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Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja


It is widely assumed that laissez-faire had its origins in the European context and that through colonization the countries of the East adopted the ideology. This might not be completely true for a distinctive brand of the same ideology had been prevalent in the Malay Archipelago long before the advent of western colonisation. In fact five trading zones, namely the Bay of Bengal, Straits of Malacca, the east coast of Malaya, the sea of Southern Vietnam, the Sulu Sea and the Java Sea, are known to have practiced a laissez-faire economy as far back as in the fifteenth century. This paper will trace the emergence of laissez faire ideas as embodied for example in free ports and trading zones prior to the arrival of western powers. It also shows how western powers used the existing free trade network to promote a colonial economy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Western powers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were able to develop trade without territorial ambitions was due to the existence of a laissez-faire policy and the accommodative nature of the local rulers in this part of the world. The developments of Penang in the eighteenth century and Singapore in the nineteenth century are case studies to prove this argument.


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SUNDARA RAJA, Sivachandralingam. LAISSEZ-FAIRE IN THE MALAY ARCHIPELAGO: A WESTERN CONCEPT?. JATI - JOURNAL OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES, [S.l.], v. 19, p. 41-53, dec. 2014. ISSN 2600-8653. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 18 oct. 2019. doi: