The business of violence: Piracy around Riau, Lingga, and Singapore, 1820-40

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6 Citations (Scopus)


In the early nineteenth century, Dutch and British authorities knew well that an increasing number of piratical attacks around Riau, Lingga, and Singapore were seriously damaging trade.1 To manage this problem, both colonial governments ordered their officials to collect detailed information on the pirates. Numerous reports, both published and unpublished, resulted. Writings from the colonial period, often authored by high-ranking administrators, focused on chronicling European efforts to combat pirates, paying only scant attention to their motives, goals, and networks.2 Scholars seeking to understand the developments of piracy in Southeast Asia in this period, however, have never fully utilized these valuable documents. Based on British and Dutch colonial records, this chapter explores how indigenous pirates developed their activities; how they organized military and commercial networks; and how local states and European administrators dealt with piracy. Economic aspects will receive greater scrutiny because available sources clearly indicate that economic gain constituted the primary consideration of the pirates. Here, I also want to argue that piracy, fundamentally a local strategy, both reacted to changing conditions in the region and triggered the formation of colonial states. I examine piracy based on Riau, Lingga, and Singapore because they comprised the most important pirate strongholds around the Malacca Strait where the piratical activities intricately connected with each other.3 I confine my discussion to the pirates residing in these islands because they had a far greater impact on the policies of local and European leaders than other groups temporarily visiting there from bases in other places. I focus on the twenty-year period from 1820 to 1840, when the Dutch and British indirectly controlled Riau, Lingga, and Singapore (see Map 10.1). Indigenous piracy and European countermeasures profoundly affected the history of those years as well as those of the following decades.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationElusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers
Subtitle of host publicationViolence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas
PublisherHong Kong University Press, HKU
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9789888028115
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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