Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia

Online Seminar: Round and about Banda: protection-tribute treaties in the eastern archipelago in the early 17th century.

Picture for Tristan Mosterts seminar
2023-12-19 13:15 - 15:00

Presenter: Tristan Mostert (Leiden University).

The role of diplomacy and treaty-making in early European colonialism has long been an issue of interest to historians, and the eastern archipelago has provided a particularly rich ground for its study. As the VOC and some of its predecessors tried to obtain access to, and soon, a monopoly on, the spices originating from the region, they would typically do so by entering into treaties offering protection against a common enemy, in exchange for exclusive deliveries of the spices in the region at a fixed price.

Many authors on the topic have been keen to emphasize that these treaties should not be considered a form of equal partnership, or a recognition of local autonomy, noting, for instance, that for all the lofty European legal theory that undergirded them, the earliest  such treaties in Maluku were meant to ‘enforce obligation by consent’: an alternative to outright conquest, perhaps, but with the same ultimate goals. Taking this line of reasoning even further, Martine van Ittersum has argued that much of this lofty theorizing was tailored to the exigencies of the VOC and its expansionist agenda in the first place. For the Banda Islands, for instance, she contended that these treaties were instrumental in drawing down the Bandanese ever deeper into a spiral of dependence and violence. ‘Coen’s brutal conquest of Great Banda presents an inconvenient truth for many global historians writing today who are eager to ascribe agency to indigenous peoples through various forms of ‘negotiating’ and ‘resisting’ empire,’ she darkly observed.

This presentation will revisit some of the work of Martine van Ittersum and others on the topic, and then broaden the scope to treaties outside the Banda Islands proper, investigating whether these treaties and the process by which they came about can shed fresh light on the specific and oft-cited example of Banda and place them in a wider regional context.

To participate, please register in advance via:

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


All Dates

  • 2023-12-19 13:15 - 15:00

Past Events

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

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

Presenter: Isaac Donoso (University of Alicante) Pre-registration required.