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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The evolution of overseas Chinese social organization in the nineteenth century western Malay states Leigh, Woh-Peng

Abstract

An attempt is made to demonstrate that locally-based Chinese communities as such did not take shape at the point of settlement in the western Malay States during the early half of the nineteenth century. Rather, they evolved end eventually emerged through a slow process of change, the effects of which may be found mirrored in the fluctuating fortunes of the initially all-powerful and all-encompassing secret societies. With growing length of settlement and expansion, differentiation took place and social stratification occurred. Economic and social leadership emerged and became stabilized. Commensurately, stakes in and attachment to the local environment mounted. Thus almost imperceptibly to the participants, locally-based and orientated overseas communities took shape and grew. As the yardstick of social prestige became increasingly interpreted in local terms, leaders began to court the favours of the masses more and more. In this process, the coming of indirect British rule in the Malay States contributed not a little to its gathering momentum. Owing to the relative scarcity of comprehensive historical data on the subject and the period under study, it has also been the aim of this thesis to provide some detailed background information on the politics of the: host society as well as the groupings of the various secret societies in Malaya.

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