G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires

Instruments of imperial inclusion and exclusion: Treaties and diplomatic encounters in maritime Southeast Asia, 1600-1900

Event Details

  • Date

    Sunday, 28 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires
Convenor
  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell (Linnaeus University)
  • Hans Hägerdal (Linnaeus University)
Chair
  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell (Linnaeus University)
Commentator
  • Lisa Hellman (University of Bonn)
Panelists
  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell (Linnaeus University)
  • Hans Hägerdal (Linnaeus University)
  • Tristan Mostert (Leiden University)
  • Birgit Tremml-Werner (University of Zurich)

Papers

  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell
    The 1899 Bates Agreement: A View from the Sulu Sultanate

    The 1899 Bates Agreement: A View from the Sulu Sultanate

    This paper explores the 1899 Agreement (or Treaty) between the United States and the Sultan of Sulu (present-day southern Philippines). Whereas previous scholarship has focused on the American understanding of the agreement, particularly the controversy over slavery in Sulu that the agreement sparked in the US, this papers explores how the treaty was perceived by the Sultan and other leading nobles of the Sulu Sultanate. Taking the cue from Richard White's concept of Middle Ground, the paper aims to understand how the early encounters with American colonists and the military affected Sulu, in contrast both to the earlier treaties and Spanish attempts to take control of the Sultanate during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the later more decisive American attempts to do so.
  • Hans Hägerdal
    Diplomacy in the villages: VOC contracts with stateless societies in Maluku in the 17th century

    Diplomacy in the villages: VOC contracts with stateless societies in Maluku in the 17th century

    The Dutch East India Company (VOC), while basically a commercial organization, soon developed instruments for political domination in the course of the 17th century. It took great care to foment a network of alliances in maritime Southeast Asia that were anchored through written contracts, also in non-literate societies. These contracts were not meant to be between equals, but curtailed the economic and political prerogatives of local realms in various ways. This paper focuses on a little-studied aspect of this. Large areas in eastern Indonesia, such as the southern parts of Maluku, were stateless and based on alliances of village complexes (negeri). We nevertheless find a large number of contracts being concluded between the VOC and headmen representing villages. The paper asks how diplomacy was conducted on village level in the 17th century, and how this led to local power reconfigurations and forms of active or passive resistance.
  • Tristan Mostert
    By treaty or conquest: the political dynamics of the Spice Wars in eastern Indonesia (c. 1600-1660).

    By treaty or conquest: the political dynamics of the Spice Wars in eastern Indonesia (c. 1600-1660).

    The spice monopoly that the Dutch built sought to obtain in in the early 17th century in what is now eastern Indonesia, was primarily attempted through the conclusion of treaties, often followed by their violent enforcement by the Dutch. The conflicts and wars that were the result of these policies were, however, not just the result of Dutch policies; they were also embedded in the wider political context of the eastern archipelago, with its existing rivalries and alliances, and therefore also had implications far beyond the spice-producing regions themselves, in a way that has thus far been somewhat underexplored by scholars. This paper will investigate the role of the evolving rivalry between Makassar and Ternate, specifically, and investigate how we find this evolving rivalry reflected in treaties throughout the region.
  • Birgit Tremml-Werner
    Encountering diplomacy in maritime Southeast Asia, 1600-1760

    Encountering diplomacy in maritime Southeast Asia, 1600-1760

    This paper examines how local agencies and indigenous traditions shaped Eurasian diplomatic practices to underscore their relevance for connected histories of foreign relations from around 1600 until the 1760s. By analysing examples from maritime Southeast Asia (including Johor, Maguindanao, Makassar and Manila) it explores the roles of different parties including linguistic, religious, social and economic minorities in renegotiating power relations. Practices of interest included tributary relations, marriage or the control of maritime trade. The paper ultimately wants to challenge two established views in the history of encounters: On the one hand that newcomers from China, India or Europe were often at loss to understand the complex net of asymmetrical power relations in the region, on the other hand, that local people were first overwhelmed by European gunboat diplomacy and later by their superior treaty making.

Abstract

Bilateral, so-called unequal treaties were a central legal and political foundation for colonial expansion in Southeast Asia and elsewhere from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. In spite of their ubiquity, however, few historians have ventured to study the circumstances of treaty making in-depth, comparatively or from non-European perspectives. Combining methods and perspectives from New Imperial History with New Diplomatic History, the panel explores treaty making in the context of the colonisation in Southeast Asia from c.1600 to c.1900. Diplomatic encounters between, on the one hand, the main colonial powers in the region (Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States) and, on the other hand, indigenous states of various size and character, are investigated and discussed comparatively in the panel's presentations. All contributions are based on empirical investigations of contemporary sources pertaining to the motives, negotiations and Nachleben of the treaties and the negotiations that they involved. Bringing the different cases into conversation with one another, the panel aims to highlight the processes of inter-cultural communications and encounters resulting in colonial or imperial domination of different character. By giving equal, or greater, weight to the voices of Southeast Asians in studying treaties and treaty making, the panel aims to highlight the concurrent understandings of international relations, security, political power, culture and commerce in a long historical perspective. In pursuing these aims, the panel explores the similarities as well as differences in the colonial arrangements and inter-cultural relations during the colonial period in Southeast Asia and beyond, thereby challenging conventional historical narratives of imperialism, which tend to prioritise the metropolitan, European and American perspective to the detriment of indigenous Southeast Asian agency.