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Urban Impermanence on the Southern Malay Peninsula: The Case of Batu Sawar Johor (1587-c.1615)  

Borschberg, Peter (National University of Singapore)
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Journal of East-Asian Urban History / v.3, no.1, 2021 , pp. 57-82 More about this Journal
This article examines the urban example of Batu Sawar which served as the capital of the Johor kingdom between 1587 and circa 1615. Around the middle of the eighteenth-century European reference works continued to describe Batu Sawar as the capital of Johor, even though the city had long ceased to serve as a trading center, let alone as Johor's capital, and probably no longer existed. Such observations raise the question of urban impermanence-the transience of sizeable settlements with reference to the Malay Archipelago. Two overarching questions form the backbone of the investigation: First, why did Batu Sawar rise as a regional trading center, and second, what are the reasons that contributed to its decline? Batu Sawar's fate was sealed by a combination of factors that included poor defenses, multiple external shocks, destruction by fire, court politics and rivalry between the early colonial powers.
Southeast Asian studies; early modern Johor; maritime and overland trade; geopolitics; Malaya; Batu Sawar; urban impermanence;
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