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The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, Second Edition
Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, David Northrup
History WIRED

Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean, 1500-1750


The Islamic World, 1500

The World, 1500-1800
This site's map places the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires in a global context.  The map also contains several hyper links for obtaining further information about certain kingdoms.

Maps of the Islamic World
This site offers several maps relating to the Ottoman and Safavid Empires.

The Ottoman Empire, 1600

The Ottoman Empire
This map illustrates the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire from the fourteenth through the twentieth centuries.

Expansion of the Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire Expansion Map

Arab Conquests
This map allows you to compare the Ottoman Empire with the borders of the older Arab Caliphate.

The Ottoman Empire and Afro-Eurasian Trade Routes
This map places the Ottoman Empire within the context of the older Afro-Eurasian trading system that existed before European explorers opened up direct trade from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

The Ottoman and Safavid Empires, 1600

The Mughal Empire at Akbar's Death, 1605

The Mughal Empire

The Mughal Dynasty
Click on "Map" in the top left-hand corner.

Indian Ocean Trade Routes, 1500

The Portuguese Maritime Empire in Asia

The Portuguese in the Moluccas and in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Modern Day Indonesia

The VOC's Routes to Asia
This map shows the sea routes from Holland to the VOC's holdings in Asia.  It also uses Shockwave technology that allows you to zoom in to specific areas.

The Spread of Islam in Southeast Asia

The Malacca Sultanate, 1500  


The Islamic World to 1600: The Rise of Great Islamic Empires
This excellent site contains, among many other visuals, numerous images from the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires.

Islamic Art: Late Islamic Art
This comprehensive site contains many images from the Ottoman and Safavid periods.

The Ottoman Khalifa
This comprehensive site contains numerous images of Ottoman soldiers, including Janissaries, as well as sultans.  Click on "Khalifa" for images of the sultans.

Süleymaniye Mosque
Study images of this famous mosque in Istanbul.  Quicktime technology allows for several panoramic views.

The Topkapi Museum
Tour the remains of this famous Istanbul palace build by the Ottomans. Safavid Dynasty
This site contains several images of art from this period in Iranian history.

Persian Art through the Centuries: The Safavid Dynasty
This site contains numerous images of Safavid artwork.

Welcome to Isfahan!
Take a virtual tour of the capital of the Safavid Dynasty in Iran.

Persian Carpets

Persian Miniature Paintings

Persian Gardens Homepage

Mughal Architecture

Mughal Gallery
View several images relating to Mughal architecture.

Taj Mahal
This site contains one image and two drawing plans of one of the world's most famous buildings, which was constructed during the Mughal Empire.

The VOC: A Seventeenth Century Dutch Trading Giant
This site contains a nice essay as well as numerous images relating to the VOC's activities in the Indian Ocean and East Asia.

The VOC Ship Batavia
This site contains images and artifacts from this eighteenth-century Dutch sailing ship.

Tranquebar: Danish East India
Observe several historical illustrations of this Danish trading factory in India.

Dutch Malacca
This site contains several images and a useful demographic chart relating to Dutch control of this famous Southeast Asian port.

City of Batavia
View many historical illustrations of this city founded by the Dutch, which is now Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.  

Activity One:

Like the emerging nation-states of Europe, during the sixteenth century the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires were all new, dynamic, and expansive domains.  Go to The World, 1500-1800 and compare and contrast the geographical scale and scope of the European nation-states with the extent of these Islamic empires.  Don't forget to include the Europeans' overseas possessions.  All three Islamic empires were more multiethnic and multireligious than the European nation-states.  Although this situation posed specific problems for the Islamic central governments, during most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the rulers of all three empires were nevertheless able to create strong central governments that promoted stability and order.  In the process of doing so, they each developed innovative and unique governing styles.

Begin exploring the Ottoman style of government by studying The Ottoman Empire, 1600, which shows the scale and scope of this empire at its height of power in the seventeenth century. Notice that the empire spanned three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. Within its borders lived Turks, Arabs, Berbers, and Slavs, although none of these ethnic groups was predominant throughout the empire. Most subjects of the Ottoman sultans were Muslims, but there were also significant numbers of Jews and Christians, with Christians comprising the majority of the population in the empire's Southeast European provinces.  Next, go to The Ottomans: Origins and read the sections titled "The Ottoman State" and "The Structure of Government." According to this site, what role did the sultan play in governing the empire? (Consider both secular and religious matters.) What other groups exercised political power within the empire? Discuss the major principles that guided the Ottoman government and determine whether the goal was to enrich only Ottoman Turks or only wealthy landowners? To carry out the state's functions, Suleiman the Magnificent, who reigned from 1520 to 1566, developed an important legal code. Go to The Ottomans: Suleyman and read the introduction and sections entitled "Suleyman the Just" and "Suleyman the Lawgiver." What influence did the Islamic faith have on the laws of the empire? What is the Shari'ah? How does kanun differ from the Shari'ah? What other legal traditions does kanun reflect? After reviewing these sites and contemplating these questions, analyze your feelings about the Ottoman system of government and the laws it used to maintain order and stability among the empire's subjects.  You might want to go to Jewish History Sourcebook: Islam and the Jews: The Status of Jews and Christians in Muslim Lands, 1772 CE to learn what the Shari'ah says about nonbelievers. (You only need to read the section entitled "The Answer.")

The Safavid Empire was less ethnically diverse than the Ottoman Empire. Although a majority of the people in the kingdom were Iranians, there were also some Arabs, Turks, and Armenians. The empire's rulers, like the Ottoman rulers, were Muslim, yet the Safavid Empire used religion differently to promote order and stability within its realm. For more information, go to a site on the Safavid Dynasty and read the section entitled "1501 - 1524 Shah Ismail I." According to this site, Shah Ismail I succeeded in establishing religious unity among most of his subjects by encouraging their conversion to the Shi'a sect of Islam. To learn more about Shi'ism, go to Shi'ism and then read the section entitled "Isma'il" at Safavids. How, according to this site, did Shi'ite Islam promote the authority of the Safavid Empire and strengthen loyalty to the state? What has been its legacy in this region of the world? What other traditions did the Safavid Empire use to buttress its authority?

The Mughal Empire faced a different challenge than either the Ottoman or the Safavid Empire did. Like the other two, the Mughals ruled over a vast territory that included ethnically diverse people, yet they were both a religious and an ethnic minority group within their own kingdom. The Mughals were Muslim Turks from Central Asia whereas the majority of the Indians whom they ruled were Hindu or members of other religions. This situation forced the Mughal rulers to establish a different style of government than that used by either of their counterparts. To investigate the Mughal government, go to The Mughals: Akbar, which focuses on the innovations of Akbar, the Mughal ruler of India from 1556 to 1605. According to this site, there were many similarities between Akbar's government and that of the Ottomans. What were these similarities? On the other hand, Akbar's rule differed from those of the Ottomans and Safavids in the area of religion. Analyze his policies toward the state and Islam and discuss the ones that he pursued to promote harmony between his Muslim and Hindu subjects. How did these policies differ from those of the Safavids and Ottomans? Now go to The Mughal Empire. Read this brief essay, paying close attention to the reign of one of Akbar's successors, Aurangzeb (1658-1707). How did Aurangzeb's government differ from Akbar's? What impact did these differences have on Mughal authority in India?

After completing these exercises, discuss the similarities and differences of the governing styles of these three Islamic empires.  How do they compare with the governing styles of the Western European nation-states of the time?  You might want to review Chapter 18, The Transformation of Europe, 1500-1750 in Bulliet, et al., The Earth and Its Peoples (Second Edition).  Also, refer to the first web activity for Chapter 18. Did the European or the Islamic governments promote more religious tolerance?  Which had the strongest and most just legal systems?

Activity Two:

As the first activity demonstrates, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires were among the world's most powerful and enlightened kingdoms.  It was not preordained that they would lose power relative to the Europeans by the middle of the eighteenth century.  Rather, the Islamic empires emerged and evolved at a time when the world economy was being reshaped by European capitalism.  To understand the nature of commerce during the early sixteenth century, study the Map of Marco Polo's Asia.  This map shows the travel routes of the Polo family, who were thirteenth-century Venetian merchants.  The paths they had taken as they traveled across the Eurasian continent were well-worn and established trade routes at the time; these roads and sea lanes were all still thriving with commerce at the beginning of the sixteenth century.  Next, review Hyperhistory: Map of the World 1500-1800.  Then go back to Map of Marco Polo's Asia and try to identify the areas controlled by the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals.  Notice how the Islamic empires all controlled vital links in this Eurasian trading system.  All three were at the center of a vast trading network that connected Western Europe, the Indian Ocean world, and China, providing trade routes for manufactured goods, spices, and decorative art.  All three of these empires benefited from this trade, whether by exporting goods or by taxing the commerce passing through their borders.  During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, new players joined this trading system - European joint-stock companies.  You might want to look at the first web activity for Chapter 20, The Atlantic System and Africa, 1500-1800, to review European capitalism's dynamic new creation.  To gain insight into the role these institutions played in the Indian Ocean trade, read the brief essays at East India Company.  When were these joint-stock companies formed, and what was their purpose?  What support did they have from their governments?  Did they automatically seize control and dominate commerce in the Indian Ocean?  The arrival of the joint-stock companies did not automatically alter the commercial status quo in the Indian Ocean, but their long-term impact was devastating to the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires.  To understand the reasons behind this development, go to The Ottoman Empire and Afro Eurasian Trade Routes.  This map shows the trade routes that ran through the Ottoman Empire.  As you can tell, this empire controlled most of the trade between Europe and the Indian Ocean region before the emergence of the strong European joint-stock companies.  Now review the map at The Dutch East India Company, which shows the new, direct ocean-based routes that the European joint-stock companies were able to use after 1498.  As these entities grew stronger and directed more trade from the Indian Ocean region to Europe via this ocean-based route, what was the effect on the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals?  What impact do you think these changes had on state revenue and wealth in both the Islamic Empires and the European nation-states?  What were the advantages and disadvantages of being a land empire, as the Islamic empires were, as opposed to being a maritime empire, as the Europeans nation-states were?

Activity Three:

The reconfiguration of the global economy analyzed in activity two did not only affect the Islamic powers of South and Southwest Asia; it also greatly influenced the Indian Ocean world.  For a map of the area and the trade routes that crisscrossed the ocean, see Indian Ocean Trade Routes, 1500 then go to PORTUGAL'S ECUMENICAL TRADE ZONE and The Sea Route to Indian and the Red Sea Trade  (only read the first section at the second site for now).  Describe the trading system that existed in the Indian Ocean at the time of the arrival of the Portuguese.  Who participated in the trading, and what kinds of goods were being transferred across the area?  What kinds of rules and conventions governed this vast trading zone?  What religions were practiced, and which were dominant?  After 1500, the arrival of the Portuguese and the later entry of other European nation-states began to alter the status quo.  Go to PORTUGAL'S ENTRY INTO THE INDIAN OCEAN TRADE COMMUNITY.  Also, finish reading the essay at The Sea Route to Indian and the Red Sea Trade up to "Initial Contacts with China and Japan.  How did the Portuguese alter the balance of power in the Indian Ocean?  Describe the maritime empire that they established there.  What technological advantages and cultural values allowed them to do this?  How different was the Indian Ocean world after the arrival of the Portuguese?  Who participated in trade, and what items were bartered back and forth?  What religions were present, and which were dominant?  What kinds of rules and conventions governed this vast trading zone?  The Portuguese were essentially a new player in the Indian Ocean trade, but they did not completely alter the system.  Soon other Europeans, notably the Dutch and the English, arrived.  For the Dutch influence, see History of Indonesia: The Beginning of Dutch Colonialism (read only this section). For the English influence, see From Trade to Colonization: Historic Dynamics of the East India Companies.  How did the Dutch and English maritime empires in the Indian Ocean differ from that of the Portuguese?  (Hint: Think in terms of the territory controlled and of who governed these empires.)  How did the Dutch and the English alter the Indian Ocean region's economy?  How did they use their power to affect the situation, and what changes did they bring about?  Describe the Indian Ocean world of 1750 and compare it to the same region in 1500.  What major powers functioned there, and what items were traded?  What kinds of rules and conventions governed the vast trading zone?  What religions were present, and which were dominant? (See The Islamic World to 1600: Southeast Asia for clues.)  As you can now tell, the main changes that the Europeans made to the Indian Ocean world were in the rules and conventions that governed this trading zone.  Culturally and economically, much remained the same.

Activity Four:

The changes that occurred during this period of history in Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean still affect the world today.  For example, go to The Islamic World to 1600: The Islamification of Bosnia and U.S. News and World Report: Neighborly bloodshed, Trouble in the islands formerly known as Spice.  Describe the nature of these contemporary conflicts and explain their historical roots.  Both Bosnia and the Moluccas in many ways represent the frontiers of Islam and Christianity that date back to the period covered in this chapter.  Can you trace any of today's other religious or ethnic conflicts back to this era in world history?  Go to U.S. News and World Report: Joy in the Jungle, at last: After years of war, East Timor finally may win autonomy. and Serbia gives Europe one more nightmare for some suggestions.