Through Turbulent Terrain: Trade of the Straits Port of Penang

Monograph 50
Through Turbulent Terrain: Trade of the Straits Port of Penang
By Loh Wei Leng with Jeffery Seow
273pp 150x230mm Paperback/Hardback

Penang has had a colourful existence from its beginning, in 1786, as an East Indian Company port in the northern Straits of Melaka. Penang earned its stripes - rising to become the Straits Settlements capital in 1826 and a commercial centre in Southeast Asia's north-west littoral - despite little support from higher authorities in India and London. Penang also had to contend with Dutch machinations in Sumatra - the Dutch increased port duties even after the Treaty of London 1824 which guaranteed free trade, effectively preventing Penang from trading there.

Additionally, the shift of the Straits Settlements' capital to Singapore in 1832 saw Penang's many proposals constantly blocked. Contrary to the conventional view that Penang was by-passed by Singapore after 1819, Penang held her own, continued her entrepot trade up to the post-independence period, also serving as the conduit for the Malayan Peninsula's tin and rubber from the turn of the twentieth century.

"Reaching from very early times to 1945, this richly detailed study will be a gold mine for those seeking to explore the 'turbulent terrain' that characterizes Penang's economic history. Supported by an extensive selection of visual and written sources, Dr. Loh has constructed a meticulously documented narrative that tracks the changing fortunes of Penang's regional trade. I have little doubt that it will become a standard reference work."

Barbara Watson Andaya, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Hawaii

This is a superb book by one of Malaysia's most distinguished historians. Through Turbulent Terrain provides a fresh perspective on Penang's maritime trade in the nineteenth century, and evokes Penang's vibrant commercial and cultural connections with the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea."

Sunil S. Amrith, Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies, Harvard University

This volume benefits from the generous sponsorship by Think City Sdn Bhd, an urban regeneration and solutions provider with offices in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.

About the Author:

Loh Wei Leng is a former lecturer at the History Department of the University of Malaya and an MBRAS Vice-President. Jeffery Seow is her co-researcher with whom she worked on this book.


List of Illustrations
List of Plates
List of Tables
Weights and Currencies

Chapter 1: Historical Context, Pre-18th century Trade and Shipping in the Melaka Strait
Chapter 2: 1786-1830: Colonial Beginnings, Early Settlement
Chapter 3: 1830-1867: Vicissitudes, Addressing Challenges Arising in the Region
Chapter 4: 1868-1945: Transitions, Entrepot to Malayan Port


Appendix I: Salient Events in the History of Penang
Appendix II: Trade Statistics
Appendix III: 29th September 1865 Meeting, Resolutions of October Meeting
Appendix IV: The Singapore Perspective with Reference to Penang's Discontent
Appendix V: Early Pioneers of British Penang Plates

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society