Modern Asian Studies

A Moving History of Middle Sumatra, 1600–1870 1

a1 Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden

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colombijn f   [Google Scholar] 

The history of the early modern Malay world has been told largely in terms of processes of Islamization, the rise and demise of states, European voyages of discovery, trade with China, India and Europe, and colonial conquest. With a few important exceptions, these studies underestimate, if not ignore, the role of transportation in the historical transformations of Southeast Asia. Just as Clive Ponting's (1992) well-known A green history of the world rewrites the world's history in ecological terms, this article aims to describe the political and economic history of Middle Sumatra in terms of transportation of goods and people. Hence this is a moving history.


1 This article forms part of a research project on environmental changes in Middle Sumatra between 1600 and 1870. I am grateful to the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO) for their financial support that allowed me to delve into the national archive of Indonesia. I would also like to thank Rivke Jaffe for improving my English.