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“A mountain king of ocean tribes”: The Sulu Sultanate between Recognition and Disdain, 1417 - 1917

Lasse Hölck Habil - Projekt


The investigation encompasses the history of the Sulu Sultanate in South East Asia from earliest times (12th - 13th century) to the early 20th century, focusing the dominant ethnic group of the Tausug. Research questions oscillate around the interdisciplinary concept of recognition to investigate the political organization of the Sulu Zone, the reciprocal relations of Tausug datu (leader) to Tausug followers and to smaller groups of the wider archipelago like Dima Laut (Badjao), Samales, Yakan, Dusun etc., as well as the relationships among the datu themselves. Highlighting the role of the sultan as primus inter pares, the project investigates on a second level the mutual recognition and reciprocal relations between Sulu and external powers like the Maguindanao Sultanate, Makassar, Brunei, China, and the Western colonial powers to explain the rise and decline of Sulu as a regional hegemonic power during the 18th and 19th century. Beginning with the first recognition of Sulu as a tributary state of the Chinese Empire in 1417, the investigation ends with the abolishment of the Sultanate as a political institution during the American colonial regime.

Among the consulted sources are archival materials from the Archivo General de las Indias (Sevilla), the Philippine National Archives (Manila), British Library and British National Archives (London), translated Chinese Annals, as well as letters and notes of the Dutch VOC in Batavia/ Jakarta (Daghsregister, General Missiven etc.)