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Indian Ocean transoceanic migration, 16th–19th century

Migration A–Z

I

  1. Richard B. Allen

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm294

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Allen, R. B. 2013. Indian Ocean transoceanic migration, 16th–19th century. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

Abstract

The movement of millions of slave, forced, and free laborers was the most important feature of transoceanic migration in the Indian Ocean world between 1500 and 1900. As the centuries-old traffic in slaves from eastern Africa to the Middle East (especially Arabia and the Persian Gulf) and India, and from India to the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia attests, long-distance labor migration was well established in this region long before 1500. Information on these early slave trades remains sketchy, but the scale of this activity is suggested by estimates that 1.6 million Africans, or an average of 2,000 slaves each year, were exported from the Red Sea coast between 800 and 1600 by Arab and Muslim merchants while another 800,000 Africans, or an average of 1,000 slaves each year, were exported by Arab, Muslim, and Swahili merchants from East Africa during the same period (Lovejoy 2000: 25–26). The arrival of Europeans in the Indian Ocean at the beginning of the 16th century and the subsequent establishment of British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese commercial emporia and colonies in this region generated additional demand for African and Asian chattel labor. Satisfying this demand resulted in the creation by the late 18th century of increasingly integrated networks of coerced and free migrant labor that reached both across and beyond the Indian Ocean.

Keywords:

  • economics;
  • labor;
  • political economy;
  • slavery;
  • Asia