Remembering the Ancient Empire Legacy of Southeast Asia

Luke Hunt speaks with author Philip Bowring about the ancient empires of Southeast Asia and how maritime trade helped shape a region long before the colonial era.

Remembering the Ancient Empire Legacy of Southeast Asia
Credit: Philip Bowring

Long before there were the nation states of Southeast Asia, the region was dominated by a series of ancient empires. This legacy of the region, which lasted centuries and still manifests itself in some ways in contemporary Southeast Asia today, is often not fully appreciated amid the focus on the immediate and more recent postcolonial dynamics.

A new book by veteran journalist and former editor of the Far East Economic Review, Philip Bowring, intends to contribute to changing that. The book, Empire of the Winds: The Global Role of Asia’s Great Archipelago, offers insights into Nusantaria, encompassing lands created by the melting of ice and the corridors that connected East Asia to India, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Nusantaria was a region predominantly populated by Austronesian-speaking peoples whose seafaring traditions dated back 2,000 years when trade laid the foundations for the great civilizations which followed.

Bowring, a graduate in history from Cambridge University and a student of the history and economy of maritime Asia, spoke with Luke Hunt about his latest project.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt.