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The Portuguese and the Straits of Melaka, 1575-1619

Power, Trade and Diplomacy

Paulo Jorge de Sousa Pinto

Publication Year: 2012

Following the fall of the Melaka Sultanate to the Portuguese in 1511, the sultanates of Johor and Aceh emerged as major trading centres alongside Portuguese Melaka. Each power represented wider global interests. Aceh had links with Gujerat, the Ottoman Empire and the Levant. Johor was a centre for Javanese merchants and others involved with the Eastern spice trade. Melaka was part of the Estado da India, Portugal's trading empire that extended from Japan to Mozambique. Throughout the sixteenth century, a peculiar balance among the three powers became an important character of the political and economical life in the Straits of Melaka. The arrival of the Dutch in the early seventeenth century caused considerable changes and led to the decline of Portuguese Melaka. Making extensive use of contemporary Portuguese sources, Paulo Pinto uses a geopolitical approach to analyze the financial, political, economic and military institutions that underlay this triangular arrangement, a system that persisted because no one power could achieve an undisputed hegemony. He also considers the position of post-conquest Melaka in the Malay World, where it remained a symbolic centre of Malay civilization and a model of Malay political authority despite changes associated with Portuguese rule, and in the process sheds lights on social, political and genealogical elements with Johor and Aceh sultanates.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Half title, title, copyright page

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

List of Maps

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

As the age of imperialism and the painful process of decolonization fade into a more distant horizon, the study of European presence in Asia is experiencing something of a renaissance. Students and researchers are subjecting source materials to fresh scrutiny, shaping a fresh image of the colonial era and capturing experiences across different strata of society...


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pp. xvii-xviii


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pp. xix-xx

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pp. xxi-xxx

Much work still remains to be done on the history of the Portuguese presence in the Orient. Despite the plethora of several recent studies about Southeast Asia, important lacunae still persist, especially with regard to the period from the end of the 16th century onwards. Portuguese historiography has suffered from two ills—fortunately overcome in recent times...

Illustrations Section

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pp. xxxi-xxxviii

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Chapter 1: Melaka and the Estado da Índia: The Economic Backdrop

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pp. 1-37

The union of the crowns of Portugal and Castille under the same king in 1581 had consequences in Asia, namely in the anti-meridian of Tordesillas. As the Spanish already had a presence in the Philippines, midway between Melaka and the Far East, their relations with the Estado da Índia underwent some alterations with this new development...

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Chapter 2: Melaka and the Estado da Índia:The Political and Military Framework

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pp. 38-78

The Estado da Índia was the official structure created by the Portuguese in Asia as they established themselves in the East. It underwent a gradual process of decline throughout the 16th century, once the fundamental axes had been established, from Mozambique in East Africa to Macao and Japan in the Far East. The Estado da Índia witnessed an intensification...

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Chapter 3: Melaka and the Geopolitics of the Straits

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pp. 79-122

The strategic importance of the Straits of Melaka and the surrounding region far surpasses a simple recognition of that geographical area as a crossroads that connects various trade routes and links the Asian continent and the Archipelago and the Indian and Chinese civilisations. This small region, which broadly extends from the extreme northern point of Sumatra...

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Chapter 4: Portuguese and Malays

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pp. 123-170

For a better understanding of the integration of Portuguese Melaka in its surrounding environment, one must understand the way in which the city adapted itself to local ways of politics and war. The politico-military balance of the Malay World did not consist of a mere inventory of guns, cannons or soldiers, and the victories that the Portuguese stubbornly...

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Chapter 5: The City of Melaka

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pp. 171-229

The history of Melaka is not limited to a political or economic approach at the level of regional geopolitics or that of the entire Indian Ocean. One must also consider its local history, the result of power play by the city’s authorities in which royal officials (with the captain at the forefront), the bishop, the casados as well as the various Asian communities played...

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pp. 230-237

The work presented in the preceding pages represents an attempt to approach the history of the city of Melaka in concentric circles or successive convergences between two fundamental watersheds: the end of the cycle of the three successive sieges to which the sultanate of Aceh subjected the city between 1573 and 1575 and the foundation of Batavia by the VOC in 1619...

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Annex 1: The Sultanate of Johor:Genealogical Questions and Problems

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pp. 238-255

The genealogy of the sultans of Johor during the 16th century is still quite confused and controversial. The available sources manifest a great many lacunae and, above all, contradictory information. Portuguese sources could shed some light on this nebulous period despite their deficiencies. Therefore it would be of interest to compare the information they...

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Annex II: The Sultanate of Aceh: Genealogical Questions and Problems

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pp. 256-269

The genealogy of the sultans of Aceh is less confused than that of Johor during the period under study. Also, another advantage is the greater attention that this sultanate and its political history have received from scholars. However, some doubts remain, especially with regard to the dynastic crisis of the years between 1586 and 1589. Anyway, the...


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pp. 270-275

Document Appendix

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pp. 276-336


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pp. 337-340


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pp. 341-363


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pp. 364-375

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696931
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695705

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 6 maps, 14 images
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: New