Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia

A research program in global diplomatic history

Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia is a collaborative research program in Global Diplomatic History financed by the Swedish Research Council and running from 2022 until the end of 2027.

A team of seven researchers based in Europe and Southeast Asia investigate the role of treaties and treaty-making in the imperial expansion and colonisation of Southeast Asia from the eighteenth to the early and twentieth century.

The researchers systematically analyse all bilateral treaties concluded between a European, American or Japanese imperial power and a Southeast Asian polity between the eighteenth and early twentieth century. In addition, a selected number of diplomatic treaty-making processes are studied in detail. In doing so, the project aims to bring about a new and more nuanced understanding modern imperialism of relevance not only to Southeast Asia but globally.


Online Seminar: A preliminary synopsis of how VOC treaties disrupted the polities of their co-signatories in the early modern period, c.1600-1800

2023-09-19 13:15

Presenter: Peter Borschberg (National University Singapore).

The seminar centers around Peter Borschberg's paper, which is a work in progress, and that forms part of an on-going project to identify the ways in which treaties forged by the VOC with Southeast Asian rulers disrupted the co-signatory polities. I will explain my preliminary findings in two parts. First, I identify and outline some of the characteristic traits of early modern polities in the western Malay Archipelago, focussing attention primarily but not exclusively on the peninsula and Sumatra. Special interest will be given to what could be called lines of friction – that means the different political priorities and values that these early modern Malay polities had in comparison to their European peers, and the different manner in which they discharged their governing tasks. In the second part, I will take a closer look at a number of early modern treaties signed with the VOC and based on these identify how these treaties disrupted the co-signatories’ ability to discharge tasks and functions. In the final section I will draw some conclusions from these preliminary findings.


To participate, please register in advance via:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


All Dates

  • 2023-09-19 13:15

Southeast Asian perspectives on British and Dutch colonialism: New research project

Shadow figures depicted in an old manuscript

Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia program member Maarten Manse has been awarded a three-year project grant by the Swedish Research Council to explore the role of Southeast Asian actors in British and Dutch colonialism in the region.

Read more …

Colonialism, Slavery and Local Histories in Early Modern Asia

For several hundred years after 1498, seafaring European powers developed and co-opted a complicated network of commercial relations along the coastlands of the Indian Ocean World and Asia. For the most part, they did not open up new waterways but took advantage of existing systems of trade and exchange. European commerce was often established by brute force but also through negotiations and treaties, often in combination with violence or threats of violence.

Read more …

Manila, Philippines
Conference organized by the Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia research project.