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Maritime History of Southeast Asia

Featured Books

* From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya’s Maritime Relations with Asia
* A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa 1686
* Pirates in Paradise: A Modern History of Southeast Asia’s Maritime Marauders
* A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100-1500
* The Manila-Acapulco Galleons : The Treasure Ships Of The Pacific: With An Annotated List Of The Transpacific Galleons 1565-1815

From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya’s Maritime Relations with Asia

From Japan to Arabia
edited by Kennon Breazeale
Foundation for the Promotion of Social Sciences and Humanities, 1999

“This truly impressive volume has stood the test of time and relevance as scholars and others alike continue to discuss the transnational maritime connections across Asia. One of the major accomplishments of this volume, however, is that rather than place the focus of the narrative on the rise of the European trading companies in the region during the Early Modern period, readers are rather encouraged to refocus on the rise of Ayutthaya as “one of the most powerful polities in this part of the world.” (Preface) The volume bears relevance to scholars of Thailand and Southeast Asia alone as it neatly traces the development of the second major Thai state, or rather state-like polity (after Sukhothai), in the region during its four hundred and sixteen year long apogee from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Furthermore, through an assertion of the evidence mounted in this volume it is possible to assert that Ayutthaya bears not only regional but also global significance as the well protected hinterland location of this up-river polity provided a comfortable location of exchange between the Oceanic networks stretching from the Mediterranean through the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the straights of Melaka outward to the Vietnamese Coast, the South China Sea and Eastern Asia.”

From a review by William Noseworthy

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A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa 1686

Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa
by Michael Smithies
Silkworm Books, 2000

This long-forgotten tale of the shipwreck off the coast of Africa of a Siamese embassy to Lisbon in 1686 lay buried in the text of a French book printed 300 years ago. The author of the text was the intrepid and intriguing Jesuit Tachard, who published accounts of his first two journeys to Siam. In his second book, written when he was King Narai’s personal envoy to Louis XIV and Pope Innocent XI, Tachard relates the account of the shipwreck as told by one of its survivors, Ok-khun Chamnan Chaicong, who was accompanying Tachard on his return to France. Ok-khun Chamnan, during his odyssey as part of the aborted embassy to Portugal, spent nearly a year in Goa, where he learned Portuguese; a month traveling overland from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, to the Cape of Good Hope; four months at the Dutch settlement at the Cape; six months in Batavia; and several months at sea. On his return to Siam in 1687 he was ordered to greet the French envoys La Loubre and Szberet soon after their arrival. The adventures of this Siamese khunnang did not end with his unsuccessful journey to Lisbon. He went on to Europe in 1688, visited the Riviera and Rome in winter, met the pope, and then in 1689 had an audience with Louis XIV. He converted to Catholicism and returned from Europe in 1690, disembarking at Balassor in Bengal before returning to Ayutthaya overland from Mergui. This extraordinary account has been translated into English for the first time, and is accompanied by three contemporary texts by Choisy, Tachard, and La Loubre describing the Dutch settlement at the Cape.

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Pirates in Paradise: A Modern History of Southeast Asia’s Maritime Marauders

Pirates in Paradise
by Stefan Eklof
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2006

Southeast Asia contains some of the world’s busiest shipping waters, particularly the Indonesian archipelago, the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea. The natural geography and human ecology of maritime Southeast Asia makes the area particularly apt for piracy. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that these waters are also the world’s most pirate-infested, accounting for over a third of the total number of pirate attacks world-wide. The figures have increased in recent years, as transnationally organized crime syndicates have extended their activities in the area. Meanwhile, the capacity of the state authorities in the region to suppress piracy appears to have declined, fuelling suspicions that sections of the maritime authorities are colluding with some of the organized pirate gangs that they are supposed to be combating. Not surprisingly, piracy has a long history in the region, and in several instances during the last 250 years, pirates have disrupted peaceful trade and communications. This text traces the shifting character and development of Southeast Asian piracy from the 18th century to the present day, demonstrating how political, economic, social and technological factors have contributed to change – but have by no means exterminated – the phenomenon.

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A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100-1500

A History of Early Southeast Asia
by Kenneth R. Hall
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011

This comprehensive history provides a fresh interpretation of Southeast Asia from 100 to 1500, when major social and economic developments foundational to modern societies took place on the mainland (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) and the island world (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines). Kenneth Hall explores this dynamic era in detail, which was notable for growing external contacts, internal adaptations of nearby cultures, and progressions from hunter-gatherer and agricultural communities to inclusive hierarchical states. In the process, formerly local civilizations became major participants in period’s international trade networks.

Incorporating the latest archeological evidence and international scholarship, Kenneth Hall enlarges upon prior histories of early Southeast Asia that did not venture beyond 1400, extending the study of the region to the Portuguese seizure of Melaka in 1511. Written for a wide audience of non-specialists, the book will be essential reading for all those interested in Asian and world history.

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The Manila-Acapulco Galleons : The Treasure Ships Of The Pacific: With An Annotated List Of The Transpacific Galleons 1565-1815

Manila Acapulco Galleons
by Shirley Fish
AuthorHouseUK, 2011

During the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the transpacific treasure galleons sailed annually from Manila to Acapulco. In Manila, the vessel was loaded with the scented spices of the East, luxurious silks from China, exquisite hand crafted lacquerware from Japan and a multitude of Oriental goods that the Spaniards of New Spain longed to own. The returning galleon from Acapulco to Manila, carried as much as 2.5 million silver pesos in payment of the goods sent to the New Spain in the previous year, as well as a yearly silver subsidy of 250,000 reales for the maintenance of the colonial government in the Philippines. But while the galleons mainly sailed alone and unaccompanied from Manila to Acapulco and vice versa, they were vulnerable to a host of calamities and misfortunes. A fire on board the vessel or a terrifying storm could end the voyage and the lives of every one on the ship even before the galleon was able to reach land. Additionally, the commanders of the galleons were always threatened by lurking pirates and privateers who preyed on the vessels and coveted the treasures they carried. The book describes in detail how the galleons were attacked at sea and how they fought against enemy vessels, as well as how many of the ships sank or were shipwrecked over the years. It also covers their management, construction, manning, weaponry, navigation, daily life on the ship, provisions, cargoes and voyages. The book contains an annotated list of the galleons sailing between the Philippines and Mexico from 1565 to 1815. This informative book is the first of its kind to cover such an expansive history of the Pacific galleons which up to this point had remained largely untold.