East Indies, published by Rosenberg Publishing in August 2013


In 1497 Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, his small Portuguese fleet reached India and they became the first Europeans to sail the Eastern Seas.  Over the next 100 years the Portuguese spread their trading network in search of spices, sandalwood, silks, gold, silver, porcelains and other oriental goods. This trading network extended from Goa in India as far east as the Moluccas and Timor in Indonesia, and as far north as China and Japan. 

In 1595 and 1601 respectively, the first Dutch and English trading expeditions rounded the Cape of Good Hope and the trading monopoly of the Portuguese Crown was being challenged by the Dutch East India Company and then the English East India Company, the world’s first joint stock and multinational trading companies.

For the next 200 years the struggle for trade supremacy between the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English ranged across the Eastern Seas and in the settlements of Goa, Malacca, Ambon, Macao, Canton, Nagasaki, Batavia, Macassar and Johor. Until by the end of the 19th century the Portuguese had almost vanished from the Eastern Seas, and the Dutch and the English East India Companies had been transformed from trading companies into colonial powers ruling vast territories in Indonesia, India and Malaya.

This book follows the trade winds, the trade routes and the port cities across the East Indies and the Orient. Beginning in Malacca which was one of the world’s largest trading ports in the 16th century, it describes the founding of Batavia (Jakarta) in the 17th century and concludes with the founding of Singapore and Hong Kong which became some of the world’s largest trading ports in the 19th century.

When you read ‘East Indies’ by Ian Burnet you can almost smell exotic spices over salt spray and wet wood of the ships that transported the goods back to Europe.
Following from his previous book, ‘Spice Islands’ in which Ian documented the the history of the spice trade in the Maluku and Banda Islands in Indonesia, where two very important and highly sought spices - cloves and nutmeg - originated, ‘East Indies’ looks at the impact of the European explorers and traders.
Ian has once again researched his topic thoroughly, and ‘East Indies’ is beautifully illustrated, filled with gorgeous maps and pictures evoking the age of sail.
Highly recommended

— Melanie Ryan --- Limelight Book Reviews
Ian Burnet has followed his scholarly and eminently readable book ‘Spice Islands’ with his follow up ‘East Indies’. Burnet has been enthralled with the history of the Spice Islands and Indonesia to the point of extensive travel and living in the region.
Where his first book examined the great spread of history of the spice trade and its impact on Europe (not to mention the islands themselves), the second book focuses on the struggles for dominance over 200 years between the great trading and naval powers of the Portuguese, Dutch and the English.
The book provides a wonderful snapshot of European activities in the East Indies including the establishment of Singapore and Hong Kong as significant trading ports.

This book will appeal to readers who want to take further their understanding of the region.

— Paul Talbot -- Afloat Magazine
This book reviews the history of the East Indies in the age of European exploration.
A follow-on to Burnet’s lovely ‘Spice Islands’ book this focuses on the rise and fall of the various main trading areas - Malacca, Batavia, Bencoolen, Singapore etc and the amazing characters involved.
It is a very good read and extremely well produced and illustrated - too often we get a few tiny black & white maps in history books - here the old maps and pictures are produced in colour and at a scale you can actually read them - a major step forward.
The authors’ familiarity with the area shines through and his sources (and quotes) range well beyond the standard euro-centric works - few other authors quote from the local sources (for example the Bugis History “Tufat al-Nafis”) and this adds to the fascination and depth of the book.

It isn’t really a coffee table book but it would look good left there.
Thoroughly recommended.
— Robert Wallace, posted on Amazon UK
‘East Indies’ is an exciting tale of the competition between the trading companies of the Portuguese Crown and the Dutch and English East India trading companies. All of them looking for the riches of South East Asia such as spices, silks, exotic ebony and sandalwood,pearls, ivory and jewels. The book is full of detail about the ports that became important trading centers where the wealth of South East Asia was loaded onto the wooden sailing ships of the European traders that sailed on the trade winds back to their home ports, a voyage that would last many months.
Ian Burnet has compiled gorgeous maps and pictures of the sailboats and the ports that were their destinations. He has done a great deal of careful research and knows South East Asia well, having lived in Indonesia for decades.
He is a lively story-teller and the book will make you want to sail to Malacca, the Spice Islands of the Moluccas, Calcutta, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Reading the book is the second best option for getting to know the places that once were the gateways to the Far East.
— Sia Arnason, posted on
Armed Enterprise - Competition and Monopoly in the East

Burnet tells of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company for trade supremacy in the Eastern Seas.
It’s with vivid historical anecdotes, that Australian author Ian Burnet navigates the long and complex history of European expansion into the Indian Ocean, South East Asia and the China Seas, lured by the wealth to be gained by wresting control of the world’s oldest and richest trades and sea lanes ... Burnet’s challenge has been to turn this tumultuous history into a readable, short narrative for a wider, more general audience. To this end he structures the book into three sections from the perspective of the key European players, chronicling the activities of first the Portuguese , then the Dutch and then the English ... two features of the book that make this popular history so enjoyable are the many quotes from the mouths of the story’s protagonists, and the well selected historic colour images that closely enhance the narrative.
— Jeffrey Mellefont, Signals Magazine, Australian National Maritime Museum
This comprehensive work is highly recommended to students, researchers, and general audiences ... it is a worthwhile regional history in and of itself, while on a more scholarly level, it serves as a contribution to the literature on globalization and imperial expansion,
Overall, the book is well written and provides a solid narrative chronicling the embryonic European presence from India to Japan, and ultimately informs the reader of the region’s robust trade networks over a span of centuries, enriching an understanding of the dynamic geographic dimensions of globalization.
— Dr. Thomas J. Sigler, School of Geography, University of Queensland
The author is so renowned as a historian of the era that he leads exclusive sailing tours all over the Moluccas Islands of eastern Indonesia in traditional wooden sailing schooners. Burnet’s intrepid groups climb over 16th century Portuguese forts and tramp through clove and nutmeg plantations ... I applaud the author’s efforts in acquiring publication rights for 70 high-resolution digital images of unusual historic illustrations and maps synchronised perfectly with the text ... six years in the making, drawing on extensive and meticulous research on the ground and in the Far East collections of some of the world’s most preeminant libraries, archives and institutions, East Indies is packed with historical detail supported by a very servicable index.
— Bill Dalton, The Bali Advertiser
Ian Burnet journeys through the East Indies, from Calcutta and Goa to Timor and Malacca, as far as Nagasaki, Canton and Hong Kong. Europe’s desires for goods from the East —- spices such as cloves and nutmeg, textiles, tea, opium, porcelain, gunpowder and more —- led to a fiercely contested ongoing battle between the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English for supremacy in the region’s trade routes. ‘East Indies’ charts the course of history over two centuries with sections devoted to the three major players with short chapters focusing on individual cities or ports. The rest is a managable, accessable and engaging history of this vast topic. Peppered with accounts by past travellers as well as evocative descriptions from the authors own travels, each port city is brought to life with descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of places like Malacca, the crossroads of the East. This scholarly, intensively researched and well illustrated book will satisfy the taste buds of the armchair traveller as well as the world history buff.
— Meg Quinlisk, Inside History
In December last year Karin and I joined another cruise on the Ombak Putih from Tual to Sorong, as beautiful and as exciting as ever ...
No little surprise to find in the onboard-library, your latest book ‘East Indies’.
Reading it was the ‘cherry on the ice’ of this cruise! Thanks for the great pleasure it provided.
— Dick Bergsma