselves. In the 1820s, the British began to grow a lot of tea in India to sell in England, in order to save money on buying tea from China. Indian people didn't make money growing tea. In the 1830s, British people put a tax on salt in India, to force Indians to buy British salt instead of making their own.

When the American Civil War started in 1860, the British couldn't get raw cotton for their mills in England anymore. They began to force Indian traders to sell them raw cotton instead of making the cotton into cloth. Millions of Indian spinners and weavers and dyers were put out of work. India, forced to sell cheap raw materials instead of expensive finished manufactured goods, became a much poorer country.

Learn by doing: look at printed India-style cloth in a fabric store
More about the Indian economy

Bibliography and further reading about the Indian economy:

Eyewitness India Ancient India

Eyewitness India, by Manini Chatterjee (2002). Written for kids.

Ancient India, by Virginia Schomp (2005). Written for teens. Very good for reports.

More about the Indian economy
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 20 September, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT