(p. 18) As the world pulls up its drawbridges during a time of pandemic and questions the merits of globalization, Malacca is a reminder that such transoceanic exchange has a long history of bringing both promise and peril.
And the city’s ultimate fate may serve as a warning that the prosperity globalization bestows on some can be fickle and fleeting. A city that once stood at the global crossroads can devolve into a backwater, and a once-thriving culture can face extinction.
Malacca’s port, once one of the richest on earth, silted up, and the city became a historical footnote. The spices that drove the age of exploration — nutmeg, cloves and mace — now molder in dusty cabinets, no longer treasured commodities.
And yes, a contagion struck, too, a plague that weakened the Portuguese hold on the city, paving the way for the Dutch and then the British, who favored other entrepôts and left Malacca to its slow decline.
For the full story, see:
Hannah Beech. “A Rich Melting Pot Centuries Ago, a Globalization Relic Today.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, April 12, 2020): 18.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 11, 2020, and has the title “500 Years Ago, This Port Linked East to West. Its Fate Was to Fade Away.”)