A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise ofAtjeh.pdf

Department of History, National University of Singapore A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise of Atjeh, 1540-1600 Author(s): C. R. Boxer Source: Journal of Southeast Asian History, Vol. 10, No. 3, International Trade and Politics in Southeast Asia 1500-1800 (Dec., 1969), pp. 415-428 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, National University of Singapore Stable URL: . Access
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  Department of History National University of Singapore A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise ofAtjeh, 1540-1600Author(s): C. R. BoxerSource: Journal of Southeast Asian History, Vol. 10, No. 3, International Trade and Politics inSoutheast Asia 1500-1800 (Dec., 1969), pp. 415-428Published by: Cambridge University Press  on behalf of Department of History, National Universityof Singapore Stable URL: . Accessed: 03/05/2014 14:57 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Cambridge University Press  and  Department of History, National University of Singapore  are collaboratingwith JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Journal of Southeast Asian History. This content downloaded from on Sat, 3 May 2014 14:57:55 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  A NOTE ON PORTUGUESE REACTIONS TO THE REVIVAL OF THE RED SEA SPICE TRADE AND THE RISE OF ATJEH, 1540-1600 C. R. Boxer No reputable historian nowadays maintains that the Portuguese 16th- century thalassocracy in the Indian Ocean was always and everywhere completely effective. In particular, it is widely accepted that there was a marked if erratic revival in the Red Sea spice-trade shortly after the first Turkish occupation of Aden in 1538, though much work remains to be done on the causes and effects of this development. The Portuguese reactions to the rise of Atjeh have been studied chiefly in connection with the frequent fighting in the Straits of Malacca; and the economic side of the struggle has been less considered. The connection of Atjeh with the revival of the Red Sea spice-trade has been insufficiently stressed; though Mrs. Meilink-Roelofsz and Dr. V. Magalh?es Godinho have some relevant observations on this point in their recent and well docu mented works (Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago, 1500-1630, The Hague, 1962, pp. 142-46; Os Descobrimentos e a Econom?a Mundial, Vol. II, Lisboa, 1967, pp. Ill - 171). The purpose of this paper is to amplify the facts and figures which they give there, in the hope that someone with the necessary linguistic qualifications will be incited to make comple mentary researches in the relevant Indonesian, Arabian, or Turkish sources. I am not concerned here with the srcins of Atjehnese-Portuguese enmity, nor with the founding of the Atjehnese empire by Sultan Ali Mughayat Shah, who conquered Daya to the west and Pedir (Pidie) and Pase to the east.1 By the time of his death in or about the year 1530, the Atjehnese had captured so many cannon from the P'ortuguese that the contemporary chronicler, Fern?o Lopes de Castanheda, averred that the Sultan was much better supplied with 1. Cf. Jo?o de Barros, Decada III (Lisbon, 1563), Livro 5, cap. iii; R. S. Whiteway, The Rise of the Portuguese Power in India, 1497-1550 (London, 1899;, pp. 329 330; G. Schurhammer, S.J., Franz Xaver, seine Leben und seine zeit, II, Asien 1541-1552 (1) Indien und Indonesien, 1541-1547 (Freiburg, 1963), p. 601, and the sources there quoted. 415 This content downloaded from on Sat, 3 May 2014 14:57:55 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  PORTUGUESE REACTIONS TO RED SEA SPICE TRADE artillery than was the fortress of Malacca .2 The Atjehnese popula tion was not yet a homogeneous one, since it was composed of different groups brought together by force during the successive conquest of other petty kingdoms along the east and (principally) west coasts of Sumatra during the course of the 16th century. There was also a considerable mixture of Indian blood in the populous capital of Kutaraja, with the increasing importance of the trade with India during the reign of Sultan Ala' al-Din Ri'ayat Shah al-Kahh?r (c. 1537-1571), with which we are primarily con cerned. Atjeh was and long remained an essentially coastal state and seaborne empire. No serious attempt was made to occupy the interior of the island, where the Sultan's rule was purely nominal. The export of Sumatra pepper to the west coast of India and thence to the Red Sea in Gujarati shipping was only temporarily interrupted by the Portuguese conquest and occupation of Malacca. Pedir was for some time the principal port whence this pepper was shipped, but the Atjehnese may have participated in this trade even before their conquest of Pedir, whose dispossessed ruler died as a refugee at Malacca.:? However that may be, the earliest reference to Atjehnese participation in the pepper trade which I have been able to find in the Portuguese sources, dates from 1534. In that year a Portuguese squadron commanded by Diogo da Silveira inter cepted a number of ships from Gujarat and from Atjeh off the straits of Bab-el-mandib at the entrance to the Red Sea.4 In the year 1545, Pero de Faria, who had twice served as captain of Malacca, wrote to the Crown from Goa that the Gujaratis were exporting pepper from Atjeh and Kedah, a piece of information confirmed by Manuel Godinho in the same year.5 Just about the same time (8 March 1546), King Dom Jo?o III wrote to the Governor at Goa complaining about the reports which he had 2. ...c com esta artelharia ficou muyto mais abastado del? do que estava a fortaleza de Malaca (Fern?o Lopez de Castanheda, Historia do descobrimento e conquista da India pelos Portugueses, Livro VII (Coimbra,, 1554), caps. 84, 85, 100), R. Feiner (ed.), Subsidios para a historia da India Porgutueza: Lem bran?as das cousas da India em 1525 (Lisbon, 1968), p. 16; G. Schurhammer, S.J., Die Zeitgenossischen Quellen zur geschichte Portugiesisch-Asiens und seiner nachbarl?nder, 1538-1552 (2nd ed., Rome 1962), p. 108, nr. 1629. 3. Ex-Sultan Mahamat to King of Portugal, letter d. Malacca, 15 Nov. 1543, in Arthur Basilio de Sa (ed.), Documentado para a historia das miss?es do Padroado Portuguesa do Oriente. Iisul?ndia, I, 1506-1549 (Lisbon, 1954), pp. 382-84. Cf. G. Schurhammer, Quellen (7962), nos. 1132-1133. Sim?o Alvares in his report on the spice trade diawn up in 1548, states that he had personally examined large quantities of white pepper captured in ships bound from Pedir and Martaban before the vear 1530 (apud Studia. Revista Semestral, Vol. X, Lisbon, 1962, p. 142;. 4. Diogo do Cou to, D?cada IV (Lisbon, 1602), Livro 8, cap. 10. 5. Pero de Faria to the Crown, Goa, 19 Nov. 1545, and Manuel Godinho to the Crown, 28 Nov. 1545, in G. Schurhammer, Quellen (1962), nrs. 1709, 1746. 416 This content downloaded from on Sat, 3 May 2014 14:57:55 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  PORTUGUESE REACTIONS TO RED SEA SPICE TRADE received concerning the marked revival of the Red Sea spice-trade.6 This dispatch must have crossed one from D. Jo?o de Castro to the king, stating that he had ordered all Portuguese ships bound from India to Malacca to sail in convoy thenceforward, owing to the recent capture of Antonio de Sousa's junk by the Atjehnese.7 A further report of 1547 specifically mentions two ships from Surat lading pepper at Atjeh.8 It seems safe to assert, therefore, that Atjehnese participation in the Red Sea Spice-trade dates from the late fifteen-thirties and early fifteen-forties; and that it did not srcinate in the fifteen-sixties, as is usually stated or implied.9 Atjehnese participation in the Red Sea spice-trade was undeniab ly in full swing by the mid-sixteenth century. In 1554-55, two successive Portuguese fleets were sent to cruise off the entrance to the Red Sea in the hope of intercepting ships from Atjeh and Gujarat; while another squadron blockaded Swally (Suahli), the roadstead of Surat, for the same purpose of capturing Gujarati ships from Atjeh which had not taken out Portuguese passports (cartaxes).10 These expeditions do not seem to have achieved any thing; and a projected attack on Atjeh itself, for which the Governor, Francisco Barreto, had organised an armada of 25 galleons and caravels, with over seventy galliots and foists, was can celled in September 1558, when Barreto was superseded by the newly arrived viceroy, Dom Constantino de Bragan?a.11 In 1559 this viceroy sent a squadron of two galleons and eighteen oared craft to the Red Sea, to intercept and capture the ships from Atjeh'', but they likewise failed to meet them.12 The Portuguese had long since acquired a wholesome respect for the Atjehnese as formidable fighters who formed the greatest threat to Malacca for over a century. A contemporary account of the misadventures of the castaways from the outwardbound Indiaman S?o Paulo, wrecked on the west coast of Sumatra in the latitude of the equator in January 1561, described the Dachens as being a 6. King D. Jo?o III to D. Jo?o de Castro, Almeirim, 8 March 1546, in Antonio da Silva Reg? (ed.), Documenta?ao para a historia das miss?es do padroado portugu?s do Oriente. India, III, 1543-1547 (Lisbon, 1950), p. 274. 7. D. Jo?o de Castro to the Crown, Goa, 16 Dec. 1546, in Elaine Sanceau (ed.), Cartas de D. Jo?o de Castro (Lisbon, 1954), p. 233. 8. Antonio de Sousa to D. Jogo de Castro, Chaul, 28 Mav 1547, in G. Schurhammer, S.J., Quellen (1962), n. 3102. 9. M. A. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence, p. 145, has noticed that ships from Atjeh were reaching the Red Sea shortly after 1526. A good discussion of the vicissitudes of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf spice-trade routes during the 16th century will be found in V. Magalh?es Godinho, Os Descobri mentos e a Econom?a Mundial (2 vols., Lisboa, 1963-67), especially Vol. II, pp. 111-171. He also comments on the importance of Atjeh in this connection. 10. Diogo do Couto, D?cada VI, Livro 10, cap. 18; Ibid., D?cada VII, Livro 1, caps. 7-8. 11. Diogo do Couto, Decada Vil, Livro 5, cap. 8. 12. Diogo do Couto, Decada Vil, Livro 6, cap. 7; Ibidem, op. cit., Livro 7, cap. 6. 117 This content downloaded from on Sat, 3 May 2014 14:57:55 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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