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: Boundaries and land rights in treaties and land deeds in the Malay world (18th -19th centuries). Reflections on forms and practices.

2024-05-17 13:15 - 15:00

In the Malay world, the European presence and the conclusion of treaties have often been synonymous with territorial demarcations to delimit the spheres of influence of the various powers. These treaties address the issue of territorial sovereignty, which remains difficult to define and understand locally. Researchers have pointed to problems of translation or bilingual composition of these treaties, which raise conceptual questions. To better understand the relationship to land maintained by Malay sovereigns, the presentation proposes a detailed examination of Malay codes, as well as Malay certificates and letters from the 19th century, in which Malay sovereigns attributed land rights to local populations. This examination aims to understand the relationship to space, use, and ownership of natural resources that existed in the various Malay states at the time of European colonization of the region. The presentation also intends to point to a part of Malay written culture that deals with land transactions and rights, which remains little known.

Elsa Clavé is Junior Professor at the University of Hamburg. She specializes in modern and contemporary social and cultural history of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, in particular societies that belong to the so-called Malay world, an area of long historical interactions between diverse populations, where the use of Malay as lingua franca has allowed the exchanges of ideas, concepts, and practices. She studied in France at the Sorbonne; the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (Inalco) and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), where she received two bachelors (French Literature; Indonesian-Malay Studies) and two Masters (Indonesian-Malay Studies; History).

She is the author of L’islamisation du Sud philippin 15e-20e. Une histoire sociale et culturelle des sultanats (Paris EFEO 2022), and a number of articles on Malay writing culture, legal documentation, cultural and religious memory, representations of authority and other topics (see https://elsaclave.com).

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All Dates

  • 2024-05-17 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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