During the 15th century, Melaka was the dominant Malay state, centred on its port, which controlled traffic through the straits of Malacca. The Portuguese took Melaka in 1511, doing away with the old Malay Sultanate and making the port a vital part of its worldwide sea-borne Empire. The Dutch in turn took Melaka from the Portuguese in 1641, and the British took it from the Dutch in 1798. The history of Melaka during the 15th century and later forms an important part of Malay hero-tales and epics. Hikayat Hang Tuah is a well-known Malay literary classic and traditional epic in which Hang Tuah is spoken of as a great hero, utterly loyal to the Sultan of Melaka, and the ultimate champion of Malay loyalty, chivalry and obedience to tradition. He symbolises the greatness of Malacca and bravery of the Malay people at that time. Many tales are ascribed to him.
The Hikayat Hang Tuah is much loved, not only in Malaya, but in other Malay-speaking areas, especially Indonesia, and it is vital to Malay culture and popular history. Two fine hand-written manuscript copies of the Hikayat Hang Tuah, written on paper in Jawi script (Malay, written in Arabic inspired script) by an unknown author, were inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2001. Both date from the years about 1800. One was written for the royal house of Kelantan, and is exceptionally fine. They are preserved at the National Library of Malaysia under identification number MSS 1658 and MSS 1713.