The Bangladesh region reached the zenith of economic affluence during the mediaeval period. It was known as one of the most prosperous lands in the world. The Moorish traveller Ibn Batuta who visited Bengal in the 14th century described Bengal as the wealthiest and cheapest land of the world and states that it was known as “a hell full of bounties”.
In the same vein, the 17th century French traveller Francois Bernier observed: “Egypt has been represented in every age as the finest and most fruitful country in the world and even our modern writers deny that there is any other land so peculiarly favoured by nature; but the knowledge I have acquired of Bengal during two visits paid to that Kingdom inclines me to believe that pre-eminence ascribed to Egypt is rather due to Bengal”.
Because of her fertile land and abundance of seasonal rainfall, Bengal was a cornucopia of agricultural products. Famines and scarcity were virtually unknown as compared to other areas of Asia. Bengal was the focal point of free trade in the Indian Ocean from the 14th century onwards. She was the virtual storehouse of silk and cotton not only of India and neighbouring countries but also of Europe.
The Dhaka region used to produce the finest cotton in the world. A very large quantity of cotton cloth was produced in different areas of Bengal. The best and well-known variety of textile was muslin produced in Dhaka. Some of the muslins were so fine that, as the 17th century traveller Tavernier notes, “even if a 60 cubit long turban were held you would scarcely know what it was that you had in your hand”. Some of the muslins were so fine that a full size muslin could be passed through a small ring. Bangladesh also had extensive export of silk clothes.
According to Tavernier, Bengal silks were exported to other parts of India, Central Asia, Japan and Holland. The Bangladesh region was also one of the largest producers of sugar. The sugar from this region used to be exported to other parts of South Asia and the Middle East.