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India, Russia and the Eighteenth-Century Transformation of the Central Asian Caravan Trade

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This work challenges the widely accepted notion that eighteenth-century Central Asia was economically isolated and culturally stagnant. The author augments recent scholarly achievements with research in primary sources to demonstrate that, throughout the eighteenth century, Central Asia continued to function as an important conduit for overland Eurasian commerce. Available evidence suggests that Central Asia's role in Eurasian commerce during this period was, indeed, transformed by changing Eurasian commercial dynamics. This work argues, however, that rather than being a product of the European Companies' domination of commercial activities in the Indian Ocean, these transformations stemmed from Russia's emergence as an important economic and military power in the region and a corresponding increase in Russian demand for Indian cotton and textiles, largely acquired through the mediation of Central Asian caravan merchants. Whereas these transformations may have resulted in economic decline for some parts of Central Asia, they may also be attributed with intensifying economic activity in other, previously peripheral areas.


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