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Pepper Politics

Iris Macfarlane describes how the Malabar coast in western India was the earliest scene of European sea-borne trade.

A depiction of Calicut, India published in 1572 dur-–-ing Portugal's control of the pepper tradeWhen Vasco da Gama landed on the coast of Malabar in 1498, it was a splendid moment of satisfaction for him; but to the Indians his was just one more name on the list of traders who wanted their pepper and pearls, their cloth, cinnamon and areka nut. India’s enormous coastline, apparently an asset, was in fact the reason she was over-run, coerced and colonized, because the rulers along it depended for most of their revenue on customs duties at their ports.

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