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HISTORY OF HISTORY OF SOUTHEAST ASIA
 
 
To the 10th century AD
10th - 15th century
16th - 19th century
     The arrival of Europeans
     Dutch trade in the east

To be completed



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Europeans: 16th - 20th century


It is the misfortune of southeast Asia that one of its richest crops - the spice of the Moluccas - is of profound interest to European traders. After the Portuguese discover a sea route to the east in 1498, the region becomes an arena of violent competition between aggressive outsiders.

The Portuguese, establishing a base at Malacca in 1511, have the region for a while to themselves. They are displaced in the 16th century by English and Dutch. Of these two, the Dutch prevail - developing a virtual monopoly in the region, until the French arrive in 1799 to begin a long involvement in Indo-China. The only area to maintain a precarious independence throughout is Thailand.
 



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Dutch trade in the east: 1595-1651

The first Dutch expedition round the Cape to the far east, in 1595, is captained by Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, a Netherlands merchant whose only knowledge of the orient comes from trading in Lisbon. The survivors of this journey get back to Holland two years later. They bring valuable cargo. And they have established a trading treaty with the sultan of Bantam, in Java.

Their return prompts great excitement. Soon about ten private vessels are setting off each year from the Netherlands to find their fortune in the east. The States General of the newly independent Dutch republic decide that this unlicensed trading activity, in distant and dangerous waters, needs both control and protection.
 



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In 1602 the States General form a Dutch East India Company, with extensive privileges and powers. It is to have a tax-free monopoly of the eastern trade for twenty-one years. It is authorized to build forts, establish colonies, mint coins, and maintain a navy and army as required.

With these powers the company takes only a few decades to deprive Portugal of the spice trade. A capital is established at Batavia, in Java, in 1619. The Portuguese are driven out of Malacca by 1641 and from Sri Lanka by 1658. But the main focus of Dutch attention is the Moluccas - the Indonesian islands of which the alternative name, the Spice Islands, declares their central importance in the eastern trade.
 

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The Moluccas are the source of the most valuable spice of all, the clove, coveted for many different purposes - as a flavour in food, as a preservative, as a mild anaesthetic, as an ingredient in perfume, even to mask stinking breath. In pursuit of Moluccan cloves, and also nutmegs, the Portuguese make local treaties as early as 1512.

In the early decades of the 17th century the Dutch East India Company gradually excludes the Portuguese from trade in the Moluccas. The Dutch also take on, and oust from the islands, another European nation attempting to get a foothold in the region - the English East India Company.
 

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The Dutch control the trade in cloves with ruthless efficiency. During the 17th century clove trees are eradicated on all the Spice Islands except two - Amboina and Ternate - to limit production and keep prices high. Strict measures are taken to ensure that plants are not exported for propagation elsewhere (a restriction successfully maintained until the late 18th century).

The Portuguese never recover their trading strength in the east. But in expelling the English from the Moluccas, the Dutch unwittingly do them a favour. The English East India Company decides to concentrate its efforts on India.
 

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This History is as yet incomplete.
 

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