Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean

On Friday 6 July the Ancient India and Iran Trust (AIIT) in Cambridge was a most convivial venue for the joint annual meeting of SAALG and SEALG (Southeast Asia Library Group), where I spoke on the British Academy-funded research project 'Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean', investigating Ottoman links with Southeast Asia:   These links date back to the sixteenth century, when the sultanate of Aceh in north Sumatra contacted the Ottoman emperor to ask for help against the Portuguese who were disrupting the Indian Ocean pepper trade.

The project set out to study all forms of interaction between these two regions, from political, religious, literary and commercial exchanges to mutual influence in material culture.  A nice example of these interactions was evident among the exhibits that the AIIT's Honorary Librarian, Ursula Sims-Williams, had put out on display for the meeting: some rare 19th-century Malay lithographed poems from Singapore, which bore on the back cover the name of the publisher, Haji Muhammad Amin, modelled on the Ottoman tughra or calligraphic royal emblem.

Syair Sinar Alam, Singapore, 1914
AIIT A14E40(1)

Dr Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator for Southeast Asian Studies, and curator of Indonesian and Malay collections, the British Library.

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