Maritime history course studies all human activities related to sea, including shipping, trade, port, maritime communities and their cultures ranging from early times to the 20th century.
The role of the sea in human life cannot be denied. Its role does not only include economy, but also politics, and culture. The sea as a silent power also provides cross-cultural connection among different ethnic, nation, and social groups. Sea has a dynamic power creating a means of communication among people. It enables the development of shipping, trade, and cultural contacts. Besides, the sea provides unity, transport, the means of exchange and intercourse.
The role of the sea is also completely important for Indonesia considering the fact that about 80% of its territory is sea. The Indonesian archipelago stretches across the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, from South-eastern Asia to Northern Australia, making it the widest insular region in the world. These islands are scattered from west to east 6,400 km wide and about 2,500 km in length from north to south. Its length from east to west is greater than the distance from London to Moscow or from New York to San Francisco. This vast archipelago has land area of approximately 1.92 million km², archipelagic waters and a 12 nautical mile territorial sea of 3.1 million km², and a 200 nautical mile exclusive zone (EEZ) of 2.7 million km². The outermost coastline circling the Indonesian territory has a length of about 81,000 km.
Those geographical facts provide the basic pattern of its history and culture. The insular character of the Indonesian archipelago has stimulated cultural variety and, at the same time, has offered easy access to foreign influences. The fact that the Archipelago produced plentiful commodities attracted traders and conquerors; it consequently made the islands and the sea a battle field of many contesting powers. This meant that the international significance of the Indonesian archipelago is based upon its location and its resources. It might be comparable with the two other great crossroads of world shipping, i.e. the Panama and the Suez Canals. In addition, the economic significance of the Indonesian archipelago is due to the fact that it has abundantly produced commodities that were so needed by the industrial nations.
Internally, the insular nature of the Indonesian archipelago also causes great variation, the most important of which are natural differences stemming from climate and volcanic activity. These factors greatly influenced human habitation and cultural development. The islands situated near the equator, such as Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, have abundant rainfall throughout the year, whereas those in south-east of the Archipelago have less rainfall and a longer dry season. The climate in the south-eastern part is similar to that of Australia. Since Java has a favourable climate for vegetation and its fertile-volcanic soil, it is not surprising that Java’s economy has benefited historically from such geographical advantages. For this reason, the sea has very significant role in the Indonesian history socially, culturally, economically, and politically.