Another important element in the movement of textiles were the maritime routes centred on India that carried textiles to Indonesia, China and eventually to Japan, as well as from India via the Red Sea to the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Many of the textiles transported to the West were made of cotton and were decorated in a variety of ways, with woven ornamentation, dyed or block printed. These textiles, which include the types known as ‘chintz’, were especially popular from the medieval period onwards. Indian printed garments can still be found today in European markets and shops.
Indian printed textiles were a major commodity for the (British) East India Company (established in 1600) and the (Dutch) Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (1602). These enterprises would lay the foundations for the British and Dutch colonial empires in South and Southeast Asia.
One of the earliest recorded Indian textiles (a kantha quilt) was noted in the 1601 inventory of household furnishings ordered by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury (click here). The region of Bengal is particularly known for such quilts, which were traded from the sixteenth century onwards by the Portuguese (the so-called Satgaon quilts).