Tanap Research

Rule behind the Silk Curtain: A Study of Aceh under the Reign of the Queens, 1641-1699


Sher Banu A. Latiff Khan


This study will examine the nature and impact of the relations between Aceh and the European companies, in particular the VOC, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, with attention to the emergence of female rule in Aceh and its impact on the political, socio-economic and cultural history of this Malay polity in the seventeenth century.

A radical political transformation took place in Aceh where the kingdom was placed in the hands of four female rulers from 1641 to 1699. The factors that led the elites of Aceh to choose four female rulers in succession after a charismatic ruler such as Iskandar Muda, remain unexplored. The rise of female rule in this staunchly Islamic kingdom especially at a time when strong leadership appeared to have been necesary, poses many intriguing questions about the challenges malay kingdoms encountered and how they went about to resolve them. Aceh represents one noteworthy experiment of one of the malay kingdom's efforts to meet the new challenges posed by the encounter with Europeans.

The objectives of this research are threefold:

  1. To examine the developments in the kingdom of Aceh against the fluid and shifting patterns of regional politics and commerce that characterized the Malay Archipelago in the latter half of the seventeenth century, as a result of the increased political and economic involvement of the Dutch East Indies Company.
  2. To examine the impact of increased Dutch activity in the archipelago on the political and economic fortunes of Aceh.
  3. To examine and shed some light on the rise and decline of female rule in Aceh in the context of Malay political traditions in the archipelago.

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