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: Interpreters and Foreign Language Students in Pre-colonial Nguyen Vietnam (1802-1883): A Brief Archival Survey.

image interpreters and foreign language students
2023-11-21 13:15 - 15:00

Presenter: Xuan Tran (Hamburg University).

In the early 19th century, the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945) experienced a significant degree of globalization with the presence of certain French high-ranking officials serving at court and the adoption of Western technologies in modernizing the country. The pivotal roles of interpreters in facilitating commercial and diplomatic transactions were highly recognized by the Nguyễn court, particularly when it became involved in Western invasions during the latter half of that century. This presentation aims to provide a concise overview of interpreter training within the Nguyễn court during the pre-colonial period from 1802 to 1883. The purpose is not to definitively address each inquiry, but rather to introduce the potential availability of historical sources shedding light on several questions. This groundwork is intended to lay the foundation for future comprehensive research endeavors.

The Nguyễn dynasty initially relied on Sinitic brush conversation and occasionally selected interpreters from multilingual Christian communities within the country. This raises pivotal questions: When did the Nguyễn court formally commence the training of interpreters? Was this achieved through the establishment of local language schools or by sending students abroad for education? Additionally, how did interpreters, equipped with their command of foreign languages, contribute to the Nguyễn court's strategies for effective communication with foreign counterparts, intelligence gathering, and the pursuit of national strengthening during the delicate process of treaty negotiations under the reign of Tự Đức (1847-1883)? Did the Nguyễn interpreters possess the requisite skills to adeptly handle the complexities of treaty negotiations and drafting during this period?


To participate, please register in advance via:

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All Dates

  • 2023-11-21 13:15 - 15:00

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.

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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.

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

Presenter: Deborah Besseghini (University of Turin) Pre-registration required.