One classic example of this kind of behavior by the state is the contrast between China and Portugal in 15 th and 16 th century. Portugal discovered the route to Asia. Though not so long before that, the Chinese were the major maritime powers of the medieval world up to the early 15 th century. But then in the 15 th century, china disappeared from the sea whereas Portugal developed its knowledge of seas routes progressively. Why this happened? Because of the difference in the behavior of the states in the two countries. Portugal is a small country on the South-Western fringe of Europe. It’s partly a Mediterranean country. It also has foot hall on the Atlantic Ocean. The great item of trade in medieval Europe was spices which came largely from India and Indonesia. It was required for preservation of food before refrigeration. So spices were in great demand in medieval Europe. Trade in spices was monopolized by the city state of Venice which imported spices through Egypt and Ceria over land. In the middle of the 15 th century Turks occupied Constantinople i.e. modern day Istanbul and cut off the European trade routes which brought spices. Prices of spices in Europe sky rocketed. Portuguese realized that there are huge fortunes to be made if an alternative trade route was discovered that would bring spices to Europe. It was important for Portugal because it is a poor country with very little cultivable land. Most of its income came from sea, fishing, exporting forest products, wine etc. Portugal being on the
south western extremity of Europe were the closest to the African coast. The govt. of Portugal supported the search operations as not much revenue can be generated from the land. The landed aristocracy everywhere over Europe did not want to pay taxes. The govt. found an alternative source of income in traders and merchants and the sea routes. It was in its interest to encourage maritime ventures. So the king set up schools to give training in marine technology. Why did EU discover China & not other way round? The Chinese were the major maritime powers of the medieval world up to the early 15 th century. For China the concern was not sea but protection of its northern land borders against the invaders of central Asia like Mongolia. Nomadic tribes of central Asia lived in very dry and inhospitable regions and were attracted to rich fertile agricultural land of central and south China and constantly attempted to break into territory of China. To prevent this, they built the Great wall of China which was defended by a northern army. This great wall of china extended into the region which was a desert/ semi desert. The army had to be supplied from agricultural regions far to the south. Therefore, the main problem of Chinese imperial state was to maintain the army at the northern border and it had to ensure a bureaucratic system that would extract the agricultural surplus of central and south china and convey it to northern army. Until 1430s main way of supplying the northern army was by sea. Balance of power in imperial China always rested with bureaucrats who were involved with land and with supplying the northern army. As long as these bureaucrats needed the sea in order to supply the northern
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