By David P. Chandler, John R. W. Smail, William R. Roff, Robert H. Taylor, Alexander Woodside, David K. Wyatt, David Joel Steinberg

Looking for Southeast Asia, a contemporary heritage

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Extra resources for In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History

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Minh-mang himself, more innovative and more technologically minded than any other Southeast Asian ruler of his era, was a scientific amateur who dabbled in experiments. For example, he personally manufactured a water wheel that would pump water through a conduit into his palace so that coolies would not have to carry it. He was an explicit admirer and user of Western products, like glass, cotton textiles, English gunpowder, and French brandy. " In the late 1830s, like Mindon of Burma some twenty years later, he not only purchased several Western steamships but also built a factory at Hue in 1839 to construct steamships independently.

Rivalries among Malay chiefs were paralleled by those among different groups of Chinese miners, the latter usually organized by competing secret societies, which in turn were backed with men, money, and arms by wealthy Chinese merchants in the Straits Settlements. The interaction of these factors, complicated by Malay succession disputes and by piracy bred of the breakdown of traditional patterns of trade and the increasing climate of lawlessness, led to a situation on the west coast of the peninsula that, by the late 1860s, seemed to many observers in the Straits (most of whom, it must be said, had never set foot on the peninsula) to be degenerating into anarchy.

Thereafter, the Iban went to war on land under Raja Charles, helping him to extend his rule, while at the same time they continued the dynamic of Iban expansion begun a century earlier and spread over most of what was becoming the Brooke negeri of Sarawak. It would be too simple to call the Iban pirates, though that is what contemporary Europeans called them, and they certainly seized innocent perahu on the high seas. Marauding was a recognized means of political advancement as well as a form of economic activity throughout the archipelago.

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