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Winds of Change and Links of Continuity: A Study on the Merchant Groups of Kerala and the Channels of their Trade, 1000-1800

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The diverse merchant groups that participated in maritime trade emanating from the various exchange centers of Kerala during this period acted within the framework of certain socioeconomic conditions that ensured a remarkable degree of continuity as far as their organizational arrangements and distribution networks were concerned.

Familiarization with frequent socio-political changes in the maritime exchange centers of Kerala, which were then exposed to frequent expansionist moves of inland rulers in the initial phase and of European commercial powers in the later periods, gave a great amount of adaptability to the different mercantile groups involved in its maritime trade, capacitating them to develop multiple survival strategies. Different segments of traders, who were unified by the commonality of religion, as in the case of Muslim merchants, developed diverse but better strategies to overcome Portuguese control systems as well as to ensure continuity in trade. Différents groupes marchands étaient engagés, durant cette période, dans le commerce maritime entre les divers centres d'échanges du Kerala. Ils menaient leurs activités dans un cadre où certaines conditions socio-économiques assuraient à leurs réseaux d'organisation et de distribution un remarquable degré de continuité. Avec l'expérience acquise face aux changements fréquents intervenus dans les échanges maritimes entre les divers centres du Kerala à la suite des mouvements d'expansion des souverains de l'intérieur dans un premier temps, et des puissances européennes par la suite, ils surent s'adapter et développer de multiples stratégies de survie face aux divers groupes de marchands impliqués dans le commerce maritime. Unis par une religion commune, tels les marchands musulmans, ils surent par exemple contourner le contrôle mis en place par les Portugais, et garantir la continuité de leurs activités commerciales.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


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