Although there were several continuities in trade between Africa and Eurasia from 300 to 1450 CE like the trade routes that were used, what was traded, and who participated in trade, there were several changes. Changes in trade include development of the Indian Ocean trade network around 800 CE, exchange of Islam during Arab invasions in the 8th century, and the creation of new kingdom and empires such as the Mali empire during the 13th century.
To begin, trade routes that African and Eurasian societies utilized changed as well as continued from 300 to 1450 CE. The Mediterranean Sea trade network continued from 300 to 1450 CE and was very prominent in North Africa, Middle East, and Europe. The Mediterranean Sea served as a popular route because of its position in Eurasia as it allowed easy access to Africa and the Southern Asia. Changes in trade routes included the sand roads, which allowed trade across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean. They opened trade with West Africa from Southern Europe and Northern Africa. As a result, West Africa became centralized and increasingly wealthy and became a new center of Eurasian and African exchange. The Indian Ocean developed as a popular trade network as well. Europeans wanted to be a part of this so that they could have access to eastern Africa’s rich resources. Monsoons were used for sea travel, which increased the scale of trade.
Beliefs were traded more as the caliphates, Mongolia, China, and Byzantium expanded and conquered lands and increased long-distance communication between them. Muslims began traveling by camel during the 8th century CE across the Sahara Desert to extract gold and other luxury items from Africa. This need created a relationship of tolerance between Islam and Africa that led to the integration of Muslims in not only the exchange of goods, but the inevitable exchange of beliefs as Muslims spread throughout Africa. Integration of Islam into African socieites especially in the north and east was not always a peaceful ordeal, but democratic relations between them were eventually formed because of this mutually beneficial situation. Africa could became a major part of trade and could advance with new technologies and systems of governing while the Islamic empire could use Africa’s rich deposits of natural resources to continue its vast and growing influence in Eurasia. There was much change in the trade routes that were used while the Mediterranean remained a powerful trade network for Africa and Eurasia.
In addition, the goods, technology, and beliefs that were traded continued and changed. From 300 CE to 1450 CE, luxury items like ivory, slaves, gold, horses, silk, and gems were all in demand. Ghana became the center of gold trade, which was exchanged for horses, cloth, and salt. Ivory and slaves were also exported from Africa. Bananas were one of Africa’s major products. The goods that were traded remained relatively constant. New technology including printing, gunpowder, the compass, camel saddles and stirrups, and improvements in ship design that allowed navigation using monsoons from eastern Asia went to Islamic empires thus spreading into Africa by way of Islamic merchants. Islam entered Africa, especially eastern Africa, as Muslims crossed the Sahara to trade. This change is reflected in Islamic empires and kingdoms like the Mali empire and many Swahili city-states that formed because of the integration of Muslims in commerce and every day trade. While material things like manufactured goods and agricultural produce were largely the same during the Post-Classical age, ideologies were exchanged as well.
Lastly, the people and groups of people who participated in trade continued and changed. In early times (300 CE), there were mostly hunters, gatherers, and fishers in Africa, which stimulated little to no trade with Eurasia. The scale of trade grew as a result of the appearance of large, collective groups of people in city-states, kingdoms, and empires including Kilwa, the Kingdom of Kongo, and the Mali empire. The pressures of conflicts between villages and districts required a formal government and division of ethnic loyalties into fewer large groups, which decided the major figures in trade with Eurasia. As more and more technologies became used in Eurasia, Africa’s contact with Eurasia increased its scale of trade tremendously.
Monsoons were used by Malay sailors to navigate waters quickly thus quickening the travel time between exchanges, stronger and more adaptable ships were made, and devices like the compass allowed faster travel by sea. So as these new trade routes were utilized, trade increased and brought new empires and peoples into Eurasia trade in Africa. There were continuities, however, in traders because Africa did not conquer Eurasian territories that would increase their participation and trade and would make a change in the loyalties of the people who trade, which made for stable conquest, so Africa changed as it was conquered, but Eurasia did not change so much because there was not as much war going on as there had been in the past.
Although there are several continuities in trade between 300 and 1450 CE in Eurasia like trade routes that were used, what was traded, and who participated in trade, there were several changes. These changes include development of the Indian Ocean trade network around 1000 CE, exchange of Islam, and new kingdom and empires in Eurasia.