Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka

Despite the existence of about a thousand ethnolinguistic groups in Southeast Asia, very few historians of the region have engaged the complex issue of ethnicity. Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka, by Leonard Y. Andaya, takes on this concept and illustrates how historians can use it both as an analytical tool and as a subject of analysis to add further depth to our understanding of Southeast Asian pasts. Following a synthesis of some of the major issues in the complex world of ethnic theory, the author identifies two general principles of particular value for this study: the ideas that ethnic identity is an ongoing process and that the boundaries of a group undergo continual—if at times imperceptible—change based on perceived advantage.

“This is a marvelous book. In the widest sense it is a history not merely of ethnicity, but of economy, politics, and culture—as close to a total history of the western (and central) archipelago during two millennia as we are likely to have for some time. Andaya’s mastery of local geography, economic rhythms, commercial organization, political culture, elite family networks, literary production, and religious currents is apparent throughout the text and, together with his control of the diverse secondary literature and expertise in Dutch and Malay primary materials, gives his work a unique authority.” —Victor Lieberman, University of Michigan

January 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3189-9 / $58.00 (CLOTH)