This book is intended primarily as an introduction to the history of Malaya. Its concern with the history of her neighbours is confined to the part they have played in influencing her development. The term “ Neighbours” has been taken in a wide sense to include not only certain South East Asian countries like Sumatra, Java or Siam ; but also those greater “neighbours” India, China and Europe whose cultural and economic effects on her fortunes have been profound. In the present volume, however, more space has been given to the history o f these neighbours than to that of Malaya itself. This is due partly, of course, to the meagreness of the sources for early Malayan history; and partly to the fact that Malaya did not begin to exist as a separate entity until the fifteenth century. But the essential reason is that Malaya derived what importance she had during the previous centuries— and indeed for long after— from her proximity to the Straits o f Malacca (a vital link in the sea route between east and west), and from the strategic and economic significance this gave her in the eyes of her neighbours. To these factors she owed the rise of her entrepot trade in ports like Kedah and Malacca; her domination by successive sea powers; and a considerable part of her cultural heritage. I have therefore tried to show Malaya in her context of South East Asian and World history, because it seems to me that only thus can she be understood.
– from the Preface to Vol 1.
F. T. Moorhead, senior lecturer in history at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Kirkby, surveys the Malayan scene from the most ancient days to the close of the Portu-guese period with the fall of Malacca to the Dutch in 1641.
In the first half of Moorhead’s present volume Malaya makes barely more than an incidental appearance: the phrase “and her neighbours” was an appropriate addition to the title. This mode of presentation the author justifies on the two grounds that the sources for the early Malayan history are very meager and that the country did not begin to take on an independent existence until the emergence of Malacca in the beginning of the fifteenth century. Moorhead traces the unending rise and fall of Southeast Asian states and empires into which Malaya, as a whole or through some of its parts, was constantly being drawn. The presence of China and India as the great and overshadowing neighbors is felt throughout. In the second half of the volume the focus shifts to Malaya it-self and to the era of Portuguese domination.
Internal evidence indicates that Moorhead has not attempted much in the way of research in the original sources but has relied upon the available secondary works, a number of which are listed in a short bibliography. The book, unen-cumbered with reference footnotes, is simply and straightforwardly written, and furnishes a useful guide through an inescapably complex and confused stretch of many centuries in which many peoples play a role.
– from The American Historical Review (1959)