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Portuguese Malacca became a part of a web of conflict in the Straits of Malacca, as J ohor and Aceh competed to defeat each other and the Portuguese and to become the true successor of Malacca (see chapter 4). By the second half of the sixteenth century, ships were seen in the Indonesian Archipelago which had part Portuguese and part Indonesian crews, or which were owned by Indonesians and chartered by Portuguese. The importance of the conquest of Malacca must not, however, be underestimated. The city began to die as a trading port under the Portuguese, they never monopolised Asian trade, they had little influence on the culture of Indonesians in the western archipelago, and they soon settled down as a rather odd part of their Indonesian surroundings.

1597-1613) and other members of the royal family, as well as a group of VOC traders. Iskandar Muda's attempt to maintain permanent Acehnese control over the Johor Sultanate was, however, frustrated when the Johorese managed to reassert their independence and expel the Acehnese garrison shortly after 1613. Thereafter Johor constructed an alliance among Pahang, Palembang, Jambi, Inderagiri, Kampar and Siak against the Acehnese. But Iskandar Muda's aggressive campaigns continued. In 1614 he defeated a Portuguese fleet at Bintan; in 1617 he took Pahang and carried off its Sultan Ahmad Syah; in 1620 Kedah was conquered; in 1623 he again sacked the Johor capital; in 1624/5 he took Nias.

In 1595 the first Dutch expedition set sail for the East Indies. Four ships with two hundred and forty-nine men and sixty-four cannon set out under Cornelis de Houtman, who had spent many years in Lisbon and claimed vast knowledge of what the Portuguese were doing. His incompetent leadership caused much dissension on the expedition, however, and after undergoing great hardship and sickness, only three ships and eighty-nine men were to return to the Netherlands over two years later. In June 1596, de Houtman's ships reached Banten, the main pepper port of West Java.

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