Building borders in a borderless land: English colonialism and the Alam Minangkabau of Sumatra, 1680–1730

by David Veevers

27 Aug 2021
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
32 (pp. 58-89)

Abstract: This article adopts the concept of securitisation to understand the failure of the English East India Company’s attempt to build a territorial empire on the island of Sumatra in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Securitisation formed a key component of European colonialism, involving the creation of fortified and militarised borders both to exclude groups from entering newly defined territorial spaces, but also as a way to control goods, labour and resources within those spaces. Ultimately, this form of imperialism failed on the west coast of Sumatra, where a highly mobile society participated in a shared political culture that made any formal boundary or border between Malay states too difficult to enforce. Trading networks, religious affiliations, transregional kinship ties, and migratory circuits all worked to undermine the Company’s attempt to establish its authority over delineated territory and the people and goods within it.

Keywords: securitisation, borders, empire, East India Company, colonialism, imperialism, Sumatra, Malay.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 4 (Global Border Making and Securitisation in the Early Modern World)

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