Cotton was grown in India for several thousands of years before Christ and for a long time India monopolized the product. By the time Europeans and Japanese launched out into the so-called 'East Indies', cotton textiles were being used by the people of East Africa, the Middle East and South and South-East Asia, not only as clothing materials but also as a means of exchange. In the course of history from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, as trade began between the East Indies and the two extremities of Eurasia, cotton products found their way from India to the East and the West via various routes.