William Willetts Annual Lecture: Singapore, the Santa Catarina Incident and the Launch of ‘China Mania’ by Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg


6.00pm Saturday 16 March 2019
The Pod on Level 16
National Library Building
100 Victoria Street
Singapore 188064


The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society presents the 21st annual William Willetts Lecture by Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg on: Singapore, the Santa Catarina Incident and the Launch of ‘China Mania’. Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg is one of the world’s experts on the history of Singapore and its surrounding region during the early modern period (from the founding of Melaka around 1400 and the ratification of the Anglo-Dutch treaty in 1624). He has published numerous articles and books on the subject including a translation of the 17th century diary of Jacques de Coutre and the autobiography of Admiral Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge (a gem merchant from Bruges in Flanders who spent eight years in Melaka). One of Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg’s specialties is the incident that took place off the coast of Singapore in 1602, when a Dutch ship captured two Portuguese ships known as kraak and returned to Amsterdam with their cargo – tons of Chinese porcelains, thereby launching the craze for Chinese ceramics (known as ‘China Mania’) on the continent. It is a story that encompasses sea battles, treachery, broken alliances and was an important turning point in the region’s history as Portuguese dominance in Southeast Asia came to an end.


This annual lecture, sponsored by the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society (SEACS), is the 21st William Willetts lecture held in honour of the Society’s founder, who also served as its President from 1970-1973. Previous William Willetts lecturers have included Professor Wang Gungwu, Professor John Miksic, and such well-known scholars as Kwa Chong Guan, Kenson Kwok, Stacey Pierson, Anthony Lin, John Guy, Rose Kerr, Nigel Wood and Jean Martin. 2019 marks the Society’s 50th anniversary since its founding in 1969.


About Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg (B.A. Kent; Ph.D. Cambridge)
Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg currently teaches at the Department of History, Faculty of the Arts & & Social Sciences in the National University of Singapore. He also researches the history of global interaction with a focus on maritime history and cartography in the period 1500-1900. His research has an interdisciplinary angle, reaching out to students and scholars interested in historical geography, international law, political science, international relations, economics and trade. In the past, he focused on the life and work of the Dutch humanist lawyer Hugo Grotius but he has since also branched out into Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese imperial history, and the history of the law of nations.


This event is open to SEACS members and their guests. The lecture will begin promptly at 6pm and end at approximately 7:30 pm. This program is free to SEACS Members. RSVP please at seacs.secretary@gmail.com. Members of the public are welcome to attend for a fee of S$10 and registration via Peatix. Walk-ins are also welcome on the day itself. Parking is available in the National Library basement car park and the closest MRT stop is Bras Basah.


A model of the St. Catarina 


Still Life with Cheese (Rijksmuseum)