Throughout history the role of Malay traders in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago was very imminent. Their presence was very important in the Malay waters and it was they who were the collector and distributor of goods and commodities that arrived at many major port-towns in the archipelago. Although their presence in the intra-Asian trade is very clearly documented in the VOC (Dutch) and English records, research and writing on their role in trade has been neglected by scholars. The importance of Malay traders were seldom highlighted and if they were mentioned their role were not written in greater detail. As trade and commerce expanded in Southeast Asia, the nineteenth century saw the decline of Malay traders when fewer of them appeared to have the means and resources to participate in long distance trade. It is the aim of this paper to highlight the role of the Malay traders which was an important group of traders that had been plying in the Malay waters. Who were these traders and where they came from and the commodities they carried and the various types of ships they travelled will be discussed in the paper. The study will also look at the arrival of these traders at the two main ports in the Straits of Melaka, namely Melaka and Penang as their main destination. The study will also look at the connection between these major two ports in the Straits of Melaka with other native ports in the east coast of Sumatra and on the west coast of the Malay peninsula.
Dr. Nordin Hussin is currently on leave from the History Department at University Kebangsaan Malaysia as Visiting Research Fellow at CSEAS. He has been using the Dutch and English archival materials for his research.