History of Southeast Asia

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The history of Southeast Asia has been characterized as interaction between regional players and foreign powers. Each country is intertwined with all the others. For instance, the Malay empires of Srivijaya and Malacca covered modern day Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore while the Burmese, Thai, and Khmer peoples governed much of Indochina. At the same time, opportunities and threats from the east and the west shaped the direction of Southeast Asia. The history of the countries within the region only started to develop independently of each other after European colonialization was at full steam between the 17th and the 20th century.



The aboriginal populations of Southeast Asia are generally considered to have been members of the Negrito and broadly defined Austro-Melanesian groups, and may have arrived as part of the hypothesized Great Coastal Migration from Africa via coastal India.[1][2] These groups now make up only a small minority of the Southeast Asian population.

Evidences suggest that the earliest non-aboriginal Southeast Asians came from southern China and were Austronesian speakers. Contemporary research by anthropologists, linguists (Blust, Reid, Ross, Pawley), and archaeologists (Bellwood) suggests that the inhabitants of the Maritime Southeast Asia migrated from southern China to islands of the Philippines around 2500 BCE and later spread to modern day Malaysia and Indonesia.[3]

The earliest population of Southeast Asia was animist before Hinduism and Buddhism were exported from the Indian subcontinent. Islam arrived mostly through Indian Muslims and later dominated much of the archipelago around the 13th century while Christianity came along when European colonization started around the 16th century.

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