History of Southeast Asia
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The history of Southeast Asia has been influenced by its topography of widely dispersed islands and fragmented territories of recurring land - sea patterns. A discontinuity, that favored decentralized and moderately sized political entities with limited territorial ambitions, as growth and expansion was associated with the seas. The region's geo-strategic position at the crossroads of the Indian and the Chinese maritime trade routes has apart from its economic significance proved to be beneficial for the exchange of cultural, religious and scholarly ideas.
The era of European colonialism, early Modernity and the Cold War era revealed the reality of limited political significance for the various Southeast Asian polities. Post-World War 2 national survival and progress required a modern state and a strong national identity. Most contemporary Southeast Asian countries enjoy a historically unprecedented degree of political freedom and self-determination and have embraced the practical concept of intergovernmental cooperation within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
- 1 Prehistory
- 2 Indianized kingdoms
- 3 European colonisation
- 4 Japanese invasion and occupations
- 5 Post-war decolonisation
- 6 Contemporary Southeast Asia
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Anatomically modern human hunter-gatherer migration into Southeast Asia before 50,000 years ago has been confirmed by the combined fossil record of the region. These immigrants might have, to a certain extent, merged and reproduced with members of the archaic population of Homo erectus, as the fossil discoveries in the Tam Pa Ling Cave suggest. Data analysis of stone tool assemblages and fossil discoveries from Indonesia, Southern China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and more recently Cambodia and Malaysia has established Homo erectus migration routes and episodes of presence as early as 120,000 years ago and even older isolated finds date back 1.8 Million years. Java Man (Homo erectus erectus) and Homo floresiensis attest for a sustained regional presence and isolation, long enough for notable diversification of the specie's specifics.
Ocean drops of up to 120 m (393.70 ft) below the present level during Pleistocene glacial periods opened the vast lowlands known as Sundaland, enabling hunter-gatherer populations to freely access insular Southeast Asia via extensive terrestrial corridors. Modern human presence in the Niah cave on East Malaysia dates back to 40,000 years BP, although archaeological documentation of the early settlement period suggests only brief occupation phases. However, author Charles Higham argues that, despite glacial periods modern humans were able to cross the sea barrier beyond Java and Timor, who around 45,000 years ago left traces in the Ivane Valley in eastern New Guinea "at an altitude of 2,000 m (6,561.68 ft) exploiting yams and pandanus, hunting, and making stone tools between 43,000 and 49,000 years ago."
The oldest habitation discovered in the Philippines is located at the Tabon Caves and dates back to approximately 50,000 years; while items there found such as burial jars, earthenware, jade ornaments and other jewellery, stone tools, animal bones, and human fossils dating back to 47,000 years ago. Human remains are from approximately 24,000 years ago.
Signs of an early tradition are discernible in the Hoabinhian, the name given to an industry and cultural continuity of stone tools and flaked cobble artifacts that appears around 10,000 BP in caves and rock shelters first described in Hòa Bình, Vietnam, later also documented in Terengganu, Malaysia, Sumatra, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Yunnan, southern China. Research emphasizes considerable variations in quality and nature of the artifacts, influenced by region-specific environmental conditions and proximity and access to local resources. Remarkable is nonetheless that the Hoabinhian culture accounts for the first verified ritual burials.
The earliest Homo sapiens immigrants, loosely identified as Australo-Melanesians, Aboriginal, Negritos and Hill Tribes are associated with the occupation of caves, rock shelters and isolated upland regions in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines or on remote islands, such as the Andaman Islands and although displaced from the coasts and plains they are present in all regions for at least 30,000 years.
Subsequent Neolithic immigration waves are intensely debated considered dynamic and complex, and research has resorted to linguistic terms and argumentation for group identification and classification. Genetics as a research tool has been established only recently but results tend to contradict conventional theories.
The Austroasiatic migration wave centered around the Mon and the Khmer, who originate in North-Eastern India arrive around 5000 BP and are identified with the settlement on the broad riverine floodplains of Burma, Indochina and Malaysia.
The origin, period and settlement pattern of the Austronesian immigrants, whose elusive branches would eventually be dispersed all over the islands between Madagascar and Oceania, has been for a long time interpreted on a linguistic basis, although more recent genetic research contradicts these ideas. Certain is, these marine migrants were accomplished seafarers, who arrived on boats around 4,000 BP and soon dominated maritime Southeast Asia, populated the lowlands and coasts and pushed indigenous people of Indonesia, the Philippines or New Guinea to the interior regions.
Early agricultural societies
Agriculture was a development based on necessity. Before agriculture, hunting and gathering sufficed to provide food. The chicken and pig were domesticated here, millennia ago. So much food was available that people could gain status by giving food away in feasts and festivals, where all could eat their fill. These big men (Malay: orang kaya) would work for years, accumulating the food (wealth) needed for the festivals provided by the orang kaya. These individual acts of generosity or kindness are remembered by the people in their oral histories, which serves to provide credit in more dire times.
These customs ranged throughout Southeast Asia, stretching, for example, to the island of New Guinea. The agricultural technology was exploited after population pressures increased to the point that systematic intensive farming was required for mere survival, say of yams (in Papua) or rice (in Indonesia). Rice paddies are well-suited for the monsoons of Southeast Asia. The rice paddies of Southeast Asia have existed for millennia, with evidence for their existence coeval with the rise of agriculture in other parts of the globe.
Yam cultivation in Papua, for example, consists of placing the tubers in prepared ground, heaping vegetation on them, waiting for them to propagate, and harvesting them. This work sequence is still performed by the women in the traditional societies of Southeast Asia; the men might perform the heavier duties of preparing the ground, or of fencing the area to prevent predation by pigs.
Though cultivation emerged in the beginning of Holocene, hunting and gathering was not replaced but co-existed with farming. Early inhabitant groups might led a life mixed with cultivation and foraging that lasted for a rather long period, and they might as well relied on wild plant food production.
Two layer hypothesis
Between around 1,700 and 1,000 BC people settled in the Southeast Asian lowlands as wet-rice and millet farming techniques from the Yangtze River valley were adopted. Author and archaeologist Charles Higham suggests in his work "Hunter-Gatherers in Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to the Present" "the indigenous hunter-gatherers integrated with intrusive Neolithic communities and, while losing their cultural identity, contributed their genes to the present population of Southeast Asia." or alternatively the "hunter-gatherers withdrew to rainforest refugia and, through selective pressures inherent in such an environment, survived as the small-bodied, dark-skinned humans found to this day in the Philippines, Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, and the Andaman Islands." Unfortunately the Two layer hypothesis, based on the human occupation of mainland Southeast Asia during two distinct periods by two separate racial groups is only applicable when you know who really was involved in this integration process. Immigration from China alongside the introduction of farming occurred and DNA testing calls for revision of Neolithic migrations.
Early metal phases in Southeast Asia
Bronze Age in Vietnam started around 2000-1500 BC of Phung Nguyen culture. By around the 5th century BC, people of the Dong Son culture, who lived in what is now Vietnam, had mastered basic metal working. Their works are the earliest known metal object to be found by archaeologists in Southeast Asia.
Early principalities in mainland Southeast Asia are referred to as agrarian kingdoms. Examples are the Van Lang, based on the Red River delta and Funan. The states of Maritime Southeast Asia focused on sea trade. Văn Lang was the first nation of the ancient Vietnamese people, founded in the 7th century B.C and existed until 258 B.C. It was ruled by the Hùng Kings of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, Đông Sơn culture. However, little reliable historical information is available.
Since around 500 B.C. Asia's expanding land and maritime trade had lead to socio-economic interaction and cultural stimulation and diffusion of mainly Hindu beliefs into the regional cosmology of Southeast Asia. Iron Age trade expansion caused regional geostrategic remodeling. Southeast Asia was now situated in the central area of convergence of the Indian and the East Asian maritime trade routes, the basis for economic and cultural growth. The concept of the Indianized kingdoms, a term coined by George Coedès, describes Southeast Asian principalities that since the early common era as a result of prolonged interaction had incorporated central aspects of Indian institutions, religion, statecraft, administration, culture, epigraphy, writing and architecture.
The earliest Hindu kingdoms emerged in Sumatra and Java, followed by mainland polities such as Funan and Champa. Selective adoption of Indian civilization elements and individual suitable adaption stimulated the emergence of centralized states and development of highly organized societies. Ambitious local leaders realized the benefits of Hindu worship. Rule in accord with universal moral principles represented in the concept of the devaraja was more appealing than the Chinese concept of intermediaries.
The exact nature, process and extent of Indian influence upon the civilizations of the region is still fiercely debated by contemporary scholars. Debated are most claims over whether it was Indian merchants, Brahmins, nobles or Southeast Asian mariner-merchants who played a central role in bringing Indian conceptions to Southeast Asia. Debated is the depth of the influence of traditions for the people. Whereas early 20th-century scholars emphasized the thorough Indianization of Southeast Asia, more recent authors argued that this influence was very limited and affected only a small section of the elite.
Sea trade from China to India passed Champa, Funan at the Mekong Delta , proceeded along the coast to the Isthmus of Kra, portaged across the narrow and transhipped for distribution in India. This trading link boosted the development of Funan, its successor Chenla and the Malayan states of Langkasuka on the eastern and Kedah on the western coast.
Numbers of port towns in maritime Southeast Asia also began to receive Hindu and Buddhist influences from India, and developed to be a Hindu or Buddhist kingdoms ruled by native dynasties. Early Hindu kingdoms in Indonesia are 4th century Kutai that rose in East Kalimantan, Tarumanagara in West Java and Kalingga in Central Java.
Around the 6th century CE, merchants began sailing to Srivijaya where goods were transhipped directly on Sumatran ports. The limits of technology and contrary winds during parts of the year made it difficult for the ships of the time to proceed directly from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. The third system involved direct trade between the Indian and Chinese coasts.
The first dominant power to arise in the archipelago was Srivijaya in Sumatra. From the 5th century, the capital, Palembang, became a major seaport and functioned as an entrepot on the Spice Route between India and China. Srivijaya was also a notable centre of Vajrayana Buddhist learning and influence. Srivijaya's wealth and influence faded when changes in nautical technology in the 10th century enabled Chinese and Indian merchants to ship cargo directly between their countries and also enabled the Chola state in southern India to carry out a series of destructive attacks on Srivijaya's possessions, ending Palembang's entrepot function.
From the 7th to 15th centuries Sumatra was ruled by kaleidoscope of Buddhist kingdoms, from Kantoli, Srivijaya, Malayu, Pannai and Dharmasraya kingdom. Most of its history from the 6th to 13th centuries, Sumatra was dominated by Srivijaya empire.
After the fall of Tarumanagara, West Java was ruled by Sunda Kingdom. While Central and Eastern Java was dominated by a kaleidoscope of competing agrarian kingdoms including the Sailendras, Mataram, Kediri, Singhasari, and finally Majapahit. In the 8th to 9th centuries, the Sailendra dynasty that ruled Medang i Bhumi Mataram kingdom built numbers massive monuments in Central Java, includes Sewu and Borobudur temple.
In the Philippines, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription dating from 900 CE relates a granted debt from a Maginoo caste nobleman named Namwaran who lived in the Maynila area. This document mentions a leader of Medang in Java.
In mainland Southeast Asia, after the fall of Chenla, the Khmer Empire, centered on the plain north of Tonle Sap lake, flourished in 9th until 15th century to become a regional hegemon. The Khmers built numbers of massive monuments in and around Angkor. While on central plains of today Thailand the kingdom of Dvaravati arose since 6th to 13th century. By the 10th century, Dvaravati began to come under the influence of the Khmer Empire. Later the plains of Central Thailand was dominated by Sukhothai in the 13th century and later Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 14th century.
According to the Nagarakertagama, around the 13th century, Majapahit's vassal states spread throughout much of today's Indonesia, making it the largest empire ever to exist in Southeast Asia. The empire declined in the 15th century after the rise of Islamic states in coastal Java, Malay peninsula and Sumatra.
An early European to visit Southeast Asia was Niccolò de' Conti, who travelled here in the early 15th century. However, Europeans did not visit en masse until the 16th century. It was the lure of trade that brought Europeans to Southeast Asia while missionaries also tagged along the ships as they hoped to spread Christianity into the region.
Portugal was the first European power to establish a bridgehead on the lucrative maritime Southeast Asia trade route, with the conquest of the Sultanate of Malacca in 1511. The Netherlands and Spain followed and soon superseded Portugal as the main European powers in the region. In 1599, Spain began to colonise the Philippines. In 1619, acting through the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch took the city of Sunda Kelapa, renamed it Batavia (now Jakarta) as a base for trading and expansion into the other parts of Java and the surrounding territory. In 1641, the Dutch took Malacca from the Portuguese.[note 1] Economic opportunities attracted Overseas Chinese to the region in great numbers. In 1775, the Lanfang Republic, possibly the first republic in the region, was established in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, as a tributary state of the Qing Empire; the republic lasted until 1884, when it fell under Dutch occupation as Qing influence waned.[note 2]
Englishmen of the United Kingdom, in the guise of the Honourable East India Company led by Josiah Child, had little interest or impact in the region, and were effectively expelled following the Siam–England war (1687). Britain, in the guise of the British East India Company, turned their attention to the Bay of Bengal following the Peace with France and Spain (1783). During the conflicts, Britain had struggled for naval superiority with the French, and the need of good harbours became evident. Penang Island had been brought to the attention of the Government of India by Francis Light. In 1786 a settlement was formed under the administration of Sir John Macpherson, which formally began British expansion into the Malay States of Southeast Asia.[note 3]
The British also temporarily possessed Dutch territories during the Napoleonic Wars; and Spanish areas in the Seven Years' War. In 1819, Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a key trading post for Britain in their rivalry with the Dutch. However, their rivalry cooled in 1824 when an Anglo-Dutch treaty demarcated their respective interests in Southeast Asia. British rule in Burma began with the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826).
Early United States entry into what was then called the East Indies (usually in reference to the Malay Archipelago) was low key. In 1795, a secret voyage for pepper set sail from Salem, Massachusetts on an 18-month voyage that returned with a bulk cargo of pepper, the first to be so imported into the country, which sold at the extraordinary profit of seven hundred per cent. In 1831, the merchantman Friendship of Salem returned to report the ship had been plundered, and the first officer and two crewmen murdered in Sumatra. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 obligated the Dutch to ensure the safety of shipping and overland trade in and around Aceh, who accordingly sent the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army on the punitive expedition of 1831. President Andrew Jackson also ordered America's first Sumatran punitive expedition of 1832, which was followed by a punitive expedition in 1838. The Friendship incident thus afforded the Dutch a reason to take over Ache; and Jackson, to dispatch diplomatist Edmund Roberts, who in 1833 secured the Roberts Treaty with Siam. In 1856 negotiations for amendment of this treaty, Townsend Harris stated the position of the United States:
The United States does not hold any possessions in the East, nor does it desire any. The form of government forbids the holding of colonies. The United States therefore cannot be an object of jealousy to any Eastern Power. Peaceful commercial relations, which give as well as receive benefits, is what the President wishes to establish with Siam, and such is the object of my mission.
From the end of the 1850s onwards, while the attention of the United States shifted to maintaining their union, the pace of European colonisation shifted to a significantly higher gear.
This phenomenon, denoted New Imperialism, saw the conquest of nearly all Southeast Asian territories by the colonial powers. The Dutch East India Company and British East India Company were dissolved by their respective governments, who took over the direct administration of the colonies. Only Thailand was spared the experience of foreign rule, though Thailand, too, was greatly affected by the power politics of the Western powers. The Monthon reforms of the late 19th Century continuing up till around 1910, imposed a Westernised form of government on the country's partially independent cities called Mueang, such that the country could be said to have successfully colonised itself. Western powers did, however, continue to interfere in both internal and external affairs.
By 1913, the British had occupied Burma, Malaya and the northern Borneo territories, the French controlled Indochina, the Dutch ruled the Netherlands East Indies while Portugal managed to hold on to Portuguese Timor. In the Philippines, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny was a precursor to the Philippine Revolution (1896–1898). When the Spanish–American War began in Cuba in 1898, Filipino revolutionaries declared Philippine independence and established the First Philippine Republic the following year. In the Treaty of Paris of 1898 that ended the war with Spain, the United States gained the Philippines and other territories; in refusing to recognise the nascent republic, America effectively reversed her position of 1856. This led directly to the Philippine–American War, in which the First Republic was defeated; wars followed with the Republic of Zamboanga, the Republic of Negros and the Republic of Katagalugan, all of which were also defeated.
Colonial rule had had a profound effect on Southeast Asia. While the colonial powers profited much from the region's vast resources and large market, colonial rule did develop the region to a varying extent. Commercial agriculture, mining and an export based economy developed rapidly during this period. The introduction Christianity bought by the colonist also have profound effect in the societal change.
Increased labour demand resulted in mass immigration, especially from British India and China, which brought about massive demographic change. The institutions for a modern nation state like a state bureaucracy, courts of law, print media and to a smaller extent, modern education, sowed the seeds of the fledgling nationalist movements in the colonial territories. In the inter-war years, these nationalist movements grew and often clashed with the colonial authorities when they demanded self-determination.
Japanese invasion and occupations
In September 1940, following the Fall of France and pursuant to the Pacific war goals of Imperial Japan, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Vichy French Indochina, which ended in the abortive Japanese coup de main in French Indochina of 9 March 1945. On 5 January 1941, Thailand launched the Franco-Thai War, ended on 9 May 1941 by a Japanese-imposed treaty signed in Tokyo. On 7/8 December, Japan's entry into World War II began with the invasion of Thailand, the only invaded country to maintain nominal independence, due to her political and military alliance with the Japanese—on 10 May 1942, her northwestern Payap Army invaded Burma during the Burma Campaign. From 1941 until war's end, Japanese occupied Cambodia and Malaya, which ended in independence movements. Japanese occupation of the Philippines led to the forming of the Second Philippine Republic, formally dissolved in Tokyo on 17 August 1945. Also on 17 August, a proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at the conclusion of Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies since March 1942.
With the rejuvenated nationalist movements in wait, the Europeans returned to a very different Southeast Asia after World War II. Indonesia declared independence on 17 August 1945 and subsequently fought a bitter war against the returning Dutch; the Philippines was granted independence by the United States in 1946; Burma secured their independence from Britain in 1948, and the French were driven from Indochina in 1954 after a bitterly fought war (the Indochina War) against the Vietnamese nationalists. The newly established United Nations provided a forum both for nationalist demands and for the newly demanded independent nations.
During the Cold War, countering the threat of communism was a major theme in the decolonisation process. After suppressing the communist insurrection during the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960, Britain granted independence to Malaya and later, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in 1957 and 1963 respectively within the framework of the Federation of Malaysia. In one of the most bloody single incidents of violence in Cold War Southeast Asia, General Suharto seized power in Indonesia in 1965 and initiated a massacre of approximately 500,000 alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
Following the independence of the Indochina states with the battle of Dien Bien Phu, North Vietnamese attempts to conquer South Vietnam resulted in the Vietnam War. The conflict spread to Laos and Cambodia and heavy intervention from the United States. By the war's end in 1975, all these countries were controlled by communist parties. After the communist victory, two wars between communist states—the Cambodian–Vietnamese War of 1975–89 and the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979—were fought in the region. The victory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia resulted in the Cambodian Genocide.
In 1975, Portuguese rule ended in East Timor. However, independence was short-lived as Indonesia annexed the territory soon after. However, after more than 20 years of fighting Indonesia, East Timor won its independence and is recognised by the UN as the world's newest nation. Finally, Britain ended its protectorate of the Sultanate of Brunei in 1984, marking the end of European rule in Southeast Asia.
Contemporary Southeast Asia
Modern Southeast Asia has been characterised by high economic growth by most countries and closer regional integration. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have traditionally experienced high growth and are commonly recognised as the more developed countries of the region. As of late, Vietnam too had been experiencing an economic boom. However, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and the newly independent East Timor are still lagging economically.
On 8 August 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Since Cambodian admission into the union in 1999, East Timor is the only Southeast Asian country that is not part of ASEAN, although plans are under way for eventual membership. The association aims to enhance co-operation among Southeast Asian community. ASEAN Free Trade Area has been established to encourage greater trade among ASEAN members. ASEAN has also been a front runner in greater integration of Asia-Pacific region through East Asia Summits.
- Buddhism in Southeast Asia
- Hinduism in Southeast Asia
- Jainism in Southeast Asia
- Shenism in Southeast Asia
- Islam in Southeast Asia
- History of Indian influence on Southeast Asia
- Two Layer hypothesis
- History of Brunei
- History of Cambodia
- History of East Timor
- History of Indonesia
- History of Laos
- History of Malaysia
- History of Myanmar
- History of the Philippines
- History of Singapore
- History of Thailand
- History of Vietnam
- History of Asia
- For fifty or sixty years, the Portuguese enjoyed the exclusive trade to China and Japan. In 1717, and again in 1732, the Chinese government offered to make Macao the emporium for all foreign trade, and to receive all duties on imports; but, by a strange infatuation, the Portuguese government refused, and its decline is dated from that period. (Roberts, 2007 PDF image 173 p. 166)
- Other experiments in republicanism in adjacent regions were the Japanese Republic of Ezo (1869) and the Republic of Taiwan (1895).
- Company agent John_Crawfurd used the census taken in 1824 for a statistical analysis of the relative economic prowess of the peoples there, giving special attention to the Chinese: The Chinese amount to 8595, and are landowners, field-labourers, mechanics of almost every description, shopkeepers, and general merchants. They are all from the two provinces of Canton and Fo-kien, and three-fourths of them from the latter. About five-sixths of the whole number are unmarried men, in the prime of life : so that, in fact, the Chinese population, in point of effective labour, may be estimated as equivalent to an ordinary population of above 37,000, and, as will afterwards be shown, to a numerical Malay population of more than 80,000! (Crawfurd image 48. p.30
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The history of this little establishment is very shortly told. After the war which ended in the peace of 1783, and during which we had had to struggle for naval superiority with the French, the want of a good harbour in the Bay of Bengal, as a resort for our ships of war, became evident; and Penang, after other abortive and injudicious attempts had been made, was at length fixed upon, under the administration of Sir John Macpherson. The person who recommended it to the attention of the Government of India, was a Mr. Francis Light, who had traded and resided for a number of years at Siam and Queda, and who had a title of nobility from the former country. The settlement was formed in the year 1786, and this gentleman appointed to the charge of [53/35] it, under the title of Superintendant. There is no foundation whatever for the idle story which has gained currency, of Mr. Light's having received Penang as a dowry. ...
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When Captain Jonathan Carnes set sail. ...
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Having some years since become acquainted with the commerce of Asia and Eastern Africa, the information produced on my mind a conviction that considerable benefit would result from effecting treaties with some of the native powers bordering on the Indian ocean.
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