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date: 24 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

South East Asians in the early modern period (c.1450–1800) embraced technological innovations and novel ideas that crossed their paths. The fifteenth century ushered in the collapse of large empires and the rise of local craft industries; multi-ethnic diasporic communities developed in port cities; and standardized currencies structured local economies. Europeans entered this world in search of luxury goods and precious metals—in two centuries they would colonize most of the region. Although most historians explain the emergence of South East Asia’s ‘Age of Commerce’ through external factors, indigenous documents and archaeological information from this period offer insights on internal dynamics that contributed to region-wide transformations. Two objectives structure this chapter: to assess the range of issues that archaeological research has raised, challenged, or refuted, and to weave historical and archaeological threads into a series of themes that might guide future archaeological research on the period 1450–1850.

Keywords: South East Asia, Age of Commerce, diaspora, maritime trade, settlement pattern, identity, Melaka, Batavia, Calatagan

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