On this day in 1685, Thomas Bowrey sold fifteen pieces of textiles in Aceh. A piece wasa length of fabric about 1 metre wide and between ten and twenty metres long.
Although spices were the original reason Europeans were fighting over the East Indies markets from the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was textiles that became the English East India Company’s first profitable merchandise. They began importing both painted and printed cotton fabric into England as a means of filling returning ships having discovered that bring home too much pepper simply flooded the market and brought down prices. The exotic new fabrics were an immediate success.
As today’s sale demonstrates, textiles were more valuable that simply supplying the home market. They provided a basis for the country trade – trade within the East Indies. Goods brought from England were traded for cotton fabric in Western India which were, in turn, traded for gold and spices in what is now Indonesia.