Yemeni ‘Oceanic Policy’ at the end of the 13th century
By Eric Vallett
Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (2005)
Abstract: This paper is based on a new published collection of archives, Nûr al-ma’ârif fî nuzûm wa-qawânîn wa-a’râf al-Yaman fî al-’ahd al-muzaffarî al-wârif (edited by M. Jâzim, French Centre for Archaeology and Social Sciences in San’â’, 2003) which were registered at the end of the thirteenth century AD. Of particular interest are several lists of shipowners and of Muslim and non-Muslim personalities from the Indian coast, who were given grants by the Rasulid sultanate. They offer a very deep insight into maritime and political ties between Yemen, the Indian Coast, and the Gulf in a key period. Whereas the Rasulid sultanate extended its sovereignty into a large part of South Arabia from Zafâr to Dahlak, the Muslim Turkish power of the Delhi sultanate succeeded in annexing some rich areas of the western Indian coast, particularly Gujarât. At the same time, the Qaysi hegemony was challenged in the Gulf. How does this help us to understand Yemeni “oceanic policy”? This paper tries to answer this question by comparing this new Yemeni archival data with a wider range of contemporary written sources, focusing on the dynamic relationships between trade and power.