By the end of the next year, it had spread throughout Britain and into Scandinavia. The population of Europe was reduced by one third. The enormity of this calamity can be clearly grasped by comparing it with the death rate of soldiers in the World War TWO. Even in the totally defeated nations of Japan and Germany, the death rate of soldiers in the regular army was about 20%. A death rate of one third of the whole population would result in a situation verging on complete panic. For the next 150 years, population growth in Europe was stagnant, labor was insufficient and the direct management of feudal domains proved difficult, resulting in the breakdown of the feudal system.
According to Professor Dols, (Michael Walters, 1942_), an expert on Middle Eastern history, one third of the population of the Middle East also died of plague in the fourteenth century. The American historian MacNiell??, a reputed expert on the history of the bubonic plague, has argued that the Black Death originated with the Mongol invasion of Yunnan Province, where Mongol soldiers became infected with this endemic disease. The population of China, estimated to be about 123 million around 1200, had plunged by almost one half to an estimated 65 million by 1400. During a period of just two years in 1353_54 shortly before the final overthrow of the Mongol Empire in 1368, the Black Death is reported to have been particularly rampant throughout China, killing about two-thirds of the population.
Although the facts are uncertain due to the lack of written records, the Japanese pirates are said to have been active from the middle of the fourteenth century. They infested the seas every year from 1351 and their raids became more intense with each year. The fact that they seized people and food suggests and labor and food were in short supply in Japan as they were in Europe.
The whole of the Eurasian continent thus faced an enormous crisis in the mid-fourteenth century. To escape from the deadly plague, people needed medicine, and the medicines believed to be most effective were the pepper and spices produced in Southeast Asia. The Merchant of Prato by Iris Oringo, a document describing everyday life in the Tuscan region of mediaeval Italy based on some 150,000 letters, contains the following description of the medicines used from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the fifteenth century: _By far the most common items on the bills of an apothecary in Florence were spices of various types_saffron, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and quassia. Of these, orders for saffron and pepper were the most common, and the highest priced. This is because these included pills for the plague._ A century later, in 1621, the Englishman Thomas Mann?? wrote, _Spices maintain health and because they cure diseases there was tremendous demand for them everywhere and at all times._
Thus various seafaring peoples at both extremes of the Eurasian continent, from western Europe to Japan, sought and acquired medicines from the islands of Southeast Asia. Maritime Asia consequently became a region of dynamic exchange among these peoples. This included Europeans and Japanese, who became the main protagonists in the new age that emerged against the backdrop of the oceans of Asia.
Modern Europe and Japan Develop through Trade with Maritime Asia
The American continent came to play an important part in world history after its discovery by Christopher Columbus, but Southeast Asia already exerted a profound influence on the surrounding regions before the arrival of the Europeans. In his Suma Oriental que trata do Maar Roxo ere os Chins, the merchant adventurer Tom_Pires marveled at the vast variety of peoples who engaged in trade in Malacca, Moors from Cairo, Mecca, Aden, Abyssinians, men of Kilwa, Malindi, Ormuz, Parsees, Rumes, Turks, Turkomans, Christian Armenians, Gujaratees, men of Chaul, Dabhol, Goa, of the Kingdom of Deccan, Malabars and Klings, merchants from Orissa, Ceylon, Bengal, : Arakan, Pegu, Siameser, men of Kedah, Malays, men of Pahang, Patani, Cambodia, Champa, Cochin China, Chinese, Lequeos, men of Brunei, Lu_es, men of Tamjompura, Laue, Banka, Linga (they have a thousand other islands), Moluccas, Banka, Bima, Timor, Madura, Java, Sunda, Palembang, Jambi, Tongkal, Indragiri, Kappata, Menangkabau, Siak, Arqua (Arcat?), Aru, Bata, country of the Tomjano, Pase, Pedir, Maldives.