In Where Eighty-Four Languages Were Once Spoken: An Account of Melaka 1400-1824, Devinder Raj weaves in letters, myths and oft-forgotten historical facts to craft an image of his home state during the Melakan Sultanate and under the rule of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Filling in the gaps in history textbooks, and piecing together accounts such as letters from Melaka’s Tamil merchants to the King of Portugal and the proposed British effort to demolish Melaka entirely, Where Eighty-four Languages Were Once Spoken revisits the storied history of a historic city.
Melaka, from its founding in 1400 to the British intervention in 1824, underwent tremendous changes and many myths and legends were associated with it. Much of its early history is recorded in Portuguese and Chinese sources. This book traces its history from its founding by a Hindu prince from Palembang, in Sumatra, to the time when the British signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. In the span of four and a quarter centuries, it was ruled by the Malay Sultans, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.
Where Eighty-Four Languages Were Once Spoken: An Account of Melaka 1400-1824 is divided into sections: (1) Parameswara and the Malay rulers of Melaka; (2) the Portuguese occupation; (3) the Dutch occupation; (4) the British occupation and the destruction of the A Famosa; (5) the brief Dutch return; and (6) the multi-ethnic population of Melaka.
The Malay rulers had their own religions and administrative systems but the Portuguese copied some aspects of the administration of the trade from the Malays, while the Dutch retained some parts too. When the British temporarily occupied Melaka, they employed many Dutch officers to administer the city.
During the first 100 years of its rule by the Malay Sultanate, it became a very busy and important entrepdét and was referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, where merchants from China, the Middle East and various Southeast Asian countries came to trade. It never regained its glory under three centuries of rule by the European colonial powers, and it was very often attacked by Muslim kingdoms that surrounded it or suffered because of hostilities between European countries. On many occasions, the fate of Melaka was decided by the wars in Europe.
The four centuries of rule under different powers resulted in Melaka having a multiethnic, multi-religious and multilingual background. Today its architecture, cuisine and mix of races reflect its past. References have been made to translations of both Portuguese and Chinese works and the writings of both Western and local writers. A bibliography is provided.
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