THE INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO
From the rise of the Srivijaya and Majapahit Empire
and the trading riches of Constantinople
and Venice, to linking of Europe and Asia by ocean route, the discovery of the American continent and the first
circumnavigation of the globe, Indonesian spices have
shaped the world we know
today. Select the buttons below to reveal key moments on our interactive spice history map:
The Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya was the first unified kingdom to rule and dominate much of the Indonesian archipelago. From its powerbase in Palembang in Sumatra, the maritime kingdom controlled the Malacca Strait and the lucrative spice trade with the China and India from the 7th to the 13th century.
With the declining influence of the Srivijayan Kingdom came the rise of the Majapahit Empire, founded in 1293 after the defeat of the Melayu Kingdom and fighting off a Mongol invasion. At its peak, under the ruler Hayam Wuruk (1350-89), the Empire expanded across Java and gained control over much of present-day Indonesia as well as the Malay peninsula through military might.
MEDIEVAL TRADING ROUTES
Until the late 15th century Indonesian spices made their way to Europe via China, India, the Red Sea and the Levant facilitated by Arab traders and the Ottoman Empire allowing the merchants of Constantinople and Venice to amass vast fortunes. This all changed in the European Age of Discovery during which ground-breaking new maritime routes were established, spearheaded by Vasco da Gama in 1498.
VASCO DA GAMA
After a journey of almost a year, Vasco da Gama arrives in Calicut, India in May of 1498. He is the first European to establish a sea route to India and thereby connecting the West with the Orient. In 1511, the Portuguese conquer the Sultanate of Malacca and take control of the strategically important Malacca Strait before sailing east and establishing direct trade links with the Indonesian Spice Islands.
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