Review Essay Of “Jacques de Coutre’s And Matelieff’s Singapore and Johor”: Exploring Sources On Pre-Modern History of Singapore, pp. 3 of 11

Review of de Coutre's and Matelieff’s Singapore and Johor

The publication of the Journal, memorials and letters of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge post-dates the publication of the Memoirs and Memorials of Jacque de Coutre and its abridged version focusing more intently on materials related to the history of early Singapore and its immediate vicinity. An abridged version with a new introduction is made available by the National Library Board as a downloadable electronic book that again focuses on Singapore’s history. The publication of the Jacques de Coutre manuscript is not new but the latest rendition by P. Borschberg provides the first accurate English translation with an exhaustive glossary. The latter helps readers negotiate the documents (even in English translation). The publication of the Journal, memorials and letters of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge achieves an equally important task for English readers of Southeast Asian history since few Dutch source materials touching on the history of Singapore and the region have been translated into English. The choice of the chapters featured in the abridged version of the Memorials of Jacque de Coutre aimed at schools reflects an obvious focus on Singapore and its vicinity. The memorials approximate that in the original volume save for the one discussing the “commerce in India.” The appendices relating mainly to the affidavits have been trimmed. The glossary is also reduced in line with the reduction of the associated chapters. Personally, this author feels that some terms from the unabridged version are still useful to consult even if they are explicitly not featured in the main chapters. A general introduction and chronology of the Portuguese in the East might be helpful to students and teachers alike. The bibliography does a good job in introducing the audience to a number of relevant secondary sources on the subject. The choice of the chapters in the abridged version of the Journal, memorials and letters of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge entitled Admiral Matelieff’s Singapore and Johor includes materials focusing on Singapore and Johor that are not found in the unabridged version. Documents 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11 are simplified and abridged versions that have taken partially or in full from main edition. As with Jacques de Coutre’s Singapore and Johor, Admiral Matelieff’s Singapore and Johor features a helpful list with a glossary and bibliographic updates to the field.

The reasonably comprehensive background provided in the Memorials of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge certainly fills the gap on the developments of Iberian history in Europe before the exportation of their conflict and competition to the East Indies. In brief, the Dutch had rebelled against the rising hegemonic Habsburg Iberian power in Europe (Spain and Portugal during the period 1581-1640 came together in a union under the Habsburg monarchy). The Dutch East India Company (VOC), a trading company authorised with quasi-governmental powers, was consecrated as a platform to organize trading fleets to the East as well as hit at Portugal, the weaker partner of the Habsburg Union. Jacques de Coutre and Matelieff’s voyage to Asia therefore represented the perspectives of high functionary on the Habsburg and Dutch side respectively in a worldwide struggle that tool place before the modern era (Borschberg, 2015c).

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