THE 1600s marked the beginnings of European colonisation and the gradual appropriation by Europeans of the lucrative Oriental trade. Basra continued to be one of the great entrepots of the Orient and international traffic included huge caravans from Baghdad, Damascus and Aleppo, which also carried red dye for Persia and India. 1 Venetian ships still returned from Egypt and Syria plying the old trade routes, loaded with spices, drugs, dyestuffs, silk and cotton. 2 But the European navigators’ new sea routes around the Cape were faster, safer and cheaper than traditional land transport, which duly diminished. The control of trade changed from the relatively small city-state economies to the newly organised national economies represented by the trading companies of Britain, Holland and France.