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In: Empires of the Sea
In: Empires of the Sea


The present article explores the historical sections of Grotius's De iure praedae Commentarius (chapters 11 through 16) bearing the following fundamental but very important questions in mind: What did Grotius actually know about the Portuguese Estado da Índia at the time of drafting the treatise between 1604 and 1606/8? What did he know about the Luso-Asian trading regime or Asian trading practices at large? Using the published correspondence of Grotius, archival documentation, manuscript fragments as well as unpublished reading notes and drafts, a case will be made that he had in fact few sources at his fingertips. This insight serves fundamentally to refute older assumptions, expounded notably by Robert Fruin and C.H. Alexandrowicz, that the young Grotius conducted independent research in the VOC company archives, or had immersed himself with Asian maritime codes or commercial practices.

In: Grotiana
Violence, Security and Diplomacy in the 17th Century
The Singapore and Melaka Straits are a place where regional and long-distance maritime trading networks converge, linking Europe, the Mediterranean, eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent with key centres of trade in Thailand, Indochina, insular Southeast Asia, China, Korea and Japan. The first half of the 17th century brought heightened political, commercial and diplomatic activity to this region. It had long been clear to both the Portuguese and the Dutch that whoever controlled the waters off modern Singapore gained a firm grip on regional as well as long-distance intra-Asian trade. By the early 1600s Portuguese power and prestige were waning and the arrival of the Dutch East India Company constituted a major threat. Moreover, the rapid expansion and growing power of the Acehnese Empire, and rivalry between Johor and Aceh, was creating a new context for European trade in Asia.
Drawing on maps, rare printed works, and unpublished manuscripts written in Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Latin, Peter Borschberg provides new information on the diplomatic activities of Asian powers, and shows how the Portuguese and the Spanish attempted to restore their political fortunes by containing the rapid rise of Dutch power in the region. Key documents, transcribed and translated into English for the first time, make up a series of appendices.
The product of more than two decades of research in European libraries and archives, The Singapore and Melaka Straits will be of great interest to readers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, where little is known about this pivotal pre-colonial period. It is also an invaluable resource for historians and other students of early modern Europe and of the European presence in Asia.


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.

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient


This article examines the transition of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) from a policy of self-defense into its full espousal of large-scale privateering and plundering. I argue that this shift was driven by both economic and political factors, and can be traced to the very formation of the Company as a unified trading venture. The taking of prizes became a cornerstone not only of the economic fortunes of the company, but the establishment of the Dutch colonial empire in Asia. Of particular interest is not only the instructions emanating from the company directors and the Dutch government in the metropolis, but especially the implementation and adaptation of these directives on the ground. It is this local context that adds a crucial dimension to interpretations of the eager espousal of maritime violence by the VOC and its agents in Asian waters.

In: Journal of Early Modern History