The Ottoman administration of the Spice trade in the sixteenth-century red sea and persian Gulf

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Abstract

Following the Ottoman conquest of Egypt and the Levant in 1516-17, administrators of the empire began to experiment with several innovative strategies to increase the total volume of the spice trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, and to maximize the state's share of its revenues. These became progressively more sophisticated over time, until by the end of the 1560s a comprehensive infrastructure was in place, including a rationalized empire-wide tax regime for regulating private trade, a network of "imperial factors" who bought spices for the sultan in overseas emporiums, and an annual convoy of spice galleys that shipped cargoes of state-owned pepper from the Yemen to the markets of Egypt and Istanbul. All of this, combined with natural advantages of geography and the goodwill of Muslim traders in the Indian Ocean, enabled the Ottomans to mount a formidable challenge to the "pepper monopoly" of the Portuguese Estado da India.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-198
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2006

Keywords

  • 16th century
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Persian Gulf
  • Red Sea
  • Spice Trade
  • Yemen

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