Kingdom of Malacca - History

Kingdom of Malacca - History

The Kingdom of Malacca was founded on the Malay peninsular in the current day Indonesia. Malacca, which was founded by Paramesvara, soon became the leading maritime power in South East Asia.

Malacca's History Influences the Present

Present-day Malacca in the nation of Malaysia reflects its tumultuous history - a multi-racial population of Malays, Indians, and Chinese call this historic city home. Most notably, Peranakan and Portuguese communities still thrive in Malacca, a reminder of the state's long experience with trading and colonization.

Malacca's founder, the ex-pirate Prince Parameswara, was said to be a descendant of Alexander the Great, but it's more likely that he was a Hindu political refugee from Sumatra.

According to legend, the Prince was resting one day under an Indian gooseberry tree (also known as a melaka). As he watched one of his hunting dogs trying to bring down a mouse deer, it occurred to him that the deer shared a similar plight to his own: alone, exiled in a foreign land and surrounded by enemies. The mouse deer then achieved the improbable and fought off the dog.

Parameswara decided that the place where he was sitting was a propitious one for the disadvantaged to triumph, so decided to build a house on the spot.

Malacca did indeed turn out to be a favorable place to found a town, due to its sheltered harbor, its abundant water supply and its prime location relative to the regional trade and monsoon wind patterns.

The Rise and Fall of the Malacca Sultanate

The Malacca Sultanate was a powerful maritime and commercial empire that shaped the political, social, and cultural systems of the Malay Peninsula. Parameswara (1401 to 1511) was a Palembang prince of Hindu descent from Srivijaya, in 1402. He was the founder of Malacca. Fleeing north from the Majapahit armies, he reached a fishing village at the mouth of the Bertam River (former name of the Malacca River) where he witnessed a mouse deer outwitting a dog while resting under a Malacca tree. He took what he saw as a good omen and decided to establish a kingdom there, called Malacca.

The Rise of the Malacca Sultanate

In 1414, Parameswara embraced Islam, and change his name to Megat Iskandar Shah and married to a Muslim princess from Pasai, Sumatra. Because of this it attracted Muslim traders to come to Malacca port. He also maintain a good relation with Ming China, he sent mission after mission to Peking in1415, 1416, and 1418.

By the 1430s the city had become the preeminent commercial emporium in Southeast Asia, resorted to alike by local traders, Indian, Arab, and Persian merchants, and Chinese trade missions. These alliances helped to build Malacca into a major international trading port and an intermediary in the lucrative spice trade. Centered in the modern town of Malacca, the sultanate stretched from southern Thailand in the north to Sumatra in the southwest.

Islam in the Region

Within decades, the Sultanate of Malacca became one of the major promoters of Islam in the region. Adding to the spread of Islam in the region was the continued presence of Indian and Arab Muslim traders coming from the West and bringing their religion with them and spreading it to the local population. Another factor was the numerous visits by the Chinese Muslim admiral Zheng He (who is known as Cheng Ho in Southeast Asia) who helped spread Islam throughout the Malay Archipelago. It is important to note that as the region slowly made its way into the fold of Islam, there were no forced conversions into the religion.

Administration of the Malacca Sultanate

Upon his death in 1424, Parameswara was succeeded by his son Sri Maharaja (1424–1444) and later was succeeded by Sultan Muzaffar Shah ( 1446–1456). He was the first to use the Arabian title of ‘Sultan’, and formulate the Malacca Laws known as Risalah Hukum Kanun in protecting the sovereignty and prosperity of Malacca.

Under Sultan Muzaffar Shah the city-state became a major territorial as well as commercial power in the region and a source for the further diffusion of Islām within the Indonesian archipelago. The Sultanate’s most important regional rivals were Siam in the north and the declining Majapahit Empire in the south. Majapahit was not able to control or effectively compete with Malacca within the archipelago. Siam on the other hand attacked Malacca three times, but all attacks were repelled.

The Bendahara acted as a Chief Minister (or modern-day Prime Minister), the Temenggung acted as a Senior Judge while the Syahbandar will need to be responsible for arming, organizing and commanding their community for Sultan. The office of the Laksamana was established during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah (1456–1477). The duties and jurisdiction of the Laksamana were to rapidly develop the town and society of Malacca.

The Arrival of the Portuguese

In the late 1400s, the Kingdom of Portugal began to search for new trade opportunities on the high seas. The explorer Vasco de Gama managed to sail around the southern tip of Africa in the late 1400s, with the aid of Muslim navigators who were familiar with the Indian Ocean.

With this discovery in Europe, Portugal quickly became a naval power in the Indian Ocean and attempted to dominate the Asian spice market. After establishing bases in Indian cities such as Goa and Calicut around 1510, the Portuguese looked to the East to expand their trade empire.

The Fall of the Malacca Sultanate

In 1511, the Portuguese decided to conquer the important port of Malacca to control the trade with China. On July 25, 1511, the Portuguese commander, Afonso de Albuquerque, began an assault on the city. Despite allying with neighboring Muslim states, the Sultanate was unable to resist the superior Portuguese weapons and firepower, and by late August the city was conquered.

The Portuguese soon began construction on a fortress, known as A Famosa, which helped protect the Portuguese in the city from Malay counter-attacks. Much of the city center, including the main mosque and government buildings, was destroyed to provide stone for the fortress. This was the official end of the Sultanate of Malacca as the region came under foreign domination for the first time in its history.

Malacca Today

Today, Malacca is a state within Malaysia and a center of Peranakan culture. When Chinese settlers originally came to Malacca as miners, traders, and coolies, they took local brides (of Javanese, Batak, Acehnese, etc descent) and adopted many local customs. The result of this is an interesting fusion of local and Chinese cultures. The men are addressed as Babas and the women Nyonyas.

Today, in Malacca, you can still see the imprints of British, Dutch, and Portuguese forces left behind in forts, museums, churches, and towers. It was here that colonial forces first made contact with Malaysia, which eventually shaped the country into its current economic and political system.

Hang Tuah the fool

There was also a claim the Italian Renaissance painter and ambidextrous genius Leonardo Da Vinci once met the Malacca warrior Hang Tuah. I am not sure what is the relationship between a real person meeting a fictitious figure. I doubt the fool of the Malacca Kingdom had the rendezvous, else some of Da Vinci’s intelligence would have rubbed off on the moronism of the mythical Malacca warrior and Tuah would have a bit of a brain to think.

Tuah would not have been Hang Ketuat (one with a calloused brain and lowly mental capacity) by following the order of the sleazy sultan of Malacca who is not worth being remembered as a Malay ruler. How else can our children explain that a sultan can do no wrong by ordering his Lakshmana to abduct Tun Teja in Pahang so that the ruler can satisfy his lust – just because he has the power to order his fools around?

We must teach our children to thrash these glorified tyrants and his band of brainless warriors.

I’d say we must stop trying to even prove that the useless ancient Malay sultans were descendants of Alexander of Macedonia. Focus on the now-ness of our existence and the realism that goes with it, rather than glorify foolish warriors and schizophrenic sultans of Malacca who use women as sexual objects, enslave human beings, murder their own people, and wear that strange-looking headgear to claim legitimacy and to fool the subjects into subjugation.

That’s Malacca history we need to get right and teach to children – once and for all.

Herein lies the need to give out children in school the tools to interrogate history and to craft their own understanding of what happened in history, who wrote the narratives, and how we should craft our own heroes. We should teach them to the ugliness of the feudal culture and the immoral inner-workings of the Malacca Sultanate.

We are living in a world of the CI3 – of consciousness, individuals, institutions, ideology that dominates the human psyche.

We live in a world that is demanding our understanding of the semiotics and cybernetics of the self to understand how to read ourselves and the world within and outside of us to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our inner and outer world views to see life as a complex process of authoring of the self and re-authoring our world that is constantly shifting to have a sense of what the ‘core’ is if there is indeed one to see linearity and multi-dimensionality of our invented realities as one to see ourselves as an organic mechanism of a grand narrative with multiple subplots with no narrative structure and as a complex novel with no plot but a story begging to be told – of joys and suffering and meaning and meaninglessness to see chaos as a beautiful pattern of randomness to master the art of being a metaphysical anarchist that will use the sense of being to resist the hegemonising power individuals, institutions, and ideology to dominate and destroy the self … and much more … essentially: … live free – or die happy in the hands of the State and religious, cultural, or any ideology … to live, love, liberate, and die laughing at tyrants, totalitarian regimes, and theocracies.

We must teach our children to rewrite history, to question claims of vainglory, feudal ideology, and next, to have them write their own history closest to their own family pride and memory. Why force them to memorize other people’s glory? Of the stories of the ancient sultans’ lust for sex, power, and money? And today – haven’t we seen enough of the hypocrisy of the rulers of the so-called Islamic countries?

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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The Historical City of Malacca

Many years ago Malacca was one of Malaysia&rsquos most sought-after destinations. Before Kuala Lumpur transformed from a malaria-infested jungle into a polished high-rise capital, Malacca was one of the greatest trading ports in Southeast Asia. Over time it changed from a thriving port into a sleepy backwater city and lost its spot as a must-visit destination to its high-rolling cousins.

Yet in recent years, Malacca has been revived as a top-pick holiday getaway due to its many historic attractions. Home of the well-known Nyonya cuisine, it&rsquos a popular destination for tourists who want to catch a glimpse of Malaysia&rsquos unique heritage.

Malacca Overview

Malacca is a hotchpotch of Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and sundry influences. Malaysians laud Malacca&rsquos laidback atmosphere and lost-in-time feel stores close early here, traffic goes by at leisurely pace and city life is a languid affair. Between the scattered historic spots are atmospheric Chinese shop fronts and traditional Malay kampongs. Though the state may not boast a white-sand shoreline reminiscent of its East Coast cousins, Malacca is noteworthy for its heritage hotspots.

When the sun goes down, one of the city&rsquos most popular destinations is the Friday and Saturday Jonker Walk Night Market which plays host to a collection of stalls that sell everything but the kitchen sink. Here you can purchase a variety of trinkets and even sample some of the state&rsquos best-known local fare including fried egg ice cream and fried radish cake. At night the handful of bars along the boulevard become a mini street party with tables oozing beyond the sidewalks and a mix of live music beating throughout the area.

Malacca History

Dubbed Malaysia&rsquos unofficial historic capital, Malacca &ndash declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 &ndash is one of the country&rsquos most unassuming states. Boasting a good blend of historic attractions &ndash from the salmon-pink Stadhuys to the Jonker Walk Night Market &ndash Malacca is also home to a smorgasbord of great food.

In the late 14th century, Malacca was a simple fishing village. Parameswara &ndash a fleeing prince from the nearby Sumatra &ndash landed on Malacca&rsquos shores, founded the city and turned it into a favoured port for waiting out monsoons and re-supplying ships plying the strategic Straits of Malacca. In time, due to its strategic location between China and India, Malacca came to monopolize the trading routes in this quadrant of the globe. In 1405 Malacca forged an alliance with the Ming Emperor in order to secure protection against Siamese invaders over time Chinese settlers who married local Malays resulted in what was dubbed the Baba Nyonya peoples.

After Malacca was attacked by the Portuguese in 1511, the invader missionaries strove to implant Catholicism within the state and Malacca&rsquos popularity dwindled as Muslim merchants began to steer clear of the port. Malacca&rsquos reputation increased again in 1641 when it passed into Dutch hands for 150 years and later the British assumed control for a short time, further lending to its hodgepodge of cultural influences. Yet as time went on Malacca once again become a sleepy backwater state it was only during the 21st century, when Malaysia gained its independence, that Malacca became a tourist draw card.

Highlights and Features

  • Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum &ndash With Victorian and Dutch-style Chinese hardwood furniture, this Peranakan townhouse is arranged to look like a typical 19th-cenutry Baba-Nyonya residence.
  • Cheng Hoon Teng Temple &ndash Significant due to its engraved woodwork, this temple is Malaysia&rsquos oldest traditional Chinese temple. Dedicated to the goddess Kwan Yin, the highlight of this shrine is the robed effigy of the Goddess of Mercy herself within the main hall.
  • Christ Church &ndash Sporting a huge white cross, this coral-red building is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia. Built in 1753 to commemorate a century of Dutch rule in Malacca, it is one of the most notable heritage sites in the city.
  • Jonker Street &ndash Malacca&rsquos Chinatown centre street was once renowned for its collection of antique stores these days it is most noteworthy due to the Friday and Saturday Jonker Walk Night Market where tasty treats and delicious knick knacks are sold at dirt cheap prices.
  • Maritime Museum & Naval Museum &ndash This massive re-creation of the Flora de la Mar is one of Malacca&rsquos most tourist-worthy attractions. Built in 1990 the Maritime Museum is home to dated props including old maps, scale model ships, weaponry and nautical -related accessories and relics that chronicle Malacca&rsquos history.
  • Melaka River Cruise &ndash A 40-minute riverboat ride that takes you on a journey down the &lsquoVenice of the East&rsquo. This waterway, which was once used as a trade and commerce centre for the Melaka Malay Sultanate, is now a simple reminder of its bountiful past where you pass by kampungs and old godowns &ndash river warehouses.
  • Melaka River Park &ndash This popular theme park houses the Eye on Malacca &ndash a giant gondola-style Ferris wheel &ndash which takes you on a gentle 20-minute spin with great views of the Straits of Malacca.
  • Melaka Sultanate Palace &ndash A wooden replica of an original 15th-century palace, this cultural museum is a unique structure with ornate wood carvings and features numerous dioramas portraying the palace atmosphere of the era.
  • Porta de&rsquo Santiago (A&rsquoFamosa) &ndash A quick photo stop opportunity, it&rsquos best to visit these Portuguese ruins in the late evening when the sun isn&rsquot so high in the sky. Climbing to the top may not be a gruelling task, yet, given the fact that there are hardly any trees along the way, the short trip can be scorching due to the sun&rsquos fiery rays.
  • Stadhuys &ndash This salmon-pink town hall and governor&rsquos residence, believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, houses several museums and is a favourite trishaw pick-up point.

Good to Know and What Not to Miss

  • Whatever you do, when you&rsquore in Malacca make sure you don&rsquot miss out on the Friday and Saturday Jonker Walk Night Market. There&rsquos a variety of out-and-out tacky knick knacks as well as an assortment of Malaysian local delicacies &ndash try the fried egg ice cream as well as the Nyonya pineapple tarts.
  • Be sure to visit Malacca&rsquos plethora of historic sites from the Porta de&rsquo Santiago to the Stadhuys building.

How to Get There/Technical Info

Admission Fees:
Malacca &ndash Historic Cities Of The Straits Of Malacca

  • Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum: Adult &ndash RM 8 Kids &ndash RM 4
  • Maritime Museum & Naval Museum: Adult &ndash RM 2 Kids &ndash RM 0.50
  • Melaka River Cruise: Adult - RM 10 Kids &ndash RM 5
  • Melaka Sultanate Palace: Adult &ndash RM 2 Kids &ndash RM 0.50
  • Stadhuys: Adult &ndash RM 5 Kids RM 2

Opening Hours:
Malacca &ndash Historic Cities Of The Straits Of Malacca

  • Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum: 10:00 &ndash 12:30 & 14:00 &ndash 16:30 Monday - Saturdays
  • Cheng Hoon Teng Temple: 07:00 &ndash 19:00
  • Christ Church: 09:00 &ndash 17:00
  • Maritime Museum & Naval Museum: 09:00 &ndash 17:30
  • Melaka River Cruise: 09:00 &ndash 11:30 everyday
  • Melaka River Park: 05:30 &ndash 01:30/ everyday
  • Melaka Sultanate Palace: 09:00 &ndash 17:30 everyday
  • Stadhuys: 09:00 &ndash 17:30 Saturday &ndash Thursday and 09:00 &ndash 12.15 14:45 &ndash 17:30 Friday

How to Get There: Malacca is approximately three hours away from Kuala Lumpur. Firefly operates flights between Singapore and Malacca within Malaysia there are buses that run from numerous locations to Malacca. A-Bus Express runs the KLIA and Malacca route for only RM 36 per journey.

Portuguese Malacca 1511-1641

At the time of the Portuguese arrival in the Asian seas, Malacca thanks to its strategic position on the strait bearing the same name, was a remarkable trading center for the trade and shunting of spices. At that time, Malacca was ruled by a Muslim Sultan. The town extended its influence over a vast territory, which included the whole Malay Peninsula. Its port was frequented by a multitude of ships and merchants from all the Asian nations of the time: Arabia, Persia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Ceylon and Bengal. In it were gathered and sold all the Asian spices: pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg etc.

After their arrival in India the Portuguese soon became aware of the importance of the city. An expedition sailed to Malacca in 1509 but failed and many of the Portuguese were captured and imprisoned by the Sultan. In 1511 the Viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, decided to organize an expedition destined to conquer Malacca. At the head of 1,100 – 1,200 men and 14 ships Afonso de Albuquerque arrived in view of Malacca in June 1511 and immediately demanded the rescue of the Portuguese, who were taken prisoners in the 1509 expedition. The Sultan tried to gain time to strengthen the town defenses. He was well aware of the small number of Portuguese troops and was confident of his powerful army of 20,000 men and 2,000 guns.

Albuquerque wasted no time. At dawn of 25 July 1511 the Portuguese attacked the town concentrating the assault on the bridge of the river dividing the town. After a fierce battle the bridge was conquered by the Portuguese, but at nightfall they were forced to retreat. After some days of preparations the Portuguese renewed the attack on 10 August 1511. Albuquerque had the assistance of some Chinese junks, which anchored in the port.

The use of junks, offered by the Chinese merchants, was decisive, as these junks were used as a bridgehead. This time the attack was successful and the Portuguese finally succeeded in establishing a bridgehead in the town. Then there were several days of siege, during which the Portuguese bombarded the city. On 24 August 1511 the Portuguese again attacked only to discover that the Sultan had escaped. Malacca was now in Portuguese hands. They sacked the town, but following Albuquerque’s orders, they respected the property of those who sided with them.

B. W. Diffie and G. D. Winius in the book “Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580” write: “the capture of Asia’s greatest trading city by a mere 900 Portuguese and 200 Indians must rank as an event in the history of European expansion no less stunning than the better known conquest of Tenochtitlan by Hernando Cortés”.

Porta de Santiago, Portuguese fort (A Famosa), Malacca, Malaysia. Author T0lk


Malacca was one of the three key-points with Goa and Hormuz, which gave Portugal the control over the main Asiatic trade routes. After the conquest Albuquerque immediately ordered the building of a fortress on the south side of the river. This fortress was called “A Famosa” and it was finished in November 1511. Ruy de Brito Patalim was appointed Captain of the “Fortaleza de Malaca” and about 500 Portuguese soldiers were left as garrison. Shortly thereafter Albuquerque prepared the ships for the return with the booty of Malacca. However, during the return voyage to Goa his ship “Flor do Mar” sank during a storm and all the treasures fetched in Malacca were lost. Several Florentine merchants took part in the Portuguese enterprises in Asia. Amongst them Giovanni da Empoli was present in Malacca during the siege and the conquest. He described his experiences in an interesting letter to his father.

After the conquest of Malacca Portugal’s policy on the Malay Peninsula was either to establish alliances with local rulers or to convince the adjoining Kingdoms to accept Portuguese suzerainty. From his base at Johore the old Sultan of Malacca repeatedly attacked Malacca in 1517, 1520, 1521 and 1525. At last, in 1583, a peace treaty was signed. Malacca was repeatedly under siege in 1550, 1567, 1571. The main enemies were Johore and Atjeh (in Sumatra). In Malacca Albuquerque established a new administration, minted a new currency and built a wooden chapel close to the fortress. Adjoining the fortress a stone church dedicated to “Nossa Senhora da Anunciada” was erected in 1521 and later to “Nossa Senhora da Assumpção”. On 4 February 1558 this church was consecrated as a Cathedral. Many Portuguese “Casados”, mostly artisans, merchants or farmers, settled in Malacca. In 1532 the Confraria da Misericórdia was founded and a beautiful wooden hospital for the poor was also built. The church also started a school. Active missionary work began in 1545 with the arrival of St. Francisco Xavier. In 1552 was set up the “Câmara” (Municipal Council) of Malacca.

In 1602-1603 the Dutch blockaded Malacca by sea, but this was only a first timid attempt. In 1606 Johore and the Dutch concluded an alliance against the Portuguese and in 1607 they set again the town under siege. Reinforcements from Goa aborted the attempt. Eredia estimated that the Christian population in Malacca was around 7.400 in 1613. There were eight parishes in the town. In 1629 Atjeh made a new great effort, but this time again the Portuguese were victorious. The Dutch made several fruitless attempts between 1623 and 1627 and in 1633 a blockade was set up.

Old picture of the Fort Gate of Malacca. No Copyright

The last siege of Portuguese Malacca began in June 1640 when a combined Dutch-Johore fleet of 1,500 Dutchmen, 1,500 Malays, 12 Dutch ships, 6 sloops and 40 Johore vessels were sighted off the Malacca port. The siege was extremely hard and nearly 1,500 Dutchmen lost their lives. After five months of siege the Portuguese defenders were without gunpowder and with a severe scarcity of food. Despite the difficulties under the command of Dom Manuel de Sousa Coutinho, who was sick, they were able to hold out the siege. At the time of the Dutch attack in June 1640, there was a garrison of about 50 Portuguese soldiers, more than 300 Portuguese “Casados” with their families and 2,000 or 3,000 mestiços and native inhabitants in Malacca. On 14 January 1641 Dutch commander Willemsoon Kartekoe ordered the last desperate assault. The Portuguese defenders made a fierce final resistance in the Fortaleza Velha and the Dutch were finally driven back.

In desperation the Dutch commander offered to the Portuguese honourable terms of surrender. The brave (and dying) Portuguese commander accepted the generous terms. Dying two days later he was buried by the Dutch with military honours in the church of São Domingo. The city of Malacca was thus in Portuguese hands from 24 August 1511 till 14 January 1641.

The descendants of the Portuguese of Malacca speak Creole Portuguese (Papia Kristang) to this day. They are Christians and have Portuguese surnames. The Eurasian community has 12,000 members on the Malay Peninsula.


ILHA DAS NAUS: the first line of defence at sea of the fort of Malacca

The Portuguese called Ilha das Naus (Pulau Java or Pulau Melaka) a small island outside the harbour of Malacca. In 1606/1615 the Portuguese stationed a battery on this island. On the Ilha das Naus the Portuguese planned a fort of 60 square feet. As late as 1638, however, only the foundations of the Ilha das Naus fort had been laid and its walls were still not finished when the Dutch invasion force sailed into Malacca Harbour two years later. For this reason the Portuguese had to abandon their partly finished fort without a shot being fired in 1640. Shortly after the conquest of Malacca the Dutch completed the Portuguese fort on the Ilha das Naus (now called Red Island).

MUAR: a Portuguese fort on the Malay Peninsula

The Portuguese had a second fort on the Malay Peninsula. This fort was in Muar and does not exist anymore. It was built by Eredia at the mouth of the Muar river in 1604. The fort was triangular with round ramparts.

PACEM-PASSUMAH: a Portuguese fort in Sumatra

The actual name should be Pueek ( 05.09N -97.13E ). The fort was built in 1520/21 and its life was short. Gaspar Correia is positive (Lendas da Índia, Tomo II ,Parte II ,pp.795 : “…e puserão fogo à fortalesa, que tudo foy feito em cinza: o que foy em Maio de 1524.” The fort was square-shaped with a wooden “tranqueira” (palisade) and was built near the seashore.

For information on Pacem my thanks to Nuno Rubim.


– Fernandis, Gerard “Save our Portuguese heritage conference 95 Malacca, Malaysia” 103 pp. Gerard Fernandis, 1995, Malacca, Malaysia. A very interesting book on the Portuguese heritage and history of Malacca.

– Irwin, G. W. “Melaka fort” In “Melaka – The Transformation of a Malay Capital ca. 1400-1980” Vol. one Edited by Kernial Singh Sandhu, Paul Wheatley. p. 195-241. The history of the fort of Malacca during the Portuguese and Dutch time.

– Leupe, P.A. “The siege and capture of Malacca from the Portuguese in 1640-1641” JMBRAS vol, 14, pt. 1 (1936) pp 1-176. The occupation of the straits of Malacca 1636-1639, the siege and the capture of Malacca 1640-1641, commissary Justus Schouten’s report on his visit to Malacca 1641.

– Noonan, L. “The Portuguese in Malacca: a study of the first major European impact on East Asia” In: “Studia” N° 23 April, pp. 33-104 Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1968, Lisbon, Portugal. Very interesting. The coming of the Portuguese, Portuguese rule in Malacca, Malacca’s role in Portuguese colonial strategy, Portuguese-Asian relations in Malacca, the end of the Portuguese rule.

– O’Neill, Brian Juan “A tripla identidade dos portugueses de Malaca” In: “Oceanos” n° 32 Outubro – Dezembro 1997, pp. 63-83

– Sandhu K. and Wheatley P. ” Melaka The Transformation of a Malay Capital ca. 1400 – 1980″ 816 + 784 pp. 2 volumes, illustrated throughout OUP / Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1983, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A complete study on Malacca town from the beginning till today, with a bibliography of Melaka studies.

– Silva Rego, Padre António da “A Comunidade Luso-Malaia de Malaca e Singapura ” In: Actas do V Colóquio Internacional de Estudos Luso-Brasileiros, vol. I, Coimbra, 1964, pp. 507-512. Also in: Silva Rego, Padre António da “Dialecto Português de Malaca e outros escritos” 304 pp. (Cadernos Ásia) CNCDP, 1998, Lisboa, Portugal.

– Silva Rego, Padre Antonio da “A Cultura Portuguesa na Malaia e em Singapura “Comunicação apresentada à reunião conjunta da Academia Internacional da Cultura Portuguesa e do Conselho Geral da União das Comunidades de Cultura Portuguesa, 28 May 1968. Also in: Silva Rego, Padre António da “Dialecto Português de Malaca e outros escritos” 304 pp. (Cadernos Ásia) CNCDP, 1998, Lisboa, Portugal.

– Sousa Pinto, P. J. de “Portugueses e Malaios: Malaca e os Sultanatos de Johor e Achém 1575-1619” 334 pp. maps, Fundação Oriente, 1997, Lisbon, Portugal. Malaca e o Estado da Índia: enquadramento económico, quadro político militar Malaca e a geopolítica dos estreitos 1575-1619, Portugueses e Malaios, a cidade de Malaca.

– Sousa Pinto, P. J. de “Capitães e casados: um retrato de Malaca nos finais do século XVI” In: “Oceanos” n° 32 Outubro – Dezembro 1997, pp. 45-60

– Sta Maria, Bernard “My people, my country. The story of the Malacca Portuguese community” 236pp. Malacca Portuguese Development Centre, 1982, Malacca, Malaysia. Draws attention to role of lay groups in keeping the faith particularly during the Dutch period.

– Sta Maria, Joseph “Where do we go from here” 89 pp. Joseph Sta Maria , 1991, Malacca, Malaysia.

– Subrahmanyam, Sanjay “Commerce and conflict: two views of Portuguese Melaka in the 1620s” In: Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, n° 19(1), March 1988, pp.62-79.

– Teixeira, Manuel “The Portuguese missions in Malacca and Singapore (1511-1958)” ? 3 vols. Agência Geral do Ultramar, 1961, 1963, Lisbon, Portugal.

– Thomaz, Luís Filipe Ferreira Reis “Early Portuguese Malacca” 196 pp. CTMCDP – IPM, 1998, Macau From: Thesis “Os Portugueses em Malaca: 1511-1580” Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, 218 pp. maps 2 vols. 1964, Lisboa. This volume comprises three essays on the city of Malacca and its society during the first decades of Portuguese rule.

– Thomaz, Luis Filipe Ferreira Reis “The Indian merchant communities in Malacca under the Portuguese rule” In: Souza, T. R. de (ed., ) “Indo-Portuguese History: Old issues, new questions” Concept, New Delhi, 1985, pp.56-72.

Kingdom of Malacca - History

Malaysia's History and Background

Ancient Malaysia - Negrito aborigines are considered to be one of the first groups of people to inhabit the Malaysian peninsula. When the Proto-Malays, made up of seafarers and farmers, came to the peninsula they sent the Negritos into the jungles and hills. The Proto-Malays came from China and were technologically advanced, especially in comparison to the Negritos. After the Proto-Malays came the Deutero-Malays, which were made up of many different people - Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Proto-Malays, and Siamese. The Deutero-Malays were proficient in their use of iron and when they united with Indonesians, they combined to make up the people known today as the Malay.

Hindu Kingdom - 100 BC - 1400 AD - During this period, Malaysia's culture changed dramatically with the arrival of Indians. Indians initially went to the Malaysian peninsula in search of a mystical place known as the "Land of Gold." Although the places in Malaysia may not have been what they were looking for, they didn't leave, but continued to arrive in search of gold, spices and aromatic wood. In addition to trade (with goods), the Indians introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the peninsula, thus bringing temples and other cultural traditions from India. As a result, local kings in Malaysia combined what they considered to be the best aspects of India's government with their own structure, thus resulting in "Indianised kingdoms." Today, the Indian influences can best be seen in a traditional Malay wedding ceremony, which is similar to those in India.

Islam and the Golden Age of Malacca - 1400 AD - 1511 AD - Chinese, Indian and Arab records show that Srivijaya to be the best trading area in the region. After seeing its great success, other areas quickly copied it thus causing a decline in Srivijava's influence. Since the Hindu kingdoms of Malaysia weren't very strong and didn't have a central power, this caused a big problem for the region. Pirates were another problem that needed to be taken care of in order for there to be a safe, secure port. This problem was taken care of with the emergence of Malacca, which was in an ideal location, thus attributing to its great success. It was founded in 1400 and within 50 years it was a major port, actually the most influential in Southeast Asia and with alliances being built with other tribes and ports, Malacca was able to "police" the waters and provide an escort for vessels that needed it. With this success, Malacca quickly became the power in control of all of Malaysia's west coast.

Colonial Malaysia - 1511 AD - 1957 AD - Malacca's power and success was quickly extinguished with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511. Since the Arabians weren't allowing vessels piloted by non-Muslims into their harbors, the Europeans realized they needed a trading port of their own. Thus bringing about capture of Malacca and it's harbor. After conquering Malacca, the Portuguese built an immense fort which in turn was captured by the Dutch in 1641. In 1785, the British, who needed a port for their ships to dock while in route to China, persuaded the Sultan of Kedah to let them build a fort on Penang. After the French conquered the Netherlands in 1795, the Dutch allowed England to oversee the port of Malacca rather than turn it over the the French. This was the first in a series of "swaps" to and from each country regarding this area. Eventually, although it was finally given to Britain in a trade, the Dutch were the main controllers of the region. With the establishment of a port in Singapore, the British colonies (Malacca, Penang, and Singapore) came to be known as the Straits Settlements.

England's monopoly on tin mining was tremendously helped with the Pangkor Agreement in 1874. This Agreement was the result of internal fighting among the Malay kingdoms over control of the Perak throne. The commotion that ensued prompted Britain to basically force the Malay rulers into signing the peace treaty. A result of this treaty was that England had greater control, which greatly helped them in maintaining their monopoly in tin mining. Britain's control continued until the Japanese invasion in 1942, although they tried to regain control after the end of World War II in 1945. This attempt was foiled by Malaya's independence movement under the guidance of Tunku Abdul Rahman. The British flag was lowered for good in 1957 in Merdeka Square (Kuala Lumpur).

Independence to the Present: 1957- Now - Malaya's independence brought about new decisions that needed to be made, the first decision being to ascertain which territories to include in the new state. "Malaysia" was a term brought up in 1961, when Tunku persuaded Singapore, Sabak and Sarawak to combine with Malaya in a federal union. This didn't go over well with Indonesian president, Sukharno, who feared the impact of such a union on his plans to expand. He initiated several unsuccessful attacks against Malaysia.

Since Malaysia is comprised of such a diverse mix of people, another problem the country faced with independence was determining their (Malaysia's) national identity. Although the majority of the population was Malay and as such they were given permanent positions in government and other perks, the Chinese were dominate in business and trade. Since most Malaysian's were not doing well economically, the government imposed some quotas that were designed to help the Malays improve their chances economically. The Chinese didn't like this and formed a political party that won a good number of seats in the next election (1969). The Malays protested this political win by erupting into riots throughout Kuala Lumpur, which for the next couple of years put Malaysia in a state of emergency.

Malaysia has made tremendous strides in their growth and wealth. Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohammed, who has led Malaysia since 1981, is felt to be responsible for Malaysia's success.

Kingdom of Malacca - History

A History of the Malay Peninsula

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In 1456, Raja Kasim assumed the throne of Melaka after the murder of his half-brother Raja Ibrahim. This was a momentous turning point in Melaka history - a real palace revolution. The son of a Sumatran princess who took a Hinduised title was murdered and replaced by his Muslim half brother, the son of a Tamil common woman. His Tamil Muslim uncle Tun Ali Sri Nara diraja was made Bendahara after the Malay Bendahara Sriwa Raja poisoned himself - either in fear that he was no longer trusted by the ruler or in anguish at the growing power of the New Guard. Raja Kasim adopted the title Sultan and called hinself Muzaffar Shah.

The small city state was now to become Sultanate and Empire. Sultan Muzaffar Shah married the daughter of the dead Bendahara Sriwa Raja, Tun Kudu. This was a shrewd move, for Tun Kudu's brother was Tun Perak - a man deeply respected by the Sultan's Malay subjects and a man he knew had the charisma, ability and courage to build his Empire. To avoid unrest and civil war, Muzaffar attempted to oust his tamil Bendahara and replace him with Tun Perak. Tun Ali had a heavy price for resignation - he wanted the Sultan's wife, Tun Kudu, in marriage. Tun Kudu made the ultimate sacrifice, divorced the Sultan and her brother was free to shape Melaka history for the next 40 years and serve as Bendahara under four Sultans.

Melaka very quickly mounted a series of military campaigns that won her Manjong, Selangor and Batu Pahat. Kampar and Indragiri in Sumatra were soon to become loyal vassals as well. Melaka's expanding power rattled its much larger and more powerful Thai neighbours, who insisted Melaka belonged to its vassal Kedah. The Thais launched massive attacks against the Malay upsturbs - won overland from its vassal State Pahang in 1445 and another by Sea in 1456. Both attacks were beaten back. n 1459, Muzaffar's son, Raja Abdullah, succeeded his father and assumed the title of Sultan Mansur Shah. He wanted to settle the Thai problem once and for all and lau nched two attacked against the two Thai States of Kedah and Pahang. Kedah fell quickly and he sent an expedition of over 200 ships against Pahang. The Governor of Pahang, Maharaja Dewa Sura was captured and his daughter taken captive to Melaka to become Mansur Shah's concubine.

It was during Mansur Shah's reign that Hang Tuah, the ultimate Malay hero and symbol of honour, courage and loyalty was made Laksamana or Admiral. Other States quickly fell in battle or become vassals - Johor and Muar in the Peninsular, Jambi, Siak and (briefly) Pasai in Sumatra. Like its Sri Vijayan predecessor, Melaka now firmly ruled much of the two coasts, guarding the vital Straits. Mansur Shah's reign was the peak of Melaka's meteoric rise to Empire and became the golden age of Malay folklore and culture. It was recorded that by this time, Melaka alone, had 40,000 inhabitants, including almost all the known races in the world.

In 1477, Mansur Shah died and his son Raja Hassan ( and a nephew of Tun Perak) became Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah. He mysteriously died in the prime of his life 11 years later, supposedly poisoned just as he was about to leave for pilgrimage to Mekah. We are now seeing a revival of the Tamil Muslim revolution - with the Temenggung Tun Mutahir, the son of the old former Bendahara Tun Ali, being the chief architect. Sultan Alauddin's elder son and the rightful heir Munawar Shah was passed over for his younger half brother, Mahmud, the son of the Temenggong's own sister. The grand old man of Melaka, Tun Perak, died in 1498, to be succeeded by his brother Tun Puteh. When he died shortly after, Tun Mutahir achieved the victory he desired and became Bendahara - the real power in Melaka. Melaka's State continued to flourish but the court was now thronged and dominated by Tamil merchants, ready to buy their way to royal favour. Thier monopoly in trade made them despised by other traders and the Malay chiefs and common people hated the arrogant and greedy "Jawi Pekan" strutting like rulers.

Then, on September 1st, 1509, a Portugese fleet under Admiral Diego Lopez De Sequeira sailed into Melaka harbour - the first European fleet to have ever dropped anchor into Malay waters. That moment was to become a dramatic crossroads in the history of the Malay Peninsular and, ultimately, the fate of all eastern Asia.

When the World Came to Southeast Asia: Malacca and the Global Economy

Situated in the west coast of the Malay Peninsula on the strait that bears its name, the port of Malacca is adjacent to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Today’s Malacca (Melaka in Malay) is a small port city with few obvious signs of its former glory. Despite a growing tourist trade, most visitors are ignorant of the city’s spectacular maritime past as one of the most important trade centers in the early modern global economy, a past that put Malacca in the same league with Venice, Cairo, and Canton. The average tourist is more likely to mention the city’s food than its history. With centuries of trade with China, India, and the Arab world being ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch, and English and its close proximity to many of the world’s spice producers, Malaccan culinary culture brings together East Asian, Indian Ocean, Halal, and European traditions into a Southeast Asian celebration of global food. But tasty as they are, these dishes are artifacts of the city’s lost prominence. Fortunately, city leaders have funded several museums, restoration projects, and archeological sites to celebrate this Malaysian port’s role in the world system, its dynamic multiculturalism, and significance in maritime Asian history.

Despite the port’s tremendous importance and wealth in the fifteenth century, Malacca’s greatness was fleeting. After 1403, a Malay ruler rapidly transformed it from a sleepy fishing village to a center of world trade in less than a decade, but in 1511, the dynamic trade emporium fell to Portuguese invaders who gradually ran Malacca into the ground until they were conquered in turn by the Dutch in 1641. If it became a backwater under colonial rule, a larger historical perspective on Southeast Asia shows that there has always been a hegemonic port city similar to Malacca in its glory days. Geography, meteorological patterns, and the logistics of maritime commerce dictated that somewhere along the Straits of Malacca, one city would serve as the regional center in the global economic order.

Land, Water, and Wind

French historian Fernand Braudel argued that geography and climate structured the decisions humans could make, placing human agency inside of certain environmental constraints. Although he studied the Mediterranean, his perspective is essential for understanding the history of maritime Asia. A check of the map reveals Malacca’s importance. The land literally creates a funnel, as the Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra get steadily closer as one travels into the strait. Tomé Pires, a Portuguese apothecary, referred to the strait as a “gullet,” and contemporary analysts use the term “choke point.”1

The Straits of Malacca connect the Indian Ocean basin to the South China Sea. China- bound maritime trade from India, Persia, and the Arabian Peninsula must either pass by Malacca or travel much farther to the south to the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java. While the Sunda passage is appropriate for ships coming from the Cape of Good Hope, it is a major detour for Indian, Persian, and Arab merchants. Furthermore, the winds along the west coast of Sumatra can be unreliable, and the open ocean swells spawned by massive storms in the Southern Ocean provide for excellent surfing in the Mentawai Islands but dangerous sailing for small craft. The placid waters between the northeast coast of Sumatra and the west coast of the Malay Peninsula are well-protected from ocean swells and can seem like a lake when compared to the towering waves of the Indian Ocean.

The monsoon wind cycle adds a final and historically decisive factor to the history of global trade patterns. In the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months, a high-pressure system over .Siberia pulls wet and warm air off the Indian Ocean, bringing heavy rain and dominant winds that blow toward the northeast. In winter, the pattern is reversed, with Siberian low pressure pushing relatively cooler and dry air to the southwest. In the age of sail, it was next to impossible for boats to travel against these winds. Mariners sailed downwind from India or China toward the southern edge of the Straits of Malacca from November to April. From May to October, they used the monsoon winds to push boats northward to India or China. This wind pattern combined with Malacca’s geographic location to make it an ideal place to await the change of the wind cycle. As merchants going from South Asia to China realized that it was easier and quicker to simply exchange goods with each other at a halfway point in the straits, ports in the region developed into trade emporia where goods from afar could be imported, stored, and exchanged amongst foreign merchants. Such a system allowed Indians and Chinese to bring goods from home, exchange them for foreign goods, and return home in close to six months, rather than the almost two years it would take to travel the full distance.

The Braudelian factors of geography, ocean patterns, and wind cycles made the Straits of Malacca a natural pivot point of commerce in maritime Asia.

Pre-Malaccan Thalassocracies

Before Malacca, there were two great thalassocracies, or sea-going empires: Srivijaya (eighth through twelfth centuries) and Majapahit (1293–1527). Initially, the kingdom of Funan (first through seventh centuries), in what is now Southern Việt Nam, Cambodia, and Thailand, established maritime trade connections between India and China, with the city of Oc-Eo serving as the main port. However, with the Straits of Malacca home to various pirate bands, merchants in the age of Funan used the overland route at the narrow Isthmus of Kra near the present- day Thai-Malaysian border.

In the seventh century, Srivijaya opened up the Straits of Malacca. Using naval power to crush pirates and rivals, the kingdom grew from the region around present-day Palembang in South Sumatra Province in Indonesia to claim control over most of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, much of Java, and thousands of smaller islands. For centuries, Srivijaya expanded the volume of trade through the straits as it led military expeditions against potential rivals while ensuring foreign merchants safe passage and necessary port facilities. After half a millennium of power, the maritime empire fell to the rising Javanese Majapahit kingdom. Another sea-going empire, Majapahit controlled an even larger amount of territory at its imperial zenith in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Javanese combined access to the spice islands of the Moluccas with domination of the Straits of Malacca.

These thalassocracies set the example of incredible wealth that would come from servicing the maritime Silk Roads between China and the Indian Ocean basin. Sea-going trade proved itself to be a much more cost-effective and faster option than Central Asia’s thousands of miles of unreliable roads, slowly crossed by camel caravans at a walking pace.

The Rise of Malacca

Following these precedents, the rise of Malacca was simply the newest phase of a centuries-old pattern. While specific details on the founding of the city remain murky and often the stuff of legend, we do know that prior to 1400, Malacca was a small fishing village. Malay, Portuguese, and Chinese sources hold that the displaced Malay nobleman Parameswara (1344–1414) was in search of a kingdom. Finding a small river that met a beach in the protected waters of strait— all at the foot of a nearby hill that allowed one to observe the coming and going of ships— Parameswara must have realized that the site would make an ideal port that could both service trade and project military power. Accordingly, he forged an alliance with the nomadic orang laut (known as “sea people,” they were literally a floating population of pirates and merchants) to crush his rivals, scare off other pirates, and encourage merchants into his harbor. If he strongarmed some ships into his port, once there they found reliable trading practices and security in a dangerous area.

Malacca’s just and uniform trade practices quickly gained notoriety throughout maritime Asia. Under the watchful but protective eyes of the fierce orang laut, merchants who came into Malacca found that the city offered safe and secure warehouse facilities. Ensuring smooth transactions, Parameswara established a system with clear rules on the percentage of incoming cargo that would be taxed. Avoiding opportunities for graft and petty corruption, the local government had a hierarchy of officials with four harbormasters, each for an ethnically defined group of merchants such as Gujarati, Bengali, Malay, or East Asian. An executive officer stood above them all to arbitrate interethnic disputes and ensure harmonious multicultural commerce. Serving as a marketplace for imports to be traded amongst foreigners, the city produced and consumed relatively little.

Within a few years, the successful system made Malacca the most important trading center in Southeast Asia. With this prosperity, the young city grew. Merchants, laborers, and slaves from throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia, and South Asia soon filled Malacca. Cultural diversity became the norm, and one could hear dozens of languages spoken in the cosmopolitan city’s bustling streets.

Tribute State and Sultanate

Parameswara solidified Malacca’s position with institutional and personal connections to the great economic engines of his world, China and India. The city’s rise coincided with one of the most dynamic phases in Chinese history as the early Ming dynasty (1364–1644) deployed a massive fleet and established direct relations with the Asia maritime world. The Yongle Emperor (1402–1424) tasked Zheng He (1371– 1433) with building and commanding hundreds of ships, some estimated to be over 400 feet in length. Not a mission of conquest or exploration, the fleet followed the well-known monsoon trade routes to promote trade and diplomacy by impressing the world with China’s might. Maritime powers were encouraged to enter into the Confucian-based tribute-state relationship with the Middle Kingdom. Parameswara himself traveled to the Chinese capital to kowtow before the emperor in 1411. In return for his tribute and respect, the Malaccan ruler received honorary robes from the Chinese court, a symbol of prestige, and, more practically, assurances of Chinese military assistance should it be needed. Furthermore, the Chinese court granted the city what we might call most-favored-nation status. If the sinitic tribute state system ensured the city’s standing to the east, religion solidified Malacca’s economic relationship toward the west.

While it is unclear if Parameswara converted to Islam, he adopted titles associated with the faith (the Persian Iskandar Shah and the Arabic Sultan) and intermarried with Muslim royal families. This is not surprising, as increasing numbers of Indian, Persian, and Arab merchants began to arrive in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra and the Straits of Malacca. By midcentury, the city’s leadership converted, and a sultan made the Hajj pilgrimage, placing Malacca in the wider Islamic trade network that dominated the greater Indian Ocean basin. Muslims from South Asia, Arabia, or North Africa knew that they would be able to find places of worship, individuals familiar with Arabic, and communities governed by familiar trade practices and influenced by Islamic law codes.

These relationships strengthened Malacca’s foreign relations and its domestic dynamism. As a tribute state, the city became familiar to Chinese who soon began to reside in the port. Muslim merchants from thousands of miles away settled in the city, adding to its ethnic diversity. By the close of the fifteenth century, Malacca was one of the world’s most important cities for trade and home to a cosmopolitan community of over 100,000. Arabs prayed with Chinese. Armenians traded with Javanese. Indians and Japanese saw each other in the street.

The Portuguese Crusade

Historians often mark Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic as the dawn of the modern era. This perspective, with its emphasis on the Iberian construction of global connections, can obscure the fact that the original goal of Spanish expansion was not the unknown New World but rather the markets of East and Southeast Asia. The Portuguese were more immediately successful in this quest. After the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, in which Portugal and Spain agreed to divide the world into two spheres of expansion, the smaller kingdom sent Vasco da Gama to India to build a trade empire on the far side of the world. Unfortunately, the Portuguese had little to sell in Asia and quickly turned to more violent means of acquiring the spices, silks, and other riches of Indian Ocean ports. Alfonso de Albuquerque (1453-1515), a brilliantly ruthless strategist was the main architect of Portuguese Asian policy. Recognizing the relative weakness of his small armed forces on land, he exploited his fleet’s naval superiority by attacking strategic waterways such as the Strait of Hormuz (1507) and ports such as Goa (1510). His ships, bristling with guns and sailors trained in the ways of armed trade in the less-than-peaceful Mediterranean, highjacked Asia’s maritime economy. Realizing that control of Malacca would give him a near-monopoly of Chinese goods and spices from the Moluccas, Albuquerque attacked the city in 1511. After several fierce battles with the sultan’s skilled archers and powerful war elephants, the Portuguese conquered the port.

While Albuquerque’s aim was to monopolize Asian trade by taking this crucial choke point, his motivations must be understood in the context of early modern Europe. Coming out of the Crusades and feudalism, Islamophobia and the warrior culture were central to the Portuguese worldview. But this conquistador also understood global patterns of trade and realized that if he seized Malacca, Portugal would gain an upper hand on a European commercial rival: the city of Venice. Since the Venetians made tremendous profits selling eastern goods to the Iberians and as the merchant republic got along a little too well with their Muslim colleagues, a move in Southeast Asia would solve a Mediterranean political crisis. Albuquerque justified his assault on the port in a speech to his men:

And I hold it as very certain that if we take this trade of Malacca away of their hands, Cairo and Méca are entirely ruined, and to Venice will no spiceries be conveyed except that which her merchants go and buy in Portugal.2

Clearly, the commander saw the world as a sophisticated trading system but also as a bitter clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity. The merchants of Venice immediately understood the threat to their centuries-old trade with the East, which indeed went into an immediate and irreversible decline. The Catholic invaders viewed Southeast Asian Muslims with the same hostility and contempt displayed in Iberia, killing or expelling them from the city. Mosques were torn down and churches raised in their place. The subsequent century saw almost constant warfare between Portuguese Malacca and the neighboring Sultanates of Johore and Aceh. When compared with the Spanish Americas and Philippines, Portuguese missionary activity was spectacularly unsuccessful in Asia, and ironically, anti-Muslim policies may have sped up conversions to Islam as a means of resisting the Iberian invaders. Visiting priests, such as the Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier, disparaged the city’s lack of piety and reputation for sin.

After a century of growth, Malacca went into a period of demographic instability. As many ethnic Malay Muslims and orang laut fled with the sultan and only a handful of ethnic Portuguese arrived in the city, the new rulers encouraged the migration of mixed-race Catholic converts from India. Others made it to Malacca from Portuguese colonies in Brazil, Africa, East Timor, and Macau. While Catholics remained a minority, the city’s Hindu and Buddhist communities grew as Indian and Chinese merchants took up residence. As before, the new arrivals brought new food and increased the city’s ethnic diversity.

Under the 130 years of Portuguese rule, trade declined. Muslim merchants found rival ports, and Protestant Europeans soon posed a serious threat. Increasingly, Portuguese Malacca survived only as a military outpost in a sea of enemies.

Stagnation and Displacement under the Dutch and British

When the Dutch arrived in Southeast Asia, they brought a new form of economic organization: the modern corporation. After its creation in 1602, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), with its system of buying and selling shares in the company, diversified risk for its many investors after its creation in 1602. The Iberian feudal elites and their merchant allies could not compete with the forces of early modern capitalism. The VOC’s Batavia, modern-day Jakarta, quickly took over the spice trade, redirecting commerce away from the Straits of Malacca and toward the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. When the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as masters of the city in 1641, the new Protestant rulers held the port only to keep it out of the hands of their rivals. The few Dutch who immigrated to Malacca did build distinctive buildings for VOC officials and merchants.

In the early nineteenth century, the British East India Company took an interest in the Straits of Malacca. English ships loaded with opium from India passed through Southeast Asia on their way to Canton. In order to secure this crucial waterway, the British negotiated control of Malacca by the 1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty. However, Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781–1826) established Singapore as the center of English operations in the region and Malacca remained a backwater. When the naturalist Russel Alfred Wallace (1823–1913) visited in the 1850s, he wrote the following:

The population of Malacca consists of several races. The ubiquitous Chinese are perhaps the most numerous, keeping up their manners, customs, and language the indigenous Malays are next in point of numbers, and their language is the lingua-franca of the place. Next come the descendants of the Portuguese—a mixed, degraded, and degenerate race, but who still keep up the use of their mother tongue, though ruefully mutilated in grammar and then there are the English rulers, and the descendants of the Dutch, who all speak English.3

While neglected by the authorities, the port’s vibrant multiculturalism continued to flourish. Under British rule, the Chinese population grew as part of the larger Peranakan Chinese community. As with the Portuguese and Dutch, many Chinese men took Malay, Javanese, and Balinese brides and concubines, producing a hybrid culture. Malacca’s Baba-Nyonya cuisine combines southern Chinese dishes with spices and cooking techniques of Southeast Asia.

Contemporary Malacca

A number of factors combined to marginalize the once-great port city. In the twentieth century, Malacca’s harbor served regional ships picking up tin and rubber from nearby mines and plantations. Yet this commerce was fairly small-scale, and the city became a backwater, eclipsed by Singapore to the south and Georgetown to the north. The British chose landlocked Kuala Lumpur as the political center of the colonial Federated Malay States. While the nationalist leader Tunku Abdul Rahman (1903–1990) did famously utter “Merdeka” (“freedom”) in Malacca in 1956 and drew upon the city’s historical legacy in his speeches, the following year he declared independence in Kuala Lumpur. With rising Malay nationalism, Malacca’s diversity raised some eyebrows in regards to the city’s authenticity.

However, a new wind is blowing into Malacca. In recognition of its important role in maritime history and diverse culture, the city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Tourists can see the colonial past in ruins of the Portuguese A Famosa Fort (1511) or the Dutch Stadthuys (1650). The hungry can sample local specialties in Baba Nyonya restaurants on Jonker Street. A number of museums represent the port’s past as a center of Malay culture but also the meeting place of the Chinese and Islamic worlds, best seen in the exhibits and statues that celebrate Zheng He. For today’s visitor, history in Malacca is alive and well.

Dutch Malacca 1641-1795, 1818-1825

On 14 January 1641 the Dutch took possession from the Portuguese of the fortress of Malacca with the help of their ally the Sultan of Johore. The Dutch had treaties with the Johore Sultans to get rid of the Portuguese. The Malays were confident of a victory with the help of the Dutch, thus regaining the Malacca throne. But this was not the Dutch aim.

After the capture the Dutch set up a government. Malacca was too important for the VOC strategies, as the city was situated on the main trade route to the Far East (Spices islands, China and Japan) and was a formidable strategic outpost. A short time after the conquest of Malacca the Dutch made trading agreements with several states of the Malay Peninsula to obtain tin (Kedah 1642, Ujung Salang 1643, Bangkeri 1645, Perak). For this reason a Dutch outpost was established in Perak, but in 1651 the garrison was killed and the outpost destroyed by the Malays. In 1660 even the factory established at Ujung Salang was abandoned.

In the 1650s a great imposing building, the Stadthuys, is built by the Dutch as the administrative centre and home of the Governor of Malacca. By the 1660s the trade in Dutch Malacca was in decline and the relations with the Malay states had deteriorated as well. The Dutch had a factory at Bengkalis (1670s) at the mouth of the Siak river (Sumatra). From here they controlled the tin trade.

The trade at Siak was vital for Malacca and for the Malacca Freeburghers community, a community of Dutch and Portuguese descendants intermarried with the local people. The duty collected of their Siak trade was an important share of Malacca’s revenue.

Perak was the main tin producing kingdom on the whole peninsula and the VOC was interested in controlling its trade. For this reason a Dutch outpost was established from 1670 to 1690 at Teluk Gedung on pulau Pangkor. This fort was reoccupied by the Dutch in 1746 and later the same year the fort was moved upstream to Tanjung Putus.

Malacca trade quickly declined after the Dutch conquest. In fact the city’s prosperity was supported by free trade. However, to the contrary, the VOC wanted the monopoly for all goods. Malacca’s decline was also due to the fact that, while under the Portuguese rule the city was only behind Goa the main Portuguese base in the east. Under the Dutch Batavia was the main Eastern base of the VOC and the company had no interest in developing Malacca’s trade to the detriment of that of Batavia. The Sultanate of Johore (the Dutch ally during the siege of Portuguese Malacca) took advantage of all this by opening his seaport of Riau (an Indonesian island near Singapore) to all ships and to all types of commerce.

In the 1700s Johore was a powerful force on the Straits. The trade of Riau (the seaport for the Johore Sultanate) had far surpassed that of Malacca. The VOC maintained the alliance with Johore despite the discontent of Malacca. The strength of Johore was seen as a safeguard to the peaceful trade on the Straits. In those years it was rumored that the Dutch might leave the city. The only importance of Malacca for the Dutch was that it was situated on a very strategic point and they did not want Malacca to fall into the hands of any other European power this is why the Dutch remained. During the period of Dutch rule Malacca had a garrison of usually less than 550 Dutchmen.

Map of the Malay Peninsula. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

In 1710 St. Peter’s Church is built. It is still the oldest functioning Christian church in Malaysia. In the 1720s a new power appeared on the scene: the Bugis. They were and are the main ethnic group of the south-western coastal region of Sulawesi (Celebes). After the Dutch conquest of the Sultanate of Makassar several groups of Bugis emigrated from Makassar (Sulawesi) and settled near Malacca in the 1710s. In 1722 the Bugis captured the port of Riau and the whole Kingdom of Johore. The Bugis developed not only the port of Riau but also that of Selangor (north of Malacca). In 1710 the St. Peter’s Church is built. It is the oldest still functioning Christian church in Malaysia. In 1722 the Bugis captured the port of Riau and the whole Kingdom of Johore. The Bugis developed not only the port of Riau but also that of Selangor (north of Malacca).

In 1746 the Sultan of Johore gave the Siak Kingdom to the VOC as a gift. The same year agreements were concluded with the peninsular Kingdoms of Nanning, Rembau and Perak. In Perak the Dutch fort was reoccupied. With these agreements the prosperity of Malacca was improved. However, the Bugis were a constant threat to the Dutch. Their leader Daeng Kamboja made Linggi his base and from October 1756 till July 1757 besieged Dutch Malacca. In February 1757 reinforcements arrived from Batavia and the Bugis were forced to drop the siege. In that year the Dutch built a fort on the Linggi River and named it Philippe (today’s Kota Linggi) after the daughter of the Dutch Governor Jacob Mussel (Governor of Batavia from 1750 to 1761). Tin that was transported from Linggi, Rembau and Kelang Selan. The purpose of the fort was to collect taxes from the tin that was transported from Linggi, Rembau and Kelang Selangor. On the 1st of January 1758 this fort was the site where the treaty between the Bugis and the Dutch was signed. This treaty enabled the Dutch to impose their control on this area: Linggi and Rembau were ceded to the VOC. In 1758 on Pulau Gontong at the mouth of Siak river the Dutch built a fort to control the tin trade, but later in 1765 the fort was abandoned, the good relations between Siak and the VOC no longer needing such a defence facility. In 1759 the fort of Linggi was also abandoned. Between 1753 and 1760 the Christ Church in Malacca was built. Malacca trade was flourishing, but a new sea power appeared on the scene: the British. From the 1750s they traded tin with Riau and in 1781 they occupied the Dutch outpost Perak. Then in 1786 a British base was established in Penang.

To prevent a British occupation the Dutch attacked Riau and on 29 October 1784 the Bugis were defeated. The resulting treaty ended Johore’s independence and a Dutch fort was established at Tanjung Pinang (Riau). On the Malay Peninsula Johore, Selangore, Perak, Trengganu and Pahang became Dutch territories. The VOC was truly dominant in the Straits. During the Napoleonic wars the Dutch Governor surrendered Malacca to the British East India Company in August 1795. During their rule the British demolished the fortress of Malacca. In 1818 after the Napoleonic Wars Malacca is restored by the British to the Dutch under the Treaty of Vienna. In 1824 the Anglo-Dutch Treaty or the Treaty of London was signed between the Dutch and the British. The British give Bencoolen on Sumatra to the Dutch and Malacca was given to the British. On 9 April 1825 the Dutch ceded Malacca.


– Andaya, Barbarba Watson “Melaka under the Dutch 1641-1795”, in: “Melaka – The Transformation of a Malay Capital ca. 1400-1980”, Vol. one, edited by Kernial Singh Sandhu, Paul Wheatley, pp. 195-241.

– Andaya, Leonard Yuzon “The Kingdom of Johore 1641-1728: a study of economic and political developments on the Straits of Malacca” 458 pp. Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, Cornell University, 1971

– Arasaratnam, S. “Dutch commercial policy and interests in the Malay peninsula, 1750-1795” In: “An Expanding World” Vol. n° 10 Prakash, Om “European commercial expansion in early modern Asia” pp. 177-207 Also in: “The age of partnership, Europeans in Asia before dominion” Honolulu, 1979, pp. 159-189

– Harrison, Brian ” Holding the Fort: Melaka Under Two Flags, 1795-1845″ xiv, 148pp. with illustrated plates and maps, The Malaysian branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1985, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

– Hayes Hoyt, Sarnia “Old Malacca” xii, 84 pages, 16 pp. colour plates Oxford Paperbacks, 1997, Singapore. A pocket history to the oldest of the cosmopolitan entrepôt city states in Malaysia, includes a series of illustrations from colonial times to the present.

– Irwin, G. W. “Melaka fort”, in: “Melaka – The Transformation of a Malay Capital c. 1400-1980” Vol. one Edited by Kernial Singh Sandhu, Paul Wheatley. p. 195-241. several maps The history of the fort of Malacca during the Portuguese and Dutch time. A detailed historical research.

– Ketelaars, Toine “Living apart together – Ethnic Diversity in Dutch Malacca 1640-1690” pp. 20 A very interesting paper with various information on the numerical and ethnical composition of Dutch Malacca.

– Leupe, P.A. “The siege and capture of Malacca from the Portuguese in 1640-1641” JMBRAS vol, 14, pt. 1 (1936) pp 1-176. Index: The occupation of the Straits of Malacca 1636-1639, the siege and the capture of Malacca 1640-1641, commissary Justus Schouten’s report of his visit to Malacca 1641.

– Lewis, Dianne “Jan compagnie in the Straits of Malacca 1641-1795” 176 pp. map, Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1995, Athens, Ohio, USA. A good book on Malacca/Dutch history. Index: The Dutch conquest and its aftermath, the crisis with Johor 1700-1718, the Dutch company and the Bugis opting for neutrality, Dutch alliance with Malays, neutrality revisited, neutrality abandoned: the Dutch capture of Riau, the VOC’s “forward movement” in the Straits of Malacca.

– Smith, W. H. “The Portuguese in Malacca during the Dutch period” in: STUDIA N° 7 pp. 87-106, 1961, Lisbon, Portugal.

– Sta Maria, Joseph “Undi nos by di aki? Where do we go from here ? Portuguese land title dilemma” vi+89 pp. Sakti Bersatu Enterprises, 1994, Melaka, Malaysia.

Watch the video: Fall of the Malacca Sultanate. How 1000 Portuguese Soldiers Toppled an Empire