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Initiatives and intervention in promoting pedestrianization in the historic city of Melaka, Malaysia - page 5 / 21





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its surrounding areas are the most visited historical sites, the local council has provided ample spaces for pedestrian related activities to flourish. Since the issue of pedestrianization is no longer a big issue within the vicinity of the Stadthuys, therefore our study will focus more on the fine-fabric of the shophouses where discontinuities exist in the pedestrian flow, due to the lack of space for bigger walk-ways, blocked passage ways and encroachment of vehicular traffic due to narrow streets etc. The issues will be addressed after a brief rendition on the history of the city.

An historiographical account

Trade has been going on in the Malay Archipelago since ancient times, linking it with various parts of Asia and with the Middle East and the lands of the North. In Roman times, the Alexandrian geographer, Ptolemy mentioned for the first time an area called the Golden Chersonese and this prosperous land seems to have been identified with the Malay Peninsular. Along with trade also came changing religious and various cultural elements imparting upon the people their distinctive impressions. Not until the founding of Melaka in the 14 century did trade increase in momentum and lure Europeans to trade in this region. The expansion of the Mamluke Empire (1250-1517) that has almost controlled the entire of the Mediterranean seas, also encouraged the Europeans to find alternative trading routes and expand their colonial establishments. The fall of Melaka in 1511 represents the end of the great Empire of Melaka and the beginning of a new era, which was to see the consolidation of the Portuguese Empire in Asia. This event also marked a turning point in world trade, for it was one of the main causes that heralded the end of the Mamluke and the discovery of the Americas that diverted world trade away from the Muslims by establishing a new spice route around the Cape of Good Hope.

Fifteenth-century Portugal was unique in Europe in having suffered no debilitating internal strife. Freed from any form of civil wars and major intrigues, the Portuguese rulers beginning with Infante Dom Enrique, better known as Henry the Navigator (1390-1460), initiated a number of reconnaissance missions both by land and sea. This era became known as Portugal’s Age of Discovery. The motive for Portuguese expansion beyond their tiny kingdom to the far corners of the globe represented a mixture of different aims: an anti-Muslim crusading spirit; a hope for Guinea gold; a search for the mythical priest-king Prester John ruling over a powerful kingdom in “ the Indies”; and a desire for Asian spices (Al-attas, 1978). The principal architect of Portuguese expansion in Asia was Alfonso de Albuquerque, who became the second viceroy of the Estado da India, Portugal’s Asian Empire. During his tenure in office (1509-1515) Albuquerque sought to dominate the key points in the Muslim trading network through which Asian spices reached Europe. Towards this end, he seized the island of Goa in 1510, Malacca in 1511, and Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in 1515.

As soon as the Portuguese captured Melaka, Albuquerque quickly transformed the city, by fortifying it and elevating it into an administrative and military centre. According to Pires (Cortesao, 1944), Malay junks and ships were used as temporary palisade for artillery to withstand attacks from the Malays, Achehness, Javanese and the Dutch. Later, the remnants of the great mosque, the palace of the last Melakan Sultanate and masonry from nearby island were used in the construction of the A Formosa, the fort of Melaka. Although Malacca was

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