Renowned International Scholars Discusses 15th Century Melaka Life

An international conference aimed at rejuvenating discussions on the history of the former port city of Melaka with a special focus on the 15th century.

The conference, titled “Melaka in the Long 15th Century”, brought together renowned scholars from all over the world who presented their recent work and discoveries in Melaka history, including old Malay, Arabic, Persian and Chinese texts.

The conference is the brainchild of Melaka in Fact, an organisation passionate about Melaka’s histories, which seeks to investigate, document and disseminate histories related to the rich and cosmopolitan past of the state.

Melaka in Fact’s mission is to work towards a more nuanced and evidence-based understanding of the past by sharing narratives, texts and people’s histories relating to Melaka.

Project Director Datin Saidah Rastam said the objective of the conference is to bring together leading international and local scholars for a dynamic re-examination of Melaka’s history as well as to raise awareness on the former great entrepôt’s past.

“This conference is also timely, as around us neighbouring countries reframe their own historical narratives, and we see the re-emergence of China as a large power in the 21st century. The Belt and Road initiative draws on past histories – Zheng He’s visits to Melaka among them– and will impact Melaka over the next few decades.”

“A lot of studies exist on Melaka the sultanate. Less so on Melaka the famed entrepôt – its local commerce, society and maritime laws and mechanisms. And there has been fascinating recent scholarship on Melaka’s early history, some of it based on less familiar sources. Through our work with the conference and our other on-ground activities such as cultural mapping and community engagement, we hope to contribute to a broader understanding of Melaka’s multiple histories,” Saidah said.

Since 2017, Melaka in Fact has interviewed more than 2,000 households, documented festivals and rituals, conducted cultural mapping, held regular lectures by scholars, worked with institutions of higher learning as well as engaged the public via social media on lesser-known historical facts pertaining to Melaka.

As economic progress eclipses the traditions and generational memories of the past, Melaka In Fact hopes to contribute to the understanding of our own history as well as to promote reasoned discourse.

Melaka in Fact collaborates with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Global Archaeological
Research, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Google Arts and Culture and Badan Warisan Malaysia.

 

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