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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 info for In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History

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Partly to relieve pressures of that sort and assuage mercantile anxieties over the downturn in trade and partly from motives that had nothing to do with Southeast Asia, the British government in 1871 concluded another treaty, by which, in return for a promise of equal treatment for British traders in Sumatra, the Dutch were given freedom to extend their sovereignty over the whole of that island. The treaty was Aceh's death warrant as an independent polity, although execution had to await the conclusion of a thirty-year war of resistance.

The French military occupation in 1867 of three more southern provincesVinh Long, An Giang, and Ha Tiencompleted the territory of colonial Cochinchina. It was accompanied by the dramatic suicide of Phan Thanh Gian (1796Â 1867), the southern bureaucrat who had been leader of the "peace party" favoring negotiations with the French rather than military resistance at the now faction-torn Vietnamese court. In addition to their conquest of southern Vietnam, which had been fought more effectively by local leaders than by the Nguyen emperor, the French forced the court to concede them freedom to disseminate Christianity in Vietnam and to promise them that it would no longer obstruct the conversion of Vietnamese.

Its free status was to turn the island within a few decades into the most flourishing exchange port Southeast Asia had ever seen, the center of a vigorous and politically demanding mercantile community. During the first few years of Singapore's existence, the British sought to reduce systematically the potentialities for disturbance, and hence for expensive political or military involvement, in the area in which they were then interested. They wanted both to reach an understanding with the Netherlands in the archipelago consonant with a foreign policy of supporting the Dutch in Europe as part of the balance of power against France and, in the interests of untroubled continuance of the trade between India and China, to secure peace in the environs of Singapore and, more especially, Penang, where Siam-Kedah tensions were proving disruptive.

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