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Giving up the ghost: Rethinking Southeast Asia’s maritime past and its place in world history

Jennifer L. Gaynor

Introduction: Giving up the ghost

     There was a time when history textbooks in the United States began with Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America. Remember? But then sources broadened, brutal colonial legacies became impossible to deny, and scholars and teachers could no longer maintain the fiction that before this point, the people of the Americas had no history. Yet, of course, they did. And the people of the Americas went on having histories, right through the colonial period and out the other end—was there an end?—into a purportedly post-imperial time.

     Southeast Asian history also went through a version of this post-imperial reckoning. However, in Southeast Asia, for the most part, anti-colonial revolutions kicked out the various colonizers, and, for a while, scholarly writing about the region’s past took the shape of a cluster of postcolonial national histories. Until fairly recently, the challenging process of understanding Southeast Asia before Europeans sailed into its waters belonged largely to archaeologists, art historians, and epigraphers. Most historians found the early period and regional prehistory beyond their purview. However, world history has helped to change that, pushing back the temporal boundaries of what counts as history, while broadening knowledge about the connections and transformations that linked disparate parts of the globe.

     Below, I emphasize the importance of these earlier epochs. Yet, this does not mean that colonial encounters, revolutions and postcolonial histories are any less important or interesting. On the contrary, the study of colonialism, its creole underpinnings, disassembly, and afterlife remain as crucial and riveting as, say, how student activists helped usher in nationalist leaders and helped usher out postwar dictators. The thing is, it has simply become crystal clear that to understand world history, it is more vital than ever for historians to reach both for the tools (languages, methodologies), and the sources that reveal new information—qualitative or quantitative—about the past. This will not only continue to lead to new historical knowledge. It will also reframe (indeed, it already has reframed) old data and well-known narratives, throwing light on novel ways to interpret European materials once thought to hold obvious truths, presumed to be legitimate, about what made the world “global” and “modern.”

     “Give up the ghost” means that something no longer works. Although it was once common for regional histories to begin with figures such as Afonso de Albuquerque and Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães), historians of Southeast Asia broadly agree that it no longer works to begin histories of Southeast Asia with the story of how Europeans came to the region. Here, my aim is not to launch an anti-Eurocentric tirade, which frankly can become tiresome for both authors and readers. Instead, I wish to take a step back to reflect on how historians have handled giving up the ghost of using colonial history to launch narratives about Southeast Asia’s maritime past and to explain its place in world history

     Although among an earlier generation of historians, M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz and J.C. van Leur actually aimed to give back to local shippers and traders their rightful place in the region’s economic history, Meilink-Roelofsz downplayed the limited information in Portuguese sources that did not fit with depictions offered by later colonial Dutch observers. Meilink-Roelofsz also erroneously rejected the idea that Javanese jong (the term has Malay and Javanese language origins) could have been suited to navigating the Indian Ocean. When sources could not be rejected outright, “foreigners” were called to the rescue in explanations. Even J. C. van Leur, who championed the local carrying trade, based his calculations of regional tonnages largely on extrapolations from trade at Batavia. The only conspicuous exception to the picture of a small scale regional carrying trade in their work was Japara on Java’s north coast, from which ships of over 200 tons and more still sailed in the 1620s. Yet, during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Southeast Asian polities indeed built and sailed large oceangoing vessels, which were among the main carriers in the eastern segments of international trade in the Indian Ocean.1 As will become clear below, this history had deep temporal precedents.

     More recent historians have taken a productive look at precolonial interactions that involved the travel of other Asians to, and through, Southeast Asia. Yet, much of this scholarship has likewise neglected the central role of Southeast Asians in forging these maritime paths, and in building and operating the boats that often carried others. I offer an alternate approach that starts with Southeast Asia’s earliest maritime networks, goes on to illustrate how its mariners created intraregional and interregional links, and finally, underscores their significance—both the mariners and the networks they forged—for understanding both regional history and Southeast Asia’s contributions to world history.

     In short, this approach is important for three reasons. First, it provides a clearer understanding of state formation in Southeast Asia’s maritime world, a challenging subject of perennial interest. Second, by showing that Southeast Asia-built boats carried objects and people, along with their ideas and practices, back and forth across the Bay of Bengal, as well as to and from China, this approach illuminates how people and things moved in early transnational Asian spaces whose developments were vital to world history. Third, this fuller understanding of mobility and agency in transnational maritime Asia also extends into later eras, encompassing an important field for historical analysis that foregrounds how regional maritime networks seeded systems of social and political interaction. A key part of understanding forms of interpolity relations that have long eluded scholars of the maritime world, this field also opens onto a related locus of historical inquiry: newcomers to Southeast Asia—be they Persian, Arab, Tamil, Chinese, or European—stepped into extant networks of maritime interaction, and they contended, knowingly or not, with the systems of social and political relations that these networks spawned. In other words, regional maritime dynamics comprised a crucial facet of interpolity relations in both early and early modern Southeast Asia. Moreover, these interpolity maritime dynamics became entangled with Ming era imperial Chinese political aspirations and also impacted the spice wars at the heart of early modern European colonial endeavors.

The South China Sea was first an Austronesian interaction zone

     A better understanding of state formation in maritime Southeast Asia has been a long time coming. Notwithstanding Kenneth Hall’s important early work underscoring the connections between maritime trade and state development,2 Jan Wisseman Christie’s 1995 state-of-the-art review on state formation in early maritime Southeast Asia began:

Over the last decade or so several attempts have been made to come to grips with the problem of how and when the early states of Southeast Asia first developed. Most of the more prominent essays (…) have focused largely or exclusively upon the states of the mainland. The maritime region has been less well served, due partly to the paucity and intractability of the data, and partly to the fact that most scholars dealing with the early history of the maritime region are still struggling to produce adequate descriptions of the states of the later first millennium A.D., well after the first states were founded.3

     Since the appearance of that article, a considerable body of archaeological, linguistic, and historical evidence has been painstakingly assembled that now makes it possible to describe a much clearer picture of early state formation in the region. In this picture, Southeast Asian boats and mariners loom large amidst the regional environment’s extensive coastal and archipelagic geography. One of the most important points that emerges from the evidence in this body of scholarship is that even before there were polities, mariners tied together the South China Sea as a region of interaction.

Figure 1. Southeast Asia and Oceania, showing geographical divisions and the main chronological trends in Neolithic and Austronesian settlement. Used with the permission of Peter Bellwood.

     Scholars have long recognized the implications of the dispersion of Austronesian languages, which spread from Taiwan and its vicinity into island Southeast Asia, and from there, westward across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar and eastward across the Pacific to Easter Island. This dispersion represents the broadest maritime migration before the modern age. While linguistic evidence suggests that Southeast Asia’s so-called sea people, in particular the Sama, may have developed their maritime proclivities through trade interactions with the early polity of Śrīvijaya, recent work in linguistics has proposed that seafaring groups were among Southeast Asia’s original populations.4

     In archaeology, research on the export of green nephrite jade presents the most striking and incontrovertible evidence about South China Sea interactions. The ability not only to date, but to chemically trace particular jade artifacts is what makes this work on early exchange networks so striking. Green nephrite jade exports from Taiwan to the Philippines continued for more than 2,500 years. However, archaeologists have also shown it was exchanged over a much wider area. Pendants, debris from their manufacture, and blanks for their crafting from sites distributed around the South China Sea were chemically traced to one particular mine in Taiwan. Dating from roughly 500 BCE to 500 CE, the distribution of these objects reveals one of the most extensive sea-based networks of a single geological material in the prehistoric world. Importantly, these nephrite sites are associated with speakers of an Austronesian language subgroup. In addition, the sites’ dating largely precedes Chinese maritime activity beyond coastal waters and the Tongking Gulf, and also predates South Asia’s religious, philosophical and architectural influence in Southeast Asia.5 If they were not Chinese or South Asian, who were the mariners that forged this network of interaction around the South China Sea?

Figure 2. The distribution of Taiwan nephrite artifacts in Southeast Asia. From Hsiao-Chun Hung et al., “Ancient jades map 3,000 years of prehistoric exchange in Southeast Asia,” PNAS 104, 50 (2007): 19745-19750.

Copyright (2007) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. See Used by permission of PNAS.

     Part of a more elaborate history of cultural practices, these and other worked objects were common among remotely separated South China Sea sites, yet, they were not always found among the nearest neighboring communities. This so-called Sa Huynh-Kalanay Interaction Sphere, including both mainland and island Southeast Asia locales, also shared the practice of jar burial, distinctive pottery styles, baked-clay jewelry, and precious stones, such as the above-mentioned nephrite. Operating between about 500 BCE through 100 CE, some objects, such as the nephrite, suggest it lasted longer. Additional evidence of cross-regional exchange from Vietnam and the Philippines suggests it may have extended back to 1500 BCE. Such complex and evolving networks illustrate social and economic ties formed and maintained within Southeast Asia over generations. Interestingly, some scholars have linked this South China Sea network of interactions with the migration of Malayo-Chamic speakers from island to mainland Southeast Asia. A yet wider framework has also been proposed, plausibly postulating a late prehistoric maritime Southeast Asian integration, in which trading nodes formed cradles for the development of later socio-political practices.6

     In sites along early Southeast Asian trade routes, the presence of other artifacts produced beyond the region indicate regular contact with Indian Ocean shores. Beads and ornaments of semiprecious stone or glass formed a major exchange item first imported as a luxury good, but then manufactured locally as early as the fourth century in centers that catered to local and regional markets. After 800 CE, toward the end of the Tang dynasty, Chinese ceramic, metal, and textile manufactures flooded Southeast Asian markets. In contrast, most goods that moved from Southeast Asia to China, and east to west across the Bay of Bengal, were instead raw commodities. In addition to metals and spices, highly prized sappan wood was exported to India and China from Timor.7

     Though limited technological transfers followed the same routes as these raw goods exports, textual and archaeological evidence show the active role Southeast Asians played in the development of shipping technologies, as well as in long-distance commerce. Distinct from Indian Ocean and Chinese shipbuilding technology, recent discoveries by nautical archaeologists confirm earlier descriptions and hypotheses about Southeast Asian boats, built by stitching together hull planks and lashing the frames to these planks via holes in the planks’ protruding lugs. Toward the end of the first millenium CE, dowels replaced the stitches that joined together hull planks, while later still, dowels also superceded using lashings to fasten the frame to the hull.8 First mentioned in third-century Chinese historical records, this “stitched plank and lashed-lug technique” was identified with Southeast Asian (Kunlun) people in an early ninth-century Chinese Buddhist commentary. Up to forty-five or fifty meters long, with multiple masts and sails, and able to carry hundreds of passengers, as well as a substantial cargo, these early sewn vessels conveyed seventh-century Buddhist monks sailing for the Śrīvijaya ports of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, and also carried them to and from Bay of Bengal harbors.9

     Shipmasters, who owned the ship and part of her cargo, played an important role in interregional transport. Known by a number of related terms in first millenium South Asian sources, they were generally called nakhoda in medieval and Islamic contexts. Chinese sources beginning in the Song also note the major role shipmasters played in South China Sea settings. Shipmasters first appear in a Southeast Asian context in a sixth century Sanskrit inscription. Then, during the 680’s, the first inscriptions in an Austronesian language convey the importance of merchants and shipmasters in the newly founded polity of Śrīvijaya. These Old Malay inscriptions use a term of foreign origin for the sea merchant (vanyaga from Sanskrit baṇyāga). Yet, they render “shipmaster” as “puhawang” in the vernacular Old Malay. One interpretation holds that this seventh century inscription depicts an apparent sharing of roles: to the Indians the itinerant merchant role, and to the Malays the agency for ship ownership and entrepreneurship. Such an interpretation reappears, with the same name (puhawang) in the many foundation myths of Insular Southeast Asia’s trading polities. The essential role Southeast Asia-built seagoing ships played in early Bay of Bengal networks underscores the prominence of the shipmaster’s role. As if a functional team, this pairing of shipmasters and itinerant merchants reappers in later inscriptions in Java, Bali and Champa. Southeast Asian shippers and entrepreneurs also played a major role in South China Sea settings, where locally-made large ships carrying cargoes of Chinese and other exports were partly loaded or reloaded in, and destined for, Southeast Asian harbor cities.10

Early maritime powers along the mainland littoral and in the archipelago

     The prehistoric and protohistoric maritime networks described above help us to understand the emergence of three important early Southeast Asian maritime powers: Champa, Śrīvijaya, and Brunei.


      Though little is known about the development of Cham centers on the central Vietnam coast until the seventh century, we know they were founded by Austronesian-speaking people who arrived by sea and established ports on river deltas. The earliest extant inscription in any Southeast Asian vernacular was written in Cham and found near Mỹ So'n. One of the oldest Southeast Asian Sanskrit inscriptions is from Võ Cạnh near Nha Trang. The following three, in Sanskrit and from the fifth century, including one in the south at the Đà Rằng estuary, illustrate the regional dispersal of Cham centers and their reliance on the sea. Given the Cham’s maritime avocation and origins, the Indic features that appear from this time were acquired during their own voyages, and via their linkages with other Austronesian-speaking populations who may already have begun traveling to South Asia before Chamic speakers departed for the mainland from the archipelago, probably from Borneo.11

Figure 3. Maritime Southeast Asia and the surrounding seas. Note the orientation of the compass rose. Credit: Jennifer L. Gaynor and Bill Nelson.

     Champa, known by that name, also appeared in seventh-century Chinese sources. Scholars now differentiate Champa from Linyi, which may not have been Cham, and which Chinese sources describe as constantly hostile, attacking northward into the Chinese areas of modern northern Vietnam. Yet, eventually, Champa’s northward expansion may have led to the equation of the two at the turn of the sixth and seventh centuries. Mỹ So'n and Trà Kiệu were predominant Champa centers from the time of the first epigraphic and architectural remains, until they suddenly ceased in the mid-eighth century, when new epigraphy and architecture began at Nha Trang and Phan Rang (Pāṇḍuraṅga), while Mỹ So'n saw neither for another century. This shift in relative importance among chiefdoms in the south had nothing to do with any moves by ruling groups in the north. Instead, as with shifts among one or another region’s predominance throughout much of Cham history, changes in relative importance instead related to the vicissitudes of trade that linked Cham ports to China, archipelagic Southeast Asia, and India.12

     In the mid-ninth century, the Thu Bồn valley reemerged as a center under a new Cham ruling group, and became the most important Champa polity, thereafter referred to in Chinese sources as "Zhan-cheng"—"Cham city." Its rulers had a new religious orientation, building a Mahayanist temple complex twenty-five kilometers from Mỹ So'n, and constructing more temples as they expanded their territory. This expansion led them to the borders of newly independent Vietnam in the tenth century and, near the end of that century, with attempted Cham intervention in Vietnamese internal politics, led to the first Việt-Champa conflict. During the eleventh century, Nha Trang and Pāṇḍuraṅga (Phan Rang) showed increasing importance in the epigraphic record, though the centers at Vijaya in Bình Định may have been economically and strategically most important during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.13

     Cham influence was felt as far afield as Java, Sulawesi, and the Philippines. All shipping between China and the rest of the world, except the Philippines, parts of Indonesia and Japan, hugged the Cham coast of central Vietnam, so Champa had to be heavily involved in trade, tribute, and voyages of pilgrimage moving to and from China. From early on, Cham inscriptions offer a sense of the dangers of living on the coast, and mention raids by “ferocious, pitiless, dark-skinned sea raiders” who attacked Cham towns in 774 and 787, and Tongking in 767. From the eighth to tenth centuries, Java’s kingdom of Mataram was a great center of Mahayana Buddhist influence with Tantric elements, and an inscription of 911 at Dong Duong records two journeys of Rajadvara, a Cham courtier, to study Tantric secrets of royal power in Java. Cham Buddhist networks would also have been linked to Śrīvijaya, which, as discussed below, boasted a prominent, and, as it were, international center of Buddhist learning during the tenth and eleventh centuries.14

     Both Java and Malay textual traditions assert claims to marital ties between Cham lineages and Majapahit Java, with one even claiming that Islam entered the Javanese court due to Raden Rahmat, the brother of a Cham princess who married a Majapahit king. Cham envoys also appear with fair regularity in Chinese records. For instance, in 1418 envoys came together to China from Champa, Melaka, Lamri and Shi-la-bei (another Sumatran state, hard to identify). However, it is not always possible to determine from which Cham center the Cham representative came. Chams became sufficiently familiar with Malay culture to adapt two Malay epics into Cham, presumably between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. These were borrowed in pre-Islamic form, which is interesting because Malay culture was to become closely associated with Islam, and many Chams in exile later became Muslim. Indeed, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cham Muslims formed a diaspora of traders, warriors and refugees in the region and its seas.15

     Importantly, the Chams also had ties with the Philippines and Brunei across the South China Sea. Before the mid-fourteenth century, Philippine trade and tribute to China apparently travelled via Champa. The first tribute mission to China recorded from any Philippine island was from Butuan in eastern Mindanao in 1001, which gave rise to Butuan’s description in the Sung Annals as, “a small country in the sea to the east of Champa, further than Ma-i (Mindoro), with regular communications with Champa but rarely with China.” While the northern Philippines later gained contacts with China, these were lost during the mid-fifteenth century Ming bans. At that time, Cham connections with the Philippines continued at least indirectly through trade by the ”Luzons” (Muslim Tagalogs or Sino-Tagalogs), prominent traders when the Portuguese arrived in Melaka in 1511, who sent their ships on the Manila-Brunei-Melaka and the Melaka-Champa-Canton runs.16

     Whereas scholars once assumed that Champa was a unitary kingdom, current views hold it was not even a federation, but instead, was comprised of several separate entities, the interrelations among which varied over time from total separateness to alliance, peace, hostility, and trade.17


      Founded in the late seventh century with its center in present-day Palembang, Śrīvijaya expanded during the eighth century and established a strategically dominant position in relation to the Melaka Straits. Its founder subjugated Malayu-Jambi, which lay both in central Sumatra and at Kedah, the dominant harbor city across the straits on the Malay peninsula. Renowned as a major center of Buddhist learning, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk, Yijing, stayed at Śrīvijaya nearly eight years between 671 and 695 translating hundreds of Sanskrit manuscripts. He reported that more than a thousand priests there engaged in study and good works, and advised others with similar aims to spend a year or two there before going on to do further study in India. 18

     Arab and Chinese textual sources depict Śrīvijaya as a powerful kingdom that at times dominated Southeast Asia's transoceanic trade. Yet, the paucity of indigenous textual sources and the few remnants of monumental architecture mean that inscriptions—mostly from this early period—remain vital sources, and that archaeology continues to be an important interdisciplinary partner in unearthing Śrīvijaya’s past, as well as how it came into being.

     For instance, one breakthrough unveiled sites in the tidal swamplands downstream from Palembang, with dense settlements of houses built on stilts, starting in the third to fourth century. In addition, proto-historical sites discovered on both sides of the Bangka Strait turn out to be comparable in contents and age to those in the Thai-Malay Peninsula and South and Central Vietnam. They provide the missing link with contemporaneous sites at Batujaya and Sembiran, respectively on the north coasts of West Java and Bali, which saw considerable economic and political development over the following centuries.19

     Another major discovery revealed a pre-Śrīvijayan sixth to seventh century coastal sanctuary at Kota Kapur on the island of Bangka, across the strait from the Musi river delta, upstream from which Śrīvijaya would soon make its center at Palembang. The site contained a Visnu temple—a small link in a long chain of Vaishnava settlements strewn from the Mekong delta, along the Thai-Malay peninsula, to West Java and to Bali. Taken together, the textual and archaeological studies completely disrupt earlier conceptions of state formation among Malay-speaking populations in southeast Sumatra, as well as in other parts of Southeast Asia. Long before Śrīvijaya's founding, long-distance trade networks facilitated long-term processes of urbanization and state formation. This definitively puts to rest any notions of a sudden intervention in the seventh century by a deus ex machina, Indian or otherwise, to explain the process and allegedly sudden appearance of Śrīvijaya on the Southeast Asian scene.20

     Kota Kapur also contained an inscription erected in 686 by the Śrīvijayan ruler Jayanaga, signifying Kota Kapur’s incorporation into the newly established polity. Like other contemporaneous Śrīvijaya inscriptions, this one bore an oath resembling the elaborate imprecations on the famous Sabokinking stele from Śrīvijaya’s center. The Kota Kapur inscription may also have contributed to a broader strategy against a Vaishnava network that ran parallel to and in competition with networks of Buddhist obeisance. Perhaps it was in this connection that the inscription added a final paragraph stating the ruler’s fleet was on its way to subjugate Java. Alongside the archaeological discovery of local paramountcies and developed chieftancies, an understanding of how later writings represented regional coastal polities’ amorphous structure has helped to clarify Śrīvijaya's character as a confederation of autonomous harbor polities with centers that sometimes shifted.21

     The close of this early phase of Śrīvijaya’s history is marked by the last of a series of embassies sent to China in 742. A new phase commenced with the Śrīvijaya ruler’s international outreach by sponsoring religious foundations in distant associated polities. A Sanskrit inscription dated 775 near Chaiya in peninsular Thailand asserts the founding of several Buddhist sanctuaries there under the Śrīvijayan king’s auspices. In the ninth century, the sovereign of Śrīvijaya sponsored a monastery at the famous Buddhist complex of Nalanda (now in Bihar). During the early eleventh century Śrīvijaya’s ruler sponsored a Buddhist sanctuary in southern India at Nagapattinam, and in 1079 a Taoist temple in Guangdong, possibly for the growing community of Chinese sea merchants settled in Śrīvijaya.22

     Textual sources indicate that during this period Śrīvijaya’s economy thrived on control of long-range Indian Ocean and South China Sea trading networks. Starting in 904, China’s rulers again began to receive embassies from Śrīvijaya. Also, during this peak of Śrīvijaya’s prosperity, Buddhism remained prominent there. Important Buddhist texts were locally composed by Malay monks such as Dharmakirti (also known as Guru Suvarnadvipa), son of a Śrīvijaya sovereign. His Bengali disciple, Atisa Dipankara, studied for a dozen years in Sumatra to become a leading representative of monastic Buddhism and, after settling in Tibet in 1042, he played an essential role in the regeneration of Tibetan Buddhism.

     This flourishing state of affairs attracted the attention of rising neighboring powers. Attacks in 1017 and 1025 by the South Indian Cholas on Melaka Straits harbors that Śrīvijaya controlled led to the Cholas playing an active role in Śrīvijaya’s politics for the rest of the eleventh century. China, unified under the Song dynasty in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, built its first overseas merchant navy and saw robust maritime commercial expansion, taking a much more active part in South China Sea trade. Under both these blows from east and west, Śrīvijaya’s economic clout deteriorated, probably causing shifts in political authority.23 During the last quarter of the eleventh century, its political center shifted from Palembang to Jambi, indicating, perhaps, that the rulers there aimed to reinforce their claims over former allies at Palembang by seeking to cloak themselves with Śrīvijaya’s prestigious mantle. Jambi sent numerous ambassadors to China, which continued to apply the name it had used for Śrīvijaya to the polity at this new center.24

     During the thirteenth century, Southeast Asia entered a long period of complex political and economic relations with, as well as among, India, Sri Lanka, and China, during which the regional balance of power underwent radical shifts. Tambralinga on the Thai-Malay peninsula became strong enough to send its own fleets across the Bay of Bengal and to invade Sri Lanka twice. As the new Thai kingdoms enforced their authority over much of the peninsula, the east Javanese seized the opportunity in Śrīvijaya’s waning control over sea routes to attain political ascendacy over Sumatra. Singasari’s King Kertanegara sent an expedition to Malayu in 1263, and evidence of cultural and political hegemony may be read from the Javanese statues that began to appear in the Batang Hari river valley above Jambi.25

     Many of Śrīvijaya’s people lived “on the water on rafts” and had fighting skills on both land and water, according to the thirteenth-century Chinese observer, Zhao Rugua.26 He noted how Śrīvijaya had once protected itself from maritime marauders: “This country, lying in the ocean and controlling the straits through which the foreigners’ sea and land traffic in either direction must pass, in olden times used iron chains as a barrier to keep the pirates of other countries in check.”27 Yet, in his own time, foreign traders apparently could not come and go as they pleased, for, he remarked: “If a merchant ship passes by without entering, their boats go forth to make a combined attack, and all are ready to die (in the attempt). This is the reason why this country is a great shipping center.”28 Were such practices well established? Or could they be read as a sign of decline? Questions about whether the use of force at sea is legitimate reappear all over the map of maritime history, especially when political authority is in question. In Southeast Asia, this practice of patrols requiring passing boats to call at their harbors prefigures the Portuguese cartaz system, which required all passing ships to present these passes, to call at Portuguese forts, and to pay duties, or else face the galleys (or worse) with one’s ship and cargo made “fair prize.”29

     Between 1371 and 1377, both Palembang and Jambi sent missions to China, eager to reestablish connections and trade with the new court of the Ming dynasty, established in 1368. The Hongwu emperor “invested” the ruler of Palembang as king in 1374, yet in 1377, likewise approved the Jambi ruler’s request for investiture as king of Śrīvijaya. However, the Chinese delegation sent to confer this investiture was waylaid and murdered by Java, which so infuriated the Hongwu emperor that he cut off relations with Śrīvijaya for twenty years. During this period of interrupted relations, when Hayam Wuruk, the ruler of the Javanese state Majapahit, died in 1389, the Malay ruler Paramesvara repudiated Java’s claim to authority over Palembang. Alas, his rebellion failed and he was forced to flee. First, he went to Temasik in what later became Singapore, where, after a few short years, he may have been expelled by Siam, which claimed Singapore as a vassal. Paramesvara, possibly the same person later called Iskandar Shah, then went on with his followers to establish Melaka.30

     In the early fifteenth century, Ma Huan, who accompanied three of Zheng He’s voyages, offered a description of how local people lived in Palembang shortly after Paramesvara’s departure:

Many of the men train to fight on water. In this place water abounds, while dry land is scarce. The households of the chiefs all reside in houses built on the dry land of the river banks; apart from the chiefs, the common people all live in houses built on wooden rafts which are tied up to the shore with posts and ropes. When the water rises, the rafts float, [and] they cannot be submerged. If the people wish to live in another place, they take up the posts and move off with their houses, [thus] removing themselves without trouble.31

     Given this description, it comes as little surprise that Paramesvara’s followers, who led him to Singapore and then Melaka, were reportedly an entourage of sea people. Malay literature contains remarkable descriptions of “fleets of state” that resonate with this story at the founding of Melaka. After making a decision to attack a rival polity, or even just to show off a polity’s strength, every raja or prominent person ruling over a peripheral polity “submissive” to the central city state, would call upon his followers to ready their own ships and manpower. Large fleets were quickly assembled this way, and Malay texts offer descriptions of the multifarious vessels that assembled around the ruler. The fleet and its crew provide a metaphor for the political order, revealing the ubiquitous symbols of rank and hierarchy, as well as the wholeness of the social group, in motion around its center. When this center moved in space, the periphery kept converging toward it.32


     Chinese sources noted both Champa and “Boni” as “newly entered” during the tenth century, Champa in 958 and Boni in 977, meaning they had only then become known to the Chinese court.33 Scholars debate whether “Boni” and other place names in the Chinese sources represent Brunei. One interesting feature of this earliest mention of Boni in the Chinese record is a description of a letter from Boni’s ruler, written not on paper but on a strip of bark-like material spooled into a circle that could be held in one’s hand.34 This form of manuscript assembly resembles past methods in Sulawesi, where people inscribed texts on lontar palm leaves attached end to end and spooled. When reading texts with large diameters they used reels to unspool the ribbons of text and to take up their slack. Though it may once have been more widespread, this form of text assembly is currently known of nowhere else, and was thought to have emerged in Sulawesi at a later date.35 One wonders what connections, technology transfer, and textual transmission may have existed between Boni and the south Sulawesi realm of Boné?

     Period sources reveal some of the region’s complex maritime political relations. For instance, the record of a Chinese envoy to Boni in 1370 mentions that the country was located in an out-of-the-way place in the middle of the ocean. The envoy chided the Boni king “Mahemosha” for not submitting to the Chinese emperor, and with his officials made him bow upon the reading of a proclamation. The following day, Mahemosha explained, “Recently Sulu has raised arms and has invaded us, and they robbed my people and treasures completely. We should wait for three years, after which the conditions of the country will have improved, and we will build a vessel, to submit tribute.” Yet the next day, a man from Shepo (Java) talking to the king, sowed discord: “When Sulu attacked Your Highness, our army [or, naval forces?] repulsed them. Now I learn that you turn your true feelings toward China and you don’t have any for Shepo!” This would have been during Majapahit’s prominence on Java, under the reign of Hayam Wuruk. However, this does not mean that Majapahit had any kind of control over Boni, nor, indeed, does the text indicate that Boni in this instance was located on Borneo.36 Like many other Southeast Asian coastal polities, Boni referred to different localities with shifting centers, and while these were most likely in Borneo during different Chinese dynasties, one can only say for sure that one or several of them may have been precursors of modern day Brunei.37 espite these topological imprecisions, the descriptions of Boni remain useful for illustrating the kinds of tensions at play in the interpolity relations of the maritime world.

     By around the mid-fourteenth century, after the start of the Ming period, archaeology provides more solid evidence that Chinese references to “Boni” then referred to Brunei. Archaeological data from this period suggests that Brunei, then probably located at Kota Batu, emerged as the dominant trading polity on Borneo’s northwest coast.38It was there that Antonio Pigafetta encountered the large settlement of stilt houses in the tidal zone:

This city is entirely built in salt water, except for the house of the king and some of the main principals; it has twenty-five thousand (sic) hearths. The houses are all of wood, built over large piles, high off the ground. When the tide rises, women go through the city in boats, selling things necessary for life. (…) In that port (bay) is another city of heathens, larger than that of the Moors, also built on salt water.39

Early modern polities, nautical strength, and sociopolitical organization

     The three polities described above offer insights into precursors of the region’s intra- and interregional early modern maritime dynamics. Below, I focus on just two prominent examples during this time, Melaka and Makassar, each of whose demise was less complete than sources once portrayed.

Melaka, trade, and maritime labor

     The Portuguese took Melaka in 1511. Yet they failed in their attempt to dominate Asian trade. Rather than subduing local commercial opponents, in effect they wound up scattering sedentary and migratory merchant communities to other regional centers of trade. These dynamics emerge clearly when historians focus on sources for and from Southeast Asia40

     Tomé Pires, a Portuguese apothecary who wrote about Southeast Asia shortly after the Portuguese took Melaka, was particularly concerned to describe all the places with which Melaka traded. Pires described many such centers, carefully recorded which local kings were vassals to others in the western archipelago, and invariably noted their strength in boats. Traders, “corsairs” among them, had recourse to temporary “fairs,” so did not need to rely on large urban markets to sell their goods, including slaves, in the Melaka Straits region, and elsewhere.41

     Like Pires, who noted rulers’ strengths in terms of boats and rowers, Antonio de Paiva also remarked on the availability of mariners to labor at the oar. One of the earliest European travellers to Celebes (Sulawesi), Antonio de Paiva travelled in 1542 and 1544 to Suppa and Siang along Celebes’ west coast, north of the area now called Makassar. According to him, “In this island and in the other little islands close to it,” one finds, “sandalwood, gold, ivory, seed pearls, iron, and white cloth; and there is more slave labor for rowers than anywhere else in the world and very cheap. They are sturdy and strong-limbed, bred for the oar from birth until death,” and there were skilled archers, as well.42 These sixteenth-century sources illustrate a coastal and archipelagic world in which the slave trade was so abundant there can be no mistaking the fact that it flourished well before the arrival of Europeans in the region, and was not predominantly “local.”

     Sixteenth-century European sources also illustrate other facets of the maritime world into which Europeans stepped, but which they did not always recognize. While this world’s extensive maritime networks often focused on commerce, they also linked related littoral communities with each other and with other groups. Such ties crossed and remade ethnic boundaries and alliances in ways that ramified throughout the structures of Southeast Asia’s complex societies and politics. Boats remained fundamental to regional political economy, their rowers and sailors often slaves or other dependents, whether born into that status, or achieving it through raiding, war, and forced relocation. In contrast, for instance, southern Borneo’s skilled shipwrights gained fame for their construction of large vessels, as well as notoriety as accomplished raiders who took many slaves and gold. They sold the ships they built across the water in Java, and people also crossed the Java Sea to buy them.43

     Indeed, Southeast Asian polities during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries constructed and navigated trading fleets of large oceangoing vessels. Counted among the main carriers of international trade in the eastern portions of the Indian Ocean, they drew on Southeast Asian shipbuilding traditions by then some two thousand years old. These large vessels attracted the notice of various Portuguese witnesses.44 For instance, a Javanese fleet that sailed off Jepara in 1512 to attack Melaka included some sixty junks all over 200 tons burden. Jong is a Malay or Javanese term that Portuguese sources rendered junco, and it is from this Southeast Asian term that the word “junk” derives. Sources allow assessment of the average burden for large Southeast Asian jong at 350 to 500 tons deadweight, while exceptional examples would have reached a thousand tons and carried aboard as many men. They sailed primarily to southern China, Maluku, and the Coromandel coast, but late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century sources indicate Indian Ocean trips that led them as far west as the Maldives, Calicut, Oman, Aden, and the Red Sea, while the Portuguese also transcribed still vivid memories of earlier voyages to Madagascar.45

Makassar and its nautical allies in the spice wars

     Historians have transformed our understanding of maritime Southeast Asia from a stage for colonial wars to an integral part of world history. The spice wars did not simply reflect successive incursions by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English merchants to procure lucrative goods. Rather, trading companies acting rather like states partnered with local allies, mixing their governance with those of Southeast Asian polities, and at times weaving their lineages with those of prominent Asian families.46

     The Portuguese and Dutch newcomers built on and took advantage of existing nautical practices. For instance, in the coastal areas around fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Ambon, Moluccan villages formed federations and joined their kora-kora boats in fleets known as hongi. When the Portuguese established their rule, they sometimes used these same methods to organize indigenous defense. Subsequent rule by the VOC (United Dutch East India Company, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) continued this institution, with the first hongi under Dutch authority setting out in 1607. Initially conducted to maintain Dutch control over the clove harvest, hongi raids under the VOC became infamous, though after 1656, they were used more for a show of force than for armed action.47

     During the seventeenth-century spice wars, Southeast Asian states also pursued imperial ambitions of their own. For instance, Makassar, with its naval resources and nautical partners, opposed the VOC and its local allies, and well into the early eighteenth century, continued to launch expansionary naval campaigns.48 As in the western archipelago, where sea people (orang laut), under the Laksamana or “Admiral,” exercised considerable power in Johor,49 the maritime-oriented Sama in the central and eastern archipelago played important social, political and military roles in early modern Makassar.

Figure 4. Naval battle off the coast of Celebes between the VOC and forces under Makassar during the Great Ambon War (1651-1656), part of the spice wars. From Livinus Bor (1663), Amboinse oorlog door Arnold de Vlaming van Oudshoorn als superintendent, over d’oosterse gewesten oorlogaftig ten eind gebracht, 1663. The Hague, KB | National library: 3088 G 34. Used by permission.

     Sama people at Makassar selected community leaders, held the office of harbormaster, co-commanded naval expeditions, and manned the naval forces of this expanding imperial state. Makassar’s close ally, Tiworo, was an autonomous amphibious polity that the VOC targeted and branded “a nasty pirates' nest.” Its boats too valuable to destroy, the leader of the VOC’s local allies saved them from incineration or VOC appropriation. Likewise, rather than kill its mariners, he armed and elevated sixty of Tiworo's men to form half of his elite Guard, sailing with them in 1667 to defeat Makassar with the VOC. Even so, the Sama remained Makassar’s “muscles and sinews” in its eighteenth-century naval expeditions across the Flores Sea. Recent research contributes to the revision of a Eurocentric narrative about the spice wars, and illustrates a history of shifting political and interethnic ties among early modern Southeast Asian littoral people and land-based realms.50


     This article has highlighted an approach to Southeast Asia and its intra- and interregional maritime past focused on the agency of Southeast Asian mariners, who built networks of interaction in Southeast Asia and in transnational Asian spaces. More than just a catalogue of separate polities, I have sought to illustrate the importance of maritime dynamics in the emergence of shared social systems, similar political structures, and the development of fiercely competetive, hierarchical, and sometimes quite fluid and fungible interpolity relations.

     Anchored in the region’s autochthonous maritime exchange networks, Southeast Asia’s incipient trade-oriented polities grew in connection with early first millenium interregional trade routes. Regional maritime powers developed from these incipient trade-oriented polities into more socially complex polities, among which, Champa, Śrīvijaya, and Brunei were discussed above. From the incipient trade-oriented polities, to Indianized states like Śrīvijaya and Majapahit, as well as the early modern archipelago’s mutliple Islamic harbor-based polities, all operated substantially sized local trading vessels.51 In the western, central, and eastern archipelago, they also called upon dependents and allies for naval labor to fight in conflicts. While port polities had relations with their hinterlands, they frequently depended largely on seaborne trade for their well-being, and whether in trade or raiding, alliance or conflict, they relied on the nautical strengths and skills of their own mariners, alongside those of allies. During the early modern period, coastal polities came to share a similar organization, with shipmasters, admirals, and harbormasters playing important roles in society and politics. Southeast Asia’s maritime-oriented cultures, made and remade by men and women from sea-focused polities, offshore stilt-house settlements and anchorages, held the power to translocate a polity’s center and revealed their political resilience through shifts in allegiance that rewove connections among coastal centers and hinterseas.52 Regional mariners moved merchandise, texts, merchants and monks, engaged in armed struggles over spices at the heart of early modern global trade, and actively sustained interactions with near and distant littorals throughout the region, and along the shores of surrounding seas.

     Jennifer L. Gaynor is an historian and anthropologist of Southeast Asia and its surrounding seas. She writes about Southeast Asia’s maritime and littoral worlds, the region's transnational and global interconnections, and relations between society and politics. Currently a Research Fellow in the Baldy Center at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, School of Law, she is the author of Intertidal History in Island Southeast Asia: Submerged Genealogy and the Legacy of Coastal Capture (Cornell University Press, 2016).


1P.-Y. Manguin, “The vanishing jong: Insular Southeast Asian fleets in trade and war (fifteenth to seventeenth centuries,” in A. Reid, ed., Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era: Trade, Power, and Belief (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 199-201; Michael Pearson, The Indian Ocean (New York: Routledge, 2003), p. 70; Heather Sutherland, “Geography as Destiny? The Role of Water in Southeast Asian Histories,” in, Peter Boomgaard, ed., A World of Water: Rain, Rivers, and Seas in Southeast Asian Histories, VKI 240 (Leiden: KITLV Press, 2007), p. 39; Jennifer L. Gaynor, “Ages of Sail, Ocean Basins, and Southeast Asia,” Journal of World History 24, 2 (2013): 310, 332; M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962), p. 286; J. C. van Leur, Indonesian Trade and Society: Essays in Asian Social and Economic History(The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1955; 2nd ed., 1967), pp. 98, 128, 195-96, 212-13, 349-50, n. 40.

2K. R. Hall, Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1985).

3J. Wisseman Christie, “State formation in early maritime Soutehast Asia; A consideration of the theories and the data,” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde151, 2 (1995): 235.

4R. A. Blust, The Austronesian Languages, revised edition (Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics, ANU 2013); P. Bellwood, First Migrants: Ancient Migration’s Global Perspective> (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013); M. Klamer, “The dispersal of Austronesian languages in island South East Asia: Current findings and debates,” Language and Linguistics Compass (April 2019), 1-26.

5H.-C. Hung, et al., “Ancient jades map 3,000 years of prehistoric exchange in Southeast Asia,” PNAS 104, 50 (Dec. 11, 2007), 19745-50.

6H.-C. Hung, et al., “Coastal Connectivity: Long-term trading networks across the South China Sea,” Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 8 (2013), 384-404; B. Bellina, “Was there a late prehistoric integrated Southeast Asian maritime Space? Insights from settlements and industries,” in A. Acri, R. Blench, and A. Landman, eds., Spirits and Ships: Cultural Transfers in Early Monsoon Asia (Singapore: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, 2017), pp. 239-272.

7P.-Y. Manguin, “Protohistoric and early historic exchange in the eastern Indian Ocean: A Re-evaluation of current paradigms,” in A. Schottenhammer, ed., Early Global Interconnectivity across the Indian Ocean World, Volume I: Commercial Structures and Exchanges (Cham: Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), pp. 99-120, esp. 109-116; P.-Y. Manguin, “Sewn boats of Southeast Asia: The stitched-plank and lashed-lug tradition,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 48, 2 (2019), 400-415.

8Manguin, “Sewn boats,” 409, 411. Manguin, Protohistoric and Early Historic,” p. 112.

9Manguin, “Protohistoric and Early Historic,” pp.116-19; Manguin, “Sewn boats,” 403; see these for further references to earlier relevant publications by Manguin and others.

10Manguin, “Protohistoric and Early Historic,” pp. 117-19; Manguin, “Sewn boats,” 408. H. Kulke translates the inscriptions’ term puhavam as “naval captain, shipmaster.” See H. Kulke, “Śrīvijaya revisited: Reflections on state formation of a Southeast Asian Thalassocracy,” BEFEO 102 (2016): 55. Interestingly, contemporary maritime-oriented Sama people in Sulawesi address elders of high-status descent as “puang,” a usage apparently adopted into Bugis as “puah.”

11M. Vickery, “Champa Revised,” in Trần K. P. and B. M. Lockhart, eds.,The Cham of Vietnam: History, Society, and Art (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011), p. 408; M. Vickery, “A short history of Champa,” in A. Hardy, M. Cucarzi and P. Zolese, eds, Champa and the archaeology of Mỹ So'n (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), pp. 46-7; W. A. Southworth,The origins of Champa in central Vietnam : a preliminary review (London, Ph. D. dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, 2001), pp. 204-5.

12Vickery, “Champa Revised,” p. 408; Vickery, “A short history of Champa,” p. 49; on these changes, see Southworth, The origins, p. 318.

13Vickery, “A short history of Champa,” p. 50.

14A. Reid, Charting the Shape of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000), pp. 40, 44-5.

15Reid, Charting, pp. 45-8; H. Chambert-Loir, “Notes sur les relations historiques et littéraires entre le Campa et le monde malais,” in Actes de Séminaire sur le Campa (Paris: CHCPI, 1988), pp. 98-101; P. Dharma, “L’insulinde malaise et le Campa,” BEFEO (Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient) 87, 1 (2000), 183-192.

16Reid, Charting, pp. 47-8.

17M. Vickery, “Champa Revised,” p. 408; W.A. Southworth, “Notes on the political geography of Campa in central Vietnam during the late 8th and early 9th centuries A.D.,” in W. Lobo and S. Reimann, eds., Southeast Asian Archaeology 1998. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists. Berlin, 31 August - 4 September 1998 (Hull, Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull Special Issue & Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, 2000), p. 238. Also see W. A. Southworth, “River Settlement and Coastal Trade: Towards a Specific Model of Early State Development in Champa,” in Trần K. P. and B. M. Lockhart, eds, The Cham of Vietnam: History, Society, and Art (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011), pp. 102-119.

18G. Coedès,The Indianized States of Southeast Asia (Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1968; translation of Les États hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonesie, Paris: De Boccard, 1964), p. 81; Kulke, “Śrīvijaya revisited,” 49. On Kedah, see S. A. Murphy, “Revisiting the Bujang Valley:A Southeast Asian entrepôt complex on the maritime trade route,” JRAS 28, 2 (2018): 355-389.

19P.-Y. Manguin, “At the Origins of Sriwijaya: The Emergence of State and City in Southeast Sumatra,” in N. Karashima and M. Hirosue, eds., State Formation and Social Integration in Pre-modern South and Southeast Asia: A comparative Study of Asian Society (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 2017), pp. 91-5.

20Manguin, “At the Origins of Sriwijaya,” pp. 96-8; Bellina, “Was there a late prehistoric integrated Southeast Asian maritime Space?”

21P.-Y. Manguin, “Excavations in South Sumatra, 1988-1990: New evidence for Sriwijayan sites,” in I. C. Glover, ed., Southeast Asian archaeology 1990: Proceedings of the third conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian archaeologists (Hull: University of Hull, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, 1992), pp. 63-73; P.-Y. Manguin "The Amorphous nature of coastal polities in Insular Southeast Asia: Restricted centres, extended peripheries,” Moussons 5 (2002): 73-99; P.-Y. Manguin, “The Archaeology of the early maritime polities of Southeast Asia,” in I.C. Glover and P. Bellwood, eds, Southeast Asia: From prehistory to history (Oxford: Curzon Press, 2004), pp. 282-313; P.-Y. Manguin, “Southeast Sumatra in prehistoric and Śrīvijaya times: Upstream-downstream relations and the settlment of the peneplain,” in D. Bonatz, J. Miksic, J. D. Neidel and M. L. Tjoa-Bonatz, eds., From distant tales: Archaeology and ethnohistory in the highlands of Sumatra (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009), pp. 434-485; Manguin, “At the Origins of Sriwijaya,” p. 105; O. W. Wolters, Early Indonesian commerce. A study of the origins of Śrīvijaya (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967); K. R. Hall, Maritime trade and state development in early Southeast Asia, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1985), pp. 78-102; Kulke, “Śrīvijaya revisited,” 47-9, 56, 76.

22Kulke, “Śrīvijaya revisited,” pp. 62-3; Manguin, P.-Y., “Śrīvijaya, une thalassocratie malaise,” in S. Gougenheim, ed, Les empires médiévaux (Paris: Perrin, 2019), pp. 378-9

23Manguin, “Śrīvijaya, une thalassocratie,” pp. 381, 384-5.

24Manguin, “Śrīvijaya, une thalassocratie,” pp. 385-6.

25Manguin, “Śrīvijaya, une thalassocratie,” pp. 386-7.

26Zhao Rugua, Chau Ju-kua: His work on the Chinese and Arab trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Chu-fan-chi), F. Hirth and W. W. Rockhill, trans.(St. Petersburg: Printing Office of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1911), p. 60.

27Zhao Rugua, "His work," p. 62.

28Zhao Rugua, “His work,”, p. 62.

29M. N. Pearson, Merchants and rulers in Gujarat: The response to the Portuguese in the sixteenth century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 39-52.

30O. W. Wolters, The fall of Śrīvijaya in Malay history (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), pp. 71-5, 110-27; E. L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 (New York: Pearson Longman, 2007), pp. 40-41; J. M. Miksic, Singapore and the silk road of the sea, 1300-1800 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013), p. 163.

31Ma Huan, Ying-yai sheng-lan (The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores), Feng Ch’eng-Chun, ed, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1970[1433]), pp. 98-99.

32Manguin, “The Amorphous nature of coastal polities,” 79-81.

33J. L. Kurz, “Boni in Chinese sources from the tenth to the eighteenth century,” International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies 10, 1 (2014), 3-4.

34Kurz, “Boni in Chinese sources,” 4.

35Justin McDaniel also knew no other instance of spooling lontar leaf texts, personal communication.

36Kurz, “Boni in Chinese sources,” 27-33. Kurz’s translation is based largely on Brown’s. See C. C. Brown, “An Early Account of Brunei by Sung Lien,” BMJ 2,4 (1972), 219-231.

37Kurz, “Boni in Chinese sources,” p. 3; S. C. Druce, “The ‘birth’ of Brunei: Early polities of the northwest coast of Borneo and the origins of Brunei, tenth to mid-fourteenth centuries,” in Ooi Keat Gin, ed, Brunei: History, Islam, society and contemporary issues (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2016), p. 25.

38Druce, “The ‘birth’ of Brunei,” p. 25.

39A. Pigafetta, ca. 1480-ca. 1534, M. Allegri, and A. Da Mosto. Il primo viaggio intorno al globo di Antonio Pigafetta: E le sue regole sull'arte del navigare (Roma: Auspice il Ministero della pubblica istruzione, 1894), p. 87. Author’s translation. Brunei still has a large “water village” (Kampung Ayer).

40K. R. Hall, “Local and international trade and traders in the Straits of Melaka Region: 600-1500,” JESHO 47, 2 (2004), 253.

41Tomé Pires, The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, an account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, Written in Malacca and India in 1512–1515; and The Book of Francisco Rodrigues, Rutter of a voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack, and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East before 1515, trans. Armando Cortesão (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1944), p.228.

42Pires, Suma Oriental, pp. 149, 262; Brett Baker, “South Sulawesi in 1544: A Portuguese Letter,” Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 39, 1 (2005), 63.

43Pires, Suma Oriental, pp. 225-62.

44Manguin, “The Vanishing Jong,” pp. 197-213.

45Manguin, “The Vanishing Jong,” pp. 198-9.

46G. J. Knaap, Kruidnagelen en Christenen: De Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie en de bevolking van Ambon 1656-1696 (Leiden KITLV Press, 2nd edition, 2004); L. Andaya, The heritage of Arung Palakka: A History of South Sulawesi (Celebes) in the seventeenth century (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1981); H. Hägerdal, Lords of the land, lords of the sea: Conflict and adaptation in early colonial Timor, 1600-1800 (Leiden: KITLV Press, 2012); J. van Goor, “A hybrid state: The Dutch economic and political network in Asia,” in C. Guillot, D. Lombard, and R. Ptak, eds., From the Mediterranean to the China Sea: Miscellaneous notes (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1998), pp. 192-214; Holden Furber, “Asia and the West as partners before ‘Empire’ and after,” Journal of Asian Studies 28, 4 (1969),711-21; H. Furber, Rival empires of trade in the Orient, 1600-1800 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976); B.W. Andaya, The flaming womb: Repositioning women in early modern Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press), pp. 141-9; J. G. Taylor, The social world of Batavia: Europeans and Eurasians in colonial Indonesia, 2nd edition (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). The overriding importance of family privilege and promoting one’s lineage also figured prominently in early modern struggles among Dutch elites in Europe, for whom family and kin groups similarly served as, “a source of coalition organization, (and) a set of potential networks that could be activated in service of politico-military moves or alliances.” See J. Adams, The familial state: Ruling families and merchant capitalism in early modern Europe (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2005), p. 80..

47G. Knaap, “Headhunting, carnage and armed peace in Amboina, 1500–1700,” JESHO46, no. 2 (2003), 170, 182-4.

48Knaap, Kruidnagelen; F.D. Bulbeck, “The landscape of the Makassar War,” Canberra Anthropology 13, 1 (1990), 78-99; W. Cummings, “Islam, empire and Makassarese historiography in the reign of Sultan Ala’uddin (1593-1639),” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 38, 2 (2007), 197-214; J. L. Gaynor, Intertidal history in island Southeast Asia: Submerged genealogy and the legacy of coastal capture (Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 2016).

49B. W. Andaya and L. Y. Andaya, A history of Malaysia, 3rd edition (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), p. 82.

50Gaynor, Intertidal history.

51On hinterseas see Gaynor, Intertidal history, pp. 29, 33, 61-2, 91, 121.

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