Paper Abstract

Melaka in the Long 15th Century Conference

2-4 AUG 19

Andrew Peacock

University of St Andrews


Prof. Andrew Peacock is a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic History. He studied Oriental Studies at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and has held positions in Cambridge, Ankara, and as Visiting Professor in the Department of History, University of Malaya (2017-2018).

Teaching and Research Interests

Medieval and early modern Middle Eastern and Islamic history, especially the history of Iran, Anatolia, the Caucasus and Central Asia up to the seventeenth century; Arabic and Persian historiography and manuscripts; history of the Indian Ocean region.

Current Research Projects

Dr Peacock is Principal Investigator of two major externally funded research projects, Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean (co-director with Dr Annabel Teh Gallop), funded by the British Academy over 2009-2012 (; and The Islamisation of Anatolia, c. 1100-1500, funded by the European Research Council over 2012-2016.(


Melaka in the Long 15th Century Conference

Melaka in the Arabic, Persian and Turkish Sources

This paper surveys references to Melaka in the Arabic, Persian and Turkish sources in order to give an impression of the port was viewed from the perspective of the Middle East, which is generally thought to have constituted one of Melaka’s major trading partners.  The most detailed references are in the works of the navigators who themselves traversed the Indian Ocean and left instructions for how to reach Melaka and Southeast Asia, such as the Arabic poem (urjuza) by the well-known Arab navigator Ibn Majid (1421-c.1500), preserved in a unique manuscript in St Petersburg.  The very title of this poem, al-Mal’aqiyya, refers to Melaka and both the route and the port are described.

Further references to Melaka are present in the work of Sulayman al-Mahri (1480-1550) which reflect the links between Arabia and Southeast Asia.  Passing references in the Arabic and Persian historical and geographical sources also indicate an awareness of Melaka in the fifteenth century, but more important are the documentary materials, in particular a long letter in Persian composed shortly after its conquest by the Portuguese which offers a detailed, firsthand account of the fall of the city.  Finally, I also discuss references to Melaka in the Ottoman Turkish sources, which comprise navigational texts, references in the archival record, and references to the fall of Melaka in a little known chronicle by Kutahyali Firaki, the Seadetname, composed around 1527.  Although the Turkish references lightly postdate the fall of Melaka, they indicate the impression that it made on the broader Muslim world as far west as Istanbul, and reflect memories of Melaka’s importance as a major Muslim entrepôt.