September 29, 2013
Melaka (or Malacca) is a city on the Western Malay Peninsula on the Strait of Melaka, which connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea. Melaka is located at the narrowest part of the strait, and has a small harbor overlooked by a hill where fortifications were built. Melaka was an ideal place for ships to shelter during storms on the larger bodies of water.
There were many trade cities along the Strait of Melaka. The most common items they traded were gold, medicinal herbs, spices, precious stones, and silver. Other objects that were traded were pottery, wine, rice, dried fish, and even slaves from the Siam. Arabian merchants from the West and Siamese merchants from the East would converge upon Melaka, trade with each other, and then return home with their new goods.
Maritime trade is what allowed Melaka to prosper. A new technology that sped up maritime trading on the Indian Ocean Sea Lanes (which Melaka was a part of) was the Dhow boat and the Lateen sail. The Lateen sail was made of strong silk, which allowed the dhows to travel quickly.
The economic status of Melaka was very high. Because of its status as a huge center of trade, there was much wealth. Melaka was a very cosmopolitan society where literature and art flourished. By some estimates, there were over 80 languages spoken in Melaka. The city even built special quarters for each separate ethnicity of traders who would stay in the city.
The role of Melaka was that of the chief economic engine of the region. Melaka was ruled by the Sultan who governed the area. The Sultan levied taxes on the goods traded in Melaka, which in turn funded the sultanate government and made them very rich. Melaka contributed greatly to the wealth-- and development which came as a result-- of the area.
Melaka's function was as a place where trade from the East and West met. Melaka was a perfect spot for traders on the Indian Ocean to meet with traders from the South China Sea and exchange goods. The traders would stay in Melaka for times varying from a few days to a month before returning to whence they came.
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