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 amazing kingdom of greater than 6,000 inhabited islands. With lucid originality, the textual content contains greater than 2 million years of background with intensity and brevity-particularly concentrating on Indonesia's improvement right into a microcosm of a multi-ethnic glossy global. Many present issues are perceptively addressed, reminiscent of the legacy of European-Asian alternate, Dutch colonialism, and the emergence of what has turn into the most important Muslim inhabitants on this planet.

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Majapahit was unusual, though not unique, among the Javanese states in that it had both agricultural and maritime bases. And it was at least in part this combination which gave it its strength. Its ports gave it considerable income from regional and international trade, far beyond what it could have earned simply from its own produce. Its agricultural production gave it a measure of economic security which states relying solely on trade did not have, its surpluses of rice in particular giving it the resources it needed to finance its trade with Maluku, China, India and Europe.

The conversion to Islam of the entrepot of Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatera, in the mid-fourteenth century, and of Melaka, on the other side of the Straits of Melaka, perhaps half a century later, marks the point when the spread of Islam through Indonesia became significant. From Sumatera, Islam followed the trade routes east. Gresik, an important port just to the west of Surabaya in east Java, was converted a decade after Aceh. Then followed Ternate, 2000 kilometres to the east in the Maluku islands (1460), Demak in central Java (1480), Banten in west Java (1525), Buton in southwest Sulawesi (1580) and Makasar in south Sulawesi (1605).

Srivijaya was more like a confederacy, centred on the royal heartland around the capital and with vassal states surrounding it, both inland and, more importantly, at river mouths and small harbours along both sides of the Straits of Melaka. These latter states played an important role in the Srivijayan economic system, acting as collecting points for local produce to be fed into the wider trading system centred on the Srivijayan capital, and also guaranteeing the security of trade through the region.

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