The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Sultanate of Malacca

The Sultanate of Malacca (1402 - 1511) was a Malay sultanate founded by Parameswara, a Srivijayan prince who escaped the Majapahit capture of Palembang.

In 1402, he founded a new capital, Malacca (Melaka in Malay), located at the chokepoint of the Straits of Malacca. In 1414, he converted to Islam and became the Sultan of Malacca.

The Sultanate thrived as an entrepot and became the most important port in Southeast Asia during the 15th and the early 16th century. Furthermore, Malacca was as a major player in spice trade, serving as a gateway between the Spice Islands and high-paying Eurasian markets. This is reflected by the Portuguese writer Duarte Barbosa who once wrote "He who is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice".

One of the factors that contributed to the rise of Malacca was the monsoon winds that enabled Arab and Indian traders from the west to travel to China in the east and vice versa. At the height of its power, the Sultanate encompassed most of modern day Peninsula Malaysia, the site of modern day Singapore and a great portion of eastern Sumatra. It was also the center of Islam in the eastern sphere, where imams and "ustaz"s came to discuss religion and the like. Muslim missionaries were also sent by the Sultan to spread Islam to other communities in the Malay Archipelago, such as in Java, Borneo, and the Phillippines. Most of South East Asia at that time was Hindu.

The Sultanate's most important regional rivals were Siam in the north and the declining Majapahit Empire in the south. Majapahit was not able to control or effectively compete with Malacca within the archipelago, and came to an end during the later 15th century. Siam on the other hand attacked Malacca three times, but all attacks were repelled. At the same time, Malacca had a good relationship with China. One of the Malaccan Sultans even married a Chinese princess named Hang Li Po , although it's probably a myth. This friendly relationship with China helped deter Siam from further threatening Malacca.

It was in 1509, during the reign of the last Sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mahmud Shah that the Portuguese became the first European power to reach Malacca and Southeast Asia in general. The Portuguese delegation was led by Admiral Lopez de Sequira . Trouble however ensued immediately after the general feeling of rivalry between Islam and Christianity was invoked by a few groups in the Sultan's court. Soon, the Portuguese fleet was attacked by the Malacca and was forced to flee.

In 1511, a larger Portuguese fleet from Cochin, India led by Viceroy Alfonso d'Albuquerque came back to Malacca. The Viceroy made a few demands but all were refused by the Sultan. As a result, conflict was unavoidable. On August 24, Malacca fell after 40 days and Sultan Mahmud Shah fled to Kampar in Sumatra, and later died there. His son Muzaffar was invited by the people in the north of the peninsula to become their ruler, establishing the Sultanate of Perak. Meanwhile Mahmud's other son Alauddin went on to become the successor of his father and made a new capital in the south, Johore, and the Sultanate of Malacca became the Sultanate of Johore.

Malacca was later conquered by the Dutch 1641. Through the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, Malacca became a colony of the United Kingdom. In 1957, Malacca joined other Malay states to form Malaya and in 1963, together with Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore formed Malaysia.

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13