Member: Melaka World Heritage Office
The city of Melaka once was one of the most important trading centers of eastern Asia and the gateway to the spice islands due to it's strategic geographical location. The Portuguese took the city in 1511 and constructed a fort for protection. However, the Dutch VOC allied with with the Sultanate of Johor and took the city in 1641.
The Dutch period saw relative peace due to the agreements between the Dutch VOC and the Sultanate of Johor and other Malay kingdoms along the Strait of Melaka. Melaka was controlled as a colony of the VOC and they expanded the fortress and created the town layout as it can be seen today. It was an important port to control the Strait of Melaka, the main route from the Indian Ocean to the spice islands. After the VOC was declared bankrupt, Melaka became a Dutch colony but was soon ceded to the British as part of the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824.
Trading in Melaka
Until the 18th century, Melaka remained to be the one of main trading bases for the VOC, not for spice trade, but for tin. VOC had concluded treaties with other Malay states which were rich in tin, and built fortified warehouses along the Straits of Melaka to collect tax from the tin trades. One of it was Fort Dindings in Pangkor island. It was built in 1670 for the storage and protection of tin supplies from the Sultanate of Perak which until 1970s was the world largest producer of tin.
Apart from tin, there was some minor trade in other products. Spices such as gambier and pepper were traded as well as cloth, wood and other goods that were shipped between South East Asia and Galle and the Indian coast. Above all Melaka was an important administrative and defensive stronghold to control the trading routes through the Straight of Melaka.
Melaka: World Heritage Site
It was during the Dutch period that some of the most prominent buildings in Melaka were built and many still stand today in their original form. Even the present town plan of Melaka was established by the VOC between 1650 and 1670 complete with VOC port facilities, churches, hospitals and housing for the VOC officials. The area of St. Paul’s Hill was part of the former fortress. Government buildings such as the famous city hall “Stadthuys” from 1650 and Christ Church from 1753 can be found here alongside large original warehouses that stored the VOC goods. The residential and commercial town area on the opposite side of the river remains largely intact with more than 600 townhouses and religious buildings which were divided into culturally segregated neighborhoods. Most houses date from the Dutch Period (1641-1824) as the town was rebuilt after a large fire in 1686. The historical center of Melaka was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2008.