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University of Louisville email@example.com Early modern overland Eurasian trade is an important issue that is quite frequently, and quite incorrectly, assumed to have fallen into decline with the rise of the European Companies. I'm therefore pleased to contribute to this important thread by adding a few observations to R. J. Barendse's very well informed reply to Jonathan Even-Zohar's inquiry, copied here: ----------------------------------------------------------------- I am doing research on diplomatic contacts between Russia and the Dutch republic in the 17th century (before Tsar Peter the Great) and there are some attempts by Dutch entrepreneurs to monopolise the Moscovian trade route to Persia and 'Bactria'. What must I read to understand more about these overland trade routes -- especially their volume and profitability? My main interest are these Dutch entrepreneurs, because they are the same people who organise a Levant Company to compete with Venetians. Also, what is the importance of the Russian overland trade routes? ----------------------------------------------------------------- The original inquiry indicates a focus on Dutch entrepreneurs, but requests suggestions for further reading into issues relating to the importance of the overland routes between Russia and Persia, or Bactria. As 'Bactria' can be taken to mean southern Central Asia, much of Afghanistan and far northwestern South Asia, my suggestions will be broader in scope. First off, although it's comparatively well known and he's not Dutch, I'll recommend the account of the earlier English entrepreneur Anthony Jenkinson. Motivated by the rise of the Estado da India to find an alternate route to the Indian Ocean, in the mid-sixteenth century Jenkinson traveled through Russia southward to Bukhara and Persia. The volume cited here also includes a couple of other interesting accounts from the same period. Jenkinson, Anthony. Early Voyages and Travels to Russia and PersiaS Edited by E. Delmar Morgan and C. H. Coote. Hakluyt Society Publications. 2 vols. 1st ser., nos 72-73. London, 1886. If Jenkinson is of interest, then you might also take a look at: Willan, T. S. The Early History of the Russia Company, 1553-1603. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956. Barendse has given references to a number of excellent sources that will provide a good introduction to Russia's 'Asia trade.' Here's just a few more that should not be overlooked: Baikova, N. B. Rol' Srednei Azii v russko-indiiskikh torgovikh sviaziakh. Tashkent: Nauka, 1964. Nizamutdinov, Il'ias. Iz istorii Sredneaziatsko-indiiskikh otnoshenii, (IX-XVIII vv.). Tashkent: Fan, 1969. Shkunov, V. N. 'Russko-indiiskaia torgovlia na Sredneaziatskikh rinkakh v kontse XVIII-nachale XIX v. (po materialam Rossiyskikh arkhivov).' Vostok, Afro-aziatskie obshchestva: istoriya i sovremennost' 3 (1997), pp. 94-101. Burton, Audrey. The Bukharans: a Dynastic, Diplomatic and Commercial History, 1550-1702. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. This impressively detailed study has much to say about Bukhara's commercial relationship with Russia during the seventeenth century, although, as the title suggests, it is from the Bukharan perspective. Barendse rightly notes that Astrakhan was an important entrepot for Russia's trade with Persia and, through Persia, with other Indian Ocean markets. During much of the seventeenth century, and into the eighteenth century, Astrakhan included a number of foreign merchant communities, including especially Bukharans, Persians, Armenians and Indians. Russian scholars have published a great cache of Russian archival records relating primarily to the Indian merchants in Astrakhan, but also to Indians in other towns and, to a lesser extent, to other foreign merchant groups. A selection of these have been translated to English by Surendra Gopal, although one should approach these translations with caution. Antonova, K. A., and N. M. Gol'dberg, eds. Russko-indiiskie otnosheniia v XVIII v., sbornik dokumentov. Moscow: Nauka, 1965. Antonova, K. A., N. M. Gol'dberg and T. D. Lavrentsova, eds. Russko-indiiskie otnosheniia v XVII v., sbornik dokumentov. Moscow: Nauka, 1958. Gopal, Surendra. Indians in Russia in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Calcutta: Naya Prokash, 1988. From the middle of the eighteenth century, Russian commercial interests in Asia shifted from Astrakhan and the Caspian Sea further to the east, to the emerging 'Orenburg Line' of military-cum-trading forts (Orenburg, Omsk, Troitsk, etc.). One important, although unfortunately brief source that discusses the rise of Orenburg as a commercial outpost is: Shamansurova, A. Sh. 'Noviie danniie po istorii Afganistana (Orenburgskii Gosudarstvennii Arkhiv).' In M. G. Nikulin, ed., Ocherki po novoi istorii Afganistana. Tashkent: Fan, 1966, pp. 105-16. Barendse also mentions Stephen Dale's pioneering 1994 volume, Indian Merchants and Eurasian Trade, 1600-1750. He does not say on what grounds he disagrees with Dale's comments on Persia in general, but I would note that Oswal Banias were only one of a number of groups to identify themselves as Multanis, not because they were from that city but because it was the center of their commercial operations. Also, much of the capital that this extremely impressive commercial network brought back to India did indeed come from Russia, but even more came from outposts in Persia, Central Asia and elsewhere. Regarding these 'Multani' merchants and their Shikarpuri successors, there has been considerable advancement (and debate) since 1994. See especially: Markovits, Claude. The Global World of Indian Merchants, 1750-1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Levi, Scott. The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550-1900. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2002. For Multani operations in Isfahan, see Willem Floor, The Economy of Safavid Persia. Wiesbaden, 2001. Stephen Blake has also contributed to this discussion, although I'm afraid that I don't have the citation. For several decades one of the defining features of scholarship on early modern overland Eurasian trade has been a focus on its general decline. More recent scholarship has moved away from that thesis, and some insight into the trajectory of this debate as it relates to Russia can be found in the following sources. The last citation is my own effort to summarize the debate (as it stood in 1999) and suggest some potential avenues for further inquiry. Steensgaard, Niels. The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century: The East India Companies and the Decline of the Caravan Trade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. This deals more with the overland routes through Persia, but it's useful for your purpose as it frames the debate. Adshead, S. A. M. Central Asia in World History. London: Macmillan, 1993. Rossabi, Morris. 'The "Decline" of the Central Asian Caravan Trade.' In James D. Tracy, ed., The Rise of Merchant Empires, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 351-70. See also Steensgaard's later work, including especially: 'The route through Quandahar: the significance of the overland trade from Indiato the West in the seventeenth century.' In Sushil Chaudhury and Michel Morineau, eds, Merchants, Companies and Trade: Europe and Asia in the Early Modern Era, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 55-73. Levi, Scott. 'India, Russia and the Eighteenth-Century Transformation of the Central Asian Caravan Trade,' Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 42, 4 (November, 1999), pp. 519-48. So how important was this trade? I agree with Barendse that, in the seventeenth century, Russia's trade with Persia and Central Asia was not terribly important, but it became increasingly so as time went on. I would note that overland Eurasian trade in general was quite vibrant. Primary sources suggest that, in the seventeenth century, upwards of 100,000 horses were moved from the Central Asian steppe to Indian markets each year and caravans numbering several thousand camels regularly (several times a year) exported Indian cotton textiles to distant markets in the north and west, including those in Russia. Routes to China were also quite active, especially, in the eighteenth century, those routes that passed through the Farghana Valley and provided the economic basis for the emerging Khanate of Khoqand (1798-1876). Lastly, I'll note here as I have asserted elsewhere that, prior to the nineteenth century, Central Asia's cotton and cotton textile production was insufficient even to satisfy the needs of the regional population. Central Asian markets were stocked with Indian cotton cloth even from the Soghdian era and probably before; the sources report only a handful of specialty varieties of cotton cloth (e.g. cotton thread woven together with silk) that were exported. Thus, until the mid-nineteenth century, the vast majority of the cotton brought to Russia from Central Asia very likely originated in India and were a part of a well-established transit trade. I address this in some detail in my own volume, cited above, and also direct anyone who's interested in additional reading to: Liusternik, E. Ia. Russko-indiiskie ekonomicheskie nauchnie i kul'turnie sviazi v XIX v. Moscow: Nauka, 1966.