Economic Botany

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 347–361 | Cite as

The “banana tree at the gate”: Perceptions of production ofPiper nigrum (Piperaceae) in a seventeenth century malay state

  • Michael R. Dove


This study is based on a remarkable seventeenth-century Malay court chronicle, in which the kingdom’s rulers issue injunctions on their death-beds against cultivating pepper (Piper nigrum Piperaceae) for the colonial trade. The rulers say that pepper cultivation will lead to expensive food stuffs, malice, government disorder, pretensions on the part of the subject peoples, and inevitably the destruction of the kingdom. The “fatal attraction” of pepper cultivation is likened, in an indigenous metaphor, to having a flourishing banana tree in front of one’s gate. Analysis of historic as well as contemporary evidence from Borneo suggests that this is a remarkably astute analysis of the relations of production in pepper cultivation, especially in the transition from small-scale household cultivation to larger-scale production with state involvement. This analysis demonstrates the potential value of historic, indigenous texts for the study of economic plants, and it also shows the value of historical depth for understanding contemporary issues.

Key Words

Piper nigrum L. black pepper spices ethnohistory smallholder cultivation Kalimantan/Borneo Banjarese Southeast Asia 

“pohon pisang di depan gerbang”: Berbagai pandangan tentang produksi lada pada suatu kerajaan melayu abad ke tujuh belas


Studi ini merupakan suatu kajian tentang suatu hikayat Melayu abad ke-17 yang menakjubkan, yang memperlihatkan bagaimana para penguasa kerajaan mengeluarkan larangan, menjelang “ajal” mereka, tentang penanaman lada (Piper nigrum, Piperaceae) untuk kepentingan perdagangan kolonial. Para penguasa mengatakan bahwa penanaman lada akan mengarah pada suatu keadaan mahalnya bahan makanan, timbulnya kejahatan, kekacauan tatanan pemerintahan, pernyataan-pernyataan yang meragukan yang muncul di kalangan masyarakat penanam, dan kehancuran kerajaan yang tak terhindarkan. Penanaman lada ini, dalam pandangan lokal, adalah seperti kita memiliki sebatang pohon pisang yang sedang berbuah di depan pintu gerbang rumah kita. Analisis sejarah dan bukti-bukti terbaru dari Kalimantan menunjukkan bahwa pandangan ini adalah suatu analisis yang cermat tentang berbagai relasi produksi dalam penanaman lada, terutama dalam transisi dari usaha rakyat yang berskala kecil ke usaha berskala besar yang melibatkan negara. Analisis ini menunjukkan nilai potensial sejarah dan kisah-kisah lokal bagi studi tentang tumbuh-tumbuhan ekonomis, dan juga memperlihatkan nilai sejarah bagi pemahaman pokok-pokok persoalan masa kini.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Dove
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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