This book explores European mercantile activity in Southeast Asia at a time when trade in this part of the world was being transformed and extended much more widely. Based on extensive original research including in newly discovered archives, the book reveals, through the study of one particular merchant and his extensive network, how trade in the region worked. It outlines the activities of Gillian Maclaine, a young Scottish "adventurer" (his word) who came to the region in about 1816 and established an enduring business in Batavia (present day Jakarta), trading in cotton goods and coffee, and later in opium. It examines the multi-faceted nature of such a trading network, including the wide scope of commodity chains, the associated link between colony and colonial metropole, and the many tensions between colonial powers, in this case the Dutch and the British, and with local polities. The book demonstrates that Southeast Asian maritime trade was every bit as important to European worldwide commercial networks as the trade with India and China, which have been much more extensively studied, and it contributes to current scholarly debates about western imperialism, colonialism and the nature of empire.
G. Roger Knight is an Associate Professor in the School of History and Politics in the University of Adelaide. He has published three previous books and numerous journal articles on the economic and social history of Southeast Asia.