Penang has had a colourful existence from its beginning in 1786 as an East India Company port in the northern Straits of Melaka. Penang earned its stripes – rising to become the Straits Settlements capital in 1826 and a commercial centre in Southeast Asia’s north-west littoral – despite little support from higher authorities in India and London. Penang also had to contend with Dutch machinations in Sumatra – the Dutch increased port duties even after the Treaty of London in 1824 which guaranteed free trade, effectively preventing Penang from trading there. Additionally, the shift of the Straits Settlements’ capital to Singapore in 1832 saw Penang’s many proposals constantly blocked. Contrary to the conventional view that Penang was by-passed by Singapore after 1819, Penang held her own and continued her entrepot trade up to the post-independence period, also serving as the conduit for the Malayan Penanisula’s tin and rubber from the turn of the twentieth century.
“Reaching from very early times to 1945, this richly detailed study will be a gold mine for those seeking to explore the ‘turbulent terrain’ that characterizes Penang’s economic history. Supported by an extensive selection of visual and written sources, Dr. Loh has constructed a meticulously documented narrative that tracks the changing fortunes of Penang’s regional trade. I have little doubt that it will become a standard reference work.”
Barbara Watson Andaya, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i, author with Leonard Y. Andaya, A History of Malaysia (3rd ed. 2016)
“This is a superb book by one of Malaysia’s most distinguished historians. Through Turbulent Terrain provides a fresh perspective on Penang’s maritime trade in the nineteenth century, and evokes Penang’s vibrant commercial and cultural connections with the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.”
Sunil S. Amrith, Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies, Harvard University; author of Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants, (2013).