IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > D. South and Southeast Asia, 1500–1800 > 2. Southeast Asia, 1500–1800 > d. Malaysia, 1509–1790
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
d. Malaysia, 1509–1790
Sultanate of Melaka served as a model for the Malay world but was not original. Funan, Champa, and Srivijaya in earlier periods had created a similar economic structure based on trade rather than agriculture. The Islamicate nature of the cultural system and the cosmopolitan character of society also had precedents in the area, but taken together these characteristics came to be perceived as the proper aspects of a Malay state. Cosmopolitanism of the state was legendary; the state served as the meeting place of two kinds of solidarities: one based on the traders' mother country identity (including religious solidarity), the other on identification with the local ruler and local law.  1
Nature of trade in this mercantile state involved the whole ruling class as well as the sultan himself. Networks for long-distance trade intersected at Melaka, connecting Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf tradeways. But in Melaka this trade connected to a market economy (where merchants conducted trade on their own behalf), not just the administered trade that characterized earlier empires (where trade was conducted on behalf of the sovereign); prices were fixed by supply and demand; and one could choose to become a merchant without having to secure a royal appointment to do so. Results included a vigorous monetary economy based on mass trade (rather than trade in luxury goods).  2
The territorial base for the sultanate's realm composed three concentric circles. At the center were territories ruled directly by the sultan; in the middle were territories administered by appointees of the sultan; at the periphery were tributary, vassal, and allied kingdoms (some ruled by the sultan's kinsmen). Especially where the sultan's hold was weakest, the ruler would offer shares in commercial profits—a practice that provided the sultans with almost a third of the capital required to finance trading expeditions, and this reinforced the economic solidarity between the sultanate and its dependencies.  3
Competing alliances of merchants in Melaka took different stances toward the Portuguese: one group (including Chinese, some Tamils, and a few Javanese) inclined to accept them, anticipating new markets and an increase in demand for the commodities they conveyed. The other party (led by Gujaratis and supported by the local elite) saw them as competition and a threat to the moral solidarity between the sultanate and its dependency seaports. The second group prevailed in the short run and seized all the Portuguese they could in 1509, thus delaying advent of the European influence for two years.  4
The Portuguese, under Albuquerque, captured Malacca, center of the spice trade. By this time, the crown was more interested in spice trade than establishing a land-bound empire. The Portuguese then sent envoys to open trade relations with native states and set up fortified posts to protect the trade.  5
Portuguese governor ordered cadastral survey, which counted not land for taxation but irregular occupation of plots abandoned during 1511 uprising; this shows that the sultanate's economic basis depended on sea, not land.  6
First Malay mosque built under Sultan Muzaffar (d. 1564).  7
Dutch began to work in secret with Jambi to corner the pepper production in Sumatra.  8
The Lisbon spice market was closed to Dutch and English traders, thus providing an incentive for direct trade with the Far East. The English and Dutch East India Companies (1600, 1602) presently destroyed the Portuguese forts in Malaysia.  9
The Dutch set up a factory at Palembang (Sumatra).  10
The English established themselves at Bantam (northwest Java).  11
The Dutch seized Amboina, then settled in western Timor (1613).  12
British and Dutch gained access to the pepper trade in Jambi (Sumatra). Competition included Chinese, Malays, Makassarese, and Javanese as well as the three European trading monopolies.  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.