Paper Abstract

Melaka in the Long 15th Century Conference

2-4 AUG 19

Kenneth Hall

Ball State University


Kenneth R. Hall is a Professor of History at Ball State University (USA), with a PhD in South and Southeast Asian History and Anthropology from The University of Michigan.

Teaching and Research Interests

Prof. Hall has conducted fieldwork research in South, Southeast Asia, and wider Asia – including archaeological fieldwork in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and India as a Fulbright Scholar.

Current Research Projects

Prof. Hall is completing final revisions of his new book focal on the Eastern Indian Ocean realm c. 100-1500 to be published by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.

Melaka in the 15th Century Conference


Melaka’s 15th Century Networked Ports-of-Trade, Maritime Diasporas, and Networks of Trade and Cultural Integration in the Bay of Bengal and Western Indian Ocean

15th century seaports on the Bay of Bengal and Western Indian Ocean coastlines functioned as destination and intermediary ports linked to Melaka.  Transitional eastern and western monsoons dictated that these ports provided cosmopolitan space that was seasonally populated by foreign diaspora and indigenous merchants.  New archaeological recoveries, local histories, the surviving commentaries of fifteenth-century global travelers, and most notably the detailed Muslim khutba and Cairo’s Jewish Geneza records of Middle Eastern traders, collectively document fifteenth-century Eastern and Western Indian Ocean “trading emporia” that networked with Melaka prior to 1511 Portuguese seizure.

This study is less about the exchange of products than an investigation of the trading communities, the relationships among the regionally networked ports-of-trade, merchant diasporas, and the regional cultural and economic consequences.  The transitional nature of maritime trade and cultural identities in this sub-region of the international East-West maritime pathway created regional marketing opportunities that resulted in the segmentation of the maritime route.  Indian Ocean transit disadvantaged Red Sea-based maritime diaspora who had to make their way to the Gujarat coast of northwest India in one season, where they would wait until the following March to sail to Straits of Melaka regional ports via the southwest monsoon.  Since Middle East-based Indian Ocean sojourners could only reach the Straits of Melaka in a single year, the reality of monsoon-driven maritime trade was a three-year round-trip voyage from the Middle East to China as this made Melaka a vital and convenient intermediary port-of-trade destination.