EP. 4 - THE SANDS OF TIME
Empires rose, empires fell. Powerful geopolitical forces conspired to shape Southeast Asia’s developments in the centuries to come.
WHERE EXACTLY IS SOUTHEAST ASIA?
I have a gut feeling that not many people outside of Southeast Asia know where it is located. After all, there are larger and more significant nations landmasses to our North, South, and West.
Today, the region is made up of a total of 11 countries, each with its own unique culture, politics, and history.
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND THE MARITIME SILK ROAD
Geographically situated between China and India, Southeast Asia have always functioned as a buffer zone for the two civilisations where trade and cultural exchange flourished. You may have heard of the Silk Road, the network of land-based trade routes across Europe, Middle East, and Asia that was famed for the highly lucrative trade of silk textiles.
Though lesser-known, sea-based trade routes were equally vital. To get from China to India and beyond (Middle East and Europe) or vice versa, this network of maritime routes, dubbed the Maritime Silk Road, naturally funnel into two chokepoints: the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Sunda. The huge trading volume of the Maritime Silk Road became the source of wealth, political stability, and dominance for Southeast Asia, prior to European colonisation.
As shipping and navigation technologies got better, cargo vessels became the more economical medium to transport goods from one part of the world to the other, as opposed to freight trains or planes. Today, Southeast Asia still accounts for a significant proportion of the world trade, and the nations in this region are one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
THE POLITICAL GIANTS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA
In the episode, I covered a number of ancient civilisations that dominated Southeast Asia from the 600s to the 1500s, but I thought maps are a much better way to illustrate the extent of their territory and power.
ABOUT THE PODCAST:
The Story of Singapore is a history podcast created by Mario Teng, tracing the historical and political developments of Singapore, from a backwater kingdom in the 1300s to an economic miracle by the turn of the 21st century.