A Short History of Indonesia: The Unlikely Nation? by Colin Brown

By Colin Brown

This succinct paintings of historical past charts the expansion of Indonesia, a extraordinary kingdom of greater than 6,000 inhabited islands. With lucid originality, the textual content contains greater than 2 million years of historical past with intensity and brevity-particularly concentrating on Indonesia's improvement right into a microcosm of a multi-ethnic sleek global. Many present issues are perceptively addressed, resembling the legacy of European-Asian alternate, Dutch colonialism, and the emergence of what has develop into the most important Muslim inhabitants on the earth.

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Outside its core heartland, administration of the state was in the hands of the priyayi, a largely hereditary aristocracy. Formally at least, the priyayi had a very strongly developed set of values and norms, which stressed status and etiquette, refinement and self-control. Ordinary people were everything the priyayi were not: coarse, emotional, unrefined. From the priyayi was drawn the group of men who represented the ruler in the districts and regions outside the capital: the most common term for such officials was bupati, a term still in use today for the Indonesian official who heads a shire or a county.

Ho-ling’s religious orientation was Buddhist although, as was the situation in many regional societies newly introduced to the Indian religions, the faith had a strong admixture of pre-existing religious beliefs. Early in the eighth century, Ho-ling merged—it is not clear precisely under what circumstances—with a state based on the Kedu plain that was called Mataram, the first of two such-named states based in central or eastern Java which were to emerge in the pre-colonial era. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were represented in Mataram, the balance of religious authority tending to swing between them.

Srivijaya was one of the strongest, most long lasting and certainly the best known of the trading states of early Southeast Asia. In its essential characteristics—a small state bureaucracy, reliance on international trade, contacts with the outside world—Srivijaya was typical of similar trading states that have been located throughout the archipelago at various times right down to the present day. Singapore, for instance, may be regarded as the modern descendant of Srivijaya. Late in the ninth century, with Srivijaya still at its zenith, the Javanese state of Mataram was expanding, perhaps in response to a resurgence in the China trade and the prosperity that was bringing to Java’s ports.

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