At the time of the Portuguese arrival in the Asian seas, Malacca, thanks to its strategic position on the strait bearing the same name, was a remarkable trading center for the trade and shunting of spices. At that time, Malacca was ruled by a Muslim Sultanate.The town extended its influence over a vast territory, which included the whole Malaya Peninsula.
Its port was frequented by a multitude of ships and merchants from all the Asian nations of the time: Arabia, Persia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Ceylon, and Bengal. In it were gathered and sold all the Asian spices: pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
After their arrival in India, the Portuguese soon became aware of the importance of the city. An expedition sailed to Malacca in 1509 but failed, and many of the Portuguese were captured and imprisoned by the Sultan.
In 1511, the ViceRoy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, decided to organize an expedition destined to conquer Malacca. At the head of 1.100 - 1.200 men and 14 ships, Afonso de Albuquerque arrived in view of Malacca in June of 1511 and immediately demanded the rescue of the Portuguese that were taken prisoners in the 1509 expedition. The Sultan tried to gain time to strengthen the town defenses. He was well aware of the small number of Portuguese troops and was confident on his powerful army of 20.000 men and 2.000 guns.
Remains of the Portuguese fortress, Malacca.Albuquerque wasted no time. At down of 25 July 1511 the Portuguese attacked the town concentrating the assault on the bridge on the river dividing the town. After a fierce battle the bridge was conquered by the Portuguese, but at nightfall they were forced to retreat.
After some days of preparations, on 10 August 1511, the Portuguese renewed the attack. Albuquerque had the assistance of some Chinese junks that were anchored in the port. The use of a junk offered by the Chinese merchants was decisive, as this junk was used as a bridgehead.
This time the attack was successful and the Portuguese finally succeeded in establishing a bridgehead in the town.
There were then several days of siege in which the Portuguese bombarded the city. On 24 August 1511 the Portuguese again attacked only to discover that the Sultan had escaped. With Malacca was now in Portuguese hands, they sacked the town, but following Albuquerque’s orders, they respected the property of those who sided with them.
B. W. Diffie and G. D. Winius in the book "Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580" write: "the capture of Asia's greatest trading city by a mere 900 Portuguese and 200 Indians must rank as an event in the history of European expansion no less stunning than the better known conquest of Tenochtitlan by Hernando Cortés".
HISTORY OF COLONIAL MALAYSIA PORTUGUESE MALACCA 1511-1641
Written by Marco Ramerini