Continuity and Change in Maritime Trade in the Straits of Melaka in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

  • M. R. Fernando
Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)


Maritime trade is widely recognized as a major factor that shaped the political and material life of people in insular Southeast Asia in the early modern era, but its dynamics are still a matter of conjecture. It has been argued that the economic boom driven by maritime trade, which began around 1400, experienced some turbulence at the onset of Portuguese imperial project in the early 1500s. Maritime trade revived around 1520, ushering in a period of economic growth during the “long sixteenth century” lasting into the early 1630s, when a new European mercantile power brought about a serious dislocation in local economies. The occupation of a series of strategically located ports and the monopoly of the spice trade enabled the United East India Company (VOC) to acquire effective control of maritime traffic, causing indigenous economies dependent on maritime trade to decline.1 The situation changed with the surge in Europe’s trade with China in the second half of the eighteenth century, ushering in several decades of economic prosperity that lasted into the mid-1850s.2


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Regional Trade Ship Movement East India Company 
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© Michael Pearson 2015

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  • M. R. Fernando

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