Ibn Batuta travelled the new Asian world that emerged in the Mongols’
wake. Born in Tangier, in Morocco, he started his journey in 1325,
overland to Mecca, across Persia, and via Samarkand to Delhi. He lived at
the sultan’s court in Delhi for eight years and later served the sultan as an
emissary to China, and returned by sea via Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Kerala,
Goa, and Gujarat, before heading back to Morocco. His astute
observations often concern commercial conditions. In Turkestan, he found
that “horses ... are very numerous and the price of them is negligible.” He
found Bengal to be “a vast country, abounding in rice and nowhere in the
world have I seen any land where prices are lower than there.” On the road
from Goa to Quilon, he wrote, “I have never seen a safer road than this,
for they put to death anyone who steals a single nut, and if any fruit falls,
no one picks it up but the owner.”
Importance of Overseas Connections to Inland Societies The coast and
its overseas connections became increasingly important for people living in
the inland interior. Trends elsewhere also made Indian Ocean ports more
important for inland societies. Warriors needed horses imported by sea.
Exports became more numerous as farmers pushed agriculture into the
interior uplands, where more diverse productive localities entered trading
systems strung along rivers leading to and from the sea. Upland forests sent
spices, timber, honey, fruits, elephants and many other valuable commodities
to the coast, in return for rice, meat, tools and other goods that traveled
coastal trade routes. In this context, farmers began specialising in growing
cotton that thrives in black volcanic soil. By 1500, cotton and silk textile
manufacturing, trade and consumption involved many specialists: growers,
spinners, weavers, dyers, transporters, bankers, wholesalers and retailers.
Consumers of cloth were concentrated initially in urban centres, where urban
traders, bankers, wholesalers and weavers became critical links in complex
chains of commercial transactions that expanded the scale of manufacturing
and stretched along the coast and out to sea.
Increase in Coins There was an increase in the number of coins during the
period of the Delhi Sultans, compared to the previous period, indicating the
growth in commercial transactions.