Essay about The History of Ivory Trade

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The History of Ivory Trade


Ivory’s appeal to the upper-classes as a symbol of affluence and its timeless style has lured people to the tusks since as far back as the ancient Egyptians around the year 3000BC. Since the Egyptians, every civilization with a significant upper class population has sought ivory and been willing to pay a premium price for it. The most expensive and most sought after was the ivory of East Africa where it was agreed that the ivory was, without a doubt, the best in the world.

For a long time Asian ivory was used, because it was much easier to obtain, though the ivory was harder to shape, more likely to break, and less attractive. The Asian ivory came from tusks of elephants that were largely different
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These trading lines and the merchants who traveled them were, for the most part, eastern, being either of Indian Arabian or Asian heritage. The trend of eastern domination of the ivory market continued until Europe’s industrialization and the subsequent appearance of excess capital and a firm upper class.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans who made a significant effort to tap into the ivory trade. But before they could seize control of the trade, they would have to take it from the Umani Arabs. Both sides received economic backing from all around the world. The Portuguese were supported by the France, India, and Brazil, while the Arabs were supported by England, America and also India. As the two sides competed back and forth Europe was flooded with ivory, but Europe kept begging for more. There was so much ivory that by 1800 the ivory trade equaled the gold trade. Between the years 1792-1875 England saw its ivory imports rise from 131 tons in 1792 to 813 tons in 1875. Of all the ivory rushing into Europe more than seventy percent was coming from East Africa. As the Portuguese and Umani Arabs continued to compete for dominance of the ivory market, Indian traders declined in importance and were increasingly more tied to English interests elsewhere. Eventually, the Umani Arabs…