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The age of discovery was a very important time for the Europeans. The new land that the Europeans discovered lead to increased knowledge of the world’s people and social networks. This was done by increasing understanding of foreign religion, expanding the Christian faith, and discovery of new trade networks that allowed for the Europeans to acquire new spices and other goods and expand the wealth of their nations. When it comes to the discovery in Maritime Asia, the understanding of their religion was the most important aspect of the discoveries.
This is because understanding the indigenous and their religions allowed for the Europeans to attempt to convert them to Christianity which would improve trade relations.
Additionally, it was crucial to understand which natives would be hostile due to the travelers being Christian in order to avoid additional problems. An example of this hostility is when Vasco De Gama and his men had trouble in Moçambique with the moors. Due to the conflict between Moors and Christians, their Moor pilot would not help them find water when they reached shore.
A few days later, the Moors attacked Vasco De Gama and his men using “slings, with which they hurled stones” (Ravenstiein,30).
Although the attack failed, the violence that took place due to conflicting religions proved that the religion barrier was strong and showed the need to understand the religion of the indigenous and possibly convert the indigenous people to Christianity. Even though Vasco da Gama had trouble with the Moors on his voyage, he did encounter people who seemed to be Christians in India.
These people were discovered in Malindi, they were thought to be Indian Christians because they were shown a picture of Mary holding Jesus in her arms and when they saw it they “came to say their prayers in front of it, bringing offerings of cloves, pepper, and other things.” (Ravenstein, 44-45).
The discovery of these Indian Christians was significant because their friendliness to Vasco da Gama and his men helped improve their voyage significantly. For example, at one point, their voyage could not continue because a pilot was required and the King had given them one of his own Christian pilots. Although trade was improved by the religious understanding of the natives, peace was also acquired through the conversion of the natives to Christianity. This is seen in Magellan’s voyage, during which they stopped in Mazzaua and interacted with the Moors.
When the captain prayed to God, the natives were intrigued and wanted to learn about Christianity. The captain proceeded to teach them about the Christian faith and the natives urgently wanted to convert, despite having followed a completely different religion of their ancestors for over 200 years. They even “begged the captain to leave them with two men, or at least one, to teach them and unfold the Christian faith.” (Pigafetta, 77). The conversion of the people of Mazzaua was beneficial for trade, the captain received large quantities of rice, goats, swine, and gave the natives glass and robes. However, this conversion was more significant for establishing perpetual peace between the prince of Mazzaua and the king of Spain (Pigafetta, 78).
Additionally, the conversion of the natives prevented conflict and unnecessary violence. An example of a religious encounter where understanding was significant is Lodovico di Varthema’s encounter with the natives of Calicut. When Varthema discovered Calicut he learned that the king was a pagan and that he worshiped the devil. According to the king’s beliefs, the devil did not just punish bad people however, he would do good things for those who act properly. Although this seems contrary to Christian beliefs, the king still recognized “a God who has created the heaven and the earth and all the world” (Varthema, 55).
Although the king and people of Calicut were not Christian and their religion contradicted Christianity, their religious practices did not make things hostile for Varthema and his men or seem to cause any significant problems. Another important aspect of discovery in Maritime Asia was the trade networks that had been established. This is an important aspect because it affected the success of European trade with the natives. For example in Cambay, Tomè Pires notes that the people were like “Italians in their knowledge of and dealings in merchandise.” (Pires, 41).
Here it was nearly impossible to get a good trade or take advantage of a bad trade as some Europeans did in the Caribbean and South America. Additionally, trade was made more difficult because it would take place between people based on where they were from. Pires stated that people of Aden would trade “quantities of gold and silver and horses” to people of Malacca. In exchange for these goods, the people of Malacca would give them “cloves, nutmeg, mace, silks, and porcelain.” (Pires, 43). Additionally, in this trading network in Cambay, merchants from Malacca got priority over everyone else. This was because trade from this nation was important to keep the trade alive in Cambay since the trading value of the goods from Malacca was high and every other nation that traded in Cambay focused mainly on the goods from Malacca.
Another major trading route was discovered in Moçambique by Vasco da Gama and his men. This island was extremely wealthy and as a result, this made trade easier for Vasco de Gama and his men. Here they meet Moors who had underestimated the value of expensive goods in their possession. These Moors had an abundance of silver, gold, pepper, ginger, clove, jewels, pearls, and rubies and they were willing to give them up for almost nothing. In fact, when Vasco de Gama and his men attempted to buy and trade for these goods, they were able to acquire them easily. This was because, in this trading route, these “precious stones, pearls, and spices were so plentiful that there was no need to purchase them as they could be collected in baskets.” (Ravenstein, 23).
Additionally, trade was made easier in this trading route because the natives were not exclusively Moors. In fact, Ravenstein notes that in the cities along the coast, half the population that did not consist of Moors consisted of Christians. One of the most significant trading routes was the spice islands discovered by the men on Magellan’s voyage. The discovery of the spice islands known as Molucca was significant because these islands had the perfect climate to grow the spices and that climate was exclusive to the Moluccan islands. In addition to the spices, the Moluccan islands were significant because they had many other resources such as “rice, goats, geese, poultry, coconuts, figs almonds, oranges, and sugar.” (Pigafetta, 128).
There was one problem the captain and his men faced in this trading route of the Moluccan islands, however these islands were partially inhabited by the Moors. As a result, there was conflict when the captain attempted to trade with the Sultan for the spices. However, the Sultan did ignore the Moors and do some trade with them since he wanted some of the captain’s goods. Due to the various ways that the Europeans were treated by the natives some places were vastly more appealing to the European explorers. One place that was heavily appealing to the Europeans was Mazzua.
This island was more appealing to the explorers on Magellan’s voyage because the people were eager to convert to Christianity. Their acceptance of the Christian faith lead to peace and made exploration easier for the Europeans. Unlike their experiences on other islands with less friendly Moors who wanted to make sure the Kings of the islands would refuse trade and who wanted to murder the Europeans, the converted people were happy to trade and establish permanent peace between themselves and the Spanish crown.
Another location that was more appealing to the European explorers was Moçambique. This island was very appealing to Vasco de Gama and his men because there was an abundance of valuable goods that they wanted to trade for and the natives did not seem too conservative or demanding when they traded. Additionally, about half the natives were not Moors on the island of Moçambique. Therefore, this made trade easier due to the fact that this significant religious barrier between them was nonexistent.
Additionally, they liked this island because the natives seemed to realize the value of their goods such as gold and ginger but since there was so much of it they didn’t mind trading for less expensive goods. In conclusion, the understanding of the native religions, expansion of the Christian faith, and discovery of the trading routes in place were significant to the Age of Discovery since they lead the Europeans to find the best trading routes and islands in Maritime Asia. Additionally, they were significant since they allowed the Europeans to expand the wealth of their nations and promote peace with the natives and kings of some of the islands.
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