The Singapore and Melaka Straits: Violence, Security and Diplomacy in the 17th Century

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By Peter Borschberg

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 seventeenth century brought heightened political, commercial and diplomatic activity to this region. It has 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Drawing on maps, rare printed works, and unpublished manuscripts written in Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Latin, Peter Borschberg provides new information on the diplomatic activities of Asian powers, and shows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 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, 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 book] will prove a boon and a joy for those interested in these issues...The field is much enriched by the addition of someone with Peter Borschberg's linguistic skills to the small band of specialists on these difficult sources." - Anthony Reid


Peter Borschberg is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and teaches history at the National University of Singapore. He is a also a Visiting Professor at the Asia-Europe Institute at the University of Malaya as well as a Guest Professor in Modern History at the University of Greifswald. He has authored The Memoirs and Memorials of Jacques de Coutre: Security, Trade and Society in 16th- and 17th-century Southeast Asia, Jacques de Coutre's Singapore and Johor 1594-c. 1625, Hugo Grotius, the Portuguese, and Free Trade in the East Indies and Journal, Memorials and Letters of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge: Security, Diplomacy and Commerce in 17th-century Southeast Asia.


Publication Year: 2010
392 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-464-7, Paperback

NUS Press