From Anatolia to Aceh. Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia

By Lambourn, Elizabeth | International Journal of Turkish Studies, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

From Anatolia to Aceh. Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia


Lambourn, Elizabeth, International Journal of Turkish Studies


A. C. S. PEACOCK and ANNABEL TEH GALLOP eds., From Anatolia to Aceh. Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia. Proceedings of the British Academy 200. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Pp. 300. $ 99.00 cloth.

The present edited volume represents one of two outcomes from a British Academy-funded project on Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean, which ran between 2009 and 2012.1 The project focused on interactions between the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, on the one hand, and Southeast Asia, on the other, and was led by Andrew Peacock and Annabel Gallop, each well-known specialists in aspects of the history and, in Gallop's case, the manuscript culture of the two regions. The project set out to examine "all forms of interaction between these two regions, political, religious, literary, commercial and cultural, including exchanges and mutual influences in material culture"over the comparatively longue durée span of the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. A second volume entitled Ottoman-Southeast Asian Relations: Sources from the Ottoman Archives, edited by Ismail Hakki Kadi in collaboration with A. C. S. Peacock, will make available editions and full English translations of the most significant new documents on Southeast Asian-Turkish relations uncovered by Hakki Kadi in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives (Baçbakanlik Osmanli Arçivi). As Gallop and Peacock emphasize in their introduction to From Anatolia to Aceh, these documents underpin many of the fourteen contributions to their edited book, and the two volumes will eventually form a valuable pair.

Even if the Aceh of the title and modern Indonesia occupy a central place in the majority of contributions, From Anatolia to Aceh ranges across island Southeast Asia as far east as the Philippines and, more fleetingly, to mainland polities such as Burma and Siam. After two papers introduce and intellectually frame the volume, part 1 gathers four papers under the heading of "The Political and Economic Relationship from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century," another five papers form part 2, "Interactions in the Colonial Era," while a final three make up part 3, "Cultural and Intellectual Influences." In the end, the focus appears to have been decisively shaped by the closure of the Topkapi archives during the period of the project and the consequent emphasis on the exploration of later material (post-1850 CE) held in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives. Part 1's sixteenth-century beginning notwithstanding, the focus here is very much on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and with an emphasis on political (diplomatic) and intellectual history.

I write this review as a historian of the Indian Ocean world, a field in which studies of long-term interactions between different Indian Ocean regions, and indeed with the Mediterranean world too, are uncommon and in which Southeast Asia rarely features prominently in any case. Readers will understand my pleasure at seeing such a project conceived and funded. From the perspective of Ottoman Studies, the project builds on an easterly momentum begun in the 1960s and developed most recently in a more explicitly Indian Ocean context in Giancarlo Casale's 2010 monograph The Ottoman Age of Exploration (Oxford University Press). Southeast Asianists, for their part, have long wrestled with the complex question of interactions with the Middle East and Mediterranean, though usually not, as already stated, over longer timespans. This collection will be of interest to all three fields, and many more besides. Nevertheless, all readers, whatever their background, will need to remind themselves repeatedly that From Anatolia to Aceh is not the final, authoritative narrative of these relationships. Fourteen papers could never hope to offer comprehensive coverage of a set of relationships this geographically dispersed and lengthy, and, in certain cases, unresearched until this project was initiated. Against this background, Peacock and Gallop's introduction intelligently sets the project within broader intellectual frameworks, notably the history of colonialism and the importance of the Ottoman element in colonial encounters across Asia. …

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