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The Southeast Asia Connection

Trade and Polities in the Eurasian World Economy, 500 BC–AD 500

Sing C. Chew

188 pages, 11 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-788-8 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (March 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-789-5 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Buy the ebook from these vendors


“Rather than seeing Southeast Asia as a regional backwater for maritime trade to skirt and land trade to evade in this era, Chew makes a strong and persuasive case for it being more central than marginal and not merely a political-economic-cultural pastiche created primarily by external forces and influences…No doubt, we have much to learn about the ancient world economy but Sing Chew's interpretation is a strong step in the right direction.” · William R. Thompson, Indiana University

“As is typical for Sing Chew, he takes a familiar topic and examines it from different perspectives, and weaves those perspectives into a new and informative approach. In doing so, he prompts a reader to rethink Southeast Asia’s roles in world history. Whether or not one fully accepts Chew’s re-centering of early Southeast Asian history in Southeast Asia, his discussion is thoughtful and provocative.” · Thomas D. Hall, DePauw University

“With considerable analytical rigor and clarity in exposition, Chew uncovers the intriguing networks, connectivity, and interactions between Southeast Asia and the First Eurasian World System (during 200 BC–AD 500).  Chew’s volume is an outstanding contribution to both world history and Southeast Asian Studies.” · Alvin Y. So, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology


The contribution of Southeast Asia to the world economy (during the late prehistoric and early historic periods) has not received much attention. It has often been viewed as a region of peripheral entrepôts, especially in the early centuries of the current era. Recent archaeological evidence revealed the existence of established and productive polities in Southeast Asia in the early parts of the historic period and earlier. This book recalibrates these interactions of Southeast Asia with other parts of the world economy, and gives the region its due instead of treating it as little more than of marginal interest.

Sing C. Chew is Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZ, Leipzig, Germany, and Emeritus Professor at Humboldt State University.  He is the founding Editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Nature and Culture, and is the author of numerous publications and books including a trilogy on world ecological degradation over five thousand years of world history.

Subject: Archaeology General History
Area: Asia-Pacific


Introduction: Southeast Asia in World History

  • Macro Historical Considerations and World System History
  • Macro Structure and Duration
  • The Nature of Structure

Chapter 1. Early Southeast Asia

  • Prehistoric Southeast Asia
  • Rice Cultivation and Metals Fabrication

Chapter 2. Global Linkages: The First Eurasian World System

  • Land and Maritime Trading Routes of the First Eurasian World Economy: An Overview
  • The First Eurasian World Economy
  • Transportation
  • Ships of the Maritime Eurasian World System

Chapter 3. Southeast Asia in the Maritime Eurasian World Economy

  • The Circuit of Maritime Trade Exchanges
  • Trade Exchanges between Regional Cores: Rome and India
  • Southeast Asia’s Trade in the Maritime Silk Route of the First Eurasian World Economy
  • Southeast Asia’s Trade with the Western Part of the First Eurasian World Economy
  • Southeast Asia’s Trade with the Eastern Part of the First Eurasian World Economy    
  • The Seafaring Technologies    

Chapter 4. Political Transformations in Southeast Asia

  • Polities and Trading Communities
  • Indian Colonization and Indianization: Hybridization?
  • Climate and Landscape

Methodological Reprise

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