The Indian Ocean in Eurasian and African World-Systems before the Sixteenth Century

The rise of towns and states and the expansion of exchange networks have resulted in the formation of various world-systems in Asia, Africa, and Europe since the fourth millennium B.C. In the first century A.D., exchanges transformed the Indian Ocean into a unified space embedded in a Eurasian and African world-system. This system evolved until the sixteenth century through four cycles that saw growing integration of its parts, demographic increase, general growth of commerce and production, and the simultaneous development of hierarchical relations between cores and peripheries within an international division of labor. This early history sheds light on the period that would follow, which saw the emergence of the modern capitalist world-system, and perhaps also provides some hints as to the possible futures of the system.