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Local and International Trade and Traders in The Straits of Melaka Region: 600-1500

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This article notes that the recent mainstream scholarship on the pre-1500 Indian Ocean trade by non-Southeast Asia specialists has limited itself to Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Chinese evidence—and that these scholars' exclusion of Southeast Asian documentation has led to erroneous statements and conclusions. Based on selected examples of the omitted Southeast Asia evidence, this study highlights the changes taking place in the maritime trade network from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries, and the increasing complexity of the Asian trade system. It demonstrates that scholars need to reconsider their characterizations of Asian trade "centers" ("emporia"), and that by the fifteenth century an Asia trade "center" is a convenient and commonly agreed upon marketplace that is networked with and shared by merchant sojourners who are based in other significant regional "centers." It also contends that assertions that there was a late fourteenth- through fifteenth-century Asian trade decline are incorrect, and that Asian commerce was robust when the Portuguese appeared on the scene at the beginning of the sixteenth century—and seized Melaka in their failed attempt to dominate the Asia maritime trade network. Cet article relève que le courant principal récent de la recherche sur le commerce dans l'Océan indien avant le XVe siècle par des non-spécialistes du Sud-Est asiatique a concentré ses études sur l'Asie moyenne orientale, méridionale et la Chine; en ignorant la documentation provenant de l'Asie du Sud-Est, ces chercheurs ont été conduits à avancer des conclusions erronées. Fondée sur des exemples choisis dans cette dernière région, cette étude met en évidence les changements intervenus dans le réseau du commerce maritime entre le XIe et XVe siècles et la complexité accrue du système commercial asiatique. Elle souligne également que les chercheurs doivent reconsidérer les caractéristiques qu'ils accordent aux "centres" ("emporia") de commerce asiatique et qu'au XVe siècle un "centre" est une place commerciale pratique intégrée dans un réseau partagé par des négociants installés dans d'autres "centres" notoires de la région. Elle s'élève en fin contre les affirmations avançant que le commerce était en déclin à la fin du XIVe et au XVe siècle; au contraire, il était encore fl orissant quand les Portugais apparaissent dans la région au début du XVIe siècle et s'emparent de Malacca dans leur tentative avortée de dominer le commerce maritime asiatique.


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