Early Colonial Society : Logistics of the India Trade

Early expeditions to India respectively around the world greatly underestimated the distances to be covered and the provisions necessary. Magellan's crew hardly made it across the South Pacific.
The passage to India took several months, and sailors were limited to a diet of biscuits (double-naked bread), cheese, water complemented with rum and perhaps fish. The lack of vitamins over a longer period of time caused a disease called scurvy.
During the earlier phase of the European India trade, the Portuguese would stop over at islands, to resupply themselves with potable water, and, if they were lucky, such as on Mauritius, with fresh meat (the Dodo birds), which they eventually brought to extinction. European navigators then dropped goats and other animals on islands, which multiplies naturally and provided a meat supply for bypassing ships.
Control over strategic supply stations was critical for expeditions to and from India. The first Dutch expedition to the East Indies (bioxnldisc.html#Houtman">Houtman) was prevented by the Portuguese from taking up fresh water at St. Helena and barely made it home.
The Dutch established a colony on Mauritius (1598), as their logistical station en route to India. In 1652 the V.O.C. established a colony at the Cape of Good Hope, where Dutch farmers were settled (Boers); Mauritius was given up.
The British established a colony on St. Helena, the French on Reunion (1642, Ile de France) as their main logistical stopover between India and Europe.

The Tragedy of the Dodo, by David Reilly
Vitamin C and Scurvy, by Robert J. Huskey
DOCUMENTS Books on Scurvy 1639-1877, from Vanderbilt Medical Center

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 27th 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz