Peter Borschberg (ed.)
Singapore: NUS Press, 2014
The Flemish gem trader Jacques de Coutre visited Southeast Asia in the early 17th century, and his lengthy account of his experiences provides a glimpse of Singapore, Johor and the Straits of Melaka during an era for which little written material has survived. This special edition, which presents highlights from the full translation, is designed to provide students, teachers and the wider public with a glimpse of this tumultuous region when it was still controlled by local rulers, and Western colonialism was just gaining a foothold. The author describes dangerous intrigues involving fortune hunters and schemers, as well as local rulers and couriers, adventures that on several occasions nearly cost him his life.
The manuscripts come from a bundle of documents preserved at the National Library of Spain in Madrid that includes de Coutre's autobiography and several memorials to the Crowns of Spain and Portugal. Chapters from the autobiography have been excerpted from book I, which covers the writer's life in Southeast Asia between 1593 and 1603. A glossary and list of place names provide information about officials, goods and places mentioned in the text that will be unfamiliar to readers of English.