The Century of Portuguese Supremacy in the Indian Ocean

By G A Ballard, published November 1925


Portugal maintained supremacy throughout the Indian Ocean for the duration of the 16th century driven by the lucrative spice trade. All business was under government control and this era marked the zenith of Portuguese prosperity. A trade monopoly was accepted by producers of spices in the east but repeatedly contested by Arab traders in the west and Malay rulers in the east although never entirely effectively. The importance of trade and security of depots outweighed other considerations although the remote Malacca Straits station remained vulnerable to attack. Turkish expansion in the west led to the loss of Aden and the sack of Muscat. However the Turks failed to capitalise on this and the Portuguese transferred further forces from the east. Following a period of peace in mid-century attacks on the weakened eastern station were repulsed with difficulty and following transfer of forces from west to east the Turks sacked Ormuz. After union with Spain in 1580 the Portuguese presence in the east declined.

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern) | Indian Ocean
Subjects include: Strategy & Diplomacy

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