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 new relation between trade and empire: the first commercial treaties in Latin America (1810s-1830s)

2024-03-08 13:15 - 15:00

Online Zoom Seminar.


The crisis of the Iberian empires during the Napoleonic wars marked a fundamental transition in relations between trade and empire. The effectiveness of their "mercantilist" institutional support for long-distance trade fell short, and from 1808-10 the Ibero-American actors had to rely even more on other subjects capable of guaranteeing some protection to their “global” commercial initiatives. These relations were, at different times, fixed by treaties, which re-founded the ties between trade and a new type of empire, this time informal. If the Spanish-American actors, for example, contributed to push the world towards free trade by opening their ports to all friendly and neutral subjects, this nevertheless contributed to fueling rivalries over the reconfiguration of the American space. These rivalries were reflected in the attempts, mainly by Britain and the United States, then also by France and other subjects, to obtain suitable formulations of such treaties to their economic and strategic interests, in exchange for recognition of the new states and necessary political synergies. And this experience provided, in general, a model and a tool for nineteenth-century imperialism.

Presenter: Deborah Besseghini (University of Turin)

Deborah Besseghini is a postdoctoral researcher and adjunct professor at the University of Turin, and adjunct professor at the University of Milan, Italy. She had been visiting researcher at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Laboratoire Mondes Américains, in Paris, and external professor in the Universidad de Tucumán and the Universidad Nacional del Sur, in Argentina. She earned her PhD at the University of Trieste. Involved in several international research groups, both in Europe and the Americas, she authored essays in Spanish, English and Italian, mostly on informal imperialism.


To participate, please register in advance via:

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All Dates

  • 2024-03-08 13:15 - 15:00

Roundtable Discussion on "Treaties and Treaty-Making in Southeast Asia" held at the University of the Philippines- Baguio

On 26 February 2024, four of our project members participated in a roundtable discussion on historical treaties and treaty-making practices in Southeast Asia at the University of the Philippines- Baguio (UP Baguio). The event was hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy, College of Social Sciences, UP Baguio.

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Pandita, Bichara and Moro Historical Diplomacy

We can learn much from the way diplomacy was conducted in the Islamic courts of the southern Philippines, where the power of words to decisively and deliberately avoid conflict and regulate political relations was particularly prominent in border regions (thagr).

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