Indian Ocean Travelers in the Medieval Era: Networks of Exchange Across the Hemisphere

Author: Joan Brodsky Schur
Most students are acquainted with the importance of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in world history, but know little of the world’s third largest ocean, the Indian Ocean, which for centuries provided a medium of exchange among the world’s great civilizations. In this lesson students focus on famous travelers in the Indian Ocean during the Medieval Era (300-1450 CE). For much of this time China was a stable and technologically advanced society, eager to trade via land and sea with other places in the world. On the opposite side of the Indian Ocean, Muslim societies flourished in Southwest Asia under the Umayyad and Abbasid empires. Like their Chinese counterparts, Muslim mariners ventured forth on the Indian Ocean, eager to trade with and learn from other societies rimming the ocean’s coastlines. India was the hinge of this trading system, developing a system of trading ports that became cosmopolitan centers of commerce.

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