A world of water: rain, rivers and seas in Southeast Asian by P Boomgaard

By P Boomgaard

Water, in its many guises, has constantly performed a strong function in shaping Southeast Asian histories, cultures, societies, and economies. those essays signify a extensive diversity of ways to the research of Southeast Asia with water because the valuable subject matter. because it used to be uncovered to the ocean, the quarter was once extra available to outdoors political, monetary and cultural affects than many landlocked components. quick access via sea routes additionally motivated exchange. notwithstanding, an identical quick access made Southeast Asia at risk of political keep watch over via robust outsiders. the ocean is, furthermore, a resource of nutrients, but additionally of many dangers. whilst, Southeast Asian societies and cultures are faced with and permeated by way of "water from heaven" within the kind of rain, flash floods, irrigation water, water in rivers, brooks, and swaps, water-driven strength crops, and pumped or piped water, as well as water as a service of sewage and pollutants. ultimately, the amount bargains with the function of water in class platforms, ideals, myths, affliction, and therapeutic.

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27 On the surface, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries seem relatively amenable to a Eurocentric approach. The boom in trade during the 1600s is apparently inseparable from the expansion of the Dutch and English Company fleets, while the late 1700s saw the triumph of non-Asian ‘country traders’ operating out of an increasingly English India. But we should not assume that this must have meant a decline in Asians’ business. On the contrary, even if their relative share of the maritime economy shrank, the actual intensity, volume and value of their commerce may have increased.

Victor Lieberman (1993) comments: ‘The fifteenth through seventeenth centuries saw the creation of a distinctive Malayo-Muslim coastal commercial 23 See also Mabbett and De Casparis 1999; Wolters 1999:108-9; Kulke 1999; B. Andaya 1999b. 24 As Reid (1993a:12) has observed ‘before the seventeenth century China was undoubtedly the most important market for Southeast Asian goods’. From the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, South Fujian’s port Quangzou became the centre of China’s maritime trade, overshadowing the more southerly Canton, although it was to be surpassed by Amoy (Xiamen) from the late 1600s.

However, an easier all sea-route via the Strait of Malacca gained in favour from the beginning of the fourth century, heralding an expanding role for the Malays. Later history shows how the oceanic connection between Europe and Asia pioneered by the Portuguese facilitated trade expansion, and it seems logical that the earlier regional introduction of all-water freight movement, as opposed to shipping plus portage, also had a significant impact. The all-important trade with China developed its own patterns, shaped by geopolitics and increasing knowledge (Ptak 1992, 2004).

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