Internationally Western scholars have emphasized the importance of pre-fifteenth-century Western and Eastern Indian Ocean, South Asian, Bay of Bengal, South China; regional Java and wider Southeast Asia commercial, landed, maritime, and societal networking; and Islamic, Hindu, Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Notably where there were upstream agrarian hinterlands of early historical Southeast Asia polities, royal courts, temples, cultural centers, and traditional farming were relocated in the vulnerable regional downstream coastal ports-of-trade. This essay recenters the discussion of the changing role of Melaka’s trade ports and their engagement with maritime based trade as conducted by various regional populations.
This study examines 15th-century Melaka’s significant role as the primary intermediary eastern maritime port-of-trade between the Indian Ocean and China. It addresses the strategic South China Sea Jiaozhu Vietnam coastline passage to the Ming court’s newly designated southern China Guangzhou port. It replaced Quangzhou to the north as the preeminent port of China’s eastern Asia maritime trade. In 1371 the Ming China court restricted its foreign maritime trade beyond China. In response Chinese and multi-ethnic maritime diasporas based in Southeast Asia ports traveled the South China Sea to the Eastern and Western Indian Oceans and in doing so sustained a post-1400 substantive intermediary transit trade network that connected southern China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and east-coast of Africa.
This introductory chapter and those that follow in this issue of JESHO celebrate the 500th anniversary of the c.1400–1511 strategic Melaka port-of-trade based Sultanate that controlled the Straits of Melaka maritime passageway connecting the Western and Eastern Indian Oceans to the China and Java Seas and beyond in eastern Asia until the Portuguese seizure of Melaka in 1511. As such, these studies update prior JESHO publications that have addressed Melaka’s history since the Journal’s inception.
The reversion of the Chinese state, under the early Ming emperors, from private maritime shipping and trade to state-sponsored diplomatic and economic missions into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral under the Admiral Zheng He, has led to the Chinese textual documentation contains substantial information on the Sultanate of Melaka in the fifteenth century. However, this body of information, and the historical narrative of the Sultanate, has been based primarily on the extant records of the imperial Ming voyages, and the official bureaucratic records, such as the Ming shilu and Mingshi. Other texts post-dating the fifteenth century, including such encyclopedias as the Dongxi yangkao, draw their information on Melaka from these texts. The digitization of the Siku quanshu (Compendium of the Four Treasuries) commissioned in the late eighteenth century, has opened up the opportunity to discover hitherto unknown historical information, and the develop new paradigms and methodologies for the research of the history of Melaka. Importantly, the various entries of information on Melaka, found in the compendium that date after the fall of the Melaka Sultanate in 1511, provide insight into the lenses and experiences through which archivalisation, and the process in which Chinese officialdom collected information on the port-city, occurred through the course of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. This paper utilizes digital database search processes to elucidate new aspects of the history of Melaka’s trade and economic interactions with East Asia, and how Southeast Asia ports continued to feature in the memory landscape of the Chinese officialdom, long after the ceased to exist in the form of their original polities.
The Melaka Sultanate spans a period of around one to one and a half centuries, from its supposed founding by the fugitive prince Parameswara around 1360–1400 until the year 1528, when the two sons of the last Sultan of Melaka Mahmud I founded the successor polities of Perak and Johor. The key to understanding Melaka’s history is to focus on the synergies forged by the rulers and the grandees with local and foreign actors, and to appreciate the mutual but malleable relationships maintained by the ruler (sultan) with his subjects and followers. In its heyday Melaka served as one of the crucial procurement, trans-shipment, and commercial centres in the maritime trading world of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Its fame reached as far as North and East Africa in the West, and China and Ryukyu in the East. At its height it exerted political, economic and cultural influence over much of the Malay Peninsula, parts of Eastern Sumatra and the Riau Archipelago.
While Melaka-Southeast Asia-China links continue to receive considerable scholarly interest, the Melaka region’s links with the economies of the northern Bay of Bengal have received less attention. Despite the fact that scholars have often focused extensively on the history of the Bay’s western littoral, and that the Straits played a crucial role in linking this western littoral to the China Seas during the Melaka era, the region has been marginalised in scholarship. As will become clear, the history of Melaka during this time can be divided into two discrete periods. The first of these periods started with the city-state’s foundation as regional rival to Ayutthaya by Palembang’s monarch Parameswara ca. 1402, and the second began with the Portuguese conquest of the port-city in 1511, after which the Straits became not only a transnational passageway for Persians, Arabs, South, Southeast and East Asians, but also a hub in East-West commerce. This study will investigate changes occurring in the northern Bay of Bengal world consequent to Melaka’s founding as regional emporium and subsequent emergence as an international marketplace, and ends with the Dutch capture of Melaka in 1641 and its subsequent decline concurrent with Batavia’s promotion as regional entrepôt.
To show how a frontier power of pre-modern South Asia defined its history and identity in different ways in changing political contexts, this article presents an analysis of the unusual asura lineage of three lesser-known dynasties between the seventh and twelfth centuries in succession: the Varmans, the Mlecchas and the Pālas, who sequentially all ruled Kāmarūpa, a historical region located in the present state of Assam. Examination of three distinct phases of genealogical claims enables us to understand the ways in which the peripheral rulers negotiated with dominant supra-regional discourses, challenged political tradition of their predecessors, and carved out their own space in a new world of regional sovereignty.
Between 1747 and 1834, Durrānī Afghan rulers built webs of alliance to political, economic, and religious elites in Peshawar. The village of Chamkanī serves as a useful case study of these networks. Chamkanī housed an influential Indian merchant family, Afghan landed nobility, and a powerful Sufi lineage. Reflecting the fundamental tension between the Durrānī ideal of universal sovereignty and the reality of diffuse power, these groups both cooperated and clashed with royal authority, and maintained ties between themselves. Ultimately, the most durable legacies of Durrānī rule were left by these local elites.
This article takes Pertevniyal Valide Sultan’s endowments as a case study and proposes an original contribution to the literature by discussing the transformation of Ottoman endowment management throughout the nineteenth century. The account books of landed estates (çiftliks), other endowment documents, and the Ottoman imperial archives constitute the basis of explaining different phases of estate management practices for endowments in the Thessaly region of northern Greece. The main argument is that, in contrastto the administration of earlier endowments in the region, the central administration of Pertevniyal Valide Sultan’s endowments expanded its control over its provincial revenue sources. This transformation became possible with the help of negotiations and alliances with several imperial and provincial institutions. This article also contributes to understanding social and economic life in Ottoman çiftliks by analysing land, production, and taxation relations in Thessaly.
The paper examines the akıncıs’ actions and hence the motivation for their raids as essential constituents within the process of Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late Middle Ages. Focusing on the raiders and their plundering activities, it asserts that the akıncıs played a crucial key role in the early Ottoman slave economy, as slave hunting was arguably the main economic driving force behind the Ottoman conquest. It hence argues that an analysis of the akıncıs allows for new insights into the nature of the early Ottoman Empire, but also advances the idea that their actions fall within a particular phase of the conquest period. To that end, the authors re-periodize the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans into the akıncı phase, which spanned eight to thirteen decades, depending on the region, and was characterized by continuous slave hunting and destruction of economic infrastructure, and the phase of administrative integration into the Ottoman Empire, which latter process was pursued by other actors, namely imperial elites from the center, and is usually characterized by at least partial repopulation of demographically weakened areas.