Melding Technologies: Shipbuilding around the Indian Ocean after the Arrival of European Ships

Richard Unger
University of British Columbia

Interchange between shipbuilding methods and design long preceded the arrival of European sea-going vessels at the end of the fifteenth centuries.  Malay ships dominated the Indian Ocean though they evolved too following contact with Arab and Chinese practices.  By 1500 the junk was a hybrid of north Chinese trading vessels and sailing ships from the Indonesian archipelago.  European ships were of markedly different designs and in many ways local designs were superior, something the sailors who had doubled the Cape of Good Hope acknowledged. Over time continued borrowing on both sides and use of local designs by Europeans led to greater similarities in ships.  Features of Asian vessels turned up on the European continent. A range of vessels took on aspects of European boats and ships not only in the centre of Malay practice but also in the Pacific islands among vessel types descended from Indonesian designs. The character of changes varied widely over time and place as did the causes for the melding of designs, materials used and building practices.