“IN STRANGER TIDES”: INTER-CULTURAL CONTACTS, CONTRACTS AND LEGALITIES IN EARLY MODERN MARITIME SOUTHEAST ASIA (1700-1850)

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Abstract

In a description of a series of “small” voices, political vignettes and “micro-histories”, this thesis offers an introductory foray to the quotidian rites and rituals of commerce that marked the inter-cultural contacts in early modern Southeast Asia and attempts to reconstruct a history of international diplomacy from below. Even though maritime history of Southeast Asia has been a rich terrain of study, legal texts, and social rites of commerce that aided the expansion of maritime trade in early modern South-east Asia has been a neglected site of enquiry. In a survey of sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth century trading practices, this thesis demonstrates how bonds of ethnicity, mercenary intimacies and conversion were buttressed by written maritime laws and normative injunctions. The first section of the thesis thus describes the codification and the expansion of the Malay maritime code Undang-Undang Laut and Undang Undang Melaka and the laws of Amanna Gappa. The second section of this thesis proceeds to describe the activities of the Shah-Bandars in the region while the third section studies a series of gift giving rituals. How the centuries of inter-cultural commercial negotiations produced a fluid yet mutually intelligible, composite “juridical field” of textual replications, legal repertoires, repetitive diplomatic gestures and conducts remain the moot point of this thesis. Going beyond the binary of “pure” gifts and commercial contracts, this thesis argues how traditional “non-market” forms of exchange especially gift-giving, “status” driven rituals, treaty-making, trading laws, writing and contracting intersected to form hybrid assemblages which forms an under-studied episode in the genealogy of modern contract regimes and nineteenth century international legal regimes. In short, this thesis excavates the makings of what roughly could be called a cultural ledger of commerce in early modern insular Southeast Asia.

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79 pages
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2021-08
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Diplomatic History; Early Modern; Maritime law; South-east Asia
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Ghosh, Durba
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Travers, Thomas Robert
Tagliacozzo, Eric
Degree Discipline
History
Degree Name
M.A., History
Degree Level
Master of Arts
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Government Document
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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
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dissertation or thesis
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