Between 600-1400 C. E., a huge number of states participated in trade via the Indian Ocean. All the way from the eastern coast of Africa to the great empire of China, nations were hopping onto the maritime trade bandwagon to acquire the vast number of valuable resources found in the various lands on the Indian Ocean. The overland Silk Roads were likewise extensive and influential during this time period. Despite the similarities, these overland routes did not foster as much direct interaction and exchange of cultural ideas among the participants along the route as did Indian Ocean trading. This dichotomy was brought about by the fact that fast transportation and a peaceful political climate was bestowed upon the Indian Ocean trade arena, while these factors were not necessarily present in the states participating in overland Eurasian trade.
Trade was very cooperative in the Indian Ocean arena. As no government controlled all the lands Indian Ocean trade reached, the states participating in the trade relied very much on one another. This mood of cooperation was kept alive and thriving throughout the time period because no state existed that was strong enough to conquer all the lands of Indian Ocean trade, ranging from Africa to China. This, in combination with the fact that most areas participating in the trade possessed valuable resources that most of the other areas desired, such as gold coming from Africa, pepper originating in India, and other spices from the islands of southeast Asia, motivated governments to preserve peace in the Indian Ocean, lest they be cut off from some precious import.
The Silk Roads and Mongol overland trade routes, though, did not possess the same dynamic as Indian Ocean trade. These trade routes, which began in China and terminated in Eastern Europe, saw China being the primary exporter of goods, primarily silk and porcelain. Europe, on the other hand, possessed no resources that China and the lands in between greatly desired. Intermediary regions also did not have equally valuable exports as China. In this way, the various states involved in this trade did not have utter reliance on each region for distinct imports, China being the only extremely indispensable member of overland Eurasian trade. Thus, overland Eurasian trade did not demand the same peaceful cooperation that the Indian Ocean trade arena did. The lack of need for peaceful interaction among the states concerned with overland Eurasian trade made conflict between these areas possible, slowing the flow of ideas across the trade routes. This flow was unhindered by conflict in the Indian Ocean, resulting in a greater influence in the Indian Ocean trade arena.
The speed of transportation in these two trade arenas also affected their influence, and thus drives for interaction. Overland trade requires pack animals, which require an investment in the food they require and have a biological limit concerning how far they can travel in a given amount of time. Ships, on the other hand, do not require food and do not have any limits on how far they can travel, given the winds are good. Overland trade routes in Eurasia also forced merchants to traverse vast distances, sometimes surmounting mountain ranges and deserts. The Indian Ocean did not provide such geographical obstacles, though. The Monsoons, or seasonal winds, provided strong propulsion to the technologically advanced ships of the day, like the junk from China and the dhow from the western Indian Ocean.
The influence of these trade arenas can be compared by observing the spread of ideas and other aspects of culture, along with technology due to the trade routes. Islam is a perfect example of a cultural revolution vitalized by Indian Ocean trade. Muslims could be found during the time period all along the Indian Ocean, all the way from western Africa to the islands around Java, Sumatra, and Borneo. Islam became a prominent force in India. Though the overland…