Networks of Malay Merchants and the Rise of Penang as a Regional Trading Centre
Nordin Hussin, Institute of Occidental Studies IKON, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia,
Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 43,No. 3, December 2005
Throughout history the role of Malay merchants and traders in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago was very imminent. Their presence was very important in the Malay waters and it was they who were the collector and distributor of goods and commodities that arrived at many major port-towns in the archipelago. Although their presence in the
intra-Asian trade is very clearly documented in the VOC Dutch and English records, research and writing on their role in trade has been neglected by scholars. The importance of Malay merchants and traders was seldom highlighted and if they were mentioned their role were not written in greater detail. Malay traders were an important group of traders from the archipelago and their presence was clearly seen right from the Srivijaya period until in the nineteenth century. However, while trade and commerce expanded in Southeast Asia, the nineteenth century saw the decline of Malay merchants and traders when fewer of them appeared to have the means and resources to participate in long distance
It is the aim of this paper to highlight the role of the Malay merchants and traders which was an important group of merchants that had been plying in the Malay waters. Who were these traders and where they came from and the commodities they carried and the various types of ships they travelled will be discussed in the paper. The study will also look at the importance and the role of these merchants in early Penang.
Keywords: Malay traders, Malay ports, types of Malay ships, Penang trade and network, Malay town, Bugis traders, pepper trade, Straits of Melaka

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